by Antero Alli
(updated 1/21/2017)


 

What is 'paratheatre' ?

 


JERZY GROTOWSKI
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

Click this for a Film Clip of Grotowski explaining his work
In Polish with English subtitles





Paratheatre Beyond Grotowski




"A Turbulence of Muses" (performance; Portland OR, 2016)

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 groups and their directors fully commited to paratheatre and paratheatre-related projects in the U.S.A.:

Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, (Pontedera, Italy)
Matt Mitler; director, Theatre Dzieci (NYC)
A
ntero Alli; director, ParaTheatrical ReSearch (Portland OR)
Stacy Klein, director, Double Edge Theatre (Amherst MA)
Stephen Wangh; instructor, NYU (Naropa, Boulder CO; and NYC)
Joseph Lavy and 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

 

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 paratheatrical work neither follows or attempts to replicate his example. What distinguishes this paratheatre training from Grotowski's is what we call "no-form", a crux method that incites the various forms and content of this approach. External forms, such as songs and text, are sometimes used when paratheatre advances into a theatrical performance as a frame to contain the organic unpredictable processes emerging from no-form practice.

 


No-Form practice of ParaTheatrical ReSearch Lab; Berkeley 2012


Explain the purpose of this "no-form" method.

The purpose of no-form is two-fold: 1) to deepen internal receptivity to autonomous forces innate to the body towards their engagement and expression and 2) to discharge identification with these very forces after each engagement. No-form is used as a tool for accessing sources of energy in the body and then, releasing attachment after their engagement.

Though borrowed from Buddhist Zazen practice, the no-form process is not approached as any path to samadhi or "enlightenment". Instead, we use it as a tool to cultivate deep receptivity to the internal landscape of autonomous forces in the body itself as movement resources. I view the physical body, and all its hidden organs and bio-systems, as the embodiment of the Subconscious mind. I view paratheatre as a kind of archeology of the soul - an excavation process for making the unconscious, conscious. This no-form practice supports an intuitive engagement with the body's innate (unconscious) forces to be consciously engaged and expressed through movement, action, sound, and presence. No-form practice also allows us to disidentify with these very energies after their engagement so we may restore critical receptivity and minimize ego inflation by being nobody but ourselves. Besides standing, we also apply no-form practice to walking and jogging.

Click this for more on "No-Form"

 


"A Turbulence of Muses" A Symbolist Ritual by Antero Alli
ParaTheatrical ReSearch performance; Portland OR, 2016

Is paratheatre the same as improvisation?
How do participants interact with each other?

Paratheatre training differs from improvisation as defined by traditional theatrical and dance conventions. Interaction in this work does not depend on wanting anything from others - performers or audience - to spark, sustain, or motivate action or relationships. By fully committing to one's internal vertical sources a subtle inner presence ripens, expands and acts on others, as the expanding presence in others acts on oneself. By remaining true to our internal, vertical sources while interacting with others, a unique asocial intimacy results -- where individual integrity and autonomy is never compromised. We call this interactive process asocial group interplay.

This asocial approach frustrates the mechanical habits and compusions of social considerations -- such as seeking acceptance, approval, and support from others. This is also why this process is not for everybody. Participants are asked to meet their social needs outside of the paratheatre workspace. This asocial approach is learned and practiced in a non-performance setting. Without an audience to impress or entertain or to please, the external pressures to perform are released and replaced by more self-created pressures such as increasing personal commitment to the given state, experience or action at hand. When followed through to the hilt, this direction results in a total act of offering of the self.

 


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

How does ParaTheatrical ReSearch present itself to the public?

Since 1977 this paratheatre medium has been primarily non-performance oriented that ocassionally presents itself in public performance events. So far, about 80% of our work has commenced behind closed doors without any audience or witnesses beyond myself as facilitator. The initial training processes requires a private uninterrupted work environment to achieve its various asocial, kinetic, spiritual, and creative aims. When a given group reaches critical proficiency in this medium, a public performance event is developed and scheduled. NOTE: As of Autumn 2016, all ParaTheatrical ReSearch Labs will be oriented towards specific themes that develop into new works of experimental theatre incorporating poetry, song, and film. The first of this series, "A Turbulence of Muses" (featuring the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud) premiered December 2016 in Portland OR.

ParaTheatrical ReSearch public events have taken on four distinct formats: 1) Witnessing (a public invitation to sit in on an actual lab session with no explanaton of actions) 2) Demonstration (public lecture explaining aspects of the work accompanied by demonstration) 3) Performance (where specific ritual structures are performed and often accompanied by text, song and/or live music) and 4) Video documents (presentations in performance and non-performance modes). The history of ParaTheatrical ReSearch public events is listed at Public Event History.



"CRUX" (ParaTheatrical ReSearch Lab; Berkeley, 1999)


What are examples of practical applications of paratheatre methods?

This paratheatre medium implements trigger methods of physical theatre, abstract dance, song, and Zazen to access and express the internal landscape. These techniques 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. They can also assist post-performance diffusion of excess emotional charge. These methods have been applied to numerous artistic mediums -- Painting, Sculpture, Poetry, Music, Cinema, etc. -- and wherever greater access is desired to the internal landscape and 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).

 

How is progress discerned in this paratheatre work?

Advancement in this paratheatre work results from consistent application of a three-phase process of identification, service, and sustaining care of empathy. All three stages are intimately linked with no final graduations or arrivals; all three stages overlap and contain components of each other.

IDENTIFICATION
The first stage
involves cultivating enough internal receptivity -- via No-Form practice -- to detect, engage and merge with energy sources in the body itself. Identification with these energies demands a conscious act of surrender to your own energy as a full-bodied immersive experience. The results can be chaotic, convulsive, ecstatic, and melodramatic without communicating anything beyond the catharis of self-expression.

SERVICE
The second stage
involves a shift from merging and identifying with the body's innate forces - impulses, emotions, reflexes, etc. - towards serving their directives. This shift helps to clarify the expression of patterns, characteristics, and rhythms innate to any given source of energy. This results in increased economy of movement and clarity of expression of whatever forces are engaged and served through the instrument of self.

SUSTAINING CARE OF EMPATHY
The third stage
involves a subjective discovery of, and an internal dependence on, what we care most about any given force we are engaging and serving. This happens in the heat of the moment, rather than from any preconception of what we care about. As we commit to this subjective direction, a sustaining care of empathy fuels and informs the expression of whatever internal source we are engaging and serving.

 


ParaTheatrical ReSearch PDX workspace, 2016 and beyond

How can one participate in a ParaTheatrical ReSearch Lab?

There are two or three Paratheatre Labs conducted each year. Each Lab runs for seven to twelve weeks at a time, one or two nights a week. NOTE: Starting January 2017, all Zero Labs (entry level work) will be discontinued. Paratheatre training will continue within the context of specific themes and archetypes as a basis for developing future works of experimental theatre. The training will support development of higher performance standards for those motivated to achieve them. All Paratheatre Labs and performances occur in Portland. Interested parties can e-mail Antero for an interview appointment <antero@paratheatrical.com>.

 

What books on paratheatre do you recommend?

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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

 


 



ParaTheatrical ReSearch Video Clips and Streaming
from five Paratheatre Documentaries (1992-2016)

Paratheatre-related articles
by Antero and others

"State of Emergence"
a paratheatre manifesto by Antero Alli

 

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