The French writer, editor, and drama critic Jacques Copeau (1879-1949) opened his Theatre du Vieux-Columbier in Paris in 1913. Copeau was well on his way to exerting a major influence in the theatre in the year that saw the end of Andre Antoine's career, the dominant innovator of the previous generation, whose Theatre Libre (Free Stage) had featured uncompromising realism. In marked contrast to Antoine, Copeau aimed to return the poetry and freshenss to Shakespeare and Moliere. Yet like Antoine, Copeau wanted to sweep "staginess" from the theatre, to banish overacting, overdressing, and flashy house trappings. To cleanse the stage of its artificiality he created a fixed, architectural acting space, where dramatic literature and theatre technique could live in harmony, and thrive in freedom of thought and movement. A major part of his programme was was teaching actors and actresses their craft. The author points out that the Theatre du Vieux-Columbier incarnates the "ideal of Copeau's struggle to remain strong in the face of indifference, independent in the face of success, proud in the face of defeat.
It is the story of group spirit in its purest, most eloquent form, the spirit of personal sacrifice of all for the dignity of their art." Here Kurtz re-creates the the vitality that Copeau imbued in theatre artists throughout the world. He conveys Copeau's enthusiasm, the crusading spirit that enabled Copeau and his theatre to help bring experimentation to the forefront of modern theatre. He has written a biography of a thetre that was tremendously influential in Europe and America.
Maurice Kurtz was Erwin Piscator's assistant and dramaturge in his off-Broadway Studio Theater. He later launched the theater program at UNESCO, where he proposed the creation of the International Theater Institute. His plays and adaptations have been produced in New York, England, France, Belgium, and Switzerland. The Dublin Theatre Festival gave him an award for the best new play. He lives in Montmartre, France.