what is it?
by Antero Alli
What is 'paratheatre' ?
Aug. 11, 1933 - Jan. 14, 1999
The term "paratheatre" was coined by the late Polish theatre director, Jerzy Grotowski, to address a highly dynamic and visceral approach to performance that aimed to erase traditional divisions between spectators and performers. Paratheatre was also executed outdoors in the forests of Poland as non-performance events. After 1975, Grotowski withdrew from theatre entirely as a public performance medium to redirect his focus towards non-performance oriented group dynamics that developed through various stages: Paratheatre (1969-78), Theatre of Sources (1976-1982), Objective Drama (1983-86), and Art as Vehicle (1986-present). Grotowski's work continues today at the WORK CENTER OF JERZY GROTOWSKI AND THOMAS RICHARDS in Pontedera, Italy.
CLICK THIS FOR DETAILS ON THE STAGES OF GROTOWSKI'S WORK
Paratheatre, Theatre of Sources, Objective Drama, and Art as Vehicle
Courtesy of Wikipedia.org
CLICK THIS FOR GROTOWSKI'S LIFETIME CHRONOLOGY
Courtesy of Polish Cultural Institute, New York
PARATHEATRE BEYOND GROTOWSKI
What other groups or individuals are active in paratheatre?
Currently, there are numerous offshoots and hybrids of Grotowski-informed work (those who have worked personally with Grotowski and Thomas Richards) and Grotowski-inspired work by groups and individuals all over the world. In the U.S.A., I personally know of seven other individuals and their groups fully commited to paratheatre and paratheatre-related projects. Please feel free to contact any one of them for further information:
Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards
Matt Mitler; director, Theatre Dzieci (NYC)
Antero Alli; director, ParaTheatrical ReSearch (Berkeley CA)
Stephen Bogart; director, Rouged Ape (Boston)
Stacy Klein, director, Double Edge Theatre (Amherst MA)
Stephen Wangh; instructor, NYU (Naropa, Boulder CO; and NYC)
Joseph Lavy and Jennifer Lavy; co-directors, Akropolis Performance Lab (Seattle)
James Slowiak, Jairo Cuesta; co-directors, New World Performance Laboratory (Akron OH)
Others working in paratheatre and related mediums are listed at:
ParaTheatrical ReSearch Links
from "Orphans of Delirium"
Are you doing paratheatre as defined by Grotowski?
No. The work we do as ParaTheatrical ReSearch is Grotowski-inspired, not Grotowski-informed or defined. The term "paratheatre", like the term "theatre", demands periodic updating and redefining to serve the developing contexts of its practice and its practioners. The paratheatre medium I have been developing with others since 1977 posits an asocial approach to group ritual dynamics that implements techniques of physical theatre, dance, song, and Zazen to access and express the internal landscape. Though inspired by Grotowski's vision of paratheatre, this medium makes no pretense of following or replicating Grotowski's example. One important difference that sets this work apart from Grotowski's would be the consistent practice of a standing and walking meditation we call "no-form". This no-form practice allows for the development of the very forms and content expressed through this medium. Though external forms, such as songs and text, are occasionally used, they play secondary roles to the slower evolution of organic processes emerging from no-form.
Explain the function of this "no-form" technique.
The function of no-form is two-fold: 1) to deepen internal receptivity to autonomous forces in the body itself towards their engagement and expression and 2) to discharge identification with these very forces after each engagement. No-form is used here as a tool for accessing sources of energy in the body and then, letting them go afterward.
Unlike traditional Zen Buddhist practices, no-form is not used here as any path to samadhi or "enlightenment" but as a tool to cultivate receptivity. I view the physical body as the embodiment of the so-called Subconscious. I approach paratheatre as a kind of archeology of the soul, an excavation process for for making the unconscious, conscious. Through No-form practice, a more intuitive engagement with the body's invisible, autonomous forces can be accessed and expressed through presence, movement, action, sound, and asocial interplay. No-form also allows us to disidentify with these very energies after we're done -- to restore receptivity and minimize ego inflation. In this way, no-form can act as an ego-corrosive, trance-dispersion device.
This no-form process cannot really be taught. Even talking about it can be a little absurd. Either we already experience some personal intimacy with the void, our potential state, or we do not. Everyone finds their own way here. No-Form can also be impersonal. When astrophysics suggest that space is not empty but teeming with dynamic potential energy, this could also apply to No-Form. Besides the standing No-Form technique, we also apply this same process to walking and jogging.
Click this for more on "No-Form"
Is paratheatre the same as improvisation? How do you interact with each other?
Paratheatre differs from improvisation as defined by traditional theatrical and dance conventions. Group interaction in this medium does not depend on wanting anything from others to spark, sustain or motivate relationships. By fully committing to our internal, vertical sources, an organic ripening eventually occurs towards offering this vertically-connected presence with others in a kind of asocial interplay. Since this interactive approach cannot be forced from within or by others, an abiding patience must also be cultivated.
This asocial approach is learned in a non-performance setting. Without an audience to impress or entertain or to please, external pressures to perform are released and replaced by the self-created pressures to perform actions with enough commitment to influence and transform the instrument of the self. If and when this work achieves a performance standard -- where clear communication of internal processes occurs -- a performance vehicle can be chosen to serve, contain, and present this work to the public.
How does ParaTheatrical ReSearch present itself to the public?
About 80% of our work (since 1977) has commenced behind closed doors without an audience or any witnesses beyond myself as facilitator. The deep internal nature of this work requires an equally private environment to nurture and achieve its various asocial, kinetic, spiritual, and creative goals. When a given group reaches a critical mass of skill and proficiency in this medium, a performance event is considered and sometimes scheduled.
ParaTheatrical ReSearch public events have taken on four distinct formats: 1) Witnessing (a public invitation to sit in on an actual lab session with no explanaton of actions) 2) Demonstration (public lecture explaining aspects of the work accompanied by demonstration) 3) Performance (where specific ritual structures are performed often accompanied by text and/or live music) and 4) Video documents (distilled presentations in performance and non-performance modes accompanied by commentaries from the director and participants). The history of all ParaTheatrical ReSearch public events are posted at Public Event History.
Our paratheatre techniques can be applied to almost any performance medium in a number of ways. From pre-performance warm-up processes to strengthening performance stamina and presence in post-performance methods to diffuse excess emotional charge, paratheatre techniques are generic enough to apply almost any creative medium or process. These methods have also proven effective for artists working in mediums such as Painting, Sculpture, Poetry, Music composition, and Cinema all of which depend on expanding the playing fields of creativity (also see my paratheatre manifesto, State of Emergence: Part Three: "The Performer/Audience Romance").
How do you discern progress in this paratheatre work?
After three decades in this paratheatre medium, I have noticed three overlapping phases through which this work seems to develop, progress, and evolve. All three stages express an intimately entwined process with no graduations or final arrivals. Each of the three stages express an essential component of each other.
The first stage involves cultivating enough internal receptivity -- via No-Form practice -- to detect and engage energy sources in the body and then, yielding to these sources in an immersive experience of self-surrender. The results are often ecstatic, convulsive, cathartic, and chaotic.
The second stage involves disidentifying with the sources previously indentified with and shifting towards serving them. This shift towards service can begin clarifying the expression of innate patterns and rhythms of any given source. This stage acts as an intermediary or bridge between the first and third stages. The results can be half-formed, melodramatic, and/or highly expressive yet without enough clarity to truly communiate anything yet.
The third stage involves a sustaining care for tempering spontaneity with a gently increasing precision. Too much spontaneity turns the work into self-indulgent soup; too much imposed structure kills its life. This phase requires a certain stamina for maintaining a dynamic tension between precision and spontaneity, form and force, towards physial and vocal articulations that can be understood by others ~ where true communication occurs beyond the catharsis of self-expression. The results are often more economical, distilled, and specific.
How does one enter a ParaTheatrical ReSearch Lab?
ParaTheatrical ReSearch conducts three or four Labs each year. Labs typically run one or two nights a week for seven to twelve weeks at a time. Those interested should first read the Entry Interview Notes. If you are not discouraged after reading these notes, e-mail me <firstname.lastname@example.org> to make an interview appointment. Entry into all ParaTheatrical ReSearch Labs is by invitation, and/or interview.
What books on paratheatre do you recommend?
click above images for product information and book excerpts
Towards a Poor Theatre by Jerzy Grotowski; click this for excerpt
Film Clip of Grotowski explaining his work
At Work with Grotowski on Physical Actions by Thomas Richards
Heart of Practice by Thomas Richards
The Empty Space by Peter Brook
An Acrobat of the Heart by Stephen Wangh
Towards an Archeology of the Soul by Antero Alli; click this for excerpt
GROTOWSKI on "Verticality"
"We can see this phenomena in the categories of energy: heavy but
organic energies (linked to the forces of life, to instincts, to sensuality)
and other energies, more subtle. The question of verticality means to
pass from a so-called coarse level -- in a certain sense one could say
an “everyday level” -- to a level of energy more subtle or even
towards the higher connection". - Jerzy Grotowski
ParaTheatrical ReSearch Video Clips
from four Paratheatre Documentaries (1992-2012)
Participation in ParaTheatrical ReSearch Labs
The Interview Process and What To Expect
RITUAL LAB SCHEDULE
Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.
by Antero and others
"State of Emergence"
a paratheatre manifesto
ParaTheatrical ReSearch Site Map