The plays of Stanislaw Witkiewicz provide a vertiginous time capsule of 20th-century European reality. Writing in Poland between the First and Second World Wars, Witkiewicz occupied a front-row seat to history, a position that enabled him to anticipate (and travesty) philosophical and aesthetic trends with uncanny prescience. Yet his fruitful proximity offered him no protection from the brutality of a civilization run amok. (Like Walter Benjamin, another human seismograph of cultural tremors, Witkiewicz killed himself fleeing the Nazis.) Known also as Witkacy (a shortened moniker he used to distinguish himself from his artist father), he came to theater via painting, and, as theorist and practitioner, was in endless pursuit of dreamlike abstraction onstage. His treatise "An Introduction to the Theory of Pure Form in the Theater" is a key document in the history of the avant-garde rebellion against psychological realism. A precursor to the Absurdists, Witkiewicz aspired to the same metaphysical freedom that Artaud was independently formulating in Paris and which perhaps achieved its fullest American expression in the surrealist collages of... More >>>