The founding of the clandestine Rhapsodic Theater Company in Nazi occupied Poland, 1941, by Dr. Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk and Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II), would mark an historic moment for both Polish culture and world culture alike.
A new genre of dramatic expression was being formed, which served to uplift the purpose of the theater and elevate its elements to new heights of artistic perfection.
This "Theater of the Word" as it was called, employed a dramatic theory imbued with principles of art, aesthetics, drama, poetry, philosophy, theology, and even linguistics, enriched and penetrated by the beauty and ultimate truth of the Catholic-Christian faith.
The founders of the rhapsodic style saw in the theater a means and way of perfection, by transmitting the word of God pre-eminently through the spoken word, relying on the power of words to communicate a thought and elicit an emotion. What happened in the consciousness of the audience was of primary importance for them, as the 'theater of the word' would become a 'theater of the inner self', concerned with exploring the inner drama of human existence within the Divine drama of revelation, redemption, and human history.
The Rhapsodists performed primarily works of the great Polish Romantics, who in the nineteenth century sought a cultural revolution in Poland by returning to the Catholic-Christian principles, thought, and culture on which their nation had been founded. Poland, suffering from a political decline that was fueled by a moral decline in the nation, only saw its problems greatly increased by the occupation and persecution of Nazi Germany. The Nazi's sought to demoralize the people and control their nation by, among other things, destroying the beauty and truth contained in Poland's cultural and religious national heritage. The Rhapsodic Theater established itself as an underground cultural resistance movement, and its members risked their very lives in an effort to help restore the nation's soul.
Minimizing the technical elements of their performances for both practical as well as theoretical purposes, the rhapsodists sought to give precedence to the beauty of the spoken word, that it might lead the listener to the truth of its deeper metaphysical meaning. All the proper elements of a truly theatrical experience remained, but were ordered toward the 'right criterion of production', which aimed at both an aesthetic, as well as a spiritual, perfection.
The young Karol Wojtyla would perform in numerous clandestine productions of the Rhapsodic Theater during the occupation, and this company he helped found would become one of the most respected and reputable of its kind in occupied Poland. After his departure for the seminary to study for the priesthood (also an underground operation at the time) the Rhapsodic Theater lived on and continued to perform, both clandestinely and legally, for a full quarter century, before finally being suppressed and closed down for good by Stalin's communists. But Wojtyla would have the final triumph. The historic visit to his homeland by the newly elected pope sparked a new cultural revolution that spread like wildfire, eventually bringing about the fall of communism in Europe and Russia.
But his theatrical experiences, and passion for the theater, would forever influence the life and thought of one whom the world would come to know and love as Pope John Paul II. His own plays and writings on the theater remain as a perpetual testimony to the profundity and beauty of the rhapsodic style. A style that Epiphany Studio Productions hopes to take up anew in our "neo-rhapsodic" form and pass on to new generations.