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Grotowski Movement Theories

Grotowski Movement Theories

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Published by: Jaime Soriano on Sep 27, 2009
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Sara YoungsMovement Theorist PaperAdvanced ActingMay 3, 2007Grotowski’s Movement TheoriesIn the world of theater, and specifically acting, there have been severalinfluential people who have come up with new and interesting theories on how to getthe full potential of an actor. One such person is Jerzy Grotowski. This polish actorand director became one of the leaders of the 20
th
century’s experimental theatermovement. He is best known for his work on what he called Poor Theater. Thispaper will discuss his background, his influences, the style that he used, whatproductions are associated with him, and finally his impact on the theater world.Grotowski was born in Rzeszow, Poland in 1933. His early life was affectedby World War II in a fairly substantial way. His father was in the Polish army, andtherefore during the war separated from the rest of the family. When the Nazisinvaded Poland, Grotowski fled with his mother and brother to his aunt’s and uncle’sfarm. Once his family was reunited, he was able to move on to his theater studies.Grotowski went on to have a fairly extensive regime of theater training. Hisfirst major training came from the High Theatrical School in Krakow, where hisemphasis was in acting. He graduated from there in 1955 and promptly moved toMoscow to attend the Lunacharsky Institute of Theater Arts. There his focus was on
 
styles of directing. It was here that he first began to learn about the work done byStanislavsky and Meyerhold, among others. He only stayed at this school for a littleover a year and returned to Poland in 1956. Along with his return to Poland, he alsoreturned to the High Theatrical School. He decided to continue his directing studiesthere and stayed for another four years (Osinski 13).His most notable influences were probably Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, andBrecht. Specifically with Brecht, there are numerous similarities in their work.According to Shomit Mitter, one significant similarity is the political impulse imbuedin both their works (80). Both men put forth the effort to make their audiencesquestion social conditions with the hope that perhaps their audiences would then bespurred to influence social change. Also, they both intended “not to interpret theworld, but to alter it (Mitter 80).” Another one of Brecht’s musings that Grotowskiused in some part was that of alienation. According to Mitter, Grotowski “[knew]that familiarity dissolves discrimination. ‘You try to draw attention,’ says Grotowski.There could be no better definition of Brechtian alienation (Mitter 80).”However, this is where Grotowski pulled away from Brechtian teachings. Hefelt that too much criticism could completely cripple an actor. Therefore, too muchalienation was unnecessary. His ultimate goal was to “assist the actor to achieveauthentic selfhood (Mitter 83),” and he used various influences in achieving this goal.Along with his Brechtian styling, he also held some of Stanislavsky’s beliefs. One
 
such belief was that “it is not possible to be something without knowing it (Mitter83)” which comes out of Stanislavsky’s middle period. Grotowski also used logical justification like Stanislavsky and also used questioning to “alienate aspects of motivation worthy of greater logical scrutiny than is habitually accorded them (Mitter85).”Grotowski was also influenced by Asian theater. He has listed IndianKathakali, the Peking Opera, and Noh theater as being influences (Schechner andWolford 144). As in these Asian theatres, Grotowski used ritual theatre. He also“refined theater to its two salient parts –actor and spectator (Schechner and Wolford144,” that Asian theater used.His influences lead into his technique. Grotowski was more than anythingelse, a movement and acting theorist. His overlying goal was to force actors to usetheir physicality to bring out untapped emotions in order to make their charactersmore real. The physical rehearsals and classes that Grotowski directed held twopurposes, according to Owen Daly. First of all, the physical rehearsals and exercisesare meant to make the “physical body stronger and flexible to make it more availableto the actor (Daly).” The second reason was to “contact knowledge that comes fromconscious physical action (Daly).”Grotowski also preferred to have a more authentic experience for both theactors and the audience. Rather than having sound effects, he used the actors’ bodies

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