Want to read a book on stagecraft or performance that will quite possibly change your life? Grotowski’s “Towards a Poor Theatre” is the book for you. In this text, Grotowski takes the logic and method of Stanislavski far beyond the conclusions which the old Russian father of the modern stage could have imagined or even desired. The result is nothing if not terrifyingly exciting.
The crux of Grotowski’s philosophical argument is that a crisis has emerged in the theater of the mid twentieth century. This crisis has been brought forth by the emergence of spectacle in the cinema replacing what once was a large draw of and to many the purpose for the theatrical arts. Grotowski poses the question being asked of the medium – what is its purpose and does it still have one?
Growtoski deducts the answer to this question by logically destilling the most fundamental aspect of theater as a medium. He concludes that lighting effects, musical accompaniment, and even the text are all secondary to what must be fundamental – the spectator performer interaction. Here lies the genius of Grotowski’s realization. If the single most important aspect of the theater is the live spectator performer relationship – how can this be leveraged to better effect? The result, over the course of Grotowski’s short theater directing career are a series of experimental plays that aggressively explore new modes for audience involvement in the theatrical act.
Additionally, and separately, Grotowski explores a deeper level of the actor’s craft in examining the actor’s performance as a phenomenological embodied process. His method (or anti-method) of working with actors is truly incredibly important for all directors to study and understand, whether working in cinema or theater.
I am sure I will be studying Grotowski’s thinking and bold exploration for years to come. There is no doubt in my mind that he well earned his place among the great innovators in the craft of the twentieth century – and possibly all time.
Purchase his book, read his book, and share your thoughts. I’m excited to see ways in which we can apply Grotowskian methods to working with actors in cinema.