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Antonin Artuad

Sept. 4th 1896 Mar. 4th 1948


Childhood y Born in Merseille France y Named Antoine Marie-Joseph Artaud, but nicknamed Antonin meaning little Anthony . y Was one of two surviving children birthed by his mother, after she has suffered 7 miscarriages y Throughout his childhood suffered through many bouts of disease, many of which were psychological, including stammering, neuralgia and clinical depression y Sent by his parents to live in an asylum for 5 years, during which time he developed an interest in theatre, fascinated by the readings of Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe y During his stay at the sanatorium, Artaud was prescribed laudanum, an opiate, guiding him into a lifelong addiction y Spent a period of two months in the French Army during the first World War until he was eventually discharged due to his odd habit of sleepwalking Professional Career y Trained under some of the periods most acclaimed directors, including Charles Dullin and Georges Pitoeff y In 1925, Artaud assume control of the growing surrealist movement, and began writing many articles for The Surrealist Revolution y After 18 months, in typical Antonin Artaud fashion, he quickly became bored of the surrealists lack of initiative towards anything other than disrupting events and was ejected from the group after referring to the surrealist revolution as a bluff y Had interest in cinema as well, wrote the scenario for the first Surrealist film produced, The Seashell and the Clergyman y From 1926 to 1928 Artaud ran the Alfred Jarry Theatre, producing original works and pieces by famous playwrights such as Claudel and Strindberg, as well as many other famous European artists y In 1931 Antonin Artaud saw a Balinese dance, and despite not fully understanding the intentions behind the traditional performance, it influenced many of his ideas about theatre y In 1936 Artaud received a Grant to work in Mexico, later publishing a book on his experiences that closely resembled his later poems in terms of their obsession and belief of the supernatural y His best known work, The Theatre and Its Double, was published in 1938, best known for containing y the two manifestos of the Theatre of Cruelty

Decline y In 1937, Artaud returned to France and obtained a walking stick, one he believed had previously passed through the hands of various historical figures, most prominently St. Patrick, Lucifer and Jesus Christ y Antonin travelled to Ireland in an effort to return the staff, but found nothing as he was unable to make himself understood. Upon his return he attacked two crew members claiming they had struck him, resulting in his return to a life in asylums y In the Asylums he was administered electroshock treatment in an effort to eliminate various psychological symptoms, including delusions, tics, the drawing of disturbing images and creation of spells, all of which lead modern doctors to assume he suffered from a severe form of schizophrenia y Wrote several more plays before his death, all of which heavily emphasizing aspects of the theatre of cruelty, particularly through the use of unusual sounds, such as alarming cries, screams, grunts, onomatopoeia y Diagnosed with intestinal cancer on January 1948 Philosophical Views y Believed everything perceived in dreams was just as real as what occurred in everyday life, both combined made up a person s existence y Likened dreams to theatre, that they were the same as the suspended disbelief viewers took on upon entering a theatre y Saw suffering as essential to existence and truly believed no utopia could exist, all would eventually degrade into a dystopia Theatre of Cruelty y A concept of theatre created by Antonin Artaud y Cruelty used in a more traditional sense of the word, not the present construed sense in which sadism and pain is most prominent y Meant to bring theatre to emotional heights and shatter the audiences perception of social reality

The Theatre of Cruelty has been created in order to restore to the theatre a passionate and convulsive conception of life, and it is in this sense of violent rigour and extreme condensation of scenic elements that the cruelty on which it is based must be understood. This cruelty, which will be bloody when necessary but not systematically so, can thus be identified with a kind of severe moral purity which is not afraid to pay life the price it must be paid. Antonin Artaud, The Theatre of Cruelty, in The Theory of the Modern Stage