Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Sad Day

I have officially today given up on finding my copy of Towards a Poor Theatre. As a much as a few months ago I think I must have mislaid it and I’ve kept burning a hope that I would find it, but I think it’s time to give it up. A fairly cursory skimming of my thinking here, particularly “The Miraculous Medium,” will illustrate the depth of my debt to Grotowski’s work. His emphasis on what he called ‘the encounter’ (i.e. the encounter between the actor and the audience), I find particularly important to a vital theater existing in a technological world.

An actor I respect very much saw me reading my Grotowski a few months back and sighed thoughtfully as he said, “Ah, Grotowski: reminds us why we do what we do.” Well, maybe. But I think this would rightly have infuriated the man himself. Grotowski doesn’t merely remind us why we make theater, in fact, this was never his goal. Grotowski teaches us how to make theater. His experimentation isn’t the cute esoteric ramblings of a madman, but a program from which we can learn. He gives vocal exercises for god’s sake! Theoretical, sure, metaphysical even, but also physical, muscular, chthonic.

In an essay on Artaud, Susan Sontag described Grotowski as being disinterested in the presence of the audience. I think this is a misreading of the Laboratory’s work. Grotowski’s main interest was certainly in the actor—his process, his body, his soul I suppose—but he strikes me as aware that the actor’s art exists in the encounter. Indeed, as I remember (and admittedly, it’s been a while since I got to read it) Grotowski even describes the audience he seeks: an active audience that wants to participate in the aesthetic work.

I’ll get another copy soon. I can’t wait to read it again.

To the luckiest Red Line passenger of all time, I hope you give it a good home.

1 comment:

Olga Petrakova-Brown said...


"Our rights as men should begin with our acts rather than with declarations or testimonials
to ourselves. We are like trees. We don't have to worry in which direction destiny, climate,
the winds, and the tempest are veering, or to know whether the earth will be fertile of
sterile; the very fact of our birth obliges us to respond to the challenge of life and to
answer it in the manner of nature itself, which never hurries or hesitates. If our seed falls
upon stone, so much the worse. Even this does not free us from our duty; and if we refuse,
on whatever pretext, to perform the acts required of us, we shall be like a tree thrown
into a fire and destroyed. And that will be right. This fire is not of a social order; it flames
inside me as soon as I betray, in one way or another, my duty as a living man, the duty to
perform acts. The worst threat to man's survival lies in my own sterility; and this sterility is
nothing but an escape from creation."

- J.G.

Thank you for sharing on your blog.

Olya Petrakova