This paratheatre manifesto presents the central ideas, principles, and insights distilled from four decades of active paratheatrical research as a work in progress. All sincere comments, questions, and critiques welcome. -- Antero Alli ---> antero@paratheatrical.com

 



Part One: Orientation
culture, paratheatre, verticality, asocial intent
© 2005 Antero Alli (updated 8/23/2017)

 

On Culture

Culture expresses a dynamic process that manifests itself in similar ways regardless of size - subcultures, microcultures, macrocultures. The phenomena of culture tends to be romanticized, mythologized and stratified into hierarchical niches between "high" and "low" culture. What we call "culture" arouses powerful investments of pride, propriety, and status after we falsely assume that culture is something we create and own. Nobody owns culture; we are more likely owned by the culture we live in. Nobody creates culture. We are more likely 'created' by culture.

From a non-sentimental view, culture is nothing more and nothing less than the daily interaction between human DNA and geography, between a tribe of people and the womb environment they settle in. When a given tribe settles and builds community within any given bioregion, a distinct culture develops by daily human interaction with the resources and power fields sustaining them there. Mountain ranges, deserts, shorelines, valleys, forests -- each bioregion carries its own power of infuence that shapes the lives and the souls of the people living there, what they eat and create, resulting in the complex Planet/People weave we call "culture". Some geomantic power fields, or planetary power spots, express innately charged conflict zones where highly volatile energies dwell and erupt without warning: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, hurricanes, tornados, lightning strikes, landslides. The underlying causes of human conflict, violence and warfare may run far deeper than our bloodlust for revenge, money, power, oil, and religion. We may be unconsciously acting as conduits, vessels for the eruptions of the feral geomantic forces innate to the region we live in. The Earth is calling the shots, has always called the shots!

We act on culture and are acted on by culture. Over time -- decades, centuries, aeons -- this genes/geography interaction crystallizes into symbols, languages, and artifacts that encode, encrypt and transmit the characteristics of each distinct cultural identity. Cultures developing in the Himalayan mountains will differ from cultures stimulated along the shorelines of southern India or the Sonora deserts of Mexico or the lush Amazon river basin or the Cascadian forests of the Pacific Northwest. Each unique bioregion informs the nature of its tribe's religions, arts, mythologies, commerce, education, language, community rituals, and values. Though each culture maintains its own distinct signature and appearances by its unique sustaining rituals and traditions, all cultures are linked by the universal molecular language of DNA; we are all human beings living on the same planet.

We live in an era of dying cultures. Any culture or subculture that survives must turn to those rituals and traditions that sustain it. Any human culture achieves longevity by the success of its sustaining rituals, how well we are feeding the planet and how well we are being fed by it. Sustaining rituals return us to the primordial interaction between genes and geography, human DNA and our immediate womb environment, through soulful communion and communication with the planetary entity. These sustaining rituals cannot be understood or proven by any empirical, literalist mindsets. However, our primordial contact with planetary forces can be experienced firsthand through intuitive resonance with the Earth as a living entity that has incarnated as our planet. The Earth is not only more alive than we think; it is more alive than we can think.

 

On Theatre and Paratheatre

Theatre acts as one of many sustaining rituals for keeping a culture alive. As with any sustaining ritual, the nature and purpose of theatre must evolve and change over time to meet the growing needs and changing values of its people and their environment. Like a snake shedding old skin, any culture grows by outgrowing itself. Any theatre that cannot outgrow itself ceases to evolve and function as a vital sustaining ritual. For theatre to remain vital, a “paratheatre- in the theatre but not of it -- must be implemented as a via negativa process of dismantling stagnant habits and excessive dependence on external factors - such as props, costumes, sets, audience - that can frustrate a more truthful creative response.

In this paratheatrical training, the pressure to perform must be released and replaced by self-created pressures to increase one's commitment to sources of energy, impulses, power and grace within the Body itself. This redirection of commitment, from externals to internals, opens the door to verticality -- what can be experienced as energy/information flowing through us - down from above and up from below, as a column running up and down the spine. Alignment with our innate verticality marks the initiatic stages of restoring receptivity and deepening our capacity for engaging and expressing the Body's primordial sources.

Traditionally, commitment to verticality have been achieved by various esoteric schools utilizing different methods of sense-deprivation (withdrawal of identification from external stimuli). Monastic orders, Tantric and Vedic yogas, and various spiritual disciplines find verticality as a source of redemption, and/or enlightenment. Numerous systems of psychotherapy explore similar processes of interaction between conscious Ego and the Unconscious, such as Carl Jung's Active Imagination, Dada Bhagwan's Self-realization, Dr. Abraham Mazlow's Self-Actualization, G.I. Gurdjieff's Self-Work and so forth.

Rarely have any of these spiritual methods been used to regenerate the sustaining ritual of theatre. One strident exception can be found in the work of the late visionary of theatre, Jerzy Grotowski (Aug. 11, 1933 - Jan. 14, 1999) who coined the term 'paratheatre' to address non-performance oriented group ritual work between 1969 and 1977 in the forests of Poland. However, Grotowski never claimed any actual 'legacy of paratheatre' due to the ongoing transmutations his group work underwent over three decades (and beyond his death at the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards in Pontedera, Italy).

The term "paratheatre" will be used hereafter to refer to my ongoing paratheatrical research since 1977. I define paratheatre as a medium of physical theatre combining methods of dance, vocalization, and meditation to access, embody, and express the internal landscape. The initial training process occurs in an asocial non-performance climate to increase individual integrity and autonomy. When participants reach higher levels of proficiency in this paratheatre medium, a performance vehicle may be developed and staged. Click this for more details on the training process itself.

 

On Verticality and Asocial Intent

Groups create bonds of shared acceptance, support, and belonging through community-building social events. However when these social bonds inhibit or frustrate the expression of our true feelings and spontaneous responses, they can also impede and frustrate creativity. When a given group becomes preoccupied with maintaining their social personas and meeting their social needs -- for friendship, courtship, belonging, approval, security, status, etc -- this group begins feeding horizontally-oriented social needs and, verticality is quickly lost and/or never established in the first place. This is why an asocial climate becomes critical for effective paratheatre work.

"With verticality the point is not to renounce part of our nature; all should retain its natural place: the body, the heart, the head, something that is "under our feet" and something that is "over the head." All like a vertical line, and this verticality should be held taut between organicity and the awareness. Awareness means the consciousness which is not linked to language (the machine for thinking), but to Presence." -- Jerzy Grotowski

Click this for more on Verticality

The inner workings of paratheatre starts with realizing our non-responsibility to others. Paratheatre training processes initiate a shift away from depending on external sources of energy (other people) and external stimuli (music, costumes, props, masks, etc) towards a consistent internal dependence, ie., drawing energy, acceptance, support from verticality. This asocial direction is neither antisocial or social but a necessary condition for increasing personal commitment to verticality and one's state of being -- free of social considerations about what others might think, feel, believe, react or say about it.

 

The Archetype of Self and Personal Safety

This shift from external to internal dependence replaces social considerations with an active expression of our most honest, spontaneous, and authentic responses. Without this adjustment, the "default" conditioning of our local culture's socialization 'programs' easily dominate the tone of group interaction and corrupt the quality of work with social cliches, play-acting, and conditioned reactions. Actualizing an asocial intent naturally frustrates social compulsions and considerations, such as seeking external acceptance, support, approval, status, courting and flirting, community belonging, and other needs to bind social agreements. Social needs are obviously important and why they are best met outside of the paratheatre workspace. By relaxing our social agendas and motivations, we can begin sourcing the internal landscape of autonomous forces in what Carl Jung calls the archetype of The Self.

"The Self is a quantity that is supra ordinate to the conscious ego. It embraces not only the conscious but also the unconscious psyche, and is therefore, so to speak, a personality which we also are. The Self is not only the centre but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the ego is the center of consciousness." -- Carl Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology

Asocial intent starts with taking a vow to be accountable for our personal safety. Once we fully commit to being responsible for our own safety, the conditioned parent/child reflexes -- for helping, saving, guiding, and/or judging others and/or expecting others to make us safe -- can be relaxed and eventually bypassed. This vow of self-accountability means we're willing to face our fears and frustrations as they come up amidst an often unpredictable creative process. This is also why paratheatre is not meant for children but those mature enough to accept full accountability for their actions and their consequences and, for making themselves safe when feeling threatened or anxious. By doing so, the vulnerable creative child within us can feel safe enough to come out and play. This is how a heightened self-commitment and a vow of personal safety serves creativity.

More on paratheatre at:
Paratheatre F.A.Q.

 


MANIFESTO LINKS

 

Part Two: Integrity Loss and Recovery
sacrifice and the force of commitment

Part Three: The Performer/Audience Romance
talent and skill, the total act, the No-Form technique

Part Four: Self-Observation and Ego
function of ego, embracing contraries, emotional plague

Part Five: Self-initiation
on the bridge between the worlds and
what drains the power of dreaming

Part Six: A Cultural Overview
a mass hallucination of a society gone mad

 


 

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