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Krzystof Salata CRC Grant

Published April 10, 2013

Headshots.  Kris SalataIn my project, I will bring to completion research towards my next book, Poiesis: Grotowski’s Theatre in the New Millennium. I will be able to closely observe practical work on the craft and art of the performer as conducted at the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, in Pontedera, Italy, the site of one of the most important theatrical legacies in modern history. I will conduct field interviews with Thomas Richards and his international performers, as well as consult archival records kept there. World-famous in 1960s, Jerzy Grotowski (1933-1999), one of the key figures in twentieth-century world theatre, an innovative director and performance researcher, withdrew from the eye of the public to conduct long-term rigorous research with a dedicated group of actors. His groundbreaking work has been continued after his death by his artistic heir, American theatre artist, Thomas Richards. My unique qualifications, research investment, and my recent book on the related subject, granted me an unprecedented access to the Workcenter’s work. My project is a unique opportunity to document and analyze work of formative value to performance research and pedagogy.

1. Summary of the Research and Additional Funding

With the COFRS grant for the summer 2013, I will bring to completion my research towards my next book, Poiesis: Grotowski’s Theatre in the New Millennium. I will be able to closely observe practical work on the craft and art of the performer as conducted at the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, the site of one of the most important theatrical legacies in modern history. I will also interview Thomas Richards and his international performers, as well as consult archival records kept there.

 

World-famous stage director in 1960s, Jerzy Grotowski (1933-1999) is one of the key figures in twentieth-century world theatre, and an author of the celebrated essentialist manifesto, Towards a Poor Theatre (in print since 1968). An innovative director-auteur, performance researcher, and acting pedagogue, he withdrew from the public eye to undertake a long-term rigorous research with a dedicated group of actors. The decades-long work of unprecedented focus and maturity, continued after Grotowski’s death by his artistic heirs, is yet to be properly accounted for in theatre scholarship. Indeed, while such an account in the Grotowski studies already exists, sufficiently covering his earlier work in Poland and the United States, the practical research of his last period, conducted in his Italian Workcenter, demands deeper studies. This demand is further prompted by the growing interest in Grotowski (notably, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, designated 2009 as “The Year of Grotowski”). With my project, I aim at filling this significant gap in the scholarship on Grotowski, and thus, in the account of the evolution of  actor training in modern theatre.

I am an internationally recognized scholar and translator of the works of Jerzy Grotowski. In addition to articles, book chapters, and translations, my past work involves the book, The Unwritten Grotowski: Theory and Practice of the Encounter, published in the prestigious series “Routledge Advances in Theatre and Performance Studies” (2012). As a scholar, theatre ethnographer, theorist, and performance pedagogue, I have been in active contact with Grotowski’s artistic heirs, Thomas Richards and Mario Biagini in their home base in Italy, as well as at numerous artistic residencies around the world, to which they are invited. Due to my artistic experience, scholarly preparation, as well as my cultural roots that I share with Grotowski (I was born and raised in Poland), I am uniquely prepared to advance the Grotowski studies in the English-language-based scholarship. My over-a-decade-long research investment in this project involves close studies of live practical work, interviews, and comparative analysis.

My qualifications have granted me a rare access to the Workcenter’s work. I will be able to contribute to the field of theatre and performance studies a unique account of the creative approaches, developmental techniques, nuances of actor training, and philosophy of praxis.

The book that I am putting forward involves a detail analysis of the unique approach and techniques to performing that unify movement, singing, speech, and dramaturgy in a single poetic form. This approach is quite important in the culture of compartmentalized practice that divides performance pedagogy into distinct skills. In the last few decades, however, some notable practitioners have developed unified approaches to voice and movement. This more inclusive attitude is slowly making its way to mainstream theatre education. The Workcenter’s training, which takes the next big step in fusing the actor’s work, is thus of particular significance to theatre pedagogy.
 
Another key aspect of the book is the theoretical discourse that puts performance praxis in tune with philosophical questions about the nature of theatre, performance, actor’s art, spectatorship, and also the very relationship between discourse and praxis. And here Grotowski’s and Richards’ radical essentialism gives the scholar great opportunities of theoretical analysis applicable beyond this legacy, to the field of performing arts at large. I have already written on some of these themes in my previous book, where I position Grotowski’s work as philosophical practice and, more particularly, as practical research in phenomenology. With a focus on the phenomenon of the encounter, my theoretical analysis uses a broad range of post-structural philosophy and critical theory. My new book will take this project further into the field of academic research and pedagogy.

Thus far most of my research on the subject (including my previous book and the current project) has been funded by grants from Stanford University, funds from The Grotowski Institute in Poland, Theatre Institute in Barcelona, Spain, the Grotowski Foundation in Pontedera, Italy, CRC and the School of Theatre at FSU. I have just completed a weeklong journey to observe the Workcenter during its residency in China, where I also was invited to speak at an international conference dedicated to Grotowski. Sponsored and fully funded by the Shanghai Theatre Academy, this trip also advanced my research towards the book.

Of particular value to my research has been the School of Theatre’s sponsored artistic residency of Thomas Richards and the Workcenter’s Focused Research Team at FSU in the fall of 2011. This engagement (which I initiated and helped to organize) involved performances, class visits, working sessions, and a symposium. The FSU event has been of historic importance, as it marked the Workcenter’s first U.S appearance since the group’s founding in 1986.
While the COFRS grant would cover my field research during the summer of 2013, additional funding may be required to finish this project. I will be seeking grants from the Polish Ministry of Culture, and the Ford Foundation.

2. Description of the Project and its Importance to the Field

Grotowski has been recognized as one of the founding pedagogues in the field of theatre, focusing on the art of the actor and director, but important for all theatre artists, including designers, playwrights, and dramaturges. His inclusive essentialist and minimalist approach has impacted theatremaking since 1960s. His influence around the world, and particularly in the United States, where he resided and taught in 1980s (professorship and fully funded research project at U.C. Irvine) has been greatly noted, even if it has not been founded by a particular prescriptive method. Instead, Grotowski speaks on the ever-evolving methodology, that is, of methods that seek methods in constantly changing cultural circumstances. Established to continue after his death, the Workcenter has been training performers along that philosophy. Thus far there has not scholarship has properly placed the Workcenter’s research and symbiotically related pedagogy in the context of historically analyzed theatre artist training (in the United States, but also in many other countries). My project aims at doing precisely that – in situating Grotowski-based approach in the concrete realms of theatre pedagogy.

The research that I will conduct in this project will take place in May-August 2013 in Pontedera, Italy, where the group has its base. I will be able to stay on the property and attend the group’s activities. I am expecting to document daily work of the group and some individual performers, rehearsals, collective and individual work sessions, training, pedagogical activities, and the essential research the group members do on behalf of their creative work. I will write drafts of some chapters of the book. I plan to continue writing after returning to campus and during the academic year 2013-2014. I plan to submit the book proposal to Routledge in the fall of 2013. I have already discussed the project with the Routledge editor of Theatre and Performance Studies, Talia Rodgers, who expressed great interest in my book, particularly that Routledge is currently preparing The Collected Works of Jerzy Grotowski (in which I have a role as a translator). I plan to submit the manuscript in the fall of 2014. As part of an evaluation process of my research and analysis, I will present a paper at the Performance Studies International conference in June, 2013, a well as at the American Society for Theatre Research in November, 2013.