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



from "A Turbulence of Muses" (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 do we mean by experimental? Is it some rebellion against tradition ? Or some wild and crazy production rife with self-indulgence and assaults on the audience ? Or perhaps it's an art form or kind of music 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 , it's not experimental to me. Though an artistic production or recital may be called "experimental" in the media or any other sources, without an active experiment taking place it's simply not experimental. Without a vision of a testing process - and all true experiments are testing processes - anything anyone calls "experimental" may actually be something else. According to this definition of experimental - as any process and its results after conducting an experiment - 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 loss, a new "me" awakened - the eyes of my eyes opened. I saw through the lies of society: the false promises of advertising, the illusory status of becoming "somebody", the soulsuck of rampant consumerism, and 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 and heal my suffering but this pain was too large for theatre as I knew it. Only cinema seemed to hold the power, subtlety, and multi-leveled complexity to give these 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 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 by enabling the creation of our own images. The sociopolitical culture at large looks chiefly souldead to me. Imagination loss precedes death of soul. How to create more images than I was consuming via the mass media machines? That is also the experiment.

Backtrack to 1977. I started developing a medium of Paratheatre inspired by the work of Polish theatre genius Jerzy Grotowski during the 1970's (in Louis Malle's film, "My Dinner with Andre", Andre Gregory makes constant reference to Grotowski's paratheatrical experiments). Over the last forty years, I have trained hundreds of actors, dancers, singers, and movers in Paratheatre methods towards accessing and expressing the internal landscape of forces, images, and emotions innate to the body itself. Between 1978 and 2005, a dozen performance works and several video documents were produced using Paratheatre methods. Most of the Paratheatre work that has occured over the past four decades has been in private, without an audience, and non-performance oriented.

 


"dreambody/earthbody" (2012 Lab/Video; Berkeley)

 

What is 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 8-12 meeting once or twice a week for 3 hours each time over the course of six to ten 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 and 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 inspired the stories, themes, and characters for many of my films.

Paratheatre is as my Lab for creative experimentation; Cinema and Theatre, my Labs for artistic experimentation. 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.

 


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

 

ParaTheatrical ReSearch:The Current and next stage of experimentation (2016 -???)
I am following a vision of experimental theatre rooted in my deep Paratheatre and Cinema background towards a highly visceral physical theatre interacting in an environment of ritual, spoken poetry, song, and moving pictures. I see my role as writer/director and sometimes performer. My wife (and artistic collaborator since 1990) Sylvi Alli will act as music director and sometimes performer. This vision of theatre parallels an ongoing training in the physical theatre methods of Paratheatre to help performers maintain access to the internal landscape of primordial somatic sources and its most authentic self-expression. These elements have come together in the December 2016 premiere of my symbolist ritual,"A Turbulence of Muses" featuring choreography from movements recalled from the performers' dreams, text by poet Arthur Rimbaud, elements of Dada clown, with music and songs performed by Sylvi and myself (click this for vision statement of this production).

Our ongoing experiment: a visceral embodiment of the Poetic Imagination.

- Antero Alli
Artistic Director
ParaTheatrical ReSearch PDX
Those interested in joining us, contact me at:
antero@paratheatrical.com

 

Check out these web pages:

Paratheatre F.A.Q.

Orientation to ParaTheatre Training

Catalog of Alli films on dvd