Artaud, Grotowski, Brook, Me

from “Artaud, Grotowski, Brook, Me”, a paper for Directing Seminar:

In studying these directors and their philosophies on theatre in class, and in particular during the research for this paper, I have begun to develop my own ideas and ideals and ideology about directing. Though, the only chance I have had to apply them is as one half of The Pathological Upstagers, a comedy duo which features as the other half fellow theatre student Jill Summerville. I feel that, in the creation and execution of our sketches traces of Antonin Artaud, Jerzy Grotowski, and Peter Brook have crept through. These traces may have been invisible influences (as many claim: what theatre is not inspired by them?), but by learning about their respective philosophies I have come to understand how they influence and also to allow them to inspire quite directly, using their techniques more intentionally.

Artaud’s desire to affect the audience viscerally is definitely something I go for in my comedy and plan to go for in my directing: but in general, the visceral reaction I’d like to achieve is for the audience to lose themselves with laughter, to laugh so hard it hurts. Talk about cathartic: to me it matters little what is actually on the stage, as it did for Artaud and Grotowski. I believe that any number of things can get the audience both thinking and hurting; it depends primarily on the delivery: is it comic? tragic? tongue-in-cheek? slapstick? Allowing the audience to lose themselves in laughter purges them of their every-day stress and puts them in a better mood, the effects of which can last for quite some time afterward, and may even allow them to laugh at other things in life. This is the cleansing I hope to achieve.

Grotowski’s “poor” theatre has also been an inspiration, but perhaps for different reasons than what he had intended. As one who grew up actually poor and who is a communist at heart, I strive to reclaim theatre as a tool for the people: both as theatre-makers and theatre-goers. As a theatre-maker I want theatre to be cheap to make- using Grotowski’s focus on the actor-spectator relationship and downplay of the other, often costly aspects of the theatre. As a theatre-goer I want theatre to be accessible; which, perhaps, none of the three went out of their way to stress, but that’s the beauty of Marx’s dialectics: I can create a synthesis between their methods of theatre-making and my own ideals. A synthesis which, when approached by another good idea down the road, can morph into synthesis #2, which brings us back to Brook’s ideal of embracing constant change.

Artaud, Grotowski, and Brook all wanted (or, in Brook’s case, wants) theatre to be something new, something refreshing, some beautifully revolutionary. So do I. And though I may not agree with all of their methods and philosophies, this common objective will always allow me to think of them as my contemporaries, my comrades. It will also always inspire me to believe that this type of theatre is possible: other people have thought it, and done it, successfully, so why can’t I? The theatre allows us to never feel alone, to never despair.

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2 responses to “Artaud, Grotowski, Brook, Me

  1. i do agree with your thinking about theatre being a tool for the community, but how to make it an actual reality in a capitalistic, cosumming materialistic society? in the older, agrarian villages, theatre was a necessary fuction, rituals performed by the farmers themselves, rites of passages, and to honor the seasons…etc. yes, we do need theatre as a way to bring the community together, but in a small and more intimate way would be best. peter schuman’s bread and puppet is way too big to bring the audience into play. i was part of the bread and puppet in the 60’s.

  2. I do not think that making the communal aspects of theatre “an actual reality” as they were in the agrarian villages of the past IS possible. The rites of passage and common social experiences that theatre was once used to mark (i.e. deaths, marriages, sexual maturity) are now dealt with privately (or in a psychiatrist’s office, months after their occurence). To try to make theatre as necessary as it was to the watchers of medieval morality plays would be a Brobdingnagian task. Of course, as a theatre student, I hope to see theatre restored to its former place of respect and prominence. However, before theatre becomes a tool FOR the community, it must be affordable TO the community. Someone who has never seen a play cannot think of theatre as a tool for his empowerment. Although the theories of Brecht, Grotowski, and Brooke do not, by their very nature, make the theatre a populist art form, they do lend themselves to the creation of cheaper (in terms of expense, not quality) theatre. Once theatre is more readily affordable to the masses, it can more easily be used to empower the masses.

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