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2B: Polish American Academic Quarterly


My introduction to Jan Kott was through his Theatre Notebook 1947–1967, which for me still captures the paradoxes of the man and his work. For all his cosmopolitanism, his work on Shakespeare, and his many years of life in exile, Kott remains very much an embodiment of the vitality of the post-war Polish theatre he helped to establish and later promoted abroad – this in spite of his disclaimer of being any kind of ‘expert’ on the contemporary Polish stage. Kott has always shown the best qualities of a theatre artist: lack of pretension, seemingly boundless energy, an immediacy of engagement with both theatrical performance and other people. Perhaps even more in person than in his writing, he possesses what Joseph Chaikin has called ‘presence’. As when I first met Kott in the mid 1980s, while Poland was still under martial law and he was unable to obtain a travel visa on account of public statements he had made regarding the Jaruzelski regime, he has remained a key connection to certain values both in the theatre and in Poland itself, and these he has best represented when they have been most needed.


Reprinted in: (1994). New Theatre Quarterly. Volume 10, Issue 40. 372-376. (1995). Dialog. Volume 40, Issue 10. 100-105.

This work is freely available courtesy of the author and 2B: Polish American Academic Quarterly.