by Antero Alli
(updated 6/15/2017)


 

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




ParaTheatrical ReSearch PDX workspace, Portland OR

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)
Antero 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. One important thing that distinguishes this paratheatre training from Grotowski's is the meditiative device of "no-form", a crux method that incites and evokes the various forms and content of this paratheatrical approach. External forms, such as songs and text, are sometimes used in theatrical performance to help contain the organic, unpredictable processes emerging from no-form practice.

 


No-Form practice (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, this no-form process is not approached as any path to samadhi or "enlightenment". We also do not practice no-form while sitting but standing. No-Form is used here as a tool to cultivate a deep internal receptivity to autonomous forces in the body itself as movement resources. The physical body, with all its hidden organs and complex of bio-systems, is viewed as the embodiment of the Subconscious. In this regard, paratheatre acts as a kind of archeology of the soul - a kind of excavation process for making the unconscious, conscious. 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. Besides standing, we also apply no-form practice to walking and jogging.

Click this for more on "No-Form"

 


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

Is paratheatre the same as improvisation? How do participants
interact with each other?
Describe your training process.

Paratheatre training differs from improvisation as commonly defined in theatre and dance. Interaction in this paratheatre work does not depend on wanting anything from others - performers or audience - to spark, sustain, or to motivate interaction. Our approach to interaction starts by fully committing to internal vertical sources that result in an expansion of presence - one's personal energy - that develops and eventually acts on others, just as the expanding presence of others acts on oneself. By remaining true to these internal, vertical sources while interacting with others, a unique intimacy occurs -- with zero compromise to individual integrity and autonomy. We call this process asocial group interplay.

Initially this asocial approach frustrates the compusions of our social needs and considerations -- such as seeking acceptance, approval, friendship, courtship, and emotional support from others. This is why participants are asked to meet their social needs outside of the workspace during the training processes. By realizing a certain non-responsibility to others, we are free to commit more fully to the moment, the state we're in, the sources animating our expression and find more organic ways - as in, innate to our being - to act and interact.

Paratheatre training occurs in a non-performance setting. Without an audience to impress or to entertain or to please, the external pressures to perform are released and replaced by the self-created pressures of increasing our commitment to the given state, the experience and action at hand. Self-commitment, in this approach, does not emphasize or aggrandize the self in any narcissistic indulgence. The central no-form practice in this approach diminsihes any tendency towards ego-inflation or identification or fixation with any one self-image. In this work, the sense of self is developed so we may have a self to give. Our overall aim is the total act of offering of the self. Strong, flexible egos do well in this work; big egos do not.

 


"Bardoville" (performance; Portland OR, May 2017)

How does ParaTheatrical ReSearch present itself to the public?

ParaTheatrical ReSearch presents itself in four distinct public formats: 1) Witnessing (a public invitation to witness an actual Lab session with no explanaton of actions) 2) Lecture-Demonstration (explanation of the work accompanied by demonstration) 3) Performance (where specific ritual structures are performed and accompanied by poetic text, song and/or live music) and 4) Video documents (representations of performance and non-performance modes). The history of ParaTheatrical ReSearch public events is listed at Public Event History.

Between 1977 and 2015, this paratheatre medium has been primarily non-performance oriented and private where 80% of this time focused on training processes without an audience or witnesses. This training process requires a private, uninterrupted work environment to achieve its various asocial, kinetic, spiritual, and creative objectives.

In early October of 2015, after twenty years in Berkeley California, ParaTheatrical ReSearch (Antero and Sylvi Alli) relocated to Portland Oregon to reinvent itself as a chiefly performance vehicle for the creation of new works of experimental theatre (physical theatre, poetic text, music & song, video) -- directed by Antero with music by Sylvi. Our first production, "A Turbulence of Muses" (text by Arthur Rimbaud), was a Symbolist Ritual that 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, premieres May 12-14, 2017. The vision guiding what we do: the insurrection, and visceral embodiment, of the Poetic Imagination.




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

How do you define ParaTheatrical ReSearch as a company?

Rather than defining ourselves as a company of fixed players, we are a molting group developing new performance works with whomever might be best suited for the unique challenges and demands of each production. Though a core group of individuals persist with each production, we are open to inquiries from performing artists across the spectrum of theatre, dance, voice, music & song, ritual, clown, vaudeville, poetry. ParaTheatrical ReSearch is also a non-union, self-funded collective.


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 and, assist post-performance diffusion of excess emotional charge. These methods have been applied to numerous artistic mediums -- Theatre, Dance, Painting, Sculpture, Poetry, Music, Cinema, etc. -- wherever greater access is desired to the internal landscape and an unleashing of 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).

 


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

How is progress discerned in this paratheatre work?

Advancement in this paratheatre work results from consistent application of 3 stages of development: identification, service, and sustaining care. All three are intimately linked with no final graduations or arrivals; all three stages overlap and contain components of each other.

IDENTIFICATION
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 towards full-bodied immersive experience. The results can be chaotic, convulsive, ecstatic, and melodramatic without communicating anything beyond the catharsis of self-expression.

SERVICE
The second stage involves a shift away from merging, with whatever source we have identified with, towards serving ITS innate directives. This shift helps clarify patterns of motion, distinct characteristics, and rhythms innate to whatever source we are serving. This results in more economy of movement and clarity of expression of the sources engaged and served.

SUSTAINING CARE
The third stage requires an emotional investment in whatever source we are serving. This occurs 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, 2016 and beyond

How can one participate in a ParaTheatrical ReSearch Lab?

As of January 2017, all Zero Labs (entry level work) were discontinued. Paratheatre training now occurs in weekend intensives (scheduled once or twice a year). Some of those participating in these weekend intensives may be invited into the next Paratheatre Lab (running ten to fourteen weeks, once a week) to help develop and perform the next production of experimental theatre -- directed by Antero Alli in collaboration with Sylvi Alli and her Experimental Vocal Ensemble, EVE. Two Performance Labs are conducted each year with productions scheduled for late Spring and early Winter. All Paratheatre Labs, intensives, and performances now occur in Portland, Oregon.

Interested parties, contact Antero:
noform@paratheatrical.com

or call 503-299-4064 and leave a message

 

What books on paratheatre do you recommend?

c c
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 Clips and Full Videos
from six Paratheatre Video Documents (1992-2017)

Paratheatre-related articles
by Antero and others

"State of Emergence"
a paratheatre manifesto by Antero Alli

 

CONTACTS
noform@paratheatrical.com and 503-299-4064

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