Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Towards a Poor Theatre

Jerzy Grotowski, arguably one of the most innovative theatre directors of the 20th century, here attempts to summarize his methodology, both in evolution and in practice. Grotowski, heavily influenced by the work of Antonin Artaud and Berthold Brecht, was obsessed with uncovering the true nature of humanity through intense discipline and unique physical exercise (Exercise plastique) throughout the rehearsal process. He believed strongly in myth and ritual being used as the sources for productions. A set was never used twice. Grotowski experimented heavily with radical blocking that placed actors behind, between and almost underneath spectators. He expected a rigorous and almost monastic life-style from his company of actors. They were to focus on ridding themselves of external concerns and pride, never to strive for glory or personal recognition but always to act as "medium" to the audience, allowing them to experience deep human truth through the actor, as if staring through a window.

I find the theories and practices of Grotowski interesting. For example, his explanation of an actor's relationship to his own body (the "conversation" between the hand touching the leg, etc.) and also the notes on vocal resonance (speaking through certain parts of the body, in order to fill yourself with sound).

It is, however, difficult to apply Grotowski's methods after a mere reading of his text. This would be like trying to apply Meisner's repetition work after reading an essay on it. I have a hard time grasping Grotowski's metholody completely since the work has lost something in its translation from Polish to English. I feel this kind of work must be observed first hand.

Grotowski's work seems to me a good jumping off place for work in movement. However, I don't believe he is an "end all to end all" in terms of acting technique, just as Stanislavsky, Meisner, Adler, etc., etc., etc. cannot be said to be. He is a tool in an actor's belt, one way of achieving emotional honesty on the stage.

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