Experimental Theatre
"Towards a Visceral Embodiment of the Poetic Imagination"
Vision statement © 2016/17 Antero Alli



from "A Turbulence of Muses" (performance; 2016, Portland)

The true purpose of the theatre is to create Myths, to express life in its immense universal aspect, and from that life to extract images in which we find pleasure in discovering ourselves.-Gifted actors find by instinct how to tap and radiate certain powers; but they would be astonished if it were revealed that these powers, which have their material trajectory by and in the organs, actually exist, for they never realized that these sources of energy actually exist in their own bodies, in their organs. - Antonin Artaud


Experimental; a specific word carrying nonspecific meaning. What is really meant by experimental? Is it some rebellion against tradition ? Or some wild and crazy production rife with self-indulgence and assaults on the audience ? Or is it some art form or type of music or a paniting that's simply too obscure to understand ? When I hear the word "experimental", I want to know the specific experiment that's being conducted. If there's no experiment taking place, it's not experimental to me. Though an artistic production or music recital may be called "experimental", without an active experiment taking place I don't believe it's experimental. According to this definition, I am an Experimentalist.

Since 1972, my three chief areas of experimentation have been Theatre, Paratheatre, and Cinema. Between 1972 and 1992, all my theatrical experiments were attempts to give form and substance to my inner life. I did not create out of any underlying vision or purpose beyond giving abstract and artistic expression to my personal experiences. I became the experiment. This all changed in September of 1992 with the sudden death of my young daughter, Zoe -- a horrible shock that opened me up to more reality than I knew what to do with, a personal tragedy too immense for me to convert into Art.

In the wake of this great and traumatic loss, a new "me" awakened - the eyes of my eyes opened. I suddenly saw through the lies of society: the false promises of advertising, the illusory status of becoming "somebody", the soulsuck of rampant consumerism, the mass public naiveté around death and dying. I saw how an overly-literalist collective mindset lobotomizes the personal and collective Imagination. All these impressions overwhelmed my fragile, wounded psyche. In the past, I would've created more theatre to transform my suffering but this pain was too large for theatre as I knew it. Only the medium of cinema seemed to hold the power, subtlety, and multi-leveled complexity to give these terrible new visions the form they deserved. I purchased my first video camera at the age of forty and started a 22-year era of underground filmmaking (1993-2015).

 


from "The Invisible Forest" (film; 2008; 105 min.)

 

During this cinema-creating era, an underlying vision drove all my processes of writing, directing, shooting and producing thirteen feature-length art films (all screened publicly and reviewed by film critics). Though the stories and characters changed with each film, the experiment remained the same: insurrection of the Poetic Imagination. It's now clear to me how a healthy active imagination nurtures that ineffable presence we call soul. A vital and supple imagination enables and empowers us to create our own images, a critical attribute in this hyper-media era bombarding our psyches with prefabricated images of advertising and other media creations. The result of oversaturaton of images we did not create ourselves? Soulsuck. How to create more images than I am consuming via the mass media machines? That is also the experiment and the goal. Imagination death precedes death of soul.

Forty years ago, in 1977, I started developing a medium of Paratheatre inspired by the work of Polish theatre genius Jerzy Grotowski (in Louis Malle's film, "My Dinner with Andre", Andre Gregory makes constant reference to Grotowski's paratheatre). Over the last four decades, I've trained hundreds of actors, dancers, singers, and non-performers in Paratheatre methods towards accessing and expressing the internal landscape of forces, images, and emotions innate to the body itself. Most of this Paratheatre work happened in private, without an audience, and approached in non-performance ritual modalities to learn the methods of the training process (between 1977 and 2016, only a dozen paratheatrical performance works and five paratheatre video documents were produced).

 


Julian Simeon in "dreambody/earthbody" (2012 Lab/Video; Berkeley)

 

How do I define this medium of Paratheatre? Methods of physical theatre, dance, vocalization, and standing Zazen meditation are combined in a vigorous training process to gain access and expression of the internal landscape. This occurs in small groups of 8-10 meeting once or twice a week for 3 hours each time over the course of six to twelve weeks. Many are the reasons people do this work. I do paratheatre to stimulate the Imaginal faculties through its visceral embodiment -- what Carl Jung called active imagination, a term he coined for any process of making the Unconscious conscious by inviting more interaction between the conscious ego and the Unconscious. In this way, I have come to experience the physical body as the embodiment of the Subconscious. Paratheatre has also inspired the stories, themes, and characters for many of my films (more on the history and current state of Paratheatre, here.)

Creativity and Art are not always the same thing. When Art lacks a vital creative spirit, it becomes dead art. Art posing as Art. However, creativity by itself does not always make for Art, good, bad or great Art. A dynamic balance must be struck between discipline and spontaneity, skill and talent, order and chaos, for the development of any Art worthy of an audience. Paratheatre acts as my Lab for creative experimentation; Cinema and Theatre are my Labs for artistic experimentation.

 


from "A Turbulence of Muses" (performance; 2016, Portland)

A visceral embodiment of the Poetic Imagination.

In October of 2015, after twenty productive years in Berkeley California, Sylvi and I relocated to Portland Oregon to rebuild ParaTheatrical ReSearch. We started by staging a series of Workshops (Labs) to train dancers, ritualists, actors, performers and non-performers alike in Paratheatre methods in the hopes of finding individuals committed to creating new works of experimental theatre (incorporating physical theatre, poetic text, music & song, video) -- directed by myself with musical direction by Sylvi. The big picture vision guiding eveything remains the insurrection, and visceral embodiment, of the Poetic Imagination.

Our first production, "A Turbulence of Muses" (text by Rimbaud), premiered December of 2016. Our next production, "Bardoville" (text by Bukowski; vocal creations by E.V.E.), will premiere May 12-14, 2017. Rather than defining ourselves as a company of fixed players, we are more about developing new performance works with whomever might be best suited for the unique challenges and demands of each production. ParaTheatrical ReSearch is a molting group. For this reason, we remain open to new inquiries from performing artists across the genres: theatre, dance, music & song, ritual, clown, music, vaudville, poetry; see Contact Points below.

- Antero Alli - Artistic Director
ParaTheatrical ReSearch PDX
antero@paratheatrical.com
or 503-299-4064 & leave a message

 

Check out these web pages:

Paratheatre F.A.Q.

Orientation to ParaTheatre Training

Catalog of Alli films on dvd