Ryszard C. was a world-renowned actor known for experimental theater.
Here he is in an interview describing his approach to the body and the exercises that he thought were vital to the success of an actor:
You can see perhaps what led to his early death from lung cancer in the opening frames of that interview.
In 1962, Ryszard joined the newly-founded Laboratory Theater in Poland, where experimental theater was being developed. According to the wikipedia page of the Theater’s founder, Jerzy Grotowski:
In 1965 Grotowski moved his company to Wrocław relabeling them a “Teatr Laboratorium”, in part to avoid the heavy censorship to which professional ‘theatres’ were subject in Poland at that time. Work had already begun on one of their most famous productions, “The Constant Prince”. Debuting in 1967, this production is thought by many to be one of the greatest theatrical works of the 20th century. Ryszard [C.]’s performance in the title role is considered the apogee of Grotowski’s approach to acting. In one of his final essays, Grotowski detailed how he worked individually with Ryszard for more than a year to develop the details of the actor’s physical score before combining this central element of the performance with the work of other actors and the context of torture and martyrdom intrinsic to the play.
After they stopped working with the Theater, the pair continued to work together. In a tribute to his partner in 1990, Grotowski discussed Ryszard’s dedication to the craft:
“We can say that I demanded from him everything, a courage in a certain way inhuman, but I never asked him to produce an effect. He needed five months more? Okay. Ten months more? Okay. Fifteen months more? Okay. We just worked slowly. And after this symbiosis, he had a kind of total security in the work, he had no fear, and we saw that everything was possible because there was no fear.”
According to his obituary in the New York Times:
Theater critics cited Mr. [C] in 1969 as Off Broadway’s most outstanding creator and the actor with the greatest promise.
For the last four years, Mr. [C] taught acting to advanced students at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.
In the 1980s, according to his biographer:
“There is no point in hiding it: during this period, [Ryszard] was drinking even more than usual. Periodically he had to dry out. He smoked several packets of cigarettes a day. Yet [his students] still say he taught them about courage. He was not so much an actor with great talent as an actor with great courage.”
He summarized his lessons to acting students:
How to be true in performance, that above all. I struggle to plant in them the principle that Grotowksi handed on to me: we act so much in our daily lives that to make theatre what we need to do is to stop acting. Another very important thing to understand is that an actor must concentrate on his own body. The actor’s instrument is not [simply] his voice or his diction, it’s his whole body. Theatre can be a combination of all the arts-music, dance, painting, writing, but above all it is moving visual art. (in Torzecka 1992:261)
Ryszard’s career is retold in detail at Grotowski.net.
Some said that following his parting of ways with Grotowski, the stress of having lost his professional partner manifested itself as cancer; more likely the hard drinking and smoking paved the way for the disease.
On June 5th, 1990, according to his Burzynski, Ryszard entered the Burzynski Clinic with lung cancer. He died 10 days later in Houston. Ryszard C. was only 53. One of the most important actors of the 20th century, in the estimation of his peers, died away from his home in the care of a quack.
For reliable information about clinical trials, visit clinicaltrials.gov. Please consider donating to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the children’s hospital that once helped a young friend of mine who is no longer with us. If you want to know about the character that Ryszard trusted in his last days, see the story of Amelia S.