Saturday, June 13, 2009

The "Year of Grotowski"

In case you didn't realize, it's the "Year of Grotowski." Ignored by all who are not "in the know" or treated as an esoteric theatre guru by those who do know - Grotowski was discovered this year by UNESCO and henceforth 2009 became the "Year of Grotowski." This is especially significant for me as I have been an avatar of this kind of theatre since running away from Musical-Theatre college to join Stage One Theatre Lab, a Grotowski influenced spin-off, in the '70's.
My solo piece Restraints (at Charlestown Working Theater in 2006) was developed using this approach and I was invited to present a short talk on it as part of the Year of Grotowski Conference and Symposium at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England.

Suffice it to say, it is never an easy or direct route whenever working in this kind of theatre. In this kind of theatre we always discover things "by the way" - meaning by accident. Glorious Accident. So of course I did not go to Canterbury, England but informed my husband Tom that I was going to work with my Grotowski-oriented theatre pals in Poland and then we were going to drive to England. He looked at me quizzically. "Isn't there water in between?" "Well," I said, "they must know what they're doing. They live there." They (my dear pals Jola and Khalid) had told me we would take a leisurely drive from Poland to England stopping and camping and visiting countries all along the way. Sounded Loverly.

Fast forward to the strange yellow machine. First "on the way" diversion. Flight delayed out of Boston, missed flight to Poland, stranded overnight at Heathrow airport where they show up with strange humanoid vacuming machines in the middle of the night. Otherwise Heathrow was 'Loverly.'

Spent time in Poland writing about the workshop I took with Zbigniew Cynkutis in the 1980's. While I worked I had an enormous picture of him looking down on me from the wall. I was staying with his widow, my friend, Jola. Cynkutis was a leading actor with the Theatre Lab and I have an enormous amount of notes, audiotapes of him speaking etc..from that workshop. I am fifty pages in to my writing and almost finished with what has been a gargantuan task. The workshop I took with him, short though it was, changed my life and I am determined to finish this testament to his work. While I was there, I also participated in all vocal and physical training and watched Jola and Khalid work with a very intense director. He was Greek, raised in Poland and spoke Russian. Needless to say he always dressed in black.

Being spontaneous and alternative and crazy the decision was made to nix the leisurely drive and instead travel through the night to reach England. Great idea except that it meant that we hit Brussels rush hour at 6:00 in the morning tired, bleary eyed and irritable. We made it to the car ferry in Calais, France and collapsed until we debarked in Jolly Old England.

The conference was fabulous because it included as presenters so many young "practitioners" (and odd practitioners like me) on a later symposium track. It was not as prestigious as the first track which had all the remaining remnants of the original Grotowski Theatre Lab troupe and all those who took it upon themselves to protect his legacy from pirates and infidels, but I liked our weird little second track. It shook things up in a good way. I got to present on Restraints using the powers of powerpoint and pointing and Jola told me that what I did was Honest. Hopefully not too honest!! That makes me nervous.

We stayed at what turned out to be an ancient hostelry for Canterbury pilgrims. It was within shouting range of the Canterbury Cathedral and I took pictures of the views out the window until I discovered that our hotel/hostelry was reportedly haunted. Then I only took pictures of suspicious doorways and Medieval iron pieces sticking out of the walls. Glad I didn't find out it was haunted until the last night there. Cheerio!!