Posts Tagged ‘via negativa’

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

 

 

Training

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

 

 

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