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.