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
CLICK THIS FOR GROTOWSKI'S LIFETIME CHRONOLOGY
Courtesy of Polish Cultural Institute, New York
Paratheatre Beyond Grotowski
Are you doing paratheatre as defined by Grotowski?
No. 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. Though inspired by Grotowski, this paratheatre medium neither follows or attempts to replicate his example. One important distinction that separates this Paratheatre training from Grotowski's is a standing meditation at the crux of our work that we call "no-form" . External forms, such as songs and poetic text, are used in live performance to frame and give context to the more organic, unpredictable processes emerging from No-Form practice.
No-Form chorus ("Dreambody/earthbody video/Lab; Berkeley 2012)
Explain the purpose of this "no-form" method in your paratheatre.
The purpose of no-form is two-fold: 1) to deepen internal receptivity to the internal landscape of autonomous forces in the body towards their engagement and expression and 2) to discharge one's identification with these very forces after each engagement. The physical body, with all its hidden organs and complex interactive bio-systems, is viewed here as the embodiment of the Subconscious mind. No-Form practice cultivates internal receptivity to this subterranean landscape of the Subconscious. Paratheatre methods are applied in a kind of excavation process for making the unconscious, conscious -- to mine the internal landscape for relevant sources of energy, self-knowledge, and insight. This deeply somatic process parallels what Carl Jung refers to as "active imagination". Here, No-Form acts as a bridge between conscious and subconscious dimensions of our existence:
No-Form ---> Dream ---> Form ---> Dream ---> No-Form
Borrowed from Buddhist Zazen practice, No-Form has been reframed to serve the context of somatic experience and expression. Here, No-Form is not approached as any spiritual path to samadhi or "enlightenment". It is also not practiced while sitting. We practice No-Form in a physical stance of vertical rest in preparation for movement, gesture, action, vocal creations, and asocial group interaction. No-Form is used as a tool -- not as an end in itself - for accesing the body's vital currents as movement resources. We also use No-Form to disidentify with these forces after their engagement and expression to minimizes the ego-inflation that can result from identitfication with any influx of Subconscious contents into conscious mind. No-Form practice supports a scrupulous approach to ritual.
Click this for more on "No-Form"
"Soror Mystica" (performance; Portland OR, December 2017)
Is paratheatre the same as improvisation? How do participants
interact with each other? Describe your training process.
This paratheatre work is not improvisation as commonly experienced and defined and performed in theatre and dance. Group interaction in this medium is only introduced after participants have undergone enough training in the fundamental principles and methods -- between ten and fifteen 3-hour sessions -- to advance towards a certain kind of interaction we call asocial interplay. Asocial interaction does not depend on wanting anything from others - other performers or the audience - to spark, sustain, or motivate relationship. The impetus for interaction starts with a conscious choice to increase the commitment to a particular source of energy in the Body. When this internal commitment to source reaches its apotheosis, or peak point, a natural outflowing of presence emerges, as if by itself. Interaction at ths point unfolds naturally - not forced - as a state of offering.
"Asocial" is neither antisocial nor social but a third way of relating that is neither socially hostile or socially-conforming. An asocial approach starts with realizing our non-responsibility to others. This adjustment initiates a critical shift from being in a group to meet social needs -- approval, support, affection, acceptance, etc from others -- to being in a group for other reasons, such as redirecting our attention to internal sources and their direct expression through movement, sound, gesture, action. This shift from the social to the asocial has proven a necessary prerequisite to achieve the objectives of greater authenticity, creative response, and integrity of self-expression. When we are more free of social considerations, we are free to express ourselves more honestly.
"Fallen Monsters" (performance in Portland OR, May 2018)
Can you say more about this asocial approach in your training program?
Asocial interplay is never forced nor is it encounter-based. Once a participant has fully commited to a given internal source, a kind of ripening of presence expands and naturally leads towards an offering of that presence. In asocial interplay, we are acted on and influenced by the presence of others, while remaining commited to whatever internal source we are engaging or serving. In other words, we don't lose ourselves in each other. This demands a kind of "double vision" for staying commited to one's internal sources while staying receptive to the immediate environment of others. Asocial interplay supports individual integrity, autonomy, and creativity while relating -- rather than interacting through socially accepted behaviors, protocols, wanting from others, and other types of exchange (friendship, partnership, romance, community, etc).
Paratheatre training occurs in a non-verbal, non-performance setting. Without an audience to impress or entertain or please, the external pressures to perform are released and replaced by the self-created pressures of increasing our commitment to the given state, experience and actions at hand. By training in a nonverbal climate, participants discover other ways to express and communicate internal processes in more intuitive, somatic, and gestural ways.
Participants are asked to make a silent vow to themselves for becoming accountable for their own safety and well being. By agreeing to make ourselves safe in the face of upset or overwhelm, we can defuse the often unconscious parent/child dynamics in the workspace; we do not wait for a "mom or dad" to make us safe. When we feel safe enough, we naturally feel more free to commit to the moment, the state we're in, and the internal sources animating our expression; we become more free to play. An asocial climate simply supports a more organic field of expression free from social constraints.
Click this for more on "Asocial Interplay"
"Bardoville" (performance; Portland OR, May 2017)
How does ParaTheatrical ReSearch present itself to the public?
ParaTheatrical ReSearch presents itself in three public formats: 1) Lecture-Demo (demonstration of work processes accompanied by explanation) 2) Performance (specific ritual infrastructures are accompanied by poetic text, song and live music; no explanations) and 3) Video documents (representations of performance and non-performance modes). Between 1977 and 2015, ParaTheatrical ReSearch primarily acted as a non-performance oriented group process focused on training, without an audience or any witnesses beyond the facilitator. This intensive longterm training process required a private, uninterrupted work environment to achieve its various asocial, kinetic, spiritual, and creative objectives.
In early October of 2015, after twenty highly productive years in Berkeley California, ParaTheatrical ReSearch (Antero and Sylvi Alli) relocated to Portland Oregon to reinvent itself as a performance vehicle for the creation of new works of experimental theatre. Our first production, "A Turbulence of Muses" (text by Arthur Rimbaud), a Symbolist Ritual premiered December 2-4, 2016. Our next production, "Bardoville" (text by C. Bukowski; vocal creations by E.V.E., Sylvi, director), an Intermedia Performance Ritual, premiered May 12-14, 2017 (to critical acclaim from Oregon ArtsWatch). Our most recent producton, "Soror Mystica" premiered December 1-3, 2017 (also to critical acclaim from Oregon ArtsWatch). Our most recent experimental theatre production, "Fallen Monsters", premiered May 11-13, 2018. All productions since 2016 have been staged at PerformanceWorks Northwest, PDX.
"A Turbulence of Muses" (performance; Portland OR, December 2016)
How do you define ParaTheatrical ReSearch as a company?
ParaTheatrical ReSearch PDX is not a company of fixed players as much as a kind of molting group that develops each new performance work with those best suited for the unique challenges of each production. Though a core group of individuals persists in each work, we remain open to inquiries from others across the performance spectrum - theatre, dance, voice, music, clown, martial arts, vaudeville - who wish to work with us. Sometimes those invited to join us also participate in Paratheatre training to learn the fundamentals of our unique somatic language. ParaTheatrical ReSearch PDX is a non-union, self-funded collective.
What are examples of practical applications of paratheatre methods?
Paratheatre methods can be applied to almost any performance and/or artistic medium in a number of ways. From pre-performance warm-up processes (for actors, singers, dancers) to strengthening performance stamina and presence and, post-performance diffusion of excess emotional charge. These methods have been applied in numerous artistic mediums -- Theatre, Dance, Painting, Sculpture, Poetry, Music, Song, Cinema, etc. -- and wherever greater access is desired to unleash the deep creativity of the Unconscious. Non-artistic values and applications include spiritual experience (worship), new models of interaction (asocial interplay), and anxiety management (self-work).
"Orphans of Delirium" Performance/Video, San Francisco; 2004)
How is craft defined and developed in this paratheatre medium?
The development of craft in this paratheatre medium occurs over time with consistent application in 3 areas of work: identification, service, and sustaining care. All three areas are intimately linked with no final graduations or arrivals; all three overlap and contain components of each other.
The first stage starts with cultivating enough internal receptivity -- via No-Form practice -- to detect, engage and merge with energy sources in the body itself. Identification starts with a conscious choice to surrender to whatever source we are accessing in full-bodied immersive experience. The results can be chaotic, convulsive, ecstatic, and melodramatic without communicating anything beyond the catharsis of self-expression.
The second stage involves a shift away from merging, with whatever source we have identified with, towards serving its innate directives. This shift clarifies the forces in their innate patterns of motion, distinct characteristics, and rhythms -- resulting in more economy of movement and expression of whatever internal sources are engaged and identified with.
The third stage involves an emotional investment in whatever source we are serving. This can occur by discovering what we care most about the source we are engaging and allowing this emotion of care to sustain our movement and expression. Sustaining care happens after engaging whatever source we are accessing, rather than from any preconception of what we might care about. Sustaining care arouses empathy for whatever internal source we are engaging and serving.
ParaTheatrical ReSearch PDX workspace
How can one participate in a ParaTheatrical ReSearch Lab?
Paratheatre training now occurs in weekend intensives scheduled twice a year in February and September. Some of those participating in these weekend intensives may be invited into the next Paratheatre Performance Lab (running ten to twelve weeks, once a week) to collaborate in the next production of experimental theatre. Two Performance Labs are conducted each year with productions scheduled for late Spring (May) and early Winter (December). All Paratheatre Labs, intensives, and performances now occur in Portland, Oregon.
Interested parties, contact Antero:
or call 503-299-4064 and leave a message
What 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. Listed below are some groups and their directorsof paratheatre and paratheatre-related projects in the U.S.A.:
Matt Mitler; director, Theatre Dzieci (NYC)
Antero Alli; director, ParaTheatrical ReSearch (Portland OR)
Stacy Klein, director, Double Edge Theatre (Amherst MA)
Joseph Lavy, Jennifer Lavy; co-directors, Akropolis Performance Lab (Seattle WA)
James Slowiak, Jairo Cuesta; co-directors, New World Performance Laboratory (Akron OH)
Additional groups in related fields, in and outside the U.S.A. listed at:
ParaTheatrical ReSearch Links
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
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
Watch Full Videos
eight Paratheatre Video Documents (1991-2018)
by Antero and others
"State of Emergence"
a paratheatre manifesto by Antero Alli
503-299-4064 (record a message; no texting)