Today Is My Birthday

The exhibition is the third instalment in a series of presentations of Cricoteka’s collection. It has been dedicated to the performance Today Is My Birthday, which Tadeusz Kantor worked on from October 1989 to early December 1990. The artist died after one of the last rehearsals for the production on 8 December 1990. Today is My Birthday premièred shortly afterwards – in January 1991 at the Théâtre Garonne in Toulouse. The show was staged in 22 cities around the world until June 1992.

The exhibition is open from Monday to Friday in Cricoteka Archives at no. 5 Kanonicza Street. Opening times:
Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10.00 a.m. To 2.00 p.m.
Tuesdays from 2.00 p.m. To 6.00 p.m.
Admission is free.

Take a look at the photos from the exhibition

 

Screenings of video recordings from the rehearsals for the performance Today Is My Birthday accompanying the exhibition

18 September marks the second phase of Tuesday’s screenings, including 6 presentations of selected rehearsals for the performance. At the end of the cycle we will present the video recording of the performance from the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

By showing the video recordings of the rehearsals we want to present the stages of Tadeusz Kantor’s creative work on his last theatrical show. This unique material provides an opportunity to see the work on subsequent scenes and the nature of Kantor’s conversations with his actors about the characters, costumes, objects, etc. It is also a great chance to explore the artist’s ideas and expectations associated with the rehearsed performance.

Since Today Is My Birthday is a production that was never completed by Kantor, it lacks a certain closure – it is the viewer that performs the unique function of the last link in the process of the impact of the performance. By inviting the actors of the Cricot 2 Theatre and professionals analysing the work of Tadeusz Kantor to share their experiences, we want to reflect on the phenomenon of Kantor’s presence-absence in the performance – his intense participation in the rehearsals juxtaposed with the void that his absence left during the shows.

The presented rehearsals have been selected from over 48 hours of material recorded with an SVHS camera at the request of Tadeusz Kantor (video recordings show the majority of rehearsals which took place in Krakow).

 

18 September 2012, 4.30 p.m.

Video recording of a rehearsal for the performance held in Cricoteka on 16 October 1989. Video: Marek Stefański. Duration: 65 mins.

The presented material constitutes the recording of one of the first rehearsals for the performance Today Is My Birthday. Here Tadeusz Kantor begins to clearly define the dead characters, which will appear in the production. It is also the most expressive statement of the artist, which later – during the course of successive rehearsals – will become less clear. Kantor explains Jonasz Stern’s presence in the performance and the reasons for the use of his authentic speech – recorded on tape. The artist emphasizes the contrast of the dead character in relation to everyday life – meagre and trivial birthday celebrations. That other world – as he says – enters the stage: the Jew – Jonasz Stern, the Great Genius – Vsevolod Meyerhold and the Revolutionary of the Abstract – Maria Jarema.

 

2 October 2012, 4 p.m.

Video recording of rehearsals for the performance held in the Krzysztofory Gallery at no. 2 Szczepańska Street in Krakow from 2 to 3 February 1990. Video: Marek Stefański. Duration: 95 mins.

The presented rehearsals feature the entire team of the Cricot 2 Theatre – including foreign actors invited to take part in the performance. The scenes with Maria Jarema and Jonasz Stern are defined more precisely – Kantor explains the relationships between their lines and the tension they will provoke. The artist finalises the cast of the performance. The scene with Father and the Individual Who Has Appropriated Father’s Face is rehearsed. During the rehearsals Kantor also expresses his criticism of politics in the Polish culture.

After the screening there will be a meeting with the Cricot 2 actors – Stanisław Dudzicki and Jan Książek.

 

16 October 2012, 4 p.m.

Video recording of a rehearsal for the performance held in the City Hall building in Grunwaldzka Street in Krakow on 19 November 1990. Video: Marek Stefański. Duration: 75 mins.

Tadeusz Kantor works on sequences associated with the Family Picture – he explains how to position the table, how the characters should enter the stage and defines the relationships between them. The rehearsed scenes include e.g. Family members joining Kantor’s table, the collapse of the Infanta from Velázquez’s Painting and her repositioning in the frame of the painting as well as the sequence of the return of the Poor Girl. He corrects the texts delivered by different characters and adds new lines. Kantor pays special attention to intonation and gestures. The role of the Cleaning Woman Pretending to Be a Critic, who brings and positions the table, is fine-tuned.

After the screening there will be a meeting with the Cricot 2 actors – Tomasz Dobrowolski and Włodzimierz Górski.

 

30 October 2012, 4 p.m.

Video recording of a rehearsal for the performance held in the City Hall building in Grunwaldzka Street in Krakow on 20 November 1990. Video: Marek Stefański. Duration: 75 mins.

In the first part of the rehearsal, Tadeusz Kantor, together with the Self-portrait of the Proprietor of the Poor Room of Imagination, reads passages from the text And Here I Am on the Stage Again, while the Self-Portrait is trying to imitate Kantor’s gestures. They also rehearse a scene with the Poor Girl and there are difficulties in explaining to the actress how she should enter the stage and utter her words full of surprise. There is also further work on the subsequent scene with the Family members, who are to follow the actress on tiptoes, silently, like ghosts. In the second part of the rehearsal, Kantor reads A Letter to Maria Jarema. Then the actress who played the role of Jaremianka begins her lecture on abstraction, making fun of the Self-Portrait and Infanta.

After the screening there will be a meeting with the Cricot 2 actors -Teresa & Andrzej Wełmiński and Andrzej Kowalczyk.

 

13 November 2012, 4 p.m.

Video recording of a rehearsal for the performance held in the City Hall building in Grunwaldzka Street in Krakow on 22 November 1990. Video: Marek Stefański. Duration: 45 mins.

Tadeusz Kantor reads excerpts from The Emballage Manifesto and explains the scene with the military parade. He also makes detailed comments regarding the making of props (slings and crutches) for war cripples. The artist notes that they must seem old and tattered. They rehearse the scene with the procession of emballages – victims of war and with Jehovah-Dr Klein, accompanied by the sound of heartbeat, which determines the way they move on the stage (acceleration and deceleration of actors’ movement). Kantor also works on the scene, which ultimately was not included in the show, namely a family scene in the foreground with the procession of war cripples in the background.

After the screening there will be a meeting with Janusz Jarecki (the Cricot 2 actor) and Paweł Głowacki.

 

27 November 2012, 4 p.m.

Video recording of a rehearsal for the performance held in the City Hall building in Grunwaldzka Street in Krakow on 7 December 1990. Video: Marek Stefański. Duration: 75 mins.

This is the last recorded rehearsal, which took place on the eve of the artist’s death. Kantor reads the excerpts from his texts for the performance, explaining the meaning of the events taking place on the stage and the roles of individual characters. He also talks about his expectations from the actors and provides a number of tips. Later, the work focuses on the acting details for the Self-Portrait as a reflection of the artist and on the scene with washing the surface of a fictitious painting by the Cleaning-Woman Pretending to Be a Critic – her task is to temporarily create the illusion of a window pane or a living picture.

11 December 2012, 4 p.m.

Screening of a video recording of the performance and a documentary:

Aujourd’hui c’est mon anniversaire [Today Is My Birthday] – video recording of the Cricot 2 Theatre performance at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Jan-Feb 1991. The material contains approximately 2-minute speech preceding the performance delivered by the director of the Centre Georges Pompidou theatre – Marcel Bonnaud. Direction – Jacquie and Denis Bablet, Jacques Sirot, technical cooperation – CAMELOPARD, production – L’Equipe Théâtre et audiovisuel du Laboratoire de Recherches sur les Arts du Spectacle du CNRS. Duration: 75 minutes.

Kantor. Today Is My Birthday (programme in conjunction with the Krakow première of the performance Today Is My Birthday in Hala Sokoła, 23 May 1991), direction – Aleksandra Czarnecka, production – Krakow branch of TVP. Duration: 12 minutes.

Summary of the film programme.

Małgorzata Paluch-Cybulska, Bogdan Renczyński

 

The exhibition ‘Today Is My Birthday’, Cricoteka Archives, no. 5 Kanonicza Street, Krakow. Photo: Marcin Gromczakiewicz

 

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