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

from "Orphans of Delirium" (performance; 2004, San Francisco CA)

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 was 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 Theatre.

In the wake of this great and traumatic loss, I died and was reborn - 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 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 empowers us to create our own images, a critical attribute in this hyper-media era bombarding our psyches with prefabricated images from advertising geniuses and mass media moguls. Oversaturaton of images we did not create ourselves acts as a force of oppression to our own imagination. How to create more images than I am consuming? How can I sustain the imagination and the soul it enlivens? Imagination death precedes death of soul!

Back 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 talks constantly of Grotowski's paratheatre). Over the last four decades, I've trained hundreds of actors, dancers, singers, and non-performers alike in Paratheatre methods with the aim of increasing access to the internal landscape -- of forces, images, and emotions innate to the body itself -- and its expression through movement, gesture, sound, and characterizations -- a kind of archeology of the soul. Most of this Paratheatre group work happened in private, without an audience, in a non-performance approach to learning the methods of the training process (between 1977 and 2016, only a dozen paratheatrical performance works and five paratheatre video documents were produced).


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


How to describe this medium of Paratheatre? Methods of physical theatre, dance, vocalization, and standing Zazen meditation combine in a dynamic process for giving expression to 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 twelve weeks. Many are the reasons people do this work (click this for testimonials). I do it to stimulate the Imaginal faculties through a version of 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 (my personal Paratheatre experiences have inspired the stories, themes, and characters in 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)

An insurrection and a visceral embodiment of the Poetic Imagination

After twenty productive years in Berkeley California, Sylvi and I relocated to Portland Oregon in October of 2015 to reinvent ParaTheatrical ReSearch as a performance vehicle. We started by staging a series of Workshops (Labs) to train dancers, ritualists, actors, performers and non-performers alike in Paratheatre methods in hopes of finding resonant individuals to help develop and perform new works of experimental theatre (incorporating ritual, poetic text, music & song, video/film) directed by myself with musical direction by Sylvi. The big picture vision guiding eveything we have done and will do: the insurrection, and visceral embodiment, of the Poetic Imagination.

These initial efforts were met with success. Our first Portland production, "A Turbulence of Muses" a symbolist ritual (text by Arthur Rimbaud), premiered December 2-4 of 2016 at Performance Works NW. The Spring 2017 Paratheatre Lab, "2-Faced Clowns", explored personal and collective hypocrisy as a resource for the development of characters in "Bardoville" (text by Charles Bukowski; vocal creations by Sylvi and her new experimental vocal ensemble, E.V.E.) that premiered May 12, 13, 14 of 2017, at PerformanceWorks NW. Our next production, "Soror Mystica", features the poetry of HD (Hilda Doolittle) in a "Ritual Invocation of the Anima" (with E.V.E.); premieres Dec 1-3, 2017 at Performance Works NW.

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. These conditions have turned ParaTheatrical ReSearch into a kind of molting group open to inquiries from performing artists across the spectrum of theatre, dance, music & song, ritual, clown, vaudeville, poetry. ParaTheatrical ReSearch is a non-union, self-funded collective.

- Antero Alli - Artistic Director
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