Enthralling Books: Towards a Poor Theatre, by Jerzy Grotowski

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6 Responses to “Enthralling Books: Towards a Poor Theatre, by Jerzy Grotowski”

  1. James M says:

    I felt the same way after reading Richard Schechner’s Environmental Theatre. Grotowski was definitely one of the greats in theatre. There are lots of videos on YouTube about training sessions for his theatre: http://youtu.be/dRyLLTvs00c

  2. veleniki says:

    I started reading this without looking at who wrote it. As soon as I saw the word paratheatre I thought of Antero, scrolled up and knew I’d have to buy this book now. Alli’s work is intense and wonderfully weird…and he taught/teaches a great online course at Maybe Logic too!

  3. Joe Lawrence says:

    I cannot agree more! I was introduced to Grotowski as an undergraduate by a professor who actually worked with the man years ago! Even if you don’t take every word he says by heart, which I don’t, he’s a revolutionary man and this wonderful book is a MUST for any theater practitioner. Find it, buy it, borrow it, read it, study it,  highlight it, smell it, eat it, DO IT!

  4. Chris Shaver says:

    I just read this book a couple weeks ago and liked it a lot. I wish I could have seen some of the performances he directed. Grotowski’s theory of performance reduces theater into its minimal constituting elements and explores their fundamental relationships. By stripping theater down, removing its unnecessary complications, basic and yet powerful forms of theatric expression that emerge directly from the body become the whole of a syntax rich enough to produce what lies at the essence of drama. 

    Grotowski often describes his process through which actors train to create his very physical performances as removing blocks from the body and its movement. Once blocks and inhibitions are surmounted deep emotions can manifest directly through the body without being obscured by physical or mental self-limitations. As in language, where it is difficult to gain command over the full range of phonemic possibilities, which have become pruned down to the few that lie within ones primary tongue, giving one an accent that follows them from language to language as a series of invariant sounds and nuances, similarly it requires significant work to free the body to its full range of expressiveness and given the actor, unlike the aimless freedom of a child, a command over the freedom.

    I like Grotowski a lot and agree in theory with most of his theatric constructivism (which can be likened in some ways to the constructivism of Rodchenko and Popova in painting). However, I would debate Grotowski on is his Essentialism: that in freeing the body one gets as a result the direct expression of some inner Truth beyond the forms of mediation, inhibition, and objectification. As a Lacanian, I would certainly take the position that there is no such inner Truth that the free body expresses. Instead, freeing the body simply renders it into a precise medium for the material support of creative signification. The direct access achieved through the removal of mediation is not some “Real” of human emotion but rather the Symbolic of the body that determines the role it plays in the development of meaning and the formation of subjectivity. Nevertheless, this would only be a debate about ends, both of which sharing the same initial process of investigation of the body as a means of expressing drama that Grotowski devises in this book so brilliantly.

    This is definitely something worth reading.  If you are an actor, you should find it even more interesting than I did, since I am not. Indeed, I think there is something beyond Grotowski that can only achieved by working through Grotowski.

  5. jhhl says:

    Andre Gregory was heavily into Grotowski and talks about it and a great number of other things in the regrettably out of print book “Alice in Wonderland: the forming of a company and the making of a play”

  6. Jeff Grygny says:

    This stuff is amazing, if dated in it’s hippie-esque pursuit of the “true inner impulse,” which, as Chris says in his cute Lacanian way, carries some heavy metaphysical baggage. Grotowski’s theater research was heavily funded by the Communist Polish Gevernment, as it was in part motivated by deeply sublimated Polish Catholic Mysticism. He wanted to discover new ways for human beings to live together–and, as a teacher of mine once quoted one of his long-time students, he “wanted to get his filthy hands into your soul.”
    The Poor Theater is still a seductive ideal, though. Too bad practicing it in these United States would guarantee you poverty in a very un-metaphysical sense!
    Grotowski’s later work in shamanism and paratheater is also incredible;  Andre Gregory talks about the surreal spaces they invoke in “My Dinner with Andre.”

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