Grotowski – Basic Drama (2023)

Interview doctor Paul Allain

Paul Allain is Professor of Theater and Performance and Dean of Postgraduate Studies at the University of Kent, Canterbury. Since the collaboration with the Gardzienica Theater Association from 1989 to 1993, he has continued to write a lot about theatre. He published several edited collections on Grotowski as part ofBritish GrotowskiProject.

Paul's physical play film for Methuen Drama Bloomsbury will be released onDrama onlinein the spring of 2018 asActor's Physical Training - Online A-Z. Movie drafts are currently available atWeb stranica Digital Performer.

Grotowski – Basic Drama (1)
Grotowski – Basic Drama (2)
Grotowski – Basic Drama (3)
Grotowski – Basic Drama (4)

Part 1: Discover Grotowski and push yourself

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  • theatrical purpose

PC:What led you to Jerzy Grotowski's work?

PER YEAR:When I was in high school in the late seventies, we went to Ashby-de-la-Zouchand and had a whole weekend training at the Grotowski with the RAT theatre; very strict, very demanding. We saw their performance on Friday night. I had no idea what to expect and these guys were whipping each other and fighting. I found out later that these actors did this thing where they didn't decide who to whip or who to whip until right before the performance. Theater RAT took the case with Grotowski in a way that he would not have really wanted.

PC:Did you study Grotowski when you were at university?

PER YEAR:Absolutely. When I attended Exeter University in the mid-eighties, my lecturers were inspired by the Grotowskis of the seventies; people went to Poland and came back and put it into practice. Exeter was a very practical course and our first project was to work ten to ten every day, six days a week with someone who had worked with Grotowski. My friend and I watchedTowards a poor theatreand imitate him; he looked a bit like Ryszard Cieślak, so I pretended to be Grotowski. I started really pushing myself, doing acrobatics etc.

PC:When did you start formally writing about Grotowski?

PER YEAR:I got my doctorate atGardzienice, another Polish theater company. Their director, Włodzimierz Staniewski, worked with Grotowski in the 1970s. The only way I was allowed to explore them was to actually be there training. Later I returned to Grotowski to see what was behind the work I was doing. I worked on the UK Grotowski Project between 2006 and 2009. I saw that there was very limited access to audio/visual material on Grotowski at the time. I knew it existed, but most of it was in Polish and pretty hard to get hold of. I wanted to spread the word a bit and make things accessible.

PC:What was the main approach to Grotowski's work before that project?

PER YEAR:Most approached the Grotowski wayTo the poor theater.It was really influential in the late sixties and seventies after it came out in 1968, but there are a lot of problems with it. It is poorly translated; He calls Grotowski a 'producer', not a director, and there are a lot of other aspects that are wrong. Covers onlyTheater productionbut that is only one period of Grotowski's work.Para theater,The Sources Theatre,Objective dramaIArt as a vehicleis back.

Part Two: Grotowski's Response to Stanislavsky

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  • innovations
  • key collaborations with other artists
  • methods of creation, development, training and performance
  • use of theatrical conventions
  • influence
  • significant moments in the development of theory and practice

PC:What were his early influences?

PER YEAR:There are many ways into Grotowski's work. One is his connection with Stanislavski. In 1955 he studied at GITIS in Moscow, one of the most important Russian drama schools. Grotowski worked with Juri Zavadski, who came from the Stanislavski tradition. People often see Stanislavski and Grotowski as opposites; it is a real mistake. Grotowski wrote this text,Reply to Stanislavsky1983 in Polish. It was first published in English in 2008Than Drama Review. He explains how he was influenced by Stanislavski after studying with him in Moscow and how he continued the work 'On Physical Actions' which Stanislavski left unfinished when he died.

Many people have difficulty distinguishing engineering from aesthetics. So: I consider Stanislavski's method one of the greatest incentives for European theatre, especially in the training of actors; at the same time, I feel distant from his aesthetics. Stanislavski's aesthetic was a product of his time, his country and his person. We are all a product of the meeting between our tradition and our needs. These are things that cannot be transplanted from one place to another without falling into clichés, stereotypes, something that is already dead the moment we call it. It is the same for Stanislavski and for us and for everyone else.

Grotowski, J. and Salata, K. (2008). Reply to Stanislavsky.TDR (1988-),52(2), str.31.

His interest in Stanislavsky was supported by the 'I don't believe you' line they both used. Grotowski's is actually quite a psychophysical technique of Stanislavsky's, but it is much more movement oriented.

PC:Can you spot where Grotowski's aesthetic differs?

PER YEAR:Grotowski did not start by interpreting or staging plays, he did not work with characters; he worked with roles.

PC:What is the difference between Stanislavski's work with characters and Grotowski's work with roles?

PER YEAR:Grotowski says that the role must be like a 'scalpel' to open up the person, the actor. It's really about using theater as a way to discover a person, rather than a person identifying with a character.

PC:Is there an example that can illustrate the difference?

PER YEAR:When Cieślak played the role of the resident prince in the play of the same name, it was all based on his memories of the first time he fell in love with a girl as a teenager. He and Grotowski spent nine months reconstructing the result, the inner life, of this waking feeling. They reconstructed these feelings of passion, erotic desire, prohibition as a young Catholic boy, where it was sinful to feel these things. The story is about a constant prince tormented by the Moors: a terrible story, based on a play by Calderón de la Barca. The torture ends with the prince's death because he does not give in: he is steadfast. We see that story, but without knowing it, we intuitively experience this whole other life. It was the physical embodiment of what Stanislavski called the "inner life." Grotowski combined Meyerhold's musicality and plasticity with Stanislavski's psychological process. It was never about real character, it was about discovering something from the actor.

Third part: Burning Grotowski at the stake after Artaud

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  • artistic intentions
  • innovations
  • methods of creation, development, training and performance
  • the relationship between the actor and the audience in theory and practice

PC:What was the relationship between Grotowski's performance work and Artaud's ideas?

PER YEAR:The relationship with Artaud is very clearly explained inTowards a poor theatrein the chapter entitled "He wasn't quite himself'.In it he says that his involvement with Artaud came later than one might expect. He developed his practice and his ideas about theater andthereafterdiscovered the connection and proximity to Artaud's ideas. He didn't look at Artaud and think "I could put that into practice." Artaud has incredible ideas about total theatre: people on revolving chairs using all mise-en-scenes including cinema, sound; but it is quite difficult to do. See the same words, Artaud's 'total' theater and Grotowski's 'total' act; but they are completely different. Grotowski deals with the reduction of scenography, light, sound – of course the actors are still on, but it is never decorative, but entirely functional. It's about getting a really simple mise-en-scène that he adapted for each production to focus on the actor. This is what is at the heart of Grotowski: the relationship between actor and spectator, while Artaud was actually dealing with total theatre, in a much more cinematic way, with the montage of all the elements that would in one way or another engage the audience.

PC:Would you say that there is a closeness in their intensity, even though Artaud's ideas were never fully realized?

PER YEAR:Yes, I think there is a similar interest in rigor. How through the theater you can create an impact that changes the viewer. Artaud wanted it to be like a plague, where this psychic contamination spreads from a theatrical event and changes society in some way, 'heart and soul'. Through your nervous reaction to this extraordinary, terrifying, sensational experience, you are changed and society is improved. Grotowski wanted it too, but in completely different ways. Both Artaud and Grotowski wanted to push the limits: how far can you go? It's not about the entertainment industry, it's not about catering to the crowd. In his language, Grotowski is quite critical of the Courtesan actor being sold at the price of an expensive ticket. The actor should rather give himself to the audience. I think it has to do with Artaud's view that the actor opens up. Grotowski cites Artaud's painting "the actor should be like a martyr burning at the stake and still signaling through the flames." I always think that is a very strong idea; even when you're burning, you're still trying to communicate through the flames as you die, just like Joan of Arc. It's a powerful metaphor that evokes rigor, the extreme of what they're both trying to do. The cruelty I think Artaud is talking about is cruelty to yourself; Grotowski is interested in the actor's intrusion into his own existence, in questioning himself at a deep level: What happens if I go on stage in front of people? Why should I have the privilege to do that? If I do, how will I overcome the desire to have fun; the desire to please; desire for success? Instead, work in "negative way'way, stripped, do not resist things.

PC:How will you explainnegative way?

PER YEAR:It is quite difficult to explainI think it's negativeand it talks about removing psychophysical blocks, creating impulses with actions. Performing acrobatics with his actors, Stanislavski thought: "If you can overcome the fear of a jump or a wheel, how much easier it is to overcome a difficult role or a difficult part of the text." The feeling of fear overcomes you and makes you freer. Grotowski is the same: he finds the freedom to act, not to hesitate, to turn impulse into action and stop the self-judgmental voice in the head that always says, "Am I good enough?" Instead, you really commit to something, like the idea of ​​a gift you give yourself completely: 'sacred actor'; it is an act of submission. But if it is too vain, if it is too selfish, then it becomes an injunction.

Part 4: Notable Grotowski Productions

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  • theater style
  • innovations
  • key collaborations with other artists
  • the relationship between the actor and the audience in theory and practice
  • significant moments in the development of theory and practice

You can find pictures of productions

PC:How long did Grotowski work as director?

PER YEAR:He was not a director in the traditional way as we understand someone who just produces a repertoire of works. It was a period of fifteen years: from studies in Moscow, then the traditional drama school in Krakow and then the foundationTheater in thirteen rowsin 1959. He created his last play in 1969. It is a very short period of time to create plays, but they have amazed the world and completely changed our understanding of what theater can do.

PC:What was the order of the main productions?

PER YEAR:It wasTragic story Doctor Faustus,Acropolis,The The permanent princeand thenApocalypse with figures.

PC:bioDrFaustthe only text he worked with?

PER YEAR:No, all his other performances were based on classical texts, but not just classical as in our canon in Britain, Western Europe or America. They were based on Polishand in one case a Spanish classic.That's something people get wrong about him; they believe that he invented and created these texts, but in fact it was the most well-known and classic Polish play. Some of them were fragmentary poetic dramas.

PC:Why areDrFaustsignificant?

PER YEAR:I 1962DrFaustChristopher Marlowe's is reworked as The Last Supper, where the audience is invited to see Faust in his last hour before Mephistopheles takes him away.DrFaustfar advanced the work of the actors. It put Grotowski on the world stage because it was a play that Eugenio Barba saw and took visitors and producers to the International Theater Festival. The actor/spectator relationship in the room was crucial, as in all his plays. INDrFaustthe spectators sat at a table, and the action took place on this table at chin height, right in front of their faces. Instead of looking at the back of someone's head, as you would in a proscenium theater, you looked at another viewer who was also experiencing the same things. This significantly improved the experience.

PC:About what?Acropolis?

PER YEAR:It was made the same year as meDr Faust,1962 and there is a film record of it, although it is not a very good performance. It is more of an ensemble piece based on a classic play by Stanisław Wyspiański. This play originally took place in Krakow's Wawel Cathedral, which is the national cathedral where these dead kings and queens lie. Grotowski moved him to Auschwitz. It was a very important production to deal with the Holocaust, which took place in Kraków, thirty miles away from Auschwitz itself, only seventeen years after it was liberated. They developed this whole mise-en-scene where the concentration camp is built around and above the audience during the performance. Surrounded by action, they were told at the beginning of the play, "You are alive and we are dead." The spectator is again set up as a witness.

PER YEAR: The permanent princefollowed in 1965 and is considered the production in which Grotowski's acting techniques were raised to the highest level. It was Cieślak's full rank as permanent prince, this his gift: the holy actor. Critics could not easily articulate their experience, but spoke of Cieślak's lighting. The extraordinary nature of what he was doing comes through even in grainy single-camera footage. It's a poor performance, but it gives a bodily sense of what it was like to be a spectator there. For this production, the audience was positioned above the stage and watched this actor perform this repeated ritual of torture, being asked to give in but still not surrender, giving this poetic response about why he wouldn't do it, why he's persistent . The high position of the spectators meant that they were put in this awkward position: if they sat in their chairs, they could not see the action, so they had to lean forward to see someone's suffering. They have been put in the position of being a willing voyeur in other people's suffering.

PC:What about his final output?

PER YEAR:Apocalypse with figures(1969) was his last play, which he performed until 1979. It stands out in many ways. It overlapped with the paratheater phase. People often came to the performances, stayed afterwards and talked and were then invited to join the paratheatre. It was invented as we would call it today; they took texts from T.S. Eliot, Simone Weil, from the Bible. The production moved away from theatrical structures. The first version was in costume, and then Grotowski said, "No, put on your day clothes." In the beginning there were benches for the audience, but then they were removed. It was performed in an empty room, returning to that simplicity with only people in the room. The distinction between spectator and actor was blurred. That interaction, that encounter was then expanded into a paratheatre where there were no spectators, no observers, only actors.

Part 5: Grotowski and Gurawski: Configuration of Space

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  • theater style
  • innovations
  • key collaborations with other artists
  • methods of creation, development, training and performance
  • the relationship between the actor and the audience in theory and practice
  • significant moments in the development of theory and practice

PC:Why was the configuration of the space and the relationship between actor and spectator so crucial to his work?

PER YEAR:It is interesting that he worked with Jerzy Gurawski, who was an architect, not a scenographer. They clearly thought of the whole space as an architectural space, not as a viewing space as you would in a proscenium arch or some traditional theaters. Acoustic dimensions were also important, especially when working with the resonance of the actor and the musicality of the entire performance.

PC:Which example do you think best illustrates their control over the acoustic space?

PER YEAR:The clatter of bootsAcropolis: the actors dive into a seemingly impossible little box at the end of the play, disappear, and then we hear a voice saying, "There's only smoke left." Then there was silence. Flaszen would say that he considered this performance a success when the audience did not applaud.

PC:You chose to use the viewer rather than the audience: is that on purpose?

PER YEAR:Yes, it's a one-on-one meeting. In Polish, Grotowski is talking about the viewer, not the audience, so it is unique. It is never homogeneous; it is never the audience as the collective body of people. It's always about that one-to-one relationship. People accused his work of being elitist because he wanted to keep a small audience. I don't think it's elitist. I think it's just a clear understanding of the limits of your theater. He knew how to best experience that event. That intimacy, that closeness was possible with only a few people. It is interesting to see the rise in popularity of today's one-on-one performance, immersive and participatory theatre. Grotowski did this, but in a much more theatrical setting, because he was still in the unique space of the building: a room, a studio, sometimes a gallery.

PC:Are there drawings of these different configurations?

PER YEAR:UTowards a poor theatrethere are diagrams by Eugenio Barba: black boxes for the actors and white boxes for the spectators. They show a changing arrangement for each performance, moving away from the distant distance of the proscenium arch. They burrowed into the group of spectators.

PC:Outside of the notable productions we've discussed, which configurations stand out to you?

PER YEAR:UCordian, the viewers were in a mental hospital, sitting on bunk beds with the actors above and around them. The actors were strapped into straitjackets right next to them like fellow inmates in an asylum. There's always this configuration, as you say, which is a good word for it.

PC:Why did he end the scene in the Theater Production with such a stripped-down performance asApocalypse with figures?

PER YEAR:They wanted it to stay open, there was no attempt to configure the viewer. The production was a wild party where simpletons are abused by those in attendance. There was no projection on the viewers of who they were, they were just people who came to this event as witnesses. I think he saw the limits of manipulation, the limits of the actor-spectator relationship. Because of this, he moved away from theater productions.

Part 6: Grotowski-inspired creativity and fury

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  • artistic intentions
  • the relationship between the actor and the audience in theory and practice
  • influence
  • social, cultural, political and historical context

PC:How did audiences respond to Grotowski's plays?

PER YEAR:Many found him impenetrable and found this kind of work too difficult; but it was work you had to go back to. It was not served on a plate, it was difficult and dramaturgically complex. What the actors did was extraordinary. It's not something you get in the first session. Grotowski demanded something from the audience just as he demanded from the actors; he demanded something from all his participants.

PC:So why did he make plays?

PER YEAR:It was a laboratory process, it was not about production. The productions were a tool with which he explored something. People measure it by the yardstick of a theatrical performance, and so did the people who financed it. It was very difficult for him to create an ensemble that explores something within the constraints he was given. Fortunately, his success and the relative security it afforded him meant he could do this later.

PC:Has it always been a hit with audiences?

PER YEAR:It is very difficult to determine the audience response: a very small total number of people saw the work. One thing it comes down to is that a lot of people who saw it were changed, they were moved. Even if they didn't like it, they could see that he was trying to push the theater to another possibility, e.g. expanded with Artaud's work. If you seeTon Grotowski sourcebook, Eric Bentley is very critical of Grotowski, his 'guruness' and his claims about what he was trying to do. People with a more literary background did not always like his lyrics: they were not for everyone. Many people were inevitably disgusted by this and thought it was blasphemous. The Primate of Poland tried to stop itApocalypse with figurespresentation because one of the actors masturbates to a loaf of bread; this is highly blasphemous, partly because the work was indirectly about Jesus. Despite these controversies, or perhaps because of them, he became extremely popular, so that people, for example, paid two hundred dollars for tickets to shows in New York. However, that is not the point of what Grotowski was trying to do. It is difficult to speak universally about the critical reaction: many people were against the work, but it inspired people equally, especially practitioners and theater makers.

Part 7: Grotowski's work with the text

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  • theater style
  • innovations
  • key collaborations with other artists
  • methods of creation, development, training and performance

PC:How did Grotowski work with the actors to formulate the role? Jennifer Kumiega quotes Raymonde Temkine's description of the role articulation process.

Raymonde Temkine has described what she calls 'role articulation' in Grotowski's plays as a threefold process: initial structuring, done by Grotowski on the source text; the collective elaboration phase, which involves a lot of spontaneous creative work; and finally the structured arrangement of the role into a 'sign system'.

Kumiega, J.,Teater Grotowski(Methuen, 1987.)

What initial structuring did Grotowski do on the text?

PER YEAR:He had a very strong dramaturgical influence of Ludwik Flaszen, his collaborator, who helped with the adaptation of some texts. His attitude to the text was very different from Stanislavski's.

PC:Who is Ludwik Flaszen?

PER YEAR:Flaszen is a well-known Polish critic who was a highly respected national figure before he even worked with Grotowski. He was quite critical of Grotowski's student work when he saw it in Krakow. Flaszen was offered a theater in Opole: Theater of Thirteen Rows, a very small theater. He invited Grotowski to take him with him. Although he questioned Grotowski's work, he saw that it had potential. Ludwik Flaszen describes himself as the devil's advocate for Grotowski's work in his bookGrotowski and company. He was the main figure in the foundation of the company and actually took over when Grotowski emigrated in 1982. His work has not received enough recognition, so it is important thatGrotowski and companycome out. Flaszen, for example, coined the term 'poor man's theatre'.

PC:How did he work with Grotowski to structure the text?

PER YEAR:Sometimes they did the text in its entirety, but more often, as inCimmediate prince, they would remove certain characters, cut out some scenes, simplify it for their small ensemble. It was a process of condensation and distillation. I think much of this work was originally done by Flaszen and then in collaboration with Grotowski. It was a fantastic collaboration.

PC:Grotowski is often seen by people as a rather dominant director.

PER YEAR:It is a common but incorrect assumption that Grotowski was a director whose vision was total. Grotowski made this statement, which is at the beginningVoices from withinwhere he wished to correct this view:

"In our productions, almost nothing is dictated by the director. His role in the preparatory stages is to stimulate creative associations, the impetus of which comes from the actors, and to organize the final structure in which they assume a definite form."

I think sometimes people used him as an excuse to be a demagogic auteur director in a way that he wasn't. It is interesting when you read the interviewsVoices from withinwith members of the community; they say he was very empathetic, he was very firm, but they respected him and he gave them a lot of space.

PC:How did they go about finding the lyrics?

PER YEAR:In the last paragraph,Apocalypse with figuresthe actors are tasked with finding texts that fit the plot they are developing. They would develop proposals, a kind of proposal, little etudes. Grotowski would then look at them and say, "It works, I believe it. It doesn't work, find that text." He would give them assignments, reading assignments to enter the material, and then he would mold it. He would construct the entire score, which was a very difficult and not always happy process.

PC:How did he create a score with lyrics?

PER YEAR:Grotowski worked with the opposition in a Stanislavskian way: if you want to find someone's greed, look for their generosity; don't play greed in general. UThe permanent prince, the physical act is torturing someone, but what was Cieślak working on with Grotowski? His feelings of love, sweet pleasure and ecstasy; completely opposite feelings. The idea of ​​apotheosis [meaning: a perfect example of ittip] and mockery often appear in Grotowski's work: you set something up and then knock it down. Nothing is sacred. These sacred cows can suddenly be destroyed in an instant; he built an oppositional dialectic: for Cieślak uThe permanent princeit is between torture and ecstasy. They always tried to find lyrics that contradicted the plot, which felt layered. They did the editing if you will. The actors were responsible for finding them because it came from their work process and their investigation. It was not predetermined.

PC:Why wasn't it a happy process?

PER YEAR:It was an exploratory process, you don't always know what you will get, you have to get to the bottom and then break through. He asked his actors to go through cliches, to go through exhaustion, because only then do you find something worthwhile. This need for exhaustion can be considered masochistic. However, it can take a certain level of exhaustion to find something new and fresh, to tap into resources you didn't know you had. We hear that idea all the time in sports and adventure, but you don't think about it in relation to theatre. It's very hard to take people with you like Grotowski did, to let them know that it's okay to be lost. There were moments when they struggled, lost direction, but then they had a breakthrough. Grotowski had this ability to be patient and accept moments of failure, doubt, but then pick people up and take them with him.

Part Eight: Grotowski's Communication with the Spectators

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  • methods of creation, development, training and performance
  • the relationship between the actor and the audience in theory and practice
  • influence
  • significant moments in the development of theory and practice
  • social, cultural, political and historical context

PC:Were there stories of Grotowski returning to his way of constructing productions?

PER YEAR:The story of Jesus and his disciples was a point of reference throughout Grotowski's work. He was greatly inspired by Ernest Renan's booklife of jesusas an archetypal figure that we relate to – the person who makes ends meet, the one who is followed but then betrayed.

PC:Can you explain what you mean by archetypes and why they were important?

PER YEAR:The idea of ​​an archetype is important because it's not a stereotype, it's not a character, it's something we can easily relate to. It was Jung's idea. We recognize the figure of the martyr inThe permanent princeIDr Faust. We recognize the mother who takesThe permanent princein her hands like a picturecompassion. We can understand these archetypal figures even beyond language, which is probably why his theater was so internationally successful.

PC:This ties in with what Raymonde Temkine said about "the structured composition of a role into a 'system of signs'".

PER YEAR:Yes, I've heard people talk a lot about 'signs'. It agrees with the semiotic understanding of theater [focus on the meaning of the images created] at the time, but it's a bit limiting. For me, the bodily experience is much more important; there is this montage of images, signs, symbols, archetypes, but at the same time we experience this work very instinctively. If you try to read Grotowski's work purely semiotically, you only get a small part of the story.

PC:Does the visceral experience, a sense of truth, come from physical repetition, exhaustion, a series of signs? For example, what was the pain when they tried to show AuschwitzAcropolissomehow captured through the physical intensity of the performance?

PER YEAR:Peter Brook's introduction to the filmAcropolisis very interesting. He says it is not a documentary or a recreation of Auschwitz; he feels it happening in front of you like black magic: the spirit of it or the rhythm, the sounds, the energy, the fear is conjured before you. He says that this is what makes the theater special. It can because it doesn't refer to the past, it doesn't quote people who were there, it's here and now and you're witnessing it. He feels that's what Grotowski did so brilliantly in that performance: he kind of brought the essence of it to life.

PC:How did he arrive at that essence of life?

PER YEAR:Grotowski understood that it was not about shaping the dance or an external pattern, but that it was really about letting the actors find their innermost feelings. Not just tossing them around in a very indulgent way, but shaping them really precisely. It was a thorough exploration of their deepest feelings.

Part Nine: Acting for Grotowski: What Does It Mean to Be Human?

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  • theater style
  • theatrical purpose
  • key collaborations with other artists
  • methods of creation, development, training and performance
  • significant moments in the development of theory and practice

PC:What was wrong with Grotowski?

PER YEAR:Grotowski believed that acting was not about going to drama school and learning a series of skills; instead, it should be about learning who you are; to be who you are and then bring that into the task. In a way, we hear about it in drama schools: in the first year, you break down. But it's much more subtle than that: it's not about dismantling and rebuilding, it's really just a process of exploration: what does it mean to be human?

PC:Did he often initiate a one-on-one investigation with the lead actor?

PER YEAR:Grotowski always worked with an important person (whether it was Zbigniew Cynkutis fromDoctor Faustusor Cieslak uThe The permanent princeand then Thomas Richards later), who embody his work process and really drive him forward. He worked with the whole group, but there was always that one person who was the protagonist, if you will. They would spend months working one-on-one on their personal scores. Then he involved the ensemble, the choir, in the work they were doing. Grotowski had to have the setting of the individual actor at the heart of the play before they could add editing and interactions. It would be different for each production, but there was usually a main character and a chorus.

PC:How did they start their wider education?

PER YEAR:At first it was quite mechanical: they learned to walk with a mime like a moonwalk; they learned to isolate themselves from mime exercises; they used ballet techniques, music and researched Chinese vocal resonators. Eugenio Barba was in India watchingKathakalidance where he learned to do eye exercises and gave it back. They drew on various sources as a way of working on themselves. Grotowski wanted to know: If you're not working on a character, and if you're not trying to portray a character, what are you working on? He was trying to find a new way to create theater and the best way to do that was to start working on an actor. Grotowski found a way to awaken the actors with voice and body.

PC:How did training develop after the early mechanical phase?

PER YEAR:The room was an integral part of Grotowski's work with the actor; each individual relationship between actor and spectator poses different problems for the actor. He took further aspects of Meyerhold's biomechanics. He used yoga, but they found that when they practiced yoga it made them too introspective; so they used yoga asanas but called it 'dynamic yoga'. They put yoga in flow; you can see it at Cieślak trainingvideowhere he trains two performers from Eugenia Barba's Odin Teatret. He points out that it happensbetweenexercises that count.

PC:Did all the actors in the Theater Laboratory contribute to the training?

PER YEAR:Yes, it was also about building the group culture of the ensemble: creating adaptability and flexibility in performers who were not trained. Certain actors focus on different areas: Zygmunt Molik focuses on the voice; Rena Mirecka focused on plastic exercises.

Part 10: Grotowski collects associations: plastic and physical exercises

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  • innovations
  • key collaborations with other artists
  • methods of creation, development, training and performance
  • significant moments in the development of theory and practice

PC:What were the plastic exercises?

PER YEAR: Plastis distinctly Grotowski's idea. Starting with isolation, isolation of the wrist, hand or elbow, you begin to rotate and bend it and explore its possible movements. Then you see where it takes you, where the joint takes you; the joint moves you through the room. Then you can start to make one part of the body do one thing in dialogue with another part of the body; joint in dialogue with the left knee. Then open it to a partner, a key aspect of Grotowski's work. Sculptures are always made in relation to a partner: the partner can be a wall, it can be a floor, it can be an object. Plastic is about building a flow where you can move from the joint, maybe to the knee, to the elbow, but all the time it has to be unplanned and it has to be impulsive; it's not rationalized, it's not designed, but it fits. Cieślak talks about it as if the nerves sit on the outside of the body, as if you have no skin. How do you awaken your nerves so that you become so sensitive that impulse immediately turns into action?

PC:What about physical?

PER YEAR: Bodybuilderstake the same principles adapted to a more dynamic, gymnastic movement. You can think of it in terms of a jump: If you dive into a forward lunge, you can't stop halfway once you commit. If you do that, you'll hit your head, so you have to dedicate yourself. Impulse must be turned into action. Then you might do a jump or somersault, not just as a gymnastic task, but because someone is chasing you, or because you're crossing a river, or there's a hot flame. Both plasticity and physicality actually develop associations and awaken the imagination.

PC:How important was imagination and association to the actor?

PER YEAR:I think this is one of the problems Grotowski identified with people imitating the work. People can watch the exercises in the so-called filmFriar Opole letter, a 30-minute film about early training, or I can watch Cieślak's training; but they cannot necessarily understand the connection of inner workings or associations, as Grotowski called it.

PER YEAR:If you reach up, don't just raise your hands in a way that has no imaginative connection: what are you reaching to take? Apple? It's a Stanislavski idea: you reach for something, but you don't anticipate, instead the imaginative connection keeps changing: does the apple turn into something else? Or a tiger training while you are a tiger. It is not about imitating the tiger, it is about finding the essence of the tiger; trying to reach the tiger's heart. In a somewhat banal way: how do you become different on stage? Grotowski talks about people imitating his work inReply to Stanislavsky, and that they saw it as acrobatic and virtuosic. He said it wasn't about that; it is actually an internal process. It's about finding the connection, the connection between the feeling and the physical result you create.

PC:What do you mean by "point"?

PER YEAR:They created a score like a musical score; use that word. When we see sheet music, it is very clear that these notes have a certain rhythm and time; but how you play the instrument, how it fits with the other parts is so variable. He used many images about the actor's score, for example, it was like the bank of a river: the water flowing between the banks is important; or the result is like a candle in a bowl, and the inner life is the flickering flame of light. It is the inner life that gives meaning to the action, what makes the score come alive. This is often forgotten in Grotowski's work.

Part 11: Grotowski's voice work: connecting body and voice

Links to IB, GCSE, AS and A level specifications

  • key collaborations with other artists
  • methods of creation, development, training and performance
  • significant moments in the development of theory and practice

PC:The voice is another element that I think is being forgotten. He gets a lot of spaceTowards a poor theatre. How did it affect training and productions?

PER YEAR:Zygmunt Molik went to drama school and did a lot of voice research and worked with resonators. Just as they pushed the body in terms of its acrobatic potential and its flexibility, its strength and balance, they also pushed the voice. They explored head resonators and made animal sounds. They wanted to find a voice that was rooted in the body; the whole body had to create a voice.

PC:You talked about the score and the musicality; how does voice work fit into that?

PER YEAR:Grotowski said that he later looked back at his early performance works and saw that he had been sung. What is special about singing? Singing is something we don't do all the time. We talk, we don't sing. So when do we sing? We sing when we are happy, we sing when we are sad, we sing at demonstrations. The song is related to identity and national identity. It is very powerful, very physical and has a reach that goes beyond everyday talk. The song is important and interesting because it is not about speech, it is not a conversation. It is therefore in the last period of his work (Art as a vehicle), looked at the quality of Afro-Caribbean vibe songs and their effect on your energy. He explored how a voice, a song, can change what you do. Just like what you do changes the voice. It's about finding the absolute connection between body and voice. You start with the body, then you find the voice.

PC:How does the text fit into that discovery process?

PER YEAR:You don't suddenly stop what you are doing and look at the text, you find the continuum between body work and voice work before you write the text. Because of this, they very quickly read out the text or recited it.

PC:Have they ever used a voice without a tongue?

PER YEAR:Yes, insideDoctor Faustusfor example, the actor makes a sound when being choked by Mephistopheles. You can hear how it made the sound of going under the water and coming back up, a splashing sound. You have not recorded or recorded music, so the actor creates the mise-en-scene: the wind, the atmosphere. They always pushed the actor to find a voice that was not their natural register.

Part 12: Grotowski's Context: Disease, War and Repression

Links to IB, GCSE, AS and A level specifications

  • artistic intentions
  • theater style
  • key collaborations with other artists
  • methods of creation, development, training and performance
  • significant moments in the development of theory and practice
  • social, cultural, political and historical context

PC:You mentioned how important imagination and associations are when the Theater Lab developed its work. These are very subjective contexts that cannot be separated from the context. What was the context and how is it revealed in his productions?

PER YEAR:That's a really important point, because I think context is often overlooked. Grotowski worked in Poland until he went on international tours. His work was then taken over by Eugenio Barba with the productionDoctor Faustuswhich, like all his productions, was performed in Polish. People sometimes say that Grotowski despised language, but it was Polish, and it was a very beautiful language, often recited or sung very quickly. He worked with a beautiful text and the dramaturgical work was important. People who don't know Polish ignore the textual elements so they focus too much on the physical aspects.

PC:What other contextual reference points were there?

PER YEAR:World War II was another important contextual reference. Grotowski was born in 1933, so he was six years old when the war started in his country. The Germans invaded the Hel Peninsula and occupied Poland within six weeks. He was used to poverty, violence and fear at a very young age. His mother was instrumental in raising him through it. She educated him and she was very interested in Hindu and Indian culture. He was also very ill and was told he had a year to live, but somehow he survived to the age of sixty-six. He had recurring health problems and it is interesting to think what impact this may have had on him as someone who works longer than expected. Did it affect the urgency, the severity, the intensity of the way he lived; what he expected from other people? He never had children; never married. This perhaps explains his transience, as he was later largely a wanderer, absorbing various native cultures.

PC:How did the work change when he moved?

PER YEAR:In the 1960s, Poland was a very isolated country under Soviet occupation, behind the Iron Curtain. He lived in the small town of Opole before moving to the larger city of Wrocław, where he became famous. In Opole, it was a very marginal, experimental theater where he sometimes performed for only two people. In the seventies, when people could travel more, he became an international figure. It was quite a transition from Opole to Wrocław to the Edinburgh Festival; In 1969 he suddenly found himself on the international stage. At that time, there was a great interest in Polish theatre: personalities such as Tadeusz Kantor began to influence the world stage. There is something about the hardships of their working environment: poverty. 'Bad theatre' is a phrase Ludwik Flaszen coined for his work with Grotowski; but she was also poor financially and materially. If you seedoomsdayroom, as the main room in Wrocław is called, is not a particularly large studio. This is someone who is an international person but had very simple means. He is a very political person, and I think that is often overlooked. With something like thatThe permanent princeAlthough inspired by Calderón de la Barca's seventeenth-century play, the implication in Poland of seeing someone being tortured to death by the Moors meant something very special. People usually think that Grotowski's work was not very political, but for his local audience it was extremely political; they understood that Poland was sacrificing itself to the Russian oppressors. They had that allegorical meaning, but it didn't necessarily translate to other countries. When it was shown in New York or Manchester, the expectations were very different and people focused more on the aesthetics. Context is absolutely crucial; it is very Polish, but it has also become very international.

Part 13: Paratheatre: What is outside the theatre?

Links to IB, GCSE, AS and A level specifications

  • artistic intentions
  • theatrical purpose
  • key collaborations with other artists
  • methods of creation, development, training and performance
  • the relationship between the actor and the audience in theory and practice
  • significant moments in the development of theory and practice

PC:What is a paratheatre?

PER YEAR:Para means outside; is theatrical but did not use the same forms. It was outside the theater.

PC:Why did Grotowski switch from productions to paratheatre?

PER YEAR:AfterApocalypse with figuresHe said,

Some words are dead even though we still use them. Among such words are play, theater, audience, etc. But what is alive? Adventure and meeting.

Grotowski, J. (1973) Holiday: The Day That Is Holy.TDR,17(2) str.113–35.

For him, this new language meant paratheatre, which is about active culture. He believed that everyone has an innate creativity: instead of just watching other people act; instead of reading books others have written; instead of watching other people on stage and in movies, we can all be active creators. Thousands of people participated in this program of "active culture," as it was called. We could call them workshops, but they were very different, very intensive workshops. No one was allowed to watch, everyone had to participate. It was a completely different direction.

PC:It seems pretty abrupt. What made him change direction so drastically?

PER YEAR:He looked back at his work and felt that he had manipulated the viewers and forced certain psychological situations. He created these configurations where he asked them to imagine that they were witnesses or present in a concentration camp and saw people die. He felt uneasy at such manipulation of form and theatre. Instead, he wanted to return to questions about the human spirit: What is human nature? What is creativity? It was interesting because many people then brought work into the local communities: Eugenio Barba with Odin Teatret started doing 'exchange' in the 1970s and Living Theater came to Europe. These companies went beyond the theater in a similar way.

PC:What kind of activities did the paratheatre include?

PER YEAR:It was a very broad program of activities: Ludwik Flaszen led text and voice workshops, Zygmunt Molik led voice therapy and acting workshops. Cynkutis led what we would call 'acting classes'. There was work on environmental protection, there was a mountain project, that was itVigils,Bbeehives, all the participating activities where no one was allowed to observe. Everyone had to participate fully under the same conditions. It was an investigative process, very investigative; there were structures, but usually the structure was never explained. For example, in aApiary, you can imagine the feeling of people working through the night, in a swarm of activity, guided and directed by the lab team, but open to people suggesting things, open to things coming up.

PC:How would such open research begin?

PER YEAR:Ludwik Flaszen ville start sinMeditionsINhighwith silence. It would force people to be in the quiet room. It would reveal all these movements and behaviours: there was an awkward silence and people wanted to fill the room and do things, or thought maybe it was an incentive to do something. The members of the Laboratory applied some of the skills from the training, but in a much broader way.

Part 14: Paratheatre: Finding the will to change

Links to IB, GCSE, AS and A level specifications

  • key collaborations with other artists
  • methods of creation, development, training and performance
  • the relationship between the actor and the audience in theory and practice
  • significant moments in the development of theory and practice

PC:Were there any major events that happened during that period?

PER YEAR:They did itTheater of the Nationsproject in 1975 and invited Eugenio Barba, Peter Brook, Luca Ronconi and André Gregory. Everyone came and there were workshops and talks. Five thousand people participated in various projects. It was a very broad range of activities that Grotowski oversaw as 'über-director', if you will. He didn't actually lead the practical meetings himself, although he wanted to lead some of them, but he really let others develop their work.

PC:It sounds big. Where did these studies take place?

PER YEAR:They restored the barns in Brzezinka outside Wrocław as a natural place, far from the city, to carry out this work. They did projects likeMountain projectit was outdoors. They would spend two days in nature and people would immerse themselves in water and grain in non-urban areas. Very experiential, we could call it therapy today, but it was never phrased that way. It seems like a long time in terms of hippy culture, but actually in Poland it was later; so it was quite innovative for Poland at the time.

PC:Did these projects tour as productions?

PER YEAR:Yes, some projects went to Australia, to France; not all were located in Poland. Alongside active cultural activities,Apocalypse with figuresit was presented as a performance. Grotowski used it as a way to meet people and introduce them to paratheatrical work.

PC:Was it someone with any ability?

PER YEAR:Yes. He advertised on the radio, sent roll calls through the socialist youth networks. So, in a way, everyone, including humans, had a need for it: a desire. Again, some people called it elitist, but it wasn't an elitism based on wealth, money or privilege, it was actually the elitism of whoever wanted enough to be there and participate.

PC:Was there any selection process?

PER YEAR:Yes, because if you're going to spend two days with someone, live together, run through the woods, do these experiments, you have to weed out people who could be difficult: people who were there for selfish reasons. I can understand the need for a selection process. It was inclusive, but not fully inclusive; it was driven. They tried to find people who had a real desire to change.

PC:It sounds quite religious, does it have anything to do with religion? You mentioned that he was considered a guru.

PER YEAR:He avoided it, but I think people invest what they want. I assume that the activities had a para-religious aspect. Anything where people gather, where they sing together, can become religious; but for him it was never about god or deities. This is one of the things Grotowski wanted to eliminate; people who invested too much in him as a figurehead to save them. He was very careful not to create an alternative religion at a time when cults and that kind of behavior were widely accepted or created. They relied on religious iconography, like a grain of wheat for example, but it was more in a very functional, practical way. There was some religious symbolism, but it was also inspired by a very wide range of cultural references such as Sufism, Indian culture and Catholicism.

PC:How did the paratheatrical phase of the work end?

PER YEAR:In 1976 they were in Venice at the Biennale, and Włodzimierz Staniewski, who went on to install Gardzienice, fell out with Grotowski and left. He felt that the work had lost its meaning: it had become foggy, too complacent and directionless. He exposed the flaws that Grotowski later looked back on and considered legitimate problems in the work. The next phase of work overlapped with the paratheater –The Sources Theatre. This went to a much more technical level where you found people all over the world who had technical knowledge and looked at the sources of theater from different cultures in terms of ritual and musical practices and dance. It was all an attempt to understand where theater begins.

Del 15: The Influence of Grotowski: Barba, Brook and Beyond

Links to IB, GCSE, AS and A level specifications

  • innovations
  • key collaborations with other artists
  • influence

PC:How did Grotowski's works affect people?

PER YEAR:People were affected in different ways; from someone who only readsTowards a poor theatreand then was inspired by it; for people who may have seen littleThe permanent princeorDr Fauston film and used it to create their own physical theater; to the people who worked directly with him.

PC:You mentioned Eugenia Barba a lot. How was he influenced by Grotowski?

PER YEAR:Barba always spoke of Grotowski as his master; he was always very explicit about that relationship. Barba was his assistant director and apprentice for two years, and then he founded his own company - Odin Teatret in Denmark. He used training processes that started from the same point as Grotowski, but went in a completely different direction. It was much more about creating theatre. Barba kept that troupe together for fifty years, which is an extraordinary feat to sustain an ensemble doing theatrical productions. He edited itTowards a poor theatreand was instrumental in introducing Grotowski to the world. He opened up Grotowski's work in many different ways, through practice and writing. He was very closely associated with Grotowski throughout his life.

PC:Peter Brook is someone we know well in British theatre. How did Grotowski influence his work?

PER YEAR:Peter Brook is important because he was also looking for something, a fresh stimulus; something more universal; something beyond language. He saw in Grotowski's work a physical way of trying to do this through song, rhythm and musicality. There are many parallels between Grotowski and Peter Brook's work. At the time when Grotowski began to engage in paratheatre, Peter Brook left England to settle in France and spend three years doing research. Brook was a similar research process, giving theater back to society. The connection arose from Peter Brook Grotowski and Cieślak working on Brook's production for two weeksNASwith the RSC in 1966. Brooks's collaborator Albert Hunt said it changed the work for the worse, making it indulgent and personal, whereas he wanted it to be political, "Brechtian" if you like. He felt that Grotowski took the play the wrong way. Peter Brook was very close to Grotowski and employed Cieślak inMahabharat a(1985) plays the blind prince. It was the only role Cieślak played after leaving the Laboratory Theater before his death. Peter Brook also coined the term "Art as a vehicle", which came to be used for the final phase of Grotowski's work. Both had an interest in G.I. Gurdjieff, mystical philosopher. MovieMeetings with extraordinary peopleby Peter Brook was based on Gurdjieff's book of the same name. Gurdjieff believed that "We sleep all the time, we must wake up." He had these rigorous exercises to awaken people in their daily lives. We can also see this idea in Grotowski and Brook.

PC:What about Tadashi Suzuki? He is a contemporary of Grotowski, whom you wrote about.

PER YEAR:Suzuki has been called the "Japanese Grotowski". He actually met Grotowski for about three days once when Grotowski was in Japan in the 1970s. Again he was inspired by what Grotowski was doing andTowards a poor theatre. Like Grotowski, Suzuki explored what the body could do, but he looked to his own Noh and Kabuki traditions rather than the world tradition.

PC:It was a revolutionary time for theatre!

PER YEAR:When you think of Peter Brook, Barbas Odin Teatret, Living Theater and Grotowski, all at the same time in the seventies, tearing down walls, fleeing the theater in an attempt to re-establish new relations with society; This whole community theater movement is the main body of Grotowski's work. It's about re-establishing the relationship with the viewer, not just about aesthetics or training.

PC:Do you see Grotowski as an influence on Physical Theatre?

PER YEAR:Lloyd Newson, artistic director of DV8, said 'physical theatre' was Grotowski's expression. He places this whole movement in Britain as beginning with Grotowski. However, Grotowski did not call it physical, but psychophysical. He did not want to focus on the exterior or its virtuosity. Still, I can understand how Grotowski's visits to Britain in the sixties and seventies affected companies like DV8.

PC:How did Grotowski influence theater education?

PER YEAR:I think the influence that Grotowski had on training is huge. 'Traditional' theater is generally a fairly sedentary form - the cliché that it's talking heads is all too often true. Grotowski offered an alternative to this in terms of realizing the actor's full potential. Today, even if you intend to produce an Ibsen play, you might as well start with the physical. Director Katie Mitchell, who is very interested in Polish theater and Grotowski, brought to her work this sense of the importance of ensemble, voice, song, especially in the early stages. It's not just about speaking the text, it's about embodying something.


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