Author Archive

Jerzy Grotowski and the Theatre Laboratory


The Studies Project event “Vulnerable Bodies and the Embodiment of Resistance” took place at Gibney Dance Center on May 6, 2014. During the event, Dominika Laster talked about the strategies employed by theater director and theorist Jerzy Grotowski to ensure the long-term viability of the Theatre Laboratory under the Communist regime in Poland.

After the event, some attendees expressed their interest in learning more about Grotowski. This post is a form to keep the conversation flowing.

New posts with content related to the event “Vulnerable Bodies and the Embodiment of Resistance” will follow soon.


Jerzy Grotowski during a walk on the Kraków Rynek market square, Kraków, 1974, photo: Aleksander Jałosiński/Forum

Jerzy Grotowski during a walk on the Krakow Rynek market square, Krakow, 1974. Photo: Aleksander Jalosinski/Forum


The excerpt below was extracted from the “Statement of Principles”, which appears in Grotowski’s book Towards a Poor Theatre (1968). This is the third of ten statements, and it appears on the page 257 of the edition published by Routledge (2002):

“Art cannot be bound by the laws of common morality or any catechism. The actor, at least in part, is creator, model and creation rolled into one. He must not be shameless as that leads to exhibitionism. He must have courage, but not merely the courage to exhibit himself – a passive courage, we might say: the courage of the defenseless, the courage to reveal himself. Neither that which touches the interior sphere, nor the profound stripping bare of the self should be regarded as evil so long as in the process of preparation or in the completed work they produce an act of creation. If they do not come easily and if they are not signs of outburst but of mastership, then they are creative: they reveal and purify us while we transcend ourselves. Indeed, they improve us then.

For these reasons every aspect of an actor’s work dealing with intimate matters should be protected from incidental remarks, indiscretions, nonchalance, idle comments and jokes. The personal realm – both spiritual and physical – must not be “swamped” by triviality, the sordidness of life and lack of tact towards oneself and others; at least not in the place of work or anywhere connected with it. This postulate sounds like an abstract moral order. It is not. It involves the very essence of the actor’s calling. This calling is realized through carnality. The actor must not illustrate but accomplish an “act of the soul” by means of his own organism. Thus he is faced with two extreme alternatives: he can either sell, dishonour, his real “incarnate” self, making himself an object of artistic prostitution; or he can give himself, sanctify his real “incarnate” self.”

Note: “Jerzy Grotowski wrote this text for internal use within his Theatre Laboratory, and in particular for those actors undergoing a period of trial before being accepted into the troupe in order to acquaint them with the basic principles inspiring the work. Translation: Maja Buszewicz and Judy Barba.”–page 255




Ryszard Cieslak was a central figure in the Theatre Laboratory, founded by Jerzy Grotowski in 1959. This video excerpt shows a training session conducted by Cieslak in Denmark, in 1972.



The Constant Prince

A production by Jerzy Grotowski in which he employs his training methodology, known as via negativa.

Rena Mirecka and Ryszard Cieslak. The Constant Prince, staged in 1965.

Rena Mirecka and Ryszard Cieslak. The Constant Prince, staged in 1965.


The Constant Prince, variant I; Wroclaw 1965  in the foreground: Rena Mirecka and Ryszard Cieslak  Photo: Laboratory Theatre / Archive Grotowski Institute

The Constant Prince, variant I; Wroclaw 1965
in the foreground: Rena Mirecka and Ryszard Cieslak
Photo: Laboratory Theatre / Archive Grotowski Institute


The Constant Prince, variant I; Wroclaw 1965  Pictured: Ryszard Cieslak  Photo: Laboratory Theatre/Archive Grotowski Institute

The Constant Prince, variant I; Wroclaw 1965
Pictured: Ryszard Cieslak
Photo: Laboratory Theatre/Archive Grotowski Institute



Via Negativa

Instead of giving the actor a set of skills or a “box of tricks”, Grotowski’s method was to take away from the actor all personal impediments and obstacles in order to let him know what not to do. The via negativa is described as a process of elimination of inner and physical blocks between action and impulse.

Below, in The Grotowski Sourcebook, edited by Richard Schechner and Lisa Wolford, Jenna Kumiega describes the concept of  via negativa.

The Grotowski Sourcebook Edited by Richard Schechner and Lisa Wolford
The Grotowski Sourcebook
Edited by Richard Schechner and Lisa Wolford



Studies Project 5/6/2014 – Vulnerable Bodies and the Embodiment of Resistance

Tribo de Atuadores Oi Nois Aqui Traveiz (Brazil)​

Tribo de Atuadores Oi Nois Aqui Traveiz (Brazil)​


Tuesday May 6, 2014 6-8pm 

free admission

Gibney Dance Center 

890 Broadway, 5th floor  New York, NY



Conceived by 2012 Movement Research Artist-in-R Cristiane Bouger

Panelists: Dominika Laster (Poland/USA), ​Mariangela Lopez (Venezuela/USA), Marcos Steuernagel (Brazil/USA), and Tan Temel (Turkey)

Moderator: Cristiane Bouger (Brazil/USA)

Drawing from artistic practices that reveal or subvert the strenuous adversity of social control, this panel aims to address a myriad of perspectives on the embodiment of political resistance.

Artists and scholars will address works and practices that were informed or influenced by the experience of undergoing the restrictions imposed by dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, South America, and Eastern Europe. By approaching culturally diverse and unrelated geopolitical contexts, the event aims to give visibility to the bodies and interstices of experience that are not immediately seen by the foreign gaze.

About Studies Project

A series of artist-instigated panel discussions, roundtables, performances and/or other formats that focus on relevant issues of aesthetics and philosophy at the intersection of dance and social politics in an effort to confront and engage the dance and performance community.


Panelists’ Bios

​Dominika Laster is the Director of Undergraduate Studies and Lecturer in the Theater Studies Program at Yale University.​ She is the Book Review Co-Editor of The Drama Review (TDR). Her books A Bridge Made of Memory: Embodied Memory, Witnessing and Transmission in the Grotowski Work and Loose Screws: Nine New Plays from Poland (Editor) are forthcoming from Seagull Press, distributed globally by the University of Chicago Press. Her areas of research include: 20th century theatre, Eastern European theatre, intercultural performance, nonwestern theatre, postcolonial studies, immigration, memory and trauma studies, abjection, and the politics of performance.

Mariangela Lopez is a Brooklyn-based choreographer and performer, born in Caracas, Venezuela. Her pieces have been presented in Venezuela, Mexico, France, and the United States, including Boston and multiple venues in New York City, such as Danspace Project, P.S 122, Monkeytown, Movement Research at the Judson Church, Dance New Amsterdam, and Saint Ann’s Warehouse, among others. Mariangela was a 09-11 Movement Research Artist-in-Residence and a 11-13 Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX) Artist-in-Residence. Mariangela holds a BFA from the Boston Conservatory (1999) and is a Certified Movement Analyst (CMA) from the Laban Institute of Movement Studies.

Marcos Steuernagel is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Performance Studies, Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Drama, and Program Coordinator for Digital Books at the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at New York University. His work explores ways in which the centrality of the body in contemporary Brazilian theater and dance allows for a privileged understanding of the relationship between politics, philosophy, and performance. Marcos holds an MA in Performance Studies from NYU and a Certificate in Cinema and Video and a BA in Theater Directing from Faculdade de Artes do Paraná, in his native Brazil.

Tan Temel is an Istanbul-based artist. He holds an MA from Yildiz Technical University Art and Design Faculty and an MFA from Case Western Reserve University Theater and Dance Department. Temel was a guest dance artist at the Matthew Hawkins Dance Company in London (2003) and an artistic director of L’O.fficina Dance Company Florence, Italy (2011- 2014). He worked with CRR Dance Theater Company (2003–2005) and Istanbul Dance Theater Company (2005–2011) as dancer and assistant director. He was the recipient of the “International Choreographer Award” from International Dance Chicago Festival (2007) and was awarded a grant from the New York Merce Cunningham Dance School (2001). In 2011 Tan Temel founded his company TORK, which performs movement researches over risk-bearing dynamics that are unpredictable and intuitive. His works have been presented in Europe, China, Japan and in the USA.

Moderator’s Bio

Cristiane Bouger​ is a Brooklyn-based artist and writer. She explores the intersection of performance, theater, philosophy, poetry, do-­it-­yourself practices, and post-­punk influences. Her work reveals existential examinations reflecting upon the female body, desire, cultural conducts, behavior and symbols, biography and fiction. Her articles, essays, and interviews have been published extensively in Brazil, the USA, England, and Portugal. She is a 2012 Movement Research Artist-in-Residence and a 2013 Performa Magazine Writer-in-Residence.

Movement Research will live stream this event.  To watch it on Tuesday May 6, 6-8pm, connect here.


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