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by Lillian Vallee and Robert Findlay

by Zbigniew Osinski
Opole 1959-1964
Wroclaw 1965-1970
Wroclaw 1971-1976
by Robert Findlay
1959/1960 through 197611977
A Brief Preamble
The text which follows by Polish theatre historian and criticZbigniew Osin
ski was originally published as Grotowski i jego Laboratorium in Warsaw in 1980
by Panstwowy lnstytut Wydawniczy. Osinski's discussion covers the period
from Jerzy Grotowski's youth through the eighteenth year (1976) of the
Laboratory Theatre's existence. It is only fair to note that the original book is a
much larger work than appears here in English translation. The original is in
two major parts: (1) an essentially chronological calendar of events dealing with
Grotowski and his work with the Laboratory Theatre, and (2) a series of
speculative and theoretical essays on Grotowski and his work, most of which
are densely written and in essence untranslatable. Such a statement in no way
disparages Osinski as critic or scholar: his excellent essays on both Grotowski's
Akropolis and The Constant Prince (in Teatr Dionizosa [1972]) are thorough and
highly perceptive.
But it is Osinski's chronological calendar which is published here, and it
. covers Grotowski's early schooling and influences, his early theatrical ex-
periences, his rise to prominence as a youthful anti-Stalinist political figure in
the mid-1950s, and his founding in Opole in 1959 (with critic Ludwik Flaszen)
of the theatre group that eventually was to become the world-famous Teatr
Laboratorium (or, as it has been traditionally referred to in English, the Polish
Laboratory Theatre).
Osinski's calendar covers in detail those difficult years in Opole (1959-1965),
when Grotowski and the group were fighting for survival. During these years, it
seemed that a large portion of the 'critical (and political) community in Poland,
fearful of the aesthetic and perhaps ultimately political implications of this new
enterprise, would have gladly seen it go out of existence. But then, as Osinski
Grotowski and His Laboratory 8
shows, in the mid-1960s, as the group began to gain some recognition outside
Poland and moved to the large metropolitan city of Wrodaw, the atmosphere
began to change, if ever so slightly. Still occasionally "the old game," as
Grotowski himself has referred to this vituperative critical barrage, would crop
up again. Then in the late 1960s, on tour with productions of Akropolis, The
Constant Prince, and Apocalypsis cum figuris, Grotowski and his Laboratory gain-
ed worldwide recognition and acclaim. International fame came largely as a
result of the frequently awesome quality of Grotowski's actors and the training
methods he had developed to bring them to this level. An actor such as
Ryszard Cieslak almost overnight became known throughout the world as the
most physically adept and emotionally transcendent performer seen in the
twentieth century. As Osinski clearly documents, by the late 1960s and early
1970s the Laboratory Theatre was recognized internationally as the major
theatrical ensemble in the world and its director as the foremost theatrical
figure since Brecht.
It was, of course, at this point in the early 1970s that Grotowski announced
nis so-called "exit" from the theatre. Rather than repeat past theatrical suc-
:esses, rather than become his own follower, he chose another direction,
:award what he called "active culture" and "paratheatrical experiences," a
:lirection still not adequately understood today by most theatre practitioners
md critics. It is with the first truly tangible and publicly demonstrable fruits of
:his new direction-the so-called Research University of the Theatre of Nations
n Wrodaw (1975) and preparations for "Project: the Mountain of Flame"
-that Osinski's account ends in 1976. Much, of course, has happened in the
Jast ten years to Grotowski, members of his troupe, and to Poland generally.
)ne of the major purposes of the added section following Osinski's text, titled
1976-1986: A Necessary Afterword," is to account for these past ten years and
:o bring matters more up to date.
A word needs to be said about Osinski's methods in developing his text and
tlso about the methods followed by the translators and editors in rendering the
ext. In his chronological calendar, Osinski, by his own admission in the
'Author's Note" that follows, has attempted a very factual account; in general,
1e is a documentarian rather than interpreter. His account depends heavily
1pon the reports of others-newspaper, magazine, and journal critics especially.
\!though Osinski uses accounts of Grotowski's work from all over the world,
1is chief sources of information are Polish. Thus there is a great deal of quoted
naterial here from sources never before appearing in English. Osinski's ac-
:ount, interestingly, is a very "Polish reading" of the phenomenon of Jerzy
:Jrotowski and his Laboratory Theatre. Critics from other parts of the world,
>ecause they never understood the language spoken by Grotowski's per-
:>rmers, most often concentrated on the actors' obviously incredible vocal and
'hysical skills. The Polish critics, on the other hand-individuals such as Jerzy
;alkowski, ]6zef Kdera, and Tadeusz Burzynski-often wrote of premieres from
9 Zbigniew Osinski
a more informed and sophisticated perspective. Because often the Laboratory
Theatre developed its productions from Polish classics generally unknown out-
side Poland-Mickiewicz's Forefathers' Eve, Srowacki's Kordian, Wyspianski's
Akropolis, for example-these Polish critics often wrote with a much more in-
timate awareness of the originals than, say, French or Italian or American
Thus Osinski's method of quoting extensively from his sources happily in-
creases the amount of Polish material on Grotowski now available in English.
Being a scholarly account of the work of Grotowski, Osinski's book contains
innumerable detailed footnotes, all based upon a numbering system generally
unfamiliar to English-speaking readers. The translators and editors, in the in-
terest of developing a more easily readable text, have thus dispensed with Osin-
ski's footnotes but have added at the conclusions of quotations parenthetical
allusions to author, source, and year of publication. Those who wish more
precise documentation of a particular source should go to Osinski's original
text in Polish. Additionally, all editorial additions to Osinski are placed in
square brackets ([ ]).
Something must be said about the handling of the Polish language in this
English version. All Polish accents on Polish words have been maintained.
Titles of most Polish plays, essays, articles, etc. have been rendered in English.
But the sources in which essays, reviews, articles, etc. appear have kept their
Polish titles. While it might be helpful to know that newspapers such as Gazeta
Robotnicza means "Workers' News" and Sf.owo Polskie means "Polish Word," it
is simply more accurate documentation to cite the source in its original
language. A comparable situation that is almost inconceivable is to imagine the
New York Times being rendered by a Polish writer as "Czasy nowojorsksie." And
Polish sources, often-cited, such as Literatura, Kultura, or Polityka are simply
clear enough as they stand.
One final word: Osinski's is not really a very intimate portrait of Grotowski,
and certainly the members of the Laboratory Theatre company hardly emerge
as distinct individuals in their own right, which they certainly are (for a com-
plete listing of company members, season-by-season, see the appendix, "Person-
nel of the Laboratory Theatre"; for brief notes on what they are doing today,
see "1976-1986: A Necessary Afterword."). But Osinski's account, undoubtedly
in keeping with his intent, seems always to view the group from the perspective
of a total outsider, despite the fact that he clearly over the years has had in-
numerable contacts with members of the group. What emerges from Osinski's
account is a portrait of Grotowski as chiefly public figure: a brilliantly in-
telligent, articulate, talented, courageous, unique and charismatic individual,
hated and resented by some, nearly deified by others; but a man who, in the
post-World War II period, has done more than anyone else to bring about a
reevaluation of the theatre and the premises upon which theatre has stood, not
simply in the twentieth century but for all time.
----- . - --- -------- ---- .... -- ---- .
Grotowski and His Laboratory 10
The translators and editors would like to thank Daniel Gerould for first sug-
gesting this project several years ago; Gerald Rabkin for his perennial good
counsel in matters connected to the Laboratory Theatre; Michael Mullins for
his assistance in providing Australian reviews of the Laboratory Theatre;
Halina Filipowicz, who did the original translation of the first two sections, "In-
troduction to the Theatre" and "First Independent Works in the Theatre," and
who has given considerable support and assistance to the project since its be-
ginning; Marian Barnett, administrator of Grotowski's work in California, for
her assistance in understanding the administrative organization of "Objective
Drama"; Ellen Walterscheid for her considerable editing assistance; Zbigniew
Cynkutis for his endless support; and particularly Jerzy Grotowski, whose
discussions in New York (August/September 1984) and Irvine and Long Beach,
California (March 1985) helped greatly in the clarification both of Osinski's
text and of his own work since 1976.
Lillian Vallee
Modesto, California
Robert Findlay
Lawrence, Kansas
1 July 1985
Author's Note
When in the years 1970-1973 I decided to write a collection of articles about
the Laboratory Theatre, I felt a lack of publications which could document the
activities of Grotowski's new center. Neither of the already published books,
Eugenio Barba's Alla ricerca del Teatro perduto: Una proposta dell'avantguardia
pollacca ["In Search of the Lost Theatre: A Proposal of the Polish
Avant-Garde" (1965)] nor Raymonde Temkine's Grotowski (1968), were able to
supply this information. In addition, these works, which were doubtlessly
valuable and useful in their time, are no longer up to date. The task of this
book is to fill the gap. Grotowski i jego Laboratorium includes the situation up to
1976 inclusively, even though I have added items from 1977 to the appendices. I
have deliberately taken on the role of documentor. Let the facts and
testimonies speak for themselves; the authorial comment is there where it is
needed. This is an informational book first of all. One of the results of this
method is the lack of exhaustive authorial descriptions, analyses, and inter-
pretations of the successive works-theatre performances by Grotowski and his
troupe. A monographic treatment demands a separate publication.
I would in all likelihood not have written this book if not for the under-
standing and concrete help of many people. Allow me, therefore, to thank Bar-
bara Bosak, Teresa Gabrys, Irena Jun, Barbara Majeska, Maria Krzyszstof Byr-
ski, Wiesfaw Gorecki, ]6zef Grotowski, Tadeusz Kudlinski, Henryk Lipszyc,
Roger Pulvers, Marian Stepien, Bolesfa.w T aborski, ]6zef Wieczorek, and the
Laboratory Theatre company. I also used the periodicals and xerox copies of
materials supplied to me by Natella Baszyndzagian, Carla Pollastrelli, and the
American and Australian Centers ofiTI in New York and Sydney, respective-
Grotowski and His Laboratory 12
The comments of Janusz Degler, Ludwik Flaszen, and the editorial board of
Teatralia PIW made after the first draft of the manuscript appeared had an im-
portant influence on the present form of this book. To all whom I have and
have not mentioned, my heartfelt thanks .
One more thing. This work is an outllne. It is, therefore, a point of deparrure
for more detailed analyses and deeper reflection.
Zbigniew Osir\ski
Warsaw, Poland
8 April 1978
'f:} r ...
Introduction to the Theatre
Jerzy Marian Grotowski was born on 11 August 1933 in Rzeszow, Poland. His
father, Marian Grotowski [1898-1968], was a forest ranger and painter who
died in Paraguay, where he had been residing since the close of World War II.
His mother, Emilia Grotowska nee Kozlowska [1897-1978], was a teacher. An
older brother, Kazimierz, was born in 1930.
Until September 1939, when Poland was invaded, the Grotowski family lived
in Przemysl. When World War II broke out [the father was an officer in the
Polish army and later in the Polish army in England], Emilia Grotowska and
her two sons moved to Nienad6wka, a peasant village about 12 miles north of
Rzeszow, where they spent the rest of the war. Jerzy Grotowski enrolled in a
Nienadowka grade school where his mother was hired as a teacher. As
Grotowski himself admits, the Nienad6wka years were an important formative
period for him. He discovered various forms of folk rites and beliefs, and he was
first exposed to the personality of an inspired prophet:
My mother went to town ... and brought back a book called A Search
in Secret India by an English journalist named [Paul] Brunton. He
talked about the people he met in India, mainly about some unusual
man. He lived on the slopes of Arunachala, a holy mountain, or
the Mountain of Flame. His name was Maharishi [Bhagwan Shri
Ramana]. He had a peculiar custom. When someone came to him to
seek explanation about the essence or meaning of life, he would ask:
"Who are you?" But the question was phrased as a direct statement:
"Ask yourself who you are." (Interview, A. Bonarski, Kulcura [1975])
Grotowski and His Laboratory 14
After the war, Grotowski completed his grade school education with honors
in Rzeszow. In 1950, the Grotowski family moved to Krakow, where Emilia
Grotowska got a job as a clerk in a district court for insurance claims. In 1951,
Grotowski graduated summa cum laude from the Fifth High School in Krakow.
While still in high school, Grotowski frequently gave poetry recitals in
Rzeszow, Krakow, and nearby towns, and he participated in poetry recital con-
tests, often walking away with the first prize. In a letter of recommendation, his
high school teachers described him as "diligent, very talented, and a dedicated
volunteer worker. He puts a lot of effort into the students' self-help system. He
has considerable interest in the a r t ~ . " Grotowski's application to the acting pro-
gram of the State Theatre School in Krakow mentions his difficult financial
situation and his need of financial support. His mother's meager salary was not
enough to support three -people, and-Grotowski had assisted the family income
through receiving a scholarship while in high school.
Grotowski took entrance examinations at the Theatre School in September
1951. His results were: physical appearance, C; diction, F; voice, B; ex
pressiveness, C. The examination committee included a note about
Grotowski's diction: "Wrong pronunciation of sounds Its!, lz/, /s/, /rh/, and
/sh/," but he was allowed to take the written test. The applicants were asked to
write on one of the following topics:
I . How can theatre contribute to the development of socialism in Poland?
2. How do you understand the actor's task in the theatre?
3. Discuss one of the award-winning works at the Festival of Contemporary
Polish Plays.
Grotowski [gamefully] chose the first topic and received an "A" for his essay.
On the basis of his written test and his high school recommendation, he was
accepted on probation with an overall grade of "C." However, he was denied
any financial aid.
Grotowski was enrolled in the acting program of the Theatre School in
Krakow from 1 October 1951 until 30 June 1955. But he also continued to
cultivate his interest in the Orient, going to lectures, studying on his own, giv-
ing talks, and consulting with specialists. Among them was Professor Helena
Willman-Grabowska (1870-1957), an authority on Indian and Iranian culture,
and Dr. Franciszek Tokarz (1879-1973), an outstanding specialist in Indian
philosophy. While a theatre student at Krakow, Grotowski seriously con-
sidered transferring to the East Asian program or to the medical school.
In his second year, Grotowski became president of the Students Research
Club at the Theatre School. The Krakow club was considered by many the
most active among similar organizations at other theatre schools throughout
Poland. As a club representative, Grotowski traveled to regional and national
conferences. In December 1954, during the 13th meeting of the Arts Council in ,,
15 Zbigniew Osinski
Warsaw, Grotowski urged the authorities to be more supportive of the young
generation of theatre artists. In his statement, according to one report:
Grotowski was concerned that the sickly atmosphere in theatres is
beginning to infiltrate theatre schools. Moral cynicism, careerism, and
the pursuit of material values are the most dangerous symptoms of
demoralization. But Grotowski is no pessimist. He sees evil, and he
wants to do something about it. Young theatre artists, Grotowski said,
want romantic and heroic ideals. Those who are better and wiser are
still in the majority. But that's where the bitterness creeps in. Young
actors are left largely to themselves. Rarely do they meet with
understanding from directors or older actors, and the authorities, in-
cluding the Ministry of Culture, couldn't care less. Grotowski called
for a congress of young theatre artists, which would allow them to
solve many difficult and complex problems. (J. Timoszewicz, Po prostu
As a fourth-year student, Grotowski was also involved in the master's pro-
jects of the graduating class at the Theatre School. In a production of Schiller's
Love and Intrigue, he served as assistant to the faculty supervisor, Professor Krzeminlski. The production opened on 17 January 1955 at
Krakow's Theatre of Poetry and was performed 68 times to full or nearly full
houses. In Gorky's The Smug Citizens, shown on 26 May 1955, Grotowski
played Pyotr, and he directed Love Scenes, a collage of excerpts from plays by
Juliusz Sfowacki (Balladyna, Beatrice Cenci, Kordian, Mazepa, and Mary Stuart,
among others).
In early 1955, Grotowski emerged as a free-lance writer. His first article, "The
Red Balloon," published in a supplement to the Krakow Dziennik Polski, called
for the establishment of a Young Artists' Club in Krakow. Alluding to the
tradition of the Green Balloon cabaret in Krakow, Grotowski wrote:
We must pay tribute to tradition with actions, not words. We must
cultivate the seeds of the past, which may flourish into new values on
modern soil. ... We wish to influence man and the world with our
art. We've got the courage to fight openly and fervently for the most
important issues, because only such issues are worth fighting for.
The responses to Grotowski's article are of interest. Critic and playwright Jan
Pawel Gawlik wrote: "I don't know Grotowski personally, but I know that his
head is on fire. In his article, there's plenty of nonconformism, bragging, and
cliches, and a pinch of complacency, typical of youth. But there's also
something that commands attention." Writer and actor Leszek Herdegen open-
ly criticized Grotowski: "It's not enough to have a firm ideology, it's not
Grotowski and His Laboratory 16
enough to be a member of the Polish Youth Union, it's not enough to be a
volunteer worker in order to be an artist. . . . You must have your own,
unique artistic program .. .. You've got to know what you want to accomplish
as an artist." Playwright Mroiek attacked Grotowski even more
Let's assume that Grotowski is really on fire. Unfortunately, nobody
really knows what's burning there. Pray, Grotowski, why didn't you
give us some specific examples? You signed yourself a theatre student
but there's not even a small mention, for example, of what you're try-
ing to accomplish in the theatre. Grotowski, you want to knock
something over or go somewhere, you shake your fists at someone, but
pray, tell us what, where, who.
Grotowski's response to such criticism is his "Dream of the Theatre," which ap-
peared in Dziennik Polski on 23 February 1955. Here he developed his vision of a
theatre of grand emotions:
A performance may be well acted and directed, yet the audience feels
there's something missing. We must, then, thoroughly revise the very
idea, style, and artistic impact of the theatre .... To us, the strength
of the theatre lies in action, in the enactment of life in front of us ....
Therefore we need means especially suitable for producing an emo-
tional effect. ... I'm talking about the poetic structure of a theatre
work not in isolation from, but in close connection with, the dramatic
text. The theatre of grand emotions . .. requires the great romantic
repertory: from Shakespeare, Mickiewicz, and Slowacki to Wyspian-
ski, Vishnevsky, and Pogodin.
Grotowski chose Hamlet to illustrate his concept of "the theatre of grand
emotions,'' which demands "courage, persistence, and hard work":
A production of Hamlet is especially suitable to emphasize, for exam-
ple, "an obsessive drive to revenge leading to self-destruction." One
would then play up those moments which show the protagonist
motivated by his will to revenge, getting himself entangled in
dangerous circumstances, and eventually becoming destroyed by his
mounting "obsession." But this drama may be also staged as a
psychological tragedy of a weak individual. Hamlet's philosophical
deliberations would be then reduced to mere complaints of a powerless
In the theatre of grand emotions, we can use Hamlet to evoke in the
audience a cult of heroic and human greatness. "There's something
~ ~
17 Zbigniew Osinski
rotten in the state of Denmark": the court's corruption, intrigues,
hypocrisy, villainy, exploitation, and the unscrupulousness of those in
power. But we can juxtapose this corruption with the young man's
heroic struggle against fraud and inhumanity, challenging the sacred
laws of the monarchy, family, and tradition. Hamlet sacrifices
everything for his struggle, including his own life. . . . If we com-
municate this in our production, then we have accomplished our goal,
and the desired grand emotions will be evoked in the spectators'
hearts. The famous monologue, "To be or not to be," will not be a
weak man's helpless whining but an expression of the inner struggle of
a man who must decide "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer I
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune I Or to take arms against
a sea of troubles, I And by opposing end them?"-a man who discards
vacillation and chooses action.
When we compose the scenic action from the point of view of grand
emotions, we must abandon all real life details in Hamlet whenever
they aren't absolutely necessary to evoke the emotions or to clarify the
action .... Natural acting and conscious structuring of the action
don't exclude one another, but are a measure of the actor's art ....
The poetry of action in its emotional impact should be reinforced by
music, light and color, evocative rhythm, and synthetic spatial ar-
chitecture, helpful for the actor's movement. Each of these elements
should be realized not naturally, "as if it will seem to be in the reality of
time," but in a way which will reinforce the emotional impact of the
In June 1955, Grotowski graduated from the theatre school with an actor's
certificate. In keeping with the regulations, he was assigned to the Stary [Old]
Theatre of Krakow. The contract he received guaranteed him employment in
the theatre from 1 October 1955 until 30 September 1958, but his appointment
was delayed when Grotowski received a scholarship to study directing at the
State Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS) in Moscow.
Grotowski was enrolled in the GITIS directing program from 23 August 1955
until 15 June 1956. Under the supervision of Yuri Zavadsky, he directed The
Mother by Jerzy Szaniawski at the Theatre Institute. He was Zavadsky's assis-
tant in the production of Alpotov by L. G. Zorin, which opened on 27 April
1956 at the Mossoviet Theatre. He also directed productions at the Mossoviet
and the Moscow Art Theatre, and he studied the techniques of Stanislavsky,
Vakhtangov, Meyerhold, and Tairov.
At that time, he was especially interested in Stanislavsky. As he himself says,
he already knew "the method of physical actions." When he was leaving for the
Soviet Union, he was known as "a fanatic disciple of Stanislavsky." But it was
precisely this fanaticism that distinguished Grotowski from his fellow students.
Grotowski and His Laboratory 18
Following the current fad and the official directive, they also claimed to be
"disciples of Stanislavsky," but their commitment was to be questioned.
Grotowski was different. To him, the Stanislavsky method was a serious matter
and he wanted to know it thoroughly. He went to Moscow to study the
method at its source. But his stay brought more than he'd hoped for. He
discovered Meyerhold. He studied his legacy, especially the documentation of
Meyerhold's production of The Inspector General, and he left Moscow fascinated
by what he'd found. But in this confrontation with Meyerhold, Grotowski did
not lose interest in Stanislavsky. To him, Stanislavsky now appeared more
multi-dimensional than before. It was probably then that Grotowski finally ac-
cepted Stanislavsky as a role model.
In the summer of 1956, Grotowski went on a two-month trip to Central
Asia, his first direct contact with the East. Several years later, he wrote:
During my expeditions in Central Asia in 1956, between an old
Turkmenian town Ashkhabad and the western range of the Hindu
Kush Mountains, I met an old Afghan named Abdullah who perform-
ed for me a pantomime "of the whole world," which had been a tradi-
tion in his family. Encouraged by my enthusiasm, he told me a myth
about the pantomime as a metaphor for "the whole world." The pan-
tomime is like the world at large, and the world at large is like the pan-
tomime. It occurred to me then that I'm listening to my own thoughts.
Nature-changeable, moveable, but permanently unique at the same
time-has always been embodied in my imagination as the dancing
mime, unique and universal, hiding under the glittering of multiple
gestures, colors, and the grimace of life. (Ekran [1959])
Grotowski returned to Poland in late summer 1956 and was accepted as a
fifth-year student in the directing program at the Theatre School inKrak6w.
He also received an assistantship at this time and served as assistant director for
a production of Anouilh's Antigone, directed by ]erzy Kaliszewski, which open-
ed on 12 January 1957 at the Theatre of Poetry.
In Poland, the years 1956 and 1957 were a period of radical political change
[particularly in the development of a massive anti-Stalinist movement], and the
main drama was taking place outside the theatre. Although the Polish Youth
Union was still in existence, other youth organizations emerged in 1956: the
Revolutionary Union of Youth (RZM) and . the Union of Working Youth
(ZMR). In preparation for a congress, which would unite both organizations,
the National Center was set up with Grotowski, a RZM or.ganizer, serving as
vice chairman. But the congress never took place. In early 1957, the Polish
Youth Union was dissolved. Left-oriented, [anti-Stalinist] youth activists then
joined the Provisional Central Committee of the Union of Socialist Youth,
with Grotowski as one of the members of its the Secretariat.
19 Zbigniew Osinski
Thus, out of the fusion of RZM and ZMR, a new organization, the Union of
Socialist Youth (ZMS) was founded.
During the second plenary session of ZMS in January 1957, Grotowski was
among those who withdrew from the Secretariat because of differences of opi-
nion. As Pawel Dubiel, Jr. reports in an article published in April 1957 in Co
dalej? (What Next?):
In the second general meeting, Grotowski gave a speech. In his pro-
posal he suggested that ZMS be restored to the anti-Stalinist move-
ment that gave it birth . . . . There was even a term, "the Grotowski
line," reportedly the most radical one within the Provisional Central
Committee, which was rejected by the Second Plenum. Although
Grotowski probably meant well, his views support the dissident
tendencies within the ZMS and thus undermine its integrity .. . .
Although Grotowski, with his enthusiasm, courage, and
"inflexibility" of opinion, is a likeable person, his views and attitudes
must be criticized, for they are dangerous to the new Union of
Socialist Youth. "The Grotowski line" is a curved line. Following this
line, you cannot move ahead.
In reply to this article, Grotowski published in W alka Mlodych a statement
entitled "What Else Do I Do?":
Since Pawel Dubiel, Jr., with his enthusiasm, courage, and inflexibility
of opinion, is a likeable person (I would be glad to meet him in person),
I am anxious to complete the list of my transgressions against the
youth movement in People's Poland:
1. In accord with the struggle between generations, I castrate little
old men.
2. I chew on telegraph poles to bring about anarchy.
3. Every week I add a new floor onto the Palace of Culture in War-
saw [to confuse authorities even more than they seem to be?].
4. During my sinful expeditions at night, I greet comrades "Good
Morning" in order to wreak havoc with ideology.
5. I buy out milk wholesale in order to lower the standard of
When ZMS came into being, Grotowski was instrumental-in March
1957-in founding the ZMS Political Center of the Academic Left (POLA
ZMS) and in developing its program. In Gazeta Krak6wska, Grotowski and
Adam Ogorzalek thus explained the program of POLA ZMS:
We want an organization that will teach people to think politically, to
understand their interests, to fight for bread and democracy and for
Grotowski and His Laboratory 20
justice and truth in everyday life. We must fight for people to live like
humans and to be masters of their fate. We must fight for young peo-
ple's right to work, learn, and to have a career. We must fight for
workers' universities, against employment of minors in hard and
demanding jobs, for fair allocation of summer leaves, apartments, and
bonuses, for equal rights for blue and white collar workers, for fair
work standards, for the primacy of specialists. We must fight for young
people to live a better and more satisfying life. We must fight for peo-
ple to speak their minds without fear of being harassed. We must fight
so that stupid and corrupt individuals won't hold positions of respon-
In April 1957, at a congress of ZMS in Warsaw, Grotowski was among
speakers in a discussion. His remarks focused on the struggle for a "a system in
which civilization, democracy, and justice have a common denominator." In
order for the system to become reality,
People must understand that if they don't stop pouting, join in the life
of the country, and work for the common cause, then we may expect a
catastrophe, bloodshed, destruction, and a takeover of despotism .. ..
No one can give us bread, civilization, and freedom. We must make
bread, just as we must make freedom and civilization happen. It's not
true that one can hide away in one's private little world and go on liv-
ing . . .. In our country, young people look forward to civilization, to a
decent standard of living, to justice, to decision-making about their
own lives, to technological progress. Ours is a road to civilization and
freedom. (Walka Mlodych [1957])
Thus Grotowski was entering public life in Poland not so much as an artist
but rather as a national-level activist of a youth organization. The experience
must have been crucial for him, for even as late as 1975, he still recalled this
In a different time of my life, during the Polish October and
the period immediately following, I wanted to be a political guru, and
a very dogmatic one at that. I was so fascinated with Gandhi that I
wanted to be like him. I found out that's impossible for objective
reasons, and besides it would be against my nature, which is capable of
fair play but cannot fully believe that everyone has good intentions.
(Interview, A. Bonarski, Kultura [1975])
First Independent Works
in the Theatre
During the period between April1957 and summer 1959, Grotowski worked
mainly in Krakow, carrying out his responsibilities as an assistant professor in
the Theatre School, directing his first productions in repertory theatres and for,
the Polish Radio Theatre, and giving public lectures on Oriental philosophy at
what was called Theatre 38.
His first production was of The Chairs by lonesco, co-directed with Aleksan-
dra Mianowska at the Theatre of Poetry (later known as the Kameralny
Theatre, a studio stage of the Stary Theatre). Rehearsals began on 24 April
1957, and the play opened two months later.
The publication of the Polish translation of The Chairs in April 1957 was a
significant cultural event. After years of isolation from the West, Poland was
now frantically trying to catch up with Western culture. Playwrights such as
Adamov, Beckett, Camus, Diirrenmatt, Genet, lonesco, and Sartre were sud-
denly discovered by Polish theatre artists and playgoers. Small wonder that
before the premiere of The Chairs, Dziennik Polski covered one of the final
rehearsals in a special story. Grotowski's co-director Aleksandra Mianowska
described the underlying concept of the production:
lonesco usually includes the most important ideas at the very end, so
we've tried to put special emphasis on the conclusion. There are two
things which all people can communicate about. It's a longing for good
and beauty, expressed here by the mute Orator with a poster saying
"Angel." The other is expressed by a poster with the word "Bread."
According to reviewers, the directors were successful in conveying the play's
- --- - - - --- -----------
Grotowski and His Laboratory 22
philosophy. Jozef Gruda wrote: "The invisible directors, Jerzy Grotowski and
Aleksandra Mianowska, have tactfully removed themselves from the actors'
path. They are absolutely right." Stefan Otwinowski called the production "an
avant-garde experiment," and Olgierd spoke of the performance as
a "great theatre of moral and political o.llusions." Tadeusz Kudlinski described
the production as follows:
It strikes a balance between the naturalistic and non-realistic. The ac-
tors are "natural," while the unusual twists and disjunctions of action
have been successfully translated into expressive lighting and
music .... The play's symbolism has been carefully preserved, and it is
up to the audience to interpret the symbols. Both in terms of acting
and directing, there were powerful moments, but there were also weak
spots .... In spite of the naturalistic acting, one senses a different plan
of reality, especially in the perceptively acted scenes with invisible
guests asking for empty chairs. The cast was able to evoke the invisible
and to suggest non-existent relationships. (Tygodnik Powszechny [1957])
However, the production was not popular with audiences and closed after
only 39 performances. [The Krakow critic] Ludwik Flaszen wrote: "Even a good
production couldn't draw a crowd, not even the acting of Halina Gallow a and
Jerzy Nowak-focused, technically skillful, at times perfect. Krakow hasn't seen
such a flop in a long time, since the first socialist realist duds. But then theatres
were giving free tickets to army battalions. Now we've got democracy, so no
one can corral the audience anymore" (Przeglt;td Kulturalny [1957]).
In July 1957, Grotowski took part in the annual Jean Vilar International
Youth. Festival in Avignon. It was Grotowski's first visit to France and his first
encounter with Vilar. He saw three of Vilar's productions: Pirandello 's Henry
IV, Beaumarchais's The Marriage of Figaro, and Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral.
Following the festival and a brief stay in Paris, Grotowski returned to
Krakow. At the time he was thinking of directing a Brecht play or an adapta-
tion of Kafka's The Trial as his master's directing project. But neither plan
materialized. He either changed his mind or failed to receive the censor's ap-
proval. But his interest in works that focused on ethical problems and which at-
tacked the imagination of the contemporary spectator remained.
In fall 1957, Grotowski's work in the POLA ZMS came to an end. Marian
Stypein writes:
At first, the POLA ZMS was tolerated by the political power structure
as one of the organizations born during the events of 1956. Then,
together with other organizations, it became part of the ZMS. But
soon its status changed from a legal and tolerated organization into
one which was not accepted by the political power structure, and
23 Zbigniew Osinski
eventually it was disbanded. In fall 1957, Grotowski was called by the
Krakow political authorities to justify his participation in the activities
of the POLA ZMS. His explanation was accepted only partially, and
he was later criticized and attacked for his association with the
organization. But at the time Grotowski had a new field of activity and
a different passion. (Letter to author [1976])
On 14 December 1957, Dziennik Polski reported that the Student Club "Pod
Jaszczurami" was sponsoring a series of Sunday lectures on Eastern philosophy
presented by Jerzy Grotowski. Announcements about the lectures were posted
throughout the city. The lectures were organized into two series: "On the
Foundations of Hindu Philosophy," scheduled for the period between 15
December and 26 January, and "The Philosophical Thought of the Orient,"
scheduled for the period between 30 March and 1 June. The lectures always
took place at Theatre 38, next to the "Pod Jaszczurami Club," and were all very
well attended.
The first series included seven lectures:
15 December, "Basic Systems of Hindu Philosophy"
22 December, "Philosophy of Buddha"
29 December, "Philosophic Systems of Buddhism"
5 January, "Philosophy of Yoga"
12 January, "Philosophy of Upanishad, the System of Siankara"
17 January, "Philosophy of Upanishad, the System of
26 January, "Contemporary Schools"
The second series included nine lectures:
30 March, "Basic Trends of Chinese Philosophy"
4 April, "Basic Trends in Japanese Philosophy"
13 April, "Confucius"
20 April, "Taoism (general characteristics)"
27 April, "Taoism (Lao-Tse, Chuang-tse, Lie-tse)"
11 May, "Zen-Buddhism"
18 May, "Basic Trends in Indian Philosophy"
25 May, "Philosophy of Advaita-Vedanta"
I June, "European Analogues"
During the season 1957 I 1958, Grotowski took part in Emil Frantisek
Burian's theatre seminar in Prague and Karlovy Vary. He also directed two
theatre productions, The Woman is a Devil by Prosper Merimee and Gods of
Rain, based on a play by Jerzy Krzyszton. In addition, he directed three radio
plays: The White Elephant, an adaptation of Mark Twain's short story; Sakun-
tala, based on the dramatic poem by Kalidasa; and a play entitled Marriage. For
Grotowski and His Laboratory 24
his production of Sakuntala, Grotowski received an honorable mention in a
1958 annual competition for radio and television productions.
The production of Merimee's The Woman is a Devil was Grotowski's master's
project at the Theatre School, and he directed it as part of.his teaching duties.
The play was performed by a quartet of actors against a backdrop of black cur-
tains. The costumes were limited to black sweaters and street clothes. A stu-
::lent at the Krakow Music Academy, Aviles-Villegas Librado of Mexico, pro-
vided guitar accompaniment. The entire set consisted of four classroom desks
a colorful poster upstage saying "Kill Rats."
Gods of Rain opened on 4 July at the Kameralny Theatre. It was based on
(rzyszton's play, The Ill-Fated Family. Beginning with this production through
:he final version of The Constant Prince in 1968, all of Grotowski's works were to
Je simply based on [or "after"] plays rather than being faithful renditions of the
>riginal scripts.
In the production of Gods of Rain, Grotowski used poems by Andrzej Bursa,
Drozdowski, and T adeusz R6iewicz; quotations from Shakespeare's
'lays, including a Hamlet monologue; and newspaper stories by Jerzy Lovell
nd Stanislaw Manturzewski. A filmed prologue was built from scenes in
-adeusz Makarczynski's experimental film titled Life Is Beautiful plus other film
Jotage including newsreels. Konrad Eberhardt wrote:
Grotowski threw himself on the Krzysztor'l script aggressively, cut it
apart, and adapted it for his purposes. Small wonder that the program
notes for the production carry this epigraph from Meyer hold: "To
choose a play does not necessarily mean to share the playwright's
views." Grotowski strove to transform this fairly traditional, small-cast
play without excessive intellectual overloading into a more universal
statement about the younger generation, modeled on the work of Pis-
cator. (Ekran [1958])
Critic ]erzy Falkowski said of the performance:
One senses a gap between the plot and the mise-en-scene, which was
probably not intended by the director. At times it is like shooting a fly
with a cannon. (Wsp61czesnosc [1958])
fhe playwright Krzysztor'l [many years later] himself observed:
Grotowski staged this good-natured, realistic comedy, which preserves
the three unities and deals with the ill-fated love of two very immature
young people as an attack against the ills of the century, as a
manifesto, a morality play, and a warning. (Teatr [1973])
\s author of the adaptation and director of the orodurtinn Grntr"mJ...;

25 Zbigniew Osinski
traduced a number of alterations. He used a stage divided into three perform-
ing areas. The central area, called "the action of the play," was the scene of
events from Krzyszton's drama. One side area, called "the problem analysis,"
was used for more universal statements. The third area became "a tower of
longing," and was used for intimate reflections. The actors performed in masks.
Grotowski explained: "The dramatist wrote a play about young people who
dress like you, whose faces resemble yours. But the theatre has chang-ed the ac-
tors' faces into the faces of clowns in search of the meaning of existence, clowns
moving in a vacuum between game-playing and difficult experience" (Program
notes [ 1958]).
Reviewers pointed out that although Krzyszton's original script was quite
weak, Grotowski in developing the performance displayed erudition and inven-
tiveness together with a knowledge of avant-garde theatre techniques and great
skill and versatility in reconciling seemingly discordant elements. Reviewers
noted Grotowski's indebtedness to Meyerhold, Vakhtangov, and Piscator and
called the production a belated example of constructivism. Gods of Rain was
performed 47 times, and on 2 October at the Krak6w Journalists Club there
was a public discussion of the production.
Grotowski started the 1958/ 1959 season with a work he titled The Ill-Fated,
still another version of Krzyszton's The Ill -Fated Family, at the Theatre of 13
Rows in Opole. In an interview for Trybuna Opolska, Grotowski said: "I believe
that a dramatic script should provide only a theme for the director who will use
it as the basis for a new, independent work, a theatre production." This time
Grotowski interwove the Krzyszton script with fragments of memoirs by
Algerian journalist Henri Alleg. Titled Tortures, Alleg's memoirs are set during
the war between France and Algeria. Each act of The Ill-Fated began with a
reading of different fragments from Alleg's reminiscences of his tortures in
The opening night was followed by a heated discussion of the production.
Summing up the debate, Grotowski gave an extensive presentation of the chief
cornerstones of modern art and said that "in spite of very valuable criticism, if
he were to direct The Ill-Fated again, he would do it the same way." In response,
"several people hissed . . . and someone with connections and position said
that this is an example of arrogance and a rejection of criticism by the masses"
Q. Falkowski, Wspolczesnosc [1958]).
The program notes for The Ill-Fated included Grotowski's statement titled
"Theatre and the Grail," which read in part:
My theatre does not bow down when the audience is kind enough to
applaud. In my theatre, emotions are not artificial, tears are not faked,
and pathos is not pitiful because they serve a purpose-they show, to
quote Hamlet, "the very age and body of the time his form and
pressure." ... Man is full of anxiety and fear. He knows that he will
pass away, and he does not want to know that he will pass away. He
Grotowski and His Laboratory 26
knows his weaknesses. He is victimizer and victim. But faced with
time, he is alone .... Man searches for the Grail, a chalice molded out
of infinity, which delivers man from weakness and death.
A week after the opening night of The Ill-Fated, the literary magazine Wsp61-
czesnosc printed an interview with Grotowski by Jerzy Falkowski. The interview
was introduced by the following statement by Wtadyslaw Krzeminski, dean of
the Directing Program at the Krak6w Theatre School and director of the Stary
Theatre of Krak6w:
]erzy Grotowski's skill and intuition as a director reveal a major ar-
tistic talent. Not without solid reason do theatre artists see in him
someone capable of highly innovative work on stage and with the ac-
tor. This young man is a director/philosopher, fond of synthesis and
aggressive means of expression, but he uses them not to conform to a
new fad but to infuse the audience with his own socially passionate
and intellectually fascinating attitudes on life. I, his professor, wish
him success and believe in his success.
Falkowski characterized Grotowski as follows:
Jerzy Grotowski is a very impatient and aggressive director. He is ag-
gressive towards the audience, attacking it with the Brechtian
temperament of a theatre agitator and ignoring its artistic preferences
straight from the nineteenth-century drama or pseudo-experi-
mentation. He is aggressive toward the play he is working on, tearing
it apart, stitching it together, touching it up, transposing, supplemen-
ting, etc .... Grotowski wants to say a great deal in the theatre ....
He is impatient, he is in a rush, he wants to show as much as possible
in every production. (He perhaps even talks too much at times, and he
occasionally overdoes it when he strives to apply additional
philosophical meanings.) The two versions he has done of the
Krzysztor'li play were perhaps the first attempts to quench his anxiety
by making a statement in the theatre about the generations. These
two productions have revealed the wealth of creative inventiveness in
this youngest of Polish directors as well as his talent in utilizing all
means of expression in the modern theatre and in his mature work
with the actor.
n the interview, Grotowski said:
I have chosen the artistic profession because I realized quite early that I
am being haunted by a certain "thematic concern," a certain "leading
27 Zbigniew Osinski
motif," and a desire to reveal that "concern" and present it to other
people .... I am haunted by the problem of human loneliness and the
inevitability of death. But a human being (and here begins my
"leading motif') is capable of acting against one's own loneliness and
death. If one involves oneself in problems outside narrow spheres of
interests, ... if one recognizes the union of man and nature, if one is
aware of the indivisible unity of nature and finds one's identity within
it, ... then one attains an essential degree of liberation.
Grotowski also said that dramatic works of great playwrights "are a suitable
material for inventive adaptations in the theatre," for in contrast to mediocre
plays they offer "an excellent and unique basis for the director's mise-en-scene."
Moreover, he said:
In my artistic explorations, I intend to fight against "creating moods"
on stage and against real-life imitations which carry no meaning. I will
fight against emotionalism on stage and in the audience, if it does not
serve our understanding. The acting convention (or several conven-
tions within a single production), the use of performance space, the
sets and props-all these, apart from real-life and situational functions,
should also- serve a purely theatrical function.
He also warned:
I have never chosen a permanent artistic "program," calculated in ad-
vance in cold blood. I do not intend to stick to any ready-made
theories. I am a young director. Life and the work of others are my
In early 1959, Grotowski was in Paris. He met Marcel Marceau, whose art left
a great impression on him. He even wrote an essay on Marceau. He would not
be himself, however, if he did not smuggle into the essay his artistic credo:
"Modern man, placed by science in a cosmos without heaven, gods, and
demons ... can find some hope, psychologically rooted in the unity and im-
mortality of nature" (Ekran [1959]).
On 14 March 1959, Grotowski's production of Uncle Vanya opened at the
Kameralny Theatre in Krakow. His article in the program notes and especially
the promptbook indicate that Grotowski did extensive research in preparation
for the production. He definitely cut himself off from the Chekhovian tradition
of evoking "Russian life and manners during the second half of the nineteenth
century," "mood," or "the poetry of little details." The production confronted
two opposing attitudes:
Grotowski and His Laboratory 28
The first attitude is of someone who is shielded by convention
alienated from nature and society, a paranoic closing himself off i n ~
circle of myths and patterns artificial and contrary to biological and
social norms .... The second attitude is of someone who seeks spon-
taneous values and norms, who accepts work as a chance to join socie-
ty consciously and thus the continuum of life. (Program notes [1959])
These two attitudes were reflected in the production by two different perfor-
mance areas, "construction" and "nature." Each of the characters was ascribed
to one or the other. Serebriakoff, Elena, and Mme. Voinitskaya belonged to
the first, while Astroff, Vanya, Sonia, the Nurse and Telegin belonged to the
second. "The conflict between 'nature' and 'construction,'!' wrote
"between those who 'participate in nature' and 'help create it' and those who,
alienated and lifeless, poison themselves and others-this opposition is the
leading conflict in the production." Grotowski used a revolving stage with two
settings representing nature on the one hand and construction on the other.
Costumes were "an imitation of present-day dress." As in the earlier produc-
tions of Krzyszton's play, Grotowski's intention was to render the play's mean-
ing universal.
The action was set between the two planes, with the characters moving back
and forth between them. According to the promptbook, the setting should be
non-realistic but not abstract. "There is no room for a drama of 'garrulous in-
tellectuals' or 'provincial Russian Hamlets,'" wrote Grotowski. Instead, "there
is room for the 'provinces,' cruel, devouring people's strength, sad and dirty ....
Thus Astroff is a man worthy of respect, who fights and carries out his respon-
sibilities to other people, loves the forest, and sees light in the abyss of night. At
the end, Vanya will not be, as tradition has it, a beaten dog who revolts but
then goes back to his muzzle."
This interpretation of Uncle Vanya was used by Grotowski to support his
views on the relationship between a playtext and a theatre production: "The
creative theatre ... neither cuts itself off from drama nor negates it. It does not
want merely to illustrate the dramatic text mechanically and slavishly. The
theatre wants to be a creative art using dramatic theme as its basis."
Grotowski's Uncle Vanya met with a very cool reception and was largely con-
sidered a failure. Henryk Vogler, one of few critics who at least partially ac-
cepted the production, wrote:
When the curtain rises, we see a set designed by Julitta Fedorowicz,
which has absolutely nothing to do with the traditional poetics of
Chekhov's theatre. We see a world created by a rational imagination
... a world of rolling lines precisely describing the dimensions of the
visible. The subtle and delicate yet clear and precise delineation of
reality by the set design reflects a modern, intellectual imagination.
29 Zbigniew Osinski
This set design is something more than merely an abstract arrange-
ment of forms. Seemingly nonrepresentational, it succeeds in convey-
ing the synthesis of the woods, the garden, the trees .. . . We are in a
pure and aloof world of ideas .... Grotowski presents conflicts of
ideas, not conflicts among people. In this closed world, structured with
almost mathematical precision, there takes place an intellectual discus-
sion, not a moving drama. Astroff, Serebriakoff, Sonia, and others are
above all spokesmen for specific worldviews. The whole wealth of pet-
ty naturalistic detail of gesture and situation, the poetics of the mun-
dane, the "tea drinking" or "guitar strumming" have been replaced by
rhythmical stage arrangements. . . . The sentimental "laughter
through tears" has been changed into a modern grotesque .... It is a
theatre of rational analysis, a theatre without fake moods and sen-
timental tear-jerking. It is an anti-romantic theatre of the twentieth
century. (Dziennik Polski [1959])
According to Zygmunt Gren, Grotowki's Uncle Vanya was "artificial and
naive. It deprived Chekhov's bitter drama of all meaning ... . The structure of
the play was turned upside down by the arrogant director . ... The actors were
required to perform impossible and nonsensical tasks." (Zycie Literackie [1959]).
Defending Chekhov's play against Grotowski's interpretation, critic Ludwik
Flaszen wrote:
Grotowski strove to show Chekhov our contemporary, who could
speak to the audience directly, without the costumes of time and place.
Hence Grotowski got rid of-whenever possible-all Russian local col-
or and stressed instead universal values. He toned down-whenever
possible-the period characteristics and thus emphasized the timeless
nature of the play. Thus he secured the first stipulation of the truly
modern theatre: a non-realistic form which is not a literal imitation of
Moreover, since only high spheres of reason, rather than tempera-
ment, emotions, or perceptions have a truly universal character,
Grotowski stripped the Chekhovian characters of their emotional
charm and lyricism. Thus he achieved the second condition for the
modern theatre: a rational discipline of thought, alien to all emo-
tionalism and psychological acting. In other words, the protagonists
are not characters. Rather they are carriers of pure extracts of human
attitudes to life; they are the very essence of thought. And thus Astroff
directly addresses the audience, lecturing in all seriousness on the ad-
vantages of forestation. Was the Society for the Protection of Nature
behind the whole thing? And Uncle Vanya comes to the conclusion
that only work makes life meaningful. ... Grotowski is mainly con-
Grotowski and His Laboratory 30
cerned with a clash of ideas, and he sees his Vanya almost pathetical-
ly, as a sublime rebel. .. .
Grotowski's Chekhov is non-realistic, disciplined, and intellectual.
He got rid of the naturalistic detail and toned down the moods and
emotionalism, and thus his Chekhov is no longer a modernist ex-
plorer of souls but rather a young village teacher from the positivist
The Krakow Uncle Vanya lacks only one virtue from the "modern"
code, that is, distance and a simple sense of humor. Let's get rid of this!
Let's get rid of that! ... People are thinking here! ... 1 was rushed by
the director to the high sphere of pure intellect, but I wished there had
been more guitar strumming, moonshine, and soul searching.
Chekhov should be played the way it ought to be played, or it mustn't
be played at all. (Echo Krakowa [1959])
During his Krakow period, Grotowski published several articles [in Tribune
lnternationale (1959), Wsp6lczesnosc (1959), Dziennik Polski (1959), etc.]: "Theatre
and the Cosmic Man," "On the Theatre of the Future," "The Death and Rein-
carnation of the Theatre," "What is Theatre?," "Good or Bad: On Theatre
Schools." In "Theatre and the Cosmic Man," he discussed "the simultaneous
death and triumph" of the theatre. In its present form, the theatre is doomed to
die, for it is no match for film or television. The theatre can survive only as an
art born of immediacy:
At its best, the art of mise-en-scene has partially freed the theatre from
the form of docudrama. Possibly not quite intentionally it has provid-
ed a chance for the theatre to become a place of direct contact between
artists and spectators, where the attention, thought, and will of the
participants are united in a communal "plunge" into existential pro-
blems of human fate, interpersonal connections, and the relationship
of man to Cosmos in order to find a seed of hope .... The transition
from contemporary anachronistic theatre of the present, theatre as
"an art of the stage," to the theatre of the future is ... a gradual
metamorphosis of the performance whose role as a "show" (actors
showing an action to spectators) will diminish, while its role as a
"dialogue" between the stage and the audience will increase.
In "Death and Reincarnation of the Theatre," Grotowski again talks about
1e death of theatre in its present form. The mise-en-scene, relying on the
resence of live people on each side of the footlights, he says, may consciously
:ad to a direct contact between them:
The trump card for the theatre, its last chance and the basic premise of
the "theatre of the future," or thf' " ' - . .1 -
31 Zbigniew Osinski
direct contact, togetherness, and dialogue between the stage and the
audience. This possibility, which is inherent only in the theatre, can
produce the "neo-theatre." ... The "neo-theatre" will stop being
theatre in the present meaning of the word. It will become a new
branch of the arts.
In "Good or Bad," Grotowski points to the weaknesses of Polish theatre
schools: their alienation from their specific audience, their graduates' decreas-
ing sense of artistic responsibility, the uneven quality existing among students.
He recommends a master/ disciple system and the institution of research and
developmental programs in theatre schools. The goal should be "to carry on
research into applied aesthetics (trends, methods, theories, styles, and formal
developments in theatres past and present) and applied psychology
(psychodynamics of the actor's work and audience psychology)." In the same
article, Grotowski explains his understanding of "artistic responsibility":
The theatre is more than a place where one earns one's living ....
Moreover, one cannot accept the theatre as it is but as it should be.
With some exaggeration one might say that the eventual form and nature of
the Polish Laboratory Theatre were shaped during Grotowski's early years of
Towards a Poor Theatre
Opole 1959 .. 1964
The 1959/1960 Season
When authorities in Opole contacted Ludwik Flaszen (b. 4 June 1930 in
Krakow) in early spring 1959 with the proposal that he take over the Theatre of
13 Rows, that theatre was in a hopeless state. Flaszen at the time was a highly
respected theatre and literary critic, author of the famous book Head and Wall,
and had in 195411955 served as literary director of the Slowacki Theatre in
Krakow." Flaszen believed that the Theatre of 13 Rows should be run by a
fledgling director and thus offered the job to Grotowski. The two men quickly
found much upon which to agree: they were both bored with the present state
of theatre in Poland, and they both sensed that theatre as an art form trailed
distantly behind other artistic disciplines, especially poetry and the plastic arts.
By the end of May and early June 1959, Flaszen, Grotowski, and represen-
tatives of the artistic community in Opole had defined the new operation with
some specificity. Grotowski proposed the following repertoire for the
1959/1960 season: Cocteau's Orpheus, Mayakovsky's Mystery-Bouffe, Byron's
Cain, Eliot's The Cocktail Party, Kalidasa's Sakuntala, Shakespeare's Hamlet,
Kurczyna's Vice-King and Plush Couches. Of the group, only The Cocktail Party
was opposed by the Central Administration of Theatres. There also would be a
tour of larger Polish cities such as Krakow, Lodz, Warsaw, and Wrodaw.
Grotowski said that in order for the theatre to function efficiently, he would
need a number of full-time positions fol"actors, a literary director, a free hand
in choosing the repertoire and members of the company, a steady income, and
an operating budget that would enable the group to work without constant sur-
prises. He got everything he requested. While the existing name of the opera-
,., .. :; ...
37 Zbigniew Osinski
tion-the Theatre of 13 Rows-would be retained temporarily, it was
understood that the newcomers from Krakow were creating an entirely new
enterprise-a professional research theatre. Grotowski became the artistic
director, Flaszen the literary director.
An article by Boiena Zag6rska appearing on 29 July in Echo Kmkotl'a named
the members of the troupe: Malgorzata Darecka from the Slowacki Theatre;
Antoni Jaholkowski from the Variety Theatre; as well as Irena Mirecka,
Tadeusz Batkowiak, Barbara Kurzej6wna-Barska, and Stanislaw Szreniawski
(all graduates of the Theatre School in Krakow). ]erzy ]elenski of Krakow
/ would be the first scenic designer, but other scenographers from Krakow would
be invited in future. As it turned out, Darecka did not become a member of the
group, and Adam Kurczyna (the only member to remain from the previous
Theatre of 13 Rows) and Zygmunt Molik were not mentioned.
Zag6rska's article also stated the following:
The theatre in Opole is to be the only pro(essional experimental
theatre in Poland, and it is being formed under the auspices of artists'
unions in Opole. The founders of the theatre assume that the group
will stage only premiere performances and modern interpretations of
traditional plays. The aim of the repertoire is to open a progressive
dialogue with the public concerning basic philosophical and moral
questions .... The theatre is to become an active and fiery cultural
kiln. There will be art exhibits in the lobby. The first will feature the
works of Mikulski and Mroz. In the programs in addition to the usual
information about the production, there will be controversial essays
by theatre critics from all over Poland.
When the above article appeared in Echo Krakowa, Grotowski was traveling
through Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, so his open letter of
response did not appear until 2 September. In his letter Grotowski said that the
reorganization of the Theatre of 13 Rows did indeed constitute the creation of a
new theatre. This admission drew an avalanche of press response. Some ques-
tioned the wisdom of creating a professional experimental theatre; others called
Grotowski "irresponsible," "a charlatan," "a mystifier," "blackmailer," "an ar-
tistic impotent," and "a person with a distorted sense of proportion and
balance." Some, however, came to his defense. The most prophetic of these
turned out to be Falkowski:
The initiated claim that Grotowski considers himself an apostle. A
s'mall number of zealots claim he is an apostle. It seems that the
Theatre of 13 Rows will augur a world revolution on the stage ....
Then Opole will advance to the rank of Stratford or Avignon and a
plaque will be hung to commemorate Grotowski. (Wsp6fczesnosc
Grotowski and His Laboratory 38
Cocteau's Orpheus opened on 8 October 1959. Grotowski treated the text as
a springboard for a debate both with Cocteau and with the audience. The dual
rhythm of the performance drew attention to itself: grotesque sequences alter-
nated with very serious moments. In general, the production was treated as an
announcement of the theatre's intentions. Reviewers received the production
generally well though cautiously. ]6zef Kelera wrote:
It is worthwhile (and probably inevitable) to debate with Grotowski.
We already know that the trust he has had on credit is justified and
that it should be extended for as long as it takes to build this new and
difficult edifice. I agree to endorse this undertaking, though with
limited responsibility. (Odra [1959])
Henryk Vogler, however, accused Grotowski of disregarding the poetry of
Cocteau's original and found a certain finesse lacking in the presentation. The
reason, he suggested, was in the directorial personality of Grotowski himself:
It is the director's rapacity, his quick and greedy devouring of the most
delicate fabric of the work. He evidences a dislike of circling, bypass-
ing, and balancing a text that is carefully wrought from the most con-
tradictory elements. Instead of a careful approach, we have a stubborn
plowing through the text, a ruthless haste to make a statement im-
mediately, loudly, and once and for all. This is rape with no tender
foreplay. (Zycie Literackie [1959])
Two weeks after the premiere of Orpheus, Echo Krakowa printed an interview
with Grotowski and Flaszen. The unique character of the troupe and the quest
for new forms of communication between those on stage and those in the au-
dience were points emphasized in the interview:
It seems, said Grotowski, that we have the smallest troupe in Poland:
nine people, and, of that, two women. It is a pleasure to say that the
actors work with great seriousness of purpose and personal sacri-
fice .... The originality of our theatre is that we are a stage without a
prompter; we do no sitting rehearsals, only situational ones; and our
budget is one-tenth the sum needed by your average theatre ... . We
do not choose to focus on the "absurdity of life." We see and want to
find some hope. In the language of theatre, that hope lies somewhere
between two extremes of reality-the tragic and the grotesque. Such
an attitude demands that texts be adapted.
Many initiatives were undertaken to gain the support of audiences: meetings,
poetry readings, and public discussions of the repertoire. In November, the
39 Zbigniew Osinski
Theatre of 13 Rows performed Orpheus thirteen times in Poznan, the first of the
group's many forays into various Polish cities. Most important in this period,
however, were the rehearsals for Byron's Cain, the premiere of which occurred
on 30 January 1960. This was the first Polish production of the play, and
Grotowski explained his interest in this way: "I came across the text accidental-
ly, and it interested me because it was as if the whole world and the entire life of
mankind were contained in it. It was like Forefathers Eve or Faust" (Quoted in
B. Taborksi, Byron and the Theatre [1972]).
There was no curtain on the stage but only an altar facing the audience and
set up like a triptych of monstrous organic forms on the order of Bosch. The
relationship of the stage to the audience had a ritual character, except that con-
ventional cult forms and cult ethics were reduced to absurdity in the produc-
tion. God's place was taken by Alpha, the personification of the elements and
the powers of nature. Lucifer's place was represented by Omega, the per-
sonification of reason and the uneasiness of the human consciousness. In the
story of Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel, the production mocked the shallowness
of those who have not gained the maturity necessary to have doubts about
their views of the world. These Were typical philistines, content with their lot:
Adam and Eve did trivial musical numbers that were a parody of a bourgeois
cabaret; Abel was a dull but ruthless boy of the Hitler youth type. Byron's
poetry was treated variously: sometimes fragments were handled seriously; at
other times they were parodied; sometimes the text was sung like an operatic
aria; occasionally the rhythm was suppressed entirely to sound like ordinary
speech. At times there were fights with tennis racquets or hand wrestling or
even boxing. The atmosphere was pugnacious, physical, and the form of the
performance kept changing from tragic to grotesque, from seriousness to deri-
sion. Cain was always in the forefront: a modern young man seeking the mean-
ing of life but treated both grotesquely and tragically.
The final act was an ecstatic dance honoring "the world of unity." Alpha
turned out to be Omega, and everyone then put on Alpha-Omega masks.
Grotowski's Cain was called a "philosophical cabaret":
Practically all known theatrical media can be seen in this production.
Philosophical discussion passes into derision; . . . the demonic
becomes a circus; tragic horror changes into a cabaret; and lyricism
transforms into clowning and triviality. In addition there is caricature,
parody, satire, opera, pantomime, and ballet. Not to mention the flip-
pant attitude toward the text .... There were constant shifts in the ac-
ting; a thousand ideas; aggressive and deafening music; and a loud-
speaker speaking for the actor on stage. An actor would appear in the
audience, speak to the public, and improvise during scene changes. A
real tower of Babel and mixing of tongues. The setting matched the
production except that it also suggested a certain symbolic surrealism
Grotowski and His Laboratory 40
and wanton humor. (T. Kudlinski, Dziennik Polski [1960])
Cain was based on rich visual elements and n!chnico-theatrical tricks
than on the craft of the actor. It was, as Grotowski said later, more an
aimed against the conventional theatre than the statement of a new
program. But this was significant later on. There were elements afloat in
which later surfaced as pure tragedy, as attitudes toward the rebel-hero, for
ample. How should he be treated, grotesquely or seriously? Cain did not
plot structure. It was closer to montage, in which each scene was a unit
ed to produce a given effect. Critics saw Grotowski as creating his p
with the passion of a strategist, as someone who plans and
organizes the reaction in the auditorium.
After the series of performances in Opole, the Theatre of 13 Rows went
tour with the productions of both Orpheus and Cain: to Katowice, Kr
and Warsaw. The tour produced much critical response, much of it extre
negative. Maria Kosinska in Zycie Warszawy said: "There is probably a p
somewhere where real theatre and genuine art count. But not in the Theatre
13 Rows." ]erzy Zagorski in Kurier Polski wrote: "Unfortunately their
complishments tend to move in the direction of technical amateurism. If o
wanted to give them some good advice, it would be: perfect the acting."
Eberhardt in Ekran found Grotowski a director with too much faith
theatre and too little faith in the playwright:
It is impossible to invest such great trust and independence in
theatre: the director is always dependent on the individuality of
author, the creator of the text. . . . The theatre about
Grotowski dreams will be a myth as long as the author is not
creator of the spectacle itself. Otherwise, a compromise between
imagination of the theatre and the imagination of the writer is
evitable. . . . That is why Grotowski's directorial successes
Ionesco's The Chairs and Cocteau's Orpheus, while his flops are
Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and Byron's Cain. The successful productions
were undoubtedly determined by the convergence of theatrical and
literary language. This is worth remembering.
Zofia Jasinska's article, "The Young Seek" in Wit:i contained an analysis
both productions, perhaps the most thorough discussion of the work of t
Theatre of 13 rows to that point:
Cain is definitely the more interesting production. Why? The acting
had nothing to do with it, because the acting was pretty much the
same in both productions. This theatre is "upheld" by the ideas of
director, not by the acting, which still seems quite raw and un-
41 Zbigniew Osinski
distinguished. This is partly owing to the youth of the troupe ....
Cain is a hard nut to crack, so the struggle with it demands great toil,
creative intelligence, and innovation. This struggle enhanced the total
production. Even in artistic rebellion, theatre is always the slave of a
literary text. ... In spite of everything, Grotowski the artist is more
eloquent than Grotowski (and Flaszen) the theoretician. But in the
end, Byron emerges as victor, because it is his word that raises a
creative, intellectual restlessness.
On 11 April, directly after the in Warsaw, there was a discus-
of this very subject in the editorial offices of Dialog. Flaszen, Andrzej
and Krzysztof Teodor Toeplitz were invited. The editorial board was
by Konstanty Puzyna and Adam Tarn.
Flaszen: Grotowski emphasizes the staging means and acting style
rather than the plastic arts.
Puzyna: I am afraid that our theatres have been ossifying of late, and
that they have been duplicating their initial performances. Experiment
changes into pattern or into a prescription for experimentation;
Tarn: Ultimately, if an experiment does not work, one must draw cer-
tain conclusions. If a chemist in a laboratory ended every experiment
with an explosion, but insisted that theoretically he was right, he
would be reasoning like our colleague, Flaszen, whose failures in the
Theatre of 13 Rows convince him of nothing. The productions,
however, are proof that there is something wrong here, either in prin-
ciple or in the realization of that principle, and something should be
done about it.
I have included these remarks not only as documentation but also to ques-
tion the unequivocally negative reaction to the first performances of
Grotowski's and Flaszen's troupe in the capital. Grotowski himself has the
following memories of that period:
I remember when we were in Warsaw in 1960 and there was that ter-
rific press campaign unleashed against us. It was then that I received a
letter from the Byrskis [Here Grotowski refers to T adeusz and Irena
Byrski, former actors with the famous Reduta company of Juliusz
Osterwa of a generation earlier. It was this company upon which
Grotowski at least partially modeled his own.] (I did not know them at
the time), who wrote: "Don't be afraid and don't give up. People will
laugh at you. When someone does something original for the first
time, others burst with laughter." Very important words. For years
Grotowski and His Laboratory 42
they have followed everything we've done .... It is said more or less
openly but it is always the same: fraud, charlatan. They say: you, my
friend, know how to arrange things wonderfully because you are a
magician and a charlatan.
When we were a small troupe living in the countryside, far from big
cities, in the small town of Opole, our more successful colleagues from
those large cities snickered and poked fun at us. They called our
theatre a fraud and accused us of trying to oppose ourselves to all of
theatrical life in Poland. We heard that nothing would come of it and
that it would be over in one season. A lot of effort was put into closing
us down after one or two seasons. (Odra [1972])
In January, Grotowski was in rehearsals for a production of Goethe's Faust at
the Polski Theatre in Poznan. The premiere took place on 13 April and was the
only work directed by Grotowski away from the Theatre of 13 Rows and its
troupe after the founding of the group. He prepared the production in col-
laboration with the outstanding painter Piotr Potworowski. The man-shaman
interested Grotowski as someone who sells his soul to demonic powers in ex-
change for full knowledge and a full life. The interior of a steel structure
representing the earth was an egg-shaped form in which, on a moveable plat-
form, sat old Faust playing with a cybernetic turtle. Faust spoke of his disap-
pointment at the dose of his life in Goethe's classical lines. Mephisto, essential-
ly the alter-ego of the protagonist, promises new horizons through a regaining
of Faust's lost youth and its emotional vitality. The agreement of the two is
handled in a very material and commercial manner. Margaret was a red-haired
girl in a fashionable skirt, and Martha was an aged vamp. In the final act,
Faust, in keeping with the text, set about draining the swamps, producing a
future free earth for future free people. This deed, however, was undermined by
Faust's blindness and death. He dies uneasily, yet finding some solace in his
final Dionysian vision. His last words, taken from fragments of Faust and
Goethe's Legate, express the Dionysian perspective and his view of death as an
inevitable link in the life process:
Time has passed. "Has passed." What stupid words ....
And so the harvest of ripened, perfect grapes is done.
The juice is mixed in rolling foam
Dionysus has cast off his robes and empties the old skins
To fill them with new wine ....
Nothingness will conquer nothing ....
These words are the "essence" of Grotowski's Faust.
The production in Poznan took on the character of a provocation. Maria
43 Zbigniew Osii
Kofta wrote:
I will examine Grotowski's performance in its objective effects:
radical unhistoricization of the costumes, intellectual brevity, loadi
the Goethe text with contemporary philosophical problems (Fret
existentialism), and the elimination of mythology from the heavens.
this production of Faust, the director wants to wrench Goethe out
his time and place. Grotowski wants Goethe to be alive today and p(
tinent to the youngteneration whose restlessness was born amidst tl
disintegration of t h ~ postwar world .... The text is recited artificiall
recited rather than played, which in the end begins to weary the a
dience member. Theatrical execution takes first place over the plot ,
the drama and over the acting .... But in spite of the cracks in d
vessels of Goethe's drama, the performance fascinates and keeps or
in suspense. (Nowa Kultura [1960))
Jerzy Kmita accused the production of irrationalism, of lacking faith
science and optimism:
In Grotowski's Faust, Wagner practically crawls across the stage like :
reptile. And it is precisely the Wagners and not the Fausts who hav
created the modern science that gives humanity power over nature
Grotowski is asking: So who is right? The lofty individualist, the
"superman" carrying out experiments for his own murky and irra
tiona! ends? The modern world has had enough Fausts, enough vi
sionaries battling common sense. It is such people who are responsiblt
for almost all mankind's unhappiness .... Modern times are becom
ing more and more the times of the Wagners not the Fausts, and this is
what allows us to be optimistic. Commonsensical workers and sound-
ly thinking professionals have more and more to say. The modern is
the victory of Wagner over Faust. (Togodnik Zachodni [1960))
Meanwhile in Opole, some performances had to be cancelled for lack of an
audience. A performance took place whenever a dozen or so people showed up,
and often a performance took place for even two or three people. In May an
organization called Friends of the Theatre of 13 Rows was formed, consisting of
about eighty people who chose ]6zef Szajna as their honorary chairman. The
organization and the directors of the theatre decided to begin a series of discus-
sion meetings. Seminars were held every two weeks and were devoted to
discussing the theatre's artistic program in the light of modern theatrical pro-
blems. The very existence of this group of Friends and the seminars that
developed were factors positively contributing to sustaining the work of the
performers as well as fostering the theatrical education of the audience.
Grotowski and His Laboratory 48
The final production of the first season, Mayakovsky's Mystery Bouffe, open-
ed on 31 July. Mayakovsky's dramaturgy and Meyerhold's theatre, which was
associated with that dramaturgy, were close to what Grotowski and his group
were then seeking. The script and direction were Grotowski's and the
scenography by "Hieronymous Bosch in collaboration with Wincenty
Mystery Bouffe joined elements of two of Mayakovsky's texts: Mystery Bouffe
and The Bath House, with the latter dominating. Also included in the prologue
and epilogue were authentic fragments of Polish medieval mystery plays. The
production was a scathing polemic on the meaning and form of art that occurs
in conditions inundated by petty bourgeois tastes pretending to be official ones.
A jeering tone and a demonic humor pervaded. Mystery Bouffe thus was a pro-
duction openly waging battle. Kudlinski accurately observed: "The center of
gravity is shifted in this production. In Mayakovsky's play, derision
predominates. But Grotowski is dead serious" (Dziennik Polski [1961]).
Falkowski reported the following:
The actress who starts out as a Grand Lady returns in a moment as a
rebellious Unclean One. She will also be an Angel and Devil, later a
secretary, and also ... a typewriter and a telephone. A tin washtub,
depending on its location, might play the role of an ark, desk, table in
the theatre's foyer, or one of the component parts of the "time
machine." ... Six actors, a few colored cards, the above-mentioned
tin washtub, a black bench: that's all. The mathematical consistency
of the director, however, governs the microscopic stage of the Theatre
of 13 Rows .... The whirlwind changes in the actors possess their own
rhythm and mark clearly changes in place and action. This allows the
viewer to accept the logic of simplest associations. Mayakovsky's text
becomes extremely dense and provocative. (Wsp6lczesnosc [1960])
Mystery Bouffe was an attempt to merge a new autonomous theatre with
political theatre. In a sense, the production was an overt thrust against op-
ponents of the Theatre of 13 Rows. But at the same time as most reviewers
spoke favorably of the performance, another reviewer in Trybuna Opolska call-
ed Mystery Bouffe a "theatrical misunderstanding of unusual proportion";
"Nonsense! And nonsense of the highest order!" "an interpretation that
diminishes the ideological eloquence of the great poet's art," etc. In essence, the
reviewer considered the performance to be one of the "greatest theatrical scan-
dals of our day" and recommended that those subsidizing the Theatre of 13
Rows call an immediate meeting of the Artists' Council, which would have the
clearest view of Grotowski's work and management.
Somewhat later, Bogdan Loeb! made the following comment: "Now it seem-
ed that killing the thirteen-row dragon would pose no problem."
49 Zbigniew Osinsk
The 1960/1961 Season
On 10 October, Jerzy Grotowski received a diploma in Fine Arts and also a
professional director's diploma from the State School of Dramatic Arts. He
submitted a script titled Gods of Rain [from Krzyszton] to the diploma commit-
tee for directors. His theoretical statement was titled "Between Theatre and the
Attitude Toward Reality: Krak6w-Opole 1958-1959." Included with the fort y-
page typescript were several Grotowski essays: "The Creative Ambitions of
Theatre," "Theatre and the Cosmic Nlan," "Between 'Play' and the Attitude
Toward Reality." In addition, Grotowski had to write a directorial analysis of
Aleksander Fredro's Maidens' Vows, to which he appended a typescript titled
"Playing Shiva," developed from the opening seminar of the Theatre of 13
Rows. This statement had been written as marginal ideas while Grotowski had
been working on the text of Kalidasa's Sakuntala:
The mythological patron of the old Indian theatre was Shiva, the
Cosmic Dancer, who, dancing, "gives birth" to all that is and who
"shatters" all that is; and who "dances the whole." .. .
If I had to define our theatrical quest in one sentence, with one term,
I would refer to the myth about the dance of Shiva. I would say: "We
are playing at being Shiva. We are acting out Shiva." ...
This is a dance of form, the pulsation of form, the fluid diffusion of
the multiplicity of theatrical conventions, styles, acting traditions. It is
the construction of opposites: intellectual play in spontaneity,
seriousness in the grotesque, derision in pain. This is the dance of form
which shatters all theatrical illusion, all "verisimilitude to life." ...
The ancient Indian theatre, as the ancient Japanese and Greek
theatres, was not a "presentation" of reality (that is, a constructing of
illusions), but rather a dancing of reality (a false construction
something on the order of a "rhythmic vision" that refers to
reality) ....
We do not demonstrate action to the viewer; we invite him ... to
take part in the "shamanism" in which the living, immediate presence
of the viewer is part of the playacting ....
To all appearances, we "heal" ourselves with tautology: the necessity
of death explains itself through the necessity of death, the fate of man
through the fate of man. But the tautology is seemingly apparent,
because between the question and the confirmation, the perspective
from which we see has changed. Now we try to see as if from the out-
side, as if from "all sides."
There is the mythological quotation: "Shiva says ... I am without
name, without form, and without action .... I am pulse, movement,
rhythm" (Shiva-Gita).
--------- --- -----
Grotowski and His Laboratory 50
The essence of the theatre we are seeking is "pulse, movement, and
In November, while the group was working on Sakuntala, an article appeared
in the new weekly, ITD [literally "ETC.") with the tide "The Theatre Which
Still Shocks." Its author, Jerzy Falkowski, sought to place the accomplishments
of the Theatre of 13 Rows within the tradition of theatrical reform. He also
sought to characterize the creative personality of Jerzy Grotowski:
The avant-garde is numerically small in Poland, but it radiates far and
wide. Directors usually mentioned are Krystyna Skuszanka from
Nowa Huta and Kazimierz Dejmek from },.6di; and the scenographers
]ozef Szajna and T adeusz Kantor from Krakow. Jerzy Grotowski's
name is being mentioned more and more ....
This man's looks are somewhat infantile: sparse beard, rosy com-
plexion, the chubbiness of a baby. Yet immediately after exchanging a
few words with him, you are struck by his great energy, impatience,
and aggressiveness. The same thing happens on his stage.
The premiere of the ancient Indian fable, Kalidasa's Sakuntala, took place on
13 December. The creators of the performance intended it as "folklore."
Grotowski's collaboration with the designer Jerzy Gurawski began with this
production. In each performance developed after this, Grotowski and
Gurawski sought a different spatial relationship between the actor and au-
dience member. Searching for ways to organize the ritual occurring between
the actors and audience, both, according to Grotowski, "set off for an uncom-
promising conquest of space."
They used a center stage in Sakuntala: the audience was located on two op-
posing platforms; the action took place between the platforms; and behind the
audience were two yoga-commentators. The stage architecture was a large
divided half hemisphere and a tall phallic pillar. 'The scenography," wrote
Flaszen in the program, "is in two phases: it associates the symbols of sleep (the
Freudian shape in the center of the stage) with symbols of childhood (the
costumes were designed by children)." There were many cuts in the text and
fragments added from the Kamasutra (the ancient Indian guide to the art of
love), the Book of Manu (a collection of ancient Indian customs), and additional
ritual texts.
Grotowski used very few performers [six) in Sakuntala. Kalidasa's original
calls for thirty-four people plus hermits, pupils, courtiers, and the king's
retinue. The actors often used conventional sacral sounds and liturgical allu-
sions in contradiction to the everyday meaning of Kalidasa's language. Each
gesture also was composed and artificial. Similarly to the production of Mystery
Bouffe, there was no mechanical or recorded music used. Instead, the director
sought "actor-music": rhythmic clapping of the body; echoes of footsteps, etc.
51 Zbigniew Osinski
In 1968, Grotowski spoke as follows about the significance of this particular
We noticed quite early that one could seek the sources of ritual acting
in this play, a ritual acting still existing in some countries. Where?
Mainly in the Eastern theatre. Even a lay theatre like the Peking
Opera contains a ritual structure, developing a ceremony through ar-
ticulated signs set by tradition and repeating these in the same way
with each presentation. This as a kind of language, an ideogram of
gesture and behavior. We did Sakuntala to study the possibility of
creating similar signs in the European theatre. . . . We wanted to
create a performance which would give the idea of Eastern
theatre-not an authentic Eastern theatre-but rather the kind that
Europeans imagine. It was an ironic approach. But under the surface
of the irony, aimed against the viewer, was a hidden intent: to
discover a system of signs appropriate to our theatre, our civilization.
We did this through small vocal and gestural signs. This proved to be
quite fertile ground in the future. We introduced voice training into
our troupe, because it was impossible to create vocal signs without
special preparation. The play was produced and it turned out to be a
unique work in its suggestiveness. But I saw that it was an ironic
transposition of stereotypes, patterns. Each gesture, composed of a
specially constructed ideogram, became what Stanislavsky called a
"gesture pattern." This was not "I love you" with a hand over the
heart, but in the end it came down to something similar. It became
clear that this was not the way .... After Sakuntala, we undertook a
search in the domain of organic reactions of people, in order to be able
to structure these. This opened the door to the most fruitful adventure
our group has had; that is, research in the field of acting. (Dialog
Critic Jerzy Lau spoke of the production of Sakuntala as perhaps having "too
much mathematics and conceptualizing, too little poetry," but nonetheless of
importance within the context of contemporary Polish theatre.
In January 1961, the Theatre of 13 Rows went to Krakow, where it presented
seven performances of Sakuntala and one performance of Mystery Bouffe. While
in Krakow, Grotowski gave an interview in which he talked about the progress
of the Theatre of 13 Rows:
Our troupe is somewhat conditioned now. Alternate jets of hot and
cold water are supposed to strengthen, and that is the kind of shower
our critics subject us to constantly. This is the end of our second year.
Opole, which is ambitious but which doesn't have a snobbish cafe
crowd to influence and pressure the theatre, is a good place for
Grotowski and His Laboratory 52
laboratory work. When we began, we had an average of eight viewers
to a performance. It is a little better now, and the situation seems to be
improving. We've always had good attendance at guest appearances in
Poznan, Katowice, Krakow, 2.nd Warsaw, even at the very beginning .
. . . We assumed that progress in art demands not only an uncom-
promising attitude on the part of the artists, but, equally important, it
demands work in preparing and educating one's audience. (Dziennik
Opalski [1961])
Still, while the stubborn battle for an audience was being waged, efforts to li-
quidate the Theatre of 13 Rows continued. A critic describes the events of the
It often seemed a hopeless situation. The group was rescued by very
good reviews from the central press and by the actions of a few social
and Party activists. This had a decisive influence on the fate of the
theatre .... It is understandable that Grotowski aroused uneasiness
and opposition in those incapable of understanding what he was up
to. He did not fit into the surrounding "landscape"; he was, like it or
not, the grain that ferments ....
In spite of the two-year credit of confidence granted officially to .the
theatre, a few people engaged in the organization and evaluation of
the cultural life of the city of Opole ... indicated their impatience
more and more frequently .... These individuals denied the theatre
its right to exist. It was an experimental theatre and, therefore, elitist,
even among the small circle of artists in Opole.
They used numbers as arguments, and numbers were Grotowski's
worst allies in the early stages of his theatre. Nor did the label "elitist"
arouse confidence, even though the point of the experiment was to
create an elite theatre (and this sounds paradoxical) for a mass au-
dience-a theatre in which the audience member would feel like a
seriously considered intellectual partner.
As of February 1961, the actors of the Theatre of 13 Rows have been
playing to full houses. The work of educating the audience lasted
about a year and a half in what seemed like conditions of absolute
social isolation. This effort can be adequately gauged only when one
takes into account that the theatre has no room for its administrative
offices or scene shop. As a result, rehearsals are often at night. Their
lilliputian dressing room has no warm water, and the actors have to
spend their second year living in an unheated hall in the theatre dur-
ing the winter. (B. Loeb!, Odra [1962])
The famous poet Wladyslaw Broniewski spent four days in May 1961 in
Opole. Attempts were made by some to use his authority to suooorr th<> li-
. .i
53 Zbigniew Osinski
quidation of the Theatre of 13 Rows. It was explained to the poet that the
theatre's work was "gibberish," "a sham," and "charlatanism." On 22 May,
Broniewski came to see Sakuntala and the performance of a very brief montage
of World War Ilimages titled The Tourists. The result was the opposite of what
had been expected: the poet was charmed by the performance and became a
warm friend of the group: "He discussed Meyerhold and the avant-garde in
theatre for a long time with the young actors. He looked at their small, crowded
'laboratory.' Together they took walks on the streets of Opole while Broniewski
recited his beautiful poems" a. Falkowski, Dookola Swiata [1962)). This friend-
ship lasted until Broniewski's death, while the attempt to close down the
theatre using Broniewski's influence ended in complete defeat. The poet's spon-
taneous reaction to what he had seen was first published in fragments in the
programs for Forefathers' Eve and A Silesian Memoir. The entire statement ap-
peared only years later after Broniewski's death:
The Theatre of 13 Rows in Opole is a real phenomenon in Poland!
Those people, that troupe, are apostles of a kind. Apostles of what? Of
art with a capital "A." They speak wonderfully; they are agile; they
know how to feel their way into the texture of human fate with their
voices and bodies. They speak in an old-fashioned way: they are good
actors. I don't know which gestures were required for ancient India,
but the gestures used by this theatre were convincing.
The Tourists was devastating. We, the older folks, lived through that.
The young should know about it .... These actors should be seen by
all in Poland. That devastating performance, created by Jerzy
Grotowski with the help of Ludwik Flaszen and a splendid cast,
should become a document that goes beyond the confines of Art.
Even if only at Eichmann's trial.
My dear actors and comrades! I wish you well in the name of my
deceased wife, a prisoner of Auschwitz, Maria Zarebinska. (Dialog
Mickiewicz's Forefathers' Eve was the first work by the Theatre of 13 Rows to
be taken from the repertoire of great Polish national classics. In the program
given out for the premiere on 6 June 1961 were Waldemar Krygier's sketches of
rehearsals, Jerzy Gurawski's architectural drawings of the setting, and the
following text by Ludwik Flaszen:
Why Forefathers' Eve? Because it shows how theatre is born of ritual.
The fate of individuals plays itself out in full view of society, which ac-
tively participates in that fate: society summons, emanates, and
judges .... We do not want to show a world separated from the spec-
tator by the frame of the stage, but instead we want to create the world
anew with the spectator. Surrounded by our mutual presence and
Grotowski and His Laboratory 54
aroused by our mutual participation in a collective act, we will feel
ourselves to be masters of our house.
Grotowski explained why Mickiewicz's work fascinated him and outlined the
play's main, assumptions:
First of all, sorcery. If Forefathers' Eve is a ritual drama, then we draw
very literal conclusions : we arrange the collectivity, which is not divid-
ed into viewers and actors but rather into participants of the first and
second order. The point is to have a collectivity subordinated to the
rigors of ritual. In Forefathers' Eve we eliminated the stage (and we do
not intend to return to it). The actors turned directly to the audience,
treated the audience as co-actors, and even encouraged the audience
to participate in the stage action.
Secondly, ... the actors began the sorcery with something like a
game. They designate the first "leader of the chorus" (a spirit who is
later Konrad) from the circle of viewers and actors. This game grows
into something sacred as the participants summon the dead and then
act out their roles. Taking an unsuspecting person from the audience
(as with the shepherdess pursued by a spirit) is intended as a return to
ritual theatre.
Thirdly, the Great Improvisation. This section of Forefathers' Eve is
normally treated as a great metaphysical revolt full of pathos and as an
individual struggle with God. This seemed good material to
demonstrate the tragic and naive qualities of saviors, their Don Quix-
otism ....
Gustav-Konrad's monologue was made similar to the Stations of the
Cross. He moves from viewer to viewer, like Christ .... His pain is
supposed to be authentic, his mission of salvation sincere, even full of
tragedy; but his reactions are naive, close to a childish drama of in-
capacity. The point is to construct a specific theatrical dialect: of ritual
and play, the tragic and the grotesque.
We concentrate the meaning of the production in the Great Im-
provisation. In a narrow sense, one could talk about how suffering
gives birth to the supernatural world or how lone rebellion encom-
passing everything is hopeless. In a broader and more important sense,
one could identify the suffering with the object of our constant sear-
ching-what Wladyslaw Broniewski has described as our "feeling our
way into the texture of human fate with our voices and bodies." (Inter-
view,]. Falkowski, Wspolczesnosc [1961])
The sub-title and epigraph for the performance were the Priest's words:
This blasphemous ritual, full of sorcery
Confirms our people in their deepest ignorance;
This is the source of their tales and superstitions
About night spirits, vampires, and magic.
(Forefathers' Eve, Part IV)
55 Zbigniew Osinski
From Mickiewicz's original text, Grotowski chose to keep all that was con-
nected to ritual, romantic rebellion, and romantic love: Parts II and IV,
fragmentsofPart 1, and the Great Improvisation from Part III. There were also
added mottos from Shakespeare and Sartre together with sections from
Mickiewicz's preface describing the folk character of ritual. Some of
Mickiewicz's commentary also was used to introduce the setting and the events.
The performance was theatrically distinctive. The division between stage and
audience was eliminated and replaced by a homogenous theatrical space enclos-
ing both performers and audience members. The action took place throughout
the entire theatre. Chairs were located at various levels and arranged in group-
ings that made viewers surprised at their own presence within the performance.
Instead of period costumes, the actors wore seemingly makeshift garments:
Gustav-Konrad in a cheap rug draped like a romantic cape; the Priest in a quilt-
ed comforter instead of a cassock; the men in trousers, shirts, and cravats from
Mickiewicz's time, but in suspenders, without frock or dress coats; and the
women with curtains draped over their shoulders like romantic mantles. In ad-
dition, each character was given an ordinary kitchen pot and candles. Light
came from above-from black, cylindrical lamps, which the actors lighted and
extinguished during the action. As Flaszen explained it, "The performance was
conceived as a series of studies joined by the unity of several elements: the story
of the spiritual experiences of a romantic young man; the obliteration of the
division between actors and audience members through ritual participation;
and the stylistic oscillation between tragic and grotesque" Teatralny
The chorus was an undifferentiated mass of actors, and viewers were given
specific roles appropriate to the needs of the action. The production was
governed by the principle of counterpoint-a sharp play among contradictory
elements. Gustav-Konrad (played by Malik) in the Great Improvisa-
tion showed various iconographical poses of Christ on the way to Golgotha.
He circled the theatre, bending and falling under the weight of his cross, which
was an ordinary household broom. In the final throes of the Improvisation, a
Promethean revolt in extreme form, Gustav-Konrad fell and lay prostrate in an
act of humility mixed with blasphemy. "Grotowski's production," commented
Flaszen, "wants to save everything that can be saved, in spite of contemporary
skepticism and the reevaluation of tradition .... By negating ritual with irony,
the romantic with derision, one becomes conscious that truth can never be
grasped in its ultimate form."
Grotowski and His Laboratory 62
Both Forefathers' Eve and Slowacki's Kordian, developed immediately after,
led clearly to the staging of Wyspianski's Akropolis. Some of the techniques and
moments in Forefathers' Eve clearly evoke remembrance of scenes from later
productions. The scene in which spirits are summoned and Gustav-Konrad is
designated as savior clearly echoes the scene in Apocalypsis cum figuris in which
the Dark One or Simpleton is selected. Forefathers' Eve began for Grotowski a
fascination with the Polish romantic tradition, and, as Flaszen later said, "a
steady wandering over the great expanse of romanticism."
The 1961/1962 Season
The premiere of The Idiot was on 22 October 1961, a performance developed
and directed by Waldemar Krygier. In the program, Flaszen wrote: "Of course
the play is not Dostoevsky's The Idiot. It is rather a theatrical fantasy based on
selected motifs from the novel of the great Russian writer. The object of our in-
terpretive endeavor is not just to present one of Dostoevsky's works but rather
to explore the whole contemporary climate of 'dostoevskyism.' "
The critic Falkowski wrote: "If Forefathers' Eve is viewed as a clear and
creative synthesis of the group's two years of work, then The Idiot in Krygier's
adaptation and direction is a fun-house mirror, a caricature of the 'theatrical
solemnity' of the Theatre of 13 Rows" [1962]). Presenting
himself as an "uninvited defender of the artistic gropings" of the troupe,
Falkowski believed that the production of The Idiot was a "watering down and
undermining of the group's deeply intellectual concerns" and ultimately a
vulgarization of Dostoevsky.
In mid-November, the group gave a number of performances in Wroclaw of
both Forefathers' Eve and The Idiot. By the close of the year, Flaszen's important
descriptive essay, "The Theatre of 13 Rows," was published in both French and
English in The Theatre in Poland, thus bringing the work of the troupe to
recognition outside its national boundaries. In Poland itself, there were a
number of important articles published on the group's struggles and
achievements: Falkowski's "The Meaning of the Experiment" (Kalendarz
Opolska [1962]) and "13 Rows" (Dookota Swiata [1962]) and Loebl's "High
Priests of the Black Mass" (Odra [1962]). The group clearly had strengthened its
position, according to Falkowski: "Today we can speak of victory . . .. Each
production is a step ahead for the experiment .... The Theatre of 13 Rows is
on the attack." The idea of "attack" did not go unnoticed by others:
"Grotowski's Offensive" was how Kudlin5ki titled his article on the group when
the Theatre of 13 Rows next appeared in Krakow (Dziennik Polski [1962]).
But the most important premiere of all took place on 14 February I 962 in
Opole. This was the production of Juliusz Slowacki's early nineteenth-century
play, Kordian, directed by Grotowski. In one of the scenes of Slowacki's original
(Ill, vi), the hero and title character is committed to a mental institution as a
'' ...
.. 1;:
' '

63 Zbigniew Osins1
sacrifice for the sufferings of his people and homeland. Grotowski's entire pro
duction took place in this setting: a "hospital for the mentally ill." It i:
worthwhile noting that Grotowski's production predated by a number of year:
both the writing and first production of Peter Weiss's Marat ! Sade.
Grotowski altered and abridged Sfowacki's original text. "The play," wrot<
Flaszen, "is thought of as a mutual penetration, a mutual play of reality and fie
tion. The action is played out on three levels. The theatre is reality in a literal
sense: there is the auditorium into which the audience comes to see the play.
The first level of fiction is constructed on that theatrical reality: the role of
psychiatric patients is thrust on every member of the audience, not just the ac-
tors. Another layer of fiction then is constructed on the hospital reality: the ac-
tions ofKordian become the collective hallucinations of all the peorle who are
ill" Teatralny [1964]).
In the theatre, representing a psychiatric clinic, the audi<:nce sat on metal
beds placed in three different locations. The viewers were treated like patients
in a hospital ward. The beds served as locations for important actions by the
performers, who played on the beds in a highly acrobatic manner. Costumes
were hospital gowns and uniforms, and props were quite literal: a scalpel, a
straight-jacket, bowls, mugs, towels. But there were also objects that looked as
if they had been taken from the prop room of the Great Theatre: a crown for
the Czar, a tiara for the Pope, etc.
Sometimes drastic means were used to force the audience to act: the Doctor
hummed a song and forced all the actors and viewers to sing along. The disobe-
dient were sought out and threatened with a cane. This, however, was the last
production of the Theatre of 13 Rows in which the viewer was urged to par-
ticipate by "provoking him into specific types of behavior, movement, song,
verbal replies, etc." (Gi.-otowski, Dialog [1969]).
In this production, the romantic idea of self-sacrifice as personified by Kor-
dian (and as played by Zbigniew Cynkutis) was put to the test of a contem-
porary perspective. Kordian's famous monologue from the peak of Mt. Blanc
was a key scene which occurred about halfway through the performance. After
his visit to the Pope, Kordian suddenly stiffens and falls lifeless into the hands
of the orderlies. Kordian shouts the words of his monologue as the orderlies
carry him, rigid and high above their heads, across the entire performance hall.
They place him on the top bunk of one of the beds, tie him up and remove his
shirt. A rubber tube is tied around Kordian's wrist, and a bowl is held forth to
catch his blood. The doctor raises a lancet and aims precisely for the vein of the
sick man. These actions are cool, efficient, and specific-a sharp contrast to the
desperate euphoria of Kordian. Finally his shouting changes into a hoarse
whisper. Then the doctor drives in the lancet and Kordian verbally explodes
once again: "My people! Winkelreid is alive! Poland is the Winkelreid of na-
tions!" But the operation is over, and Kordian awakens as if from a crazy
dream, speaking in a quiet and subdued voice. The great scene of self-sacrifice
- --------- -- --- -- ------
Grotowski and His Laboratory 64
of the individual is countered by the prose of the medical operation. Literal
blood mixes with metaphorical blood, imagined sufferings with real physical
and spiritual sufferings, and bodily contortions with poetic flight .
Kordian was conceived as a grotesque tragedy, encompassing both the poverty
and greatness of human strivings. Through the madness of the romantic hero
was revealed the "deformed shape of truth." Similarly, the "deformed truth" of
the others was revealed by their ruthless pretensions. As Flaszen wrote, "It is
not always wise for society, smug in its own practical experience, to deride the
noble madman. What is order worth if the act of the individual is severed from
a moral dimension and common sense is deemed the sole source of ethics? This
is just a step away from philistinism" Teatralny [1964]). This idea was
later taken up by Grotowski:
The essence of this play is that he who is the most sick, that is, Kor-
dian, is sick by virtue of the fact that he is noble. The person who is ..
least ill, the Doctor who handles the treatment, is one who is
reasonable and full of common sense, but insidiously healthy. Of
course, this is the paradox or contradiction we often encounter in life:
whenever we want to directly realize great values, we become mad,
crazy .... Yet if we want to remain sensible, we are not in a position
to realize great values. Therefore, we walk the seemingly right path
with our common sense. We do not become madmen; we remain
healthy and are pleased with our good health. I believe that when we
ask basic questions, or even one basic question because perhaps only
one really exists, it is easy to end up being considered a madman, just
as Kordian is in the play. And maybe we will be madmen, which is
what happens to Kordian, in spite of his loftiness. (Dialog [1969})
Kordian led directly to Wyspianski's Akropolis. At the same time, the treat
ment of the protagonist, who sees his essence in saving others, an act leading to
his own self-destruction, prefigured Faustus in Tragical History of Doctor Faustus,
Fernando in The Constant Prince, and the Simpleton in Apocalypsis cum figuris.
The primitive shaman and wizard are identified with the modern theatre magi-
cian, and the Polish romantic seer and savior is identified with a folk saint or "a
fool of Christ." The shaman, wizard, seer, saint, savior, and fool, as personified
by protagonists in Grotowski's productions from Cain to the Simpleton, are
only variants of the same theme.
Of the post-opening press releases, Jerzy Kwiatkowski's article deserves special
mention. He saw Kordian as "an unusual artistic phenomenon, ... one of the
most interesting in the period after 1956." He saw a great chance for this par
ticular theatre "to distinguish itself from the commonplace." He was, however,
opposed to the efforts of the Theatre of 13 Rows to involve the audience so
directly in the performance:
65 Zbigniew Osinski
Let us leave the role of passive viewer to the audience member, and let
us not try to change him into the resolute boy in the audience of a
puppet show nor into the terrified stranger, tearing himself from the
arms of a beautiful chorus girl in a Parisian music hall. (Wsp6lszesnosc .
Kwiatkowski and Kudlinski were impressed by the level of acting
by Cynkutis and the entire cast. The latter wrote:
The entire ensemble of the Theatre of 13 Rows is only nine people.
This number is significant if one considers the amount and variety of
characters created by this small group. This is a cast of striking efficien-
cy and physical fitness: the mastery of memorized material when one
considers the frenetic pace of the actors' speeches; the unusually com-
plex stagfng situation; the scaiing of the voice from shout to song to
whisper; the incessant alterations in color and intonation; the certain-
ty and freedom apparent in .attacking problems and risky situations;
and finally the concentration it takes to create character-these are
rare demands and unusual achievements to be found in the theatre to-
day. (Dziennik Polski [1962])
recognized the basicaily romantic character of the performance:
There is no poking fun here: parody and pathos, the grotesque and
the tragic, do not negate themselves but, instead, make up the sum of
one shocking experience .... Flaszen's and Grotowski's Kordian is sub-
jective, expressionistic, and even comes close to surrealism when it
comes to its principle of "convulsive" beauty. This is drama made of
contrasts, contradictions, and clashes. It strives to achieve maximum
aesthetic effect and to creat maximum experience through shock ....
. Just as that which is the most interesting in the new poetry, just as that
.. ' ll

which is the most interesting in the new cinema, this work is based on
\ .c<'.\'
sharp new aesthetic means.

' ' .. ..
;! i::., : ' _-_ . : >:::>, ,'
{ ;.. .. .. , :.,, ...
late July and early August, Grotowski was part of the Polish delegation to
Eighth World Festival of Students and Youth in Helsinki. He took part in
,international seminar on experimental theatre, during which time he spoke
the experiences and artistic achievements of the Theatre of 13 Rows.
' '-'!:?> . .
t:::f;;i 0Qe of the participants was Raymonde Temkine [who later wrote a book, titled
Gmtowski, about Grotowski and his work]. After the meetings in Helsinki,
.... e;,Ahose interested participants visited Opole. Thus articles on the group's work
to appear in the foreign press of Denmark, Finland, France, Spain, Nor-
:' )Y.f:Y Rumania, Switzerland, Sweden, and Hungary.

Grotowski and His Laboratory 66
Upon his return from Helsinki, Grotowski spent a month in the
Republic of China as a_ delegate of Theatre Affairs from the Polish Ministry
Art and Culture. While in China, Grotowski made a number of contacts
contemporary Chinese theatre artists and studied the style, form, and
tions of Chinese theatre.
The 1962/1963 Season
Akropolis, after Stanislaw Wyspianski's play of 1904, premiered on
tober 1962. Stefan Bratkowski later published a description of Grotowski
one of the performances:
He is heavyset and has the full face of a well-fed only son. His
sparse like that of a boy; his hair is parted on one side, and he has
tired, peering eyes of someone who is near-sighted. Glasses.
fashionable coat and sloppy shoes which seem ready to fall off his
He doesn't seem to notice.
Until now he has been: an actor, a journalist, a leader in the
movement, a lecturer on Hindu and Chinese philosophy, a
heckler, and the youngest professor in the higher schools of acting.
is currently a theatre director. In Opole, far from Warsaw or Kra
he is in charge of something called a "laboratory theatre," which,
side of Poland, is the most highly acclaimed theatre of Europe.
Some have called him a charlatan; others consider him the most
teresting innovator of the Polish stage if not the most
theatre innovator in the entire world. There is something of the
notist in him and something of the street urchin who loves
When he explains his viewpoint to someone, he does so with the
tience and understanding of a teacher explaining the mysteries of 2 x
to an undeveloped child. When he laughs, you detect a note of
in pulling off a good joke. The joke might be taking place in such
regions of humor that the butt of it often doesn't realize until the
what his own role has been. On the other hand, Grotowski can also
create a joke at his own expense. When he was not able to teach
actors psychic concentration before the performance, he imposed
half-hour mandatory silence before each showing. He too had
adhere to the ruling ....
Wyspiar_1ski's play is performed in a concentration camp
Now Grotowski has made a duality of the entire classical repertory
his workshop .... Akropolis is a play of mystical illusions and hopes,
Grotowski sunders their meaning and packs everything into a
tration camp. The final coming of the Savior will mean liberation by
way of an Auschwitz oven! (Podr6Z na peryferie [1965])
67 Zbigniew Osinski
the new name of the group-the Laboratory Theatre of 13
being used officially in connection with the production of Akropolis.
on the new project as follows:
action of Wyspianski's play takes place on Wawel Hill [in
], which is to Poles what the Athenian Acropolis is to the
of Europe. During the Easter Sunday vigil, figures step out of
tapestries in order to re-enact great myths, ancient tales, and Bible
: - -the Trojan War, Paris and Helen, Jacob's battle with the
. Jacob and Esau, and the Resurrection. Grotowski sees
as the graveyard of European and Polish civilization, the sum
its inspiration and motifs. And that graveyard of tradition con
verges with the graveyard of peoples generally and European culture in
century, with the sum of the "civilization of ovens," and with the
of the extermination camps. (Komentarz do przedstawienia
Grotowski's idea, and his inspiration grew from the concentration
of the outstanding writer and former inmate of Auschwitz,
.,"'Hnrnwski, who died prematurely, and from whom Grotowski borrow-
for his production:
All that will remain is a heap of scrap metal
the empty, jeering laughter of generations.
-<iiMnwskt focused on the text of Wyspianski's play, rearranging parts of it.
obsessive repetition, he hammered out the phrases "our Acropolis"
of the tribes," which turned into catch words governing the
of the production. "Wyspianski's work is conceived as a vision of
culture, whose characteristic motifs converge on Wawel Hill,
Acropolis. Here, in this graveyard of.the tribes, according to Wys
's designation, these motifs of European culture are to undergo, in a
Vistulan synthesis [the Vistula is the river of Krak6w], a test of their
" (Flaszen, Teatralny [1964]). "In the play, the reality is dif-
the reality of the extermination camp is created poetically, from allu-
!.short-cuts, and metaphors. These are the timeless myths and motives by what remains of human beings at the extremes of experience
.the twentieth century thrusts upon us" (Aaszen, Komentarz do przedsta-
production is conceived as a poetic paraphrase of an extermination
action takes place in the whole auditorium, among the audience.
, the viewers are not drawn in to participate. They are treated as
of living people. The actors, on the other hand, act out dream-like
Grotowski and His Laboratory 68
characters who rise from the smoke of the crematorium. There is no direct con-
tact between the actors and viewers. As Flaszen explains:
These are two separate and mutually impenetrable worlds .... These
are the living and the dead. The physical proximity this time helps
confirm the separateness. The viewers ... are provocatively ignored.
The dead appear in the dreams of the living, strangely and incom-
prehensively. And, as in a nightmare, they surround the dreamers on
all sides. The dead appear in various places in the auditorium,
sometimes separately, sometimes all at once, and this is supposed to
create the suggestions of undefined space and unrelenting omni-
science. Just as in a bad dream. (Pamitnik Teatralny [1964))
The production of Akropolis by the Theatre of 13 Rows contained no in-
dividual hero but simply the image of human society caught in an extreme
predicament . The actors were an ensemble which pulsated with a changing
rhythm through song, language, and noise. In the middle of the auditorium
stood a large box on which were piled stovepipes, wheelbarrows, a bathtub,
hammers, and nails. As the action unfolded, the actor-inmates built a civiliza-
tion of stovepipes which gradually encompassed the whole auditorium. The
costumes were tattered sacks on bare flesh, large work boots, and dark berets.
All of the actors looked alike, deprived of sex, age, and social standing to dif-
ferentiate them one from another. They performed slavish, absurdly senseless
tasks as dictated by camp rules . ... Wyspianski's play ends with the Resurrec-
tion and apotheosis of Christ. Grotowski's production closes with a procession
of dancing inmates who carry a dummy corpse [of Christ) triumphantly. The
corpse is their Savior and a symbol of their desperate hope. One by O'ne they
disappear into the crematorium oven [the dark box in the center of the space].
Akropolis is a step toward what later came to be called "Poor Theatre." Accor-
ding to Flaszen, "The performance was based on a principle of strict self-
sufficiency. The main tenet is: don't introduce anything into the action not
there from the beginning. There are these people and a certain number of ob-
jects collected in the performance space. This must be sufficient for all cir-
cumstances and situations in the play, the sound and decor, the time and
space . . .. The poor theatre means to use the least number of objects to obtain
maximum effect" (Pamitnik Teatralny [1964]).
Akropolis was a summing up of all that had been attempted earlier by the
Theatre of 13 Rows, particularly through performances such as Forefathers' Eve
and Kordian. The first press reaction to the performance was an attack by a
critic calling himself/herself "Aunt Agnes." Falkowski wrote a dignified reply
in his "Letter to Aunt Agnes," to which "Aunt Agnes" answered with a "Let-
ter to Mr. Falkowski." This went on in the pages of Trybuna Opolska, and it was
only Jan Pawel Gawlik's essay, "Akropolis 1962," that placed the performance
in proper context. Gawlik suggested that the production was one of the most
69 Zbigniew Osinski
radical ever seen in the Polish theatre:
Radical not only in the context of hallowed practices of "traditional"
theatre but also in relation to our own artistic tradition .... The
Opole experiment is consciously related to the doctrine and practices
of Witkacy . . . . This is a theatre of special category . . . with its own
means of expression and its own specific poetics .... One of the most
interesting modern theatrical experiments is taking place in a small
Opole theatre. That in itself is a measure of the effort this group has
expended and entitles them to respect. (T rybuna Opolska [ 1962])
With the production of Akropolis, a myriad of publications on both this
specific performance and the working methods of the group appeared. Interest
in Grotowski's experiment both in Poland and abroad was growing. More and
more students appeared in Opole: "a new aspiring actress from Norway (Tune
Bull) and two stipendists from Switzerland are to appear any day now . .. ,"
wrote Grotowski to Kudlinski on 18 October. In November and December,
there were performances of Akropolis in Wrodaw, Poznan, Gliwice, and
Katowice. Grotowski was requested to write a paper detailing his methods by
the director of the Theatre Institute in Budapest for publication in Hungarian.
A similar request of Grotowski was made by well-known French theatre
historian and director of the Bibliotheque de !'Arsenal, Andre Veinstein. And
Raymonde Temkine in December announced that there would be a world-wide
biennial in Paris of avant-garde theatre, initiated by Grotowski. But in spite of
these acknowledgments, the situation in Opole was becoming more critical for
the Theatre of 13 Rows. As }6zef Klimczyk reported:
This type of theatre in relatively small Opole (approximately 60,000 in-
habitants) is limited by the fact that Opole has no theatrical tradition,
which might assure a steady audience. The Theatre of 13 Rows can,
therefore, count on a maximum of only 1500 audience members to
come to each new production, which means about 30 performances.
The audience is a relatively young one (the majority are older high
schoof pupils and university students). The middle-aged and older
generations avoid the Theatre of 13 Rows, most often dismissing its
undertakings with an indulgent smile .... The group is working under
very difficult physical conditions . . .. At this time, the Theatre of 13
Rows has the smallest budget of any theatre in the country for its
work. (Kwartalnik Opalski [1963])
The basic. problems of the Laboratory Theatre of 13 Rows in 1962-1963,
which would remain to the end of its stay in Opole, were the following: the pro-
blem of having only a small circle of loyal audience members; a lack of loyal
support from social or youth organizations (with the exception of ZMS [Union
Grotowski and His Laboratory 70
of Socialist Youth] which consistently supported the group); a complete lack of
interest by the group's sponsor (the Culture Section of MRN [People's Town
Council] and the Creative Artists Union House). Grotowski complained that
"Every detail, every step, every idiotic little thing must be fought for with an ab-
surd amount of effort and risk." (Quoted by, Teatrala [1975]) It was
something 'like a boycott of the theatre by a large sector of the theatre-going
public and press in Poland, and this boycott seemed to grow stronger in propor-
tion to the increasing interest abroad in this Polish theatre.
Toward the end of the year, the group began rehearsals of Tragical History of
Doctor Faustus after Marlowe. In late February and March there were twenty-
two performances of Akropolis in Lc1di together with four public discussion
meetings. Each day, whether the group was in Opole or on tour, the actors did
exercises organized by members of the troupe. Mirecka was instructor for
plasticity of gesture and movement. Molik taught breathing and vocal exer-
cises. Cynkutis taught rhythm exercises, and Ryszard Cidlak taught acrobatics
and mastery of the body. In addition to this, Grotowski conducted so-called
"etudes" or vocal composition exercises. The ideal for him was the "ac-
tor/ master craftsman":
In our theatre, special attention is paid to the actor's training and to
examining the laws that govern his craft. In addition to rehearsals, the
actors do physical exercises two to three hours every day .... This is
similar to scientific research. We try to uncover the objective laws that
govern human expression. The introductory materials are the acting
systems already elaborated in the methods of Stanislavsky,
Meyerhold, and Dullin; the specific training systems we find in
classical Chinese and Japanese theatre, the dance-dramas of India, the
research of the great European mimes (Marceau, for example), ... and
the studies of psychologists who have done research on the
mechanism of human reactions Oung, Pavlov). It is possible to say
without the slightest exaggeration that each "laboratory" premiere is
bought with the hard, almost "slave" labor of the eight-member cast .
(Interview,]. Falkowski, Odra [1964])
And that is how things remained for years. Grotowski was, in his
own way, obsessed with the problem of acting technique. Another idee fixe of
both Flaszen and Grotowski was the understanding of the performance as a
"specific moment," "an out of the ordinary" and singular moment. This ties in
directly with their fascination with a "theatre of magic."
It was this intellectual ground that gave birth to Tragical History of Doctor
Faustus. Marlowe's drama was merely the backdrop for Grotowski's version of
the Faustus theme. The framework for the performance was the final scene: a
banquet (with students) during which Faustus settles accounts with his con-
71 Zbigniew Osinski
science just moments before his death. In Opole, the production was conceived
as a meal taken in a refectory. During the meal, Faustus (played by Zbigniew
Cynkutis) relates episodes from his life. The audience members are guests in-
vited by Faustus to a great farewell banquet. The spectators were seated on ben-
ches next to long tables arranged in a horseshoe, on which the action took
place. At the same time, the setting forced the spectator into yet another role:
when Faustus begins his public confession, the spectator is his confessor.
All characters were dressed in priestly garb-cassocks or habits. Faustus wore
a white habit. In his story of Faustus, Grotowski saw an analogy to the lives of
the saints. Faustus was treated like a saint, as one who follows an uncom-
promising quest for truth and who is willing to espouse an unpopular position.
But this was a saint who opposed God as the creator of Nature, which Faustus
saw as governed by laws contrary to morality and truth. The sequence of
Faustus's life followed the form of medieval hagiography: baptism, mortifica-
tion, struggle with temptations, miracle working, martyrdom, to the point
where Faustus reveals the inhumanity and indifference of God. Mephisto
played a dual, ambivalent role that was both tnale (Antoni Jaholkowski) and
female (Rena Mirecka): Mephisto was a temptor against God while punishing
in God's name and praising God's work.
Michael Kustow had this to say about the production:
The actors perform very close to us, not more than five meters away.
They appear behind us, under us, and among us. Two of them sit
together with the spectators on the benches and pronounce crude,
comical verses from the text .... One hears strange vocalizations:
Christian hymns are accompanied by pagan practices and prayers
sound like threats. There is one terrifying sequence in which Benvolio
(Ryszard Cie5lak) goes mad, begins to run about the auditorium, and
tears apart the folding tables .... For a moment it seems the wo.rld is
falling apart .... "May the fathers that conceived me be damned!":
Faustus is in a state of ecstacy, literally possessed, a lay saint acting like
a religious fanatic. At the moment when his body freezes in a trium-
phal trance, the words of the Polish religious song, "People, My Peo-
ple," echoes forebodingly throughout the auditorium. The dualistic
Mephisto, dressed like a priest, leads the funeral procession: the man
picks Faustus up like an object and carries him on his shoulders. A
woman hurries after them, singing. Faustus lets out a terrifying, in-
human cry and inarticulate sounds. Faustus is no longer a man, but a
sweaty, suffering animal, caught in a trap, a rag deprived of all dignity.
The saint who is against God ... attains a moral victory and pays for
it well: the martyrdom of eternal damnation, in which he is deprived
even of his dignity. (Encore [1963])
Grotowski and His Laboratory 76
Tragical History of Doctor Faustus took place in an aura of dark night and
uncertainty. The actors, especially Cynkutis, got close to some kind of extreme
ecstacy and trance. The production was widely talked abQut, analyzed, and in-
terpreted. Eugenio Barba discussed it in his articles and in his book, Alia Ricerca
del Teatro perduto (In Search of the Lost Theatre, 1965); Grotowski wrote about it
in an artiCle that appeared in The Drama Review (1963-64); and Raymonde
Temkine wrote about it in her book Grotowski (1968). After its premiere,
Tragical History of Doctor Faustus inspired about one hundred reviews, essays,
and studies in the West. This was in sharp contrast to the performance's recep-
tion in Poland: the press in Opole remained silent, and there was no publica-
tion that carried a single decent discussion of the play. The work was clearly
the first production, however, to bring Grotowski and his troupe international
renown. But this was a result of very specific circumstances, created by the
Tenth International Congress of the Theatre Institute (ITI), which was held
from 8 through 15 June 1963 in Warsaw. At the time, the Laboratory Theatre
of 13 Rows was performing in L6dz. Thanks to the efforts of Eugenio Barba,
who organized what was actually an illegal bus trip to L6dz at his own expense,
a sizable group of Polish and foreign participants to the Congress were able to
see a performance of Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. Some of those who view-
ed the production were Jean Darcante, Hubert Gignoux, Michael Kustow,
Alan Seymour, and Raymonde Temkine. There were also Scandinavian,
Dutch, and Italian spectators who saw the production. After the Congress,
Grotowski's Tragical History of Doctor Faustus was recognized as the most
outstandingly innovative production of its time, and the company received an
invitation to perform the play at the Theatre of Nations during the 1964 season
and in Paris in 1965. Neither of these invitations, however, were realized for
reasons beyond the group's control.
The 1963/1964 Season
In a January 1963 issue of Polityka, Jerzy Falkowski and Edward Pochron
wrote about the situation of the Laboratory Theatre of 13 Rows:
For the past five years there has been an establishment in Opole which
people in Warsaw, Paris, Krakow, Barcelona, Budapest, London,
Prague, Lausanne, Bucharest, and Stockholm have written about.
. . . There have been articles in the majority of Polish cultural
magazines and newspapers as well as in dozens of serious foreign
periodicals. Various things are written: there are attacks, polemical
statements, and, more and more, articles full of genuine enthusiasm
and admiration for the artistic courage of this establishment. We speak
of the experimental Laboratory Theatre of 13 Rows. The name con-
"'" r
77 Zbigniew Osinski
ceals an eleven-member troupe, a microscopic auditorium without
adequate storage space, and three to four arduously prepared produc-
tions per season .... The Laboratory Theatre works in Opole and
travels around Poland with its "blasphemous" productions of great na-
tional and foreign classics. It has many friends in the artistic and in-
tellectual communities ... (W!adyslaw Broniewski was one of them).
In keeping with the law of experimentation, the Laboratory Theatre
also has many zealous polemicists and enemies. This is where the pro-
blem arises: should the result of the polemics about this indisputably
essential but controversial artistic phenomenon be a cluster of ques
tions marks about the fate and existence of the group itself? ... It is
true that Minister Galinski (during his stay in Opole) personally called
for the continued activity of the Theatre of 13 Rows, but recent budget
problems have opened up the matter once again. There should be an
appropriate place for a modest laboratory theatre . . . , especially since
it has become a mature and interesting cultural fact. It should have a
place next to the venerated State Theatre of Opole, which satisfies the
needs of the mass public.
The Hamlet Study was prepared under exceptionally difficult circumstances,
because the future fate of the Theatre of 13 Rows was uncertain. The managers
and actors had no guarantee they would receive their next month's salaries.
Some could not stand the pressures and left the troupe. It was only because
Grotowski could infect his co-workers with his own heroic tenacity that a
public "rehearsal" took place on 17 March 1964 after a period of extraordinari-
ly intensive and nerve-racking work.
The performances of The Hamlet Study, based on the texts of Shakespeare
and Wsypianski, were, in keeping with the intentions of its creators, not to
have the character of a finished production but rather the atmosphere of open
rehearsals in which the public participated. This was based on the principle
that "theatre is not a normal service activity but rather an activity that ex
amines and studies." The "performance" was billed as follows: "The scenario
and direction: the troupe under the direction of Jerzy Grotowski." As Flaszen
The director makes suggestions as to the direction. But only enough to
arouse the creative impulse in the actor. The actors in rehearsal im-
provise entire scenes, thus stimulating both the director's inven
tiveness and their own. The work relies upon a collective drawing out
of what is psychologically hidden and expressively effective and in
organizing these discoveries around the main thought which gradually
forms itself. (Pamphlet published by Laboratory Theatre [1965])
Grotowski and His Laboratory 78
In a sense, the public "rehearsal" was a study in the acting methods and col-
lective direction of a production. Using fragments of Shakespeare and Wys-
pianski as a springboard, the production in Opole was, says Flaszen, "our own
version of the story of the Danish Prince, that is, variations on the subject of
selected themes from Shakespeare. A study in motivation."
The Hamlet Study was played in an empty auditorium to an audience seated
against the walls. Hamlet (played by Zygmunt Molik) was the personification of
abstract reflection. He was an intellectual who stood in contrast to the mob:
the production juxtaposed his attitudes, behavior, and reactions to the at-
titudes, behavior, and reactions of those surrounding him. Hamlet's otherness
was underscored throughout. In the bath scene, where Hamlet maintains his
provocative otherness, the death of Queen-Ophelia (played by Rena Mirecka)
occurs amid sensual gasping and perverse games. In the final scene, there were
detachments moving out to battle, singing ancient and hallowed battle hymns.
Though Hamlet seemed a spineless weakling in the face of the vitality and grit
of the mob, it was on the battlefield that he expressed a longing for collectivity,
for human solidarity. Critic ]6zef Kelera claimed:
The Opole version of Hamlet is a very specific sociological creation.
The simplest way to conceive of it is with the formula Hamlet and
Others . ... The main point is the relationship, not the individual
Hamlet. The Hamlet-intellectual among "the others" is the prototype
and model for "the outcast," and is therefore the psycho-sociological
creation which is the main obsession of contemporary literature,
sociology, and "the philosophy of man." Conceived of in this way, it is
not important who Hamlet really is but rather what he is as seen
through the eyes of "the others." He is mystified by their view of him,
and he is deformed by their pressure. And the production is about
who these others are, who are also mystified and deformed by
Hamlet's view of them. The creators of The Hamlet Study suggest that
both sides are mistaken. The mistake is in the socially-formed and
layered mystification of that bond: Hamlet and others. (Odra [1964])
Critics like Kelera and Zbigniew Raszewski shared the opinion that this pro-
duction was not a "top-notch achievement" of the Laboratory Theatre. Com-
parisons with Akropolis and Tragical History of Doctor Faustus always worked to
the detriment of The Hamlet Study. The judgment holds to this day. For the
group, however, Hamlet was an exceedingly important experience, without
which it would have been. impossible to prepare The Constant Prince, not to
mention Apocalypsis cum figuris. The Hamlet Study was the first attempt to create
what Grotowski has called a "total act" with the participation of the entire
ensemble. It was an attempt not quite successful in its realization, but it did
point a direction for the next few years. For Grotowski and the group, The
79 Zbigniew Osinski
Hamlet Study was something of a revelation. It was performed only twenty times
to a total audience of 630 viewers. It was shown only in Opole, since the group,
owing to the financial circumstances, had to abide by the administrative ruling
that forbade them to tour with its productions. Without funds, the company
could not print its usual extended Materials-Discussions to accompany the
premiere. There were only two small flyers: one listed the cast and the other
contained Flaszen's commentary. No photographs of the performance were
taken, since the group lacked funds even to do that. In June 1964, Wilhelm
Mach wrote:
The two Opole theatres have divided up their assignments very sen-
sibly. The very dynamic Teatr Ziemi Opolskiej makes a classic and
contemporary repertoire accessible to the whole region. The Theatre
of 13 Rows is a small research theatre and the enfant terrible of local
patriotism. The latter galvanizes artistic discussion with each of its pro-
ductions. We have just seen its latest opening of The Hamlet Study,
which is disturbing, controversial, but rich in ideas-a formally in-
novative philosophico-moral tract on Shakespearean themes. It is an
unusual work, very modern and very Polish. (Zycie Warszawy [1964))
What The Hamlet Study really was can be seen only from today's perspective.
Then it seemed to be something of a nightmare about persecuted people. It
seemed the troupe, Grotowski included, found itself caught in a vicious circle
from which there was no exit. Wojciech wrote the following about
the problems besetting the group:
The arguments surrounding the Theatre of 13 Rows sometimes lead to
drastic results, which could determine whether the theatre is to be or
not to be. The Laboratory Theatre in Opole, funded (rather modestly)
by WRN [People's Provincial Council] and licensed by the Ministry of
Culture, lives in constant uncertainty whether or not those opposing
voices will affect its sponsors' support. (Kultura [1964))
It was in these circumstances, and owing to the growing interest abroad in
the creative research of the Laboratory Theatre, that critic ]6zef Kelera made
the following direct appeal to Wroclaw authorities:
Lately the troupe is having serious difficulties, which jeopardize the ex-
istence of this unique and marvelous institution. More and more
critics on several continents are writing in superlatives about this
group. Many creative theatrical artists come from various European
countries to gain practical experience. The city of Opole, the quiet cor-
ner and island of genuinely industrious laboratory work for many
Grotowski and His Laboratory 80
years, has stopped being the appropriate base for this pioneering
theatrical enterprise. I also know there is a realistic chance of moving
the group to Wrodaw.
I admit the fate of the Laboratory Theatre concerns me. I think,
however, that this is, first of all, an opportunity for Wrodaw. It is an
op-portunity to have a cultural center in the largest city in western
Poland. I hope that the enlightened and most honorable fathers of our
city will understand this ....
Grotowski's troupe is all of ten people, including the artistic and
literary directors. They do not need much. They have all been
through a rough period, making many sacrifices, but they still have a
lot of enthusiasm. But it is not inexhaustible. This opportunity may
not come again.
I turn to the Presidium of the Wrodaw People's Council and to the
Cultural Section with this ardent appeal: Do not delay! Do not bypass
this opportunity!
March 1964
In April, the work of the Theatre of 13 Rows was under discussion by a
special commission. The group included Jerzy Jasienski, director of the Com-
mittee on Theatre Affairs in the Ministry of Art and Culture, and the theatre
critics Konstanty Puzyna and Jan Pawel Gawlik. What emerged from this com-
mission was the general attitude that the city of Opole was not the proper en-
vironment for the kind of research Grotowski and his people were doing and
that the city of Wrodaw might be a more appropriate home for the group. But
ultimately the question of whether the theatre was to be or not to be was fii)ally
settled in summer 1964 when Professor Boleslaw lwaszkiewicz officially propos-
' ed that Grotowski and Flaszen move their group to Wrodaw. The proposal was
accepted and preparations for the move began almost immediately.
In the process of moving, many things happened which deserve some notice.
In April 1964, 600 copies of a large pamphlet with numerous photographs and
illustrations of the work of the group, written by Eugenio Barba, were publish-
ed in French: Le Theatre-Laboratoire "13 Rzedow" d'Opole au le theatre comme
auto-penetration collective (The Laboratory Theatre of 13 Rows, or Theatre as
Collective Self-Penetration). It contained selections from both Barba's and
Flaszen's writings as well as Polish and foreign reviews. Also in April,
Grotowski was a member of the international jury for the First World Festival
of Student Theatres occurring in Nancy, France. While there he presented a
lecture titled "The Forming of the Theatre Actor." Grotowski talked about his
group's experiences and the lecture was illustrated by exercises performed by
Rena Mirecka and Ryszard Cieslak. Their work was received with long ap-
plause. From Nancy, Grotowski went to Paris, there holding a press conference
in the context of activities related to the Theatre of Nations. Then in June,
81 Zbigniew Osinski
rehearsals began on The Constant Prince, and thereafter this work became the
main activity of the troupe. In early November, Polish Radio broadcast a frag-
ment ofthe performance of the Laboratory Theatre's version of Wyspianski's
Akropolis. The program was called "Our Akropolis" and included an interview
with Grotowski by Jerzy Falkowski.
The fall issue of Pamifitnik Teatralny had articles on the Laboratory Theatre
by both Flaszen and Zbigniew Raszewski. After the appearance of these articles,
]. A. Szczepanski published an attack titled "If It's So Great, Show Us in War-
Perhaps the Theatre of 13 Rows is known throughout the world, but it
certainly is not known in Warsaw. Every month the better theatrical
productions come to Warsaw from all over Poland. They are attended
by audiences from the capital and discussed in the central press. How
is it then that such an excellent, prize-studded theatre like 13 Rows has
been carefully avoiding the capital for five years? We would certainly
like to get acquainted with it, at least so we could believe the praise of
such a learned periodical as Pamifitnik Teatralny. And because we can-
not count on mass excursions organized by Orbis [the official Polish
travel agency] in Warsaw (u"0der the heading: "Get to Know the
Theatre of 13 Rows!"), we clamor all the more loudly for an end to its
concealment. We are impatiently awaiting the theatre's appearance in
Warsaw. (Trybuna Ludu [organ of the Central Committee of the Party,
This perhaps sarcastic "invitation" becomes better understood in light of the
fact that one of the leaders of the press attack on the group in its visit to War-
saw in 1960 signed himself "Jaszcz." Probably this time he knew nothing of the
Wrodaw proposal and perhaps believed he could provoke another attempt to
liquidate the Theatre of 13 Rows. Less than twenty-four hours after Szczepan-
ski's attack, an article by Jeremy Czulif1ski appeared in Zolnierz Wolnosci. C o ~
rnenting on Akropolis, Czulinski said: "I am afraid that, after the Opole experi-
ment, perhaps only a 'heap of scrap metal and the empty, jeering laughter of
generations' will remain."
It was not until 6 January 1965 that there was notice of the group's move to
Wrodaw in Trybuna Opolska, the official newspaper of Opole. This was the first
and last time the matter was mentioned:
The experimental Laboratory Theatre, founded a few years ago in
Opole and supported by local artists' groups, has changed its horne
base, and, as of the first of January, is residing in Wrodaw.
As sad as it is for us to part with this unique institution, which has
made our city famous not just in Poland but abroad, the theatre's deci-
Grotowski and His Laboratory 82
sion to move to the capital of Lower Silesia, a c_i!y of half a million peo-
ple, seems a good one. Opole, with its population of sixty thousand,
could not assure Grotowski's theatre, which had one to two premieres
annually, of enough attendance. The interesting but difficult works of
the Theatre of 13 Rows could not attract wider interest. For a long
time, the theatre had been counting on audiences in larger cities it
visited: lodz, Krakow, Poznan, and Wrodaw.
The lack of resonance in Opole deprived Grotowski's theatre of a
reason to be here in its home city. Considering the circumstances, fur-
ther support and subsidy of the theatre would have had no rational
We hope that the troupe from 13 Rows, which has had enough time
to get attached to Opole and its residents, will visit us from time to
time with its new productions, because it does leave behind perhaps a
modest but faithful group of well-wishers.
Right after the theatre left Opole, the black auditorium on the town square
was repainted and turned into a coffee house. The theatre's identification plate
was smashed with hammers. One other sign which hung over the doors leading
to the theatre auditorium was also destroyed. On it had been a quotation from
the "dark" Heraclitus of Ephesus: "Opposition brings concord. Out of discord
comes the fairest harmony."
"The Religion of Mankind"
Wroclaw 1965-1970
I believe that Grotowski's theatre is an apt reaction to the
mini-culture of our times . ... It is an attempt to un-
prostitute the profession of actor and director.
-Konrad Swinarski [acclaimed contemporary Polish
director, b. 1929, who directed the first production
of Marat!Sade (1964), died 1975 in plane crash flying
to Shiraz theatre festival]
The 1964/1965 Season
On 28 December 1964 [five days before the fact], Grotowski wrote the follow-
. ing to the author of this book:
We have been installing ourselves in Wrodaw since 2 January ....
Our move is an event ripe with possibilities (good and bad) and almost
like a biblical exodus.
As far as exercises and rehearsals go, we are working on our new
phase (which began in Opole). As far as living conditions go, they are
rather makeshift for now .... For the time being, we are residing in
the Town Hall.
In spite of certain reservations in the city, the Wrodaw authorities fulfilled
their obligations to the Laboratory Theatre in model fashion. Thanks to them,
the first performance of Akropolis took place on 10 January 1965 at 9:00p.m. in
the auditorium of the Creative Artists Union House, located on the third floor
Grotowski and His Laboratory 84
of the Town Hall and near the Town Square where the troupe is housed t0 this
day. The performance was geared to a student audience and officially in-
augurated the work ofGrotowski's theatre inWrodaw. Later there were perfor-
mances of Akropolis every Saturday and Sunday until 1 April.
In the meantime, the international prestige of the group was increasing. One
sign of this was the publication in 1965 of Eugenio Barba's book in Italian, Alia
ricerca del teatro perduto: una proposta dell'avanguardia pollacca [In Search of the
Lost Theatre: a Proposal of the Polish Avant-Garde]. The book consisted of
observations made during the author's two-year stay at the Theatre of 13 Rows
and his consultations with Grotowski. The book summarizes the achievements
of the theatre from its inception through 1963. The first section contains a
general description of the director's and actors' methods. The second contains
a program of actors' exercises as well as supplementary materials (Flaszen's essay
on Akropolis and selections of articles from the Polish and foreign press). Until
1968 [when Grotowski's own Towards a Poor Theatre and Raymonde Temkine's
Grotowski were published], Barba's work was the chief source of information
about Grotowski's theatre in the West.
The Constant Prince, based on Calderon and Slowacki, had three different
premiere dates, of which the first (a "closed" premiere) took place on 20 April.
The work had been in preparation for about a year. The performance was a
study of the phenomenon of "constancy" as personified by the title character,
Don Fernando, played by Ryszard Cieslak. Grotowski eliminated the conflict
between the Portuguese and the Moors, moving the action from the historical
plane to the more universal. He contrasted the phenomenon of constancy and
a figure oriented to higher values with the attitude of "fanatical social conformi-
ty. He also juxtaposed the cruel actions of the surrounding collective (at whose
head stood the King-Antoni Jaholkowski, and his daughter Feniksana-Rena
Mirecka) with the purity, devotion, and uncompromising faith of the Prince
himself. "Their world, provident and cruel, actually has no access to him. The
Prince, who surrenders himself as if in compliance with the unhealthy
manipulations of his surroundings, remains independent and pure to the point
of ecstacy" (Flaszen, Materialy i Dyskusje [19651).
The differences were also expressed in the costumes. The king and his
followers were dressed in high-topped boots, riding breeches, and judges' robes
as a sign that these people have all the privilege plus a liking for sharp action
and judgment. The Prince, on the other hand, was dressed in a white shirt, the
naive symbol of innocence; a red coat, which became a shroud at the end; and
his human nakedness, "a sign of his defenseless, human identity, which wields
nothing but its own humanity in its defense" (Flaszen, ibid.).
The arrangement of space was reminiscent of a circus runway for animals as
well as an operating room. Here are the words of the director: "The spectators
are removed from the actors and placed behind a high fence, behind which one
can only see their heads. From there, from above, from this especially crooked
perspective, they follow the actors as if they were animals in a runway at the
85 Zbigniew Osinski
zoo. They are like spectators at a corrida, like medical students who watch an
operation, or, finally, like those who eavesdrop and thereby impose a sense of
moral transgression onto the action. In The Constant Prince, the spectators are
relegated to the role of students carefully observing an operation, a mob
watching a bloody spectacle, collectors of impressions, tourists demanding sen-
sations, or eavesdroppers on some secret ritual which they watch from a safe
corner and to which no intruder is allowed access" (Odra [1965]). In the center
of the acting space was a small elevated platform, which, according to the needs
of the action, could be associated with a prison bed, an executioner's platform,
an examination table, or a sacrificial altar.
The extraordinary impact of the production was owing largely to R yszard
Cieslak, about whom Kelera wrote:
At the very core of Grotowski's program ... is the problem of forming
the personality and technique of the actor. In The Constant Prince, the
results of this work were exemplified .. . in the splendid and versatile
characterization of Ryszard Cidlak .... As much as we have been
following the incredible technical achievements of Grotowski in his
work with actors and have been acclaiming it, we have been equally
skeptical in accepting his talk about the actor's creative work as a
psychic "act of transgression," as exploration, sublimation, and
transfer of deeply buried psychic content. This skepticism must for all
purposes now be questioned in the face of Ryszard Cieslak's creation.
In my entire career as a theatre critic, I have never had the desire to
write something having the appearance of cheap and ridiculous
banality, but at this moment I have the desire to write that this crea-
tion is inspired. I look at this word before me with amazement and
scrutinize it. If it still has any meaning in criticism, especially theatre
criticism, I would find no better occasion to apply it. And if till now I
have accepted with disbelief Grotowski's terms such as "lay holiness,"
act of humility, purification, I have to admit that they have currency
in this stage characterization of the Constant Prince.
There is in this character, in this characterization of the actor, some
kind of psychic luminosity. It is difficult to describe it differently. All
that is technique becomes, at culminating moments, illuminated from
within ... . Just a moment more and the actor will rise from the
ground .... He is in a state of grace. And all around him, the entire
"theatre of cruelty," blasphemous and excessive, is transformed into a
theatre in a state of grace . . .. (Odra [1965])
Cieslak's creation was an example of a "total act" consummated in creative
action, just as Grotowski understood it:
This act can be attained only out of the experience of one's own life,
- ---------------------------- -
Grotowski and His Laboratory 86
this act which strips, bares, unveils, reveals, and uncovers. Here an ac-
tor should not act but rather penetrate the regions of his own ex-
perience with his body and voice .... At the moment when the actor
attains this, he becomes a phenomenon hie et nunc; this is neither a
story nor the creation of an illusion; it is the present moment. The ac-
-tor exposes himself and ... he discovers himself. Yet he has to know
how to do this anew each time . .. . This human phenomenon, the ac-
tor, whom you have before you has transcended the state of his divi-
sion or duality. This is no longer acting, and this is why it is an act (ac-
tually what you want to do every day of your life is to act). This is the
phenomenon of total action. That is why one wants to call it a total
act. (Dialog [ 1969])
After seeing the performance of The Constant Prince , the outstanding Polish
actor, Jan Kreczmar, had this to say:
Whoever has seen Grotowski's production can value the incredible
toil of the actors and the director. ... I am full of admiration for my
colleague Cieslak . . . . I am full of admiration for the director-teacher
who was able to lead himself and his company to such results by way
of"laboratory" inquiry .... I want only to share the thought that this
novum in the art of acting depends on, for me, the eliciting of primal
and elementary, beyond-the-rational instincts, passions, and human
emotions, conceived in the strict rigor of sound, , plasticity, and
rhythmic harmony. (Teatr [1968])
The Constant Prince, which proved the impossible possible, began a long
period of research. The goal of this research was to be the attainment of the
"total act" not simply by one actor but by the entire troupe. Wojciech
Dzieduszycki, shortly after the premiere of The Constant Prince, compared
Grotowski's and Flaszen's troupe to the famous Polish Reduta Theatre of
Juliusz Osterwa and Mieczyslaw Limanowski of a generation earlier:
This is not a theatre! This is a sect! This is a monastery of theatre arts
yogis. I do not know if the adepts are chosen through a three-step in-
itiation trial-by air, fire, and water-but I am convinced that the ac-
tors are able to transport themselves into a trance by means known
only to Grotowski. This is a means similar to that used by fakirs who
can sleep on nails, pierce their eyelids with needles, or douse
themselves with gasoline and burn themselves alive. The actors of 13
Rows flagellate themselves until they have red welts on their
backs. . . . What in the world kind of stimuli does one need to get
one's body into this state of submission? This is a contemporary



87 Zbigniew Osinski
crusade of flagellants, phallus worshippers, yogis, and fakirs in one cell
submitted to an incredible collective discipline. We have already had
an equally disciplined group in the history of Polish theatre: Osterwa's
Reduta ... with the difference that the Reduta stood at the other ex-
treme of aesthetic tendencies.
The principles of Red uta ... led to the idealization of beauty, to the
apotheosis of flights of loftiness, and the striving for complete
hegemony of mystic spirit over material body. Osterwa immersed
himself in transport over the beauty of theatre art. He made a temple
of theatre ... but not for a moment did he lose sight of the public. 13
Rows apotheosizes suffering and pain, it idealizes ugliness, it eats its
way into the interior of the actor, rends and abuses him in order to at-
tain the meaning and expression of the play .... What an appealing
surrender to art! Fanaticism worthy of the highest recognition,
regardless of whether someone likes this type of theatre or not! . ..
The actors of 13 Rows are undoubtedly dead serious! Alarmingly
serious! Like the high priests of a sect fighting for the new art .... I do
not know whether Grotowski's theatre will have multitudes of
followers, but I am convinced that something from this Laboratory
Theatre will seep into the regular theatre. Some chemical bond arising
from a synthesis of cruelty and love of the stage. (Odra [1965])
The Constant Prince was discussed in approximately a thousand articles in
Poland and (mainly) abroad. An explication of the work's principles was
prepared by Flaszen, and the attempt to do a detailed analysis and interpreta-
tion was undertaken by a Moroccan, Serge Ouaknine (Les voies de la creation
theatrale [ 1970]). In 1968, large segments of The Constant Prince were filmed. At
the beginning of 1970, Flaszen wrote about the reception given this production:
From the moment we began to tour (at the beginning of 1966), foreign
opinion about our work was shaped by The Constant Prince. Maybe
simply because we toured a lot with that play .... I have to say that
the image of that production as the most representative of our work
modeled public opinion in other countries, so that for a long time we
had to publicly deny that it was the only pattern of our research. (Let-
ter to editor, Radar [ 1970])
In the Laboratory, the exercises were evolving. Until the end of the theatre's
stay in Opole and later in Wrodaw, the search was for techniques that would
allow the actor, as Grotowski described it, to "overcome the resistance of his
body." The most important thing was the process taking place in the organism.
The repetition and tempo of the exercises were dictated by this process. One
could say that it was the training of the personality through organic action or,
Grotowski and His Laboratory 88
in other words, the attempt to consummate the "total ace" in the domain of the
exercises. One had to ask: who is doing the exercise? The answer was: not the
actor but the actor as a human being.
One of the consistent misunderstandings in theatre criticism was, for exam-
ple, the interpretation of Cieslak's performance in The Constant Prince as being
a result of the exercises which he did. Grotowski always cast off this perception:
It is a mistake to think that there is preparation for and a preface to
creating, to "the act," and that it depends on some kind of training.
No training is capable of changing into "the act." I am not talking
about improvisation as training; that's a different matter. I am speak-
ing of certain types of exercises, about an almost creative gymnastics.
Exercises make no sense at all if together with them the human act,
the deed, does not take place ... . We know from experience that exer-
cises can make sense somewhere on the peripheries of the search .
. . . In the course of our research it was clear that the difficulties and
inhibitions that appeared were different in each of us. The exercises
were useful when each could train supported by those elements of the
exercises which were indispensable to him. And what each person
received as a result of the exercises was different in each case. Each in-
dividual met with different obstacles . . ..
W h ~ t I am saying is especially relevant for those who would take
those sections of my book that deal with the exercises . .. because
these exercises were selected as tests and not something to bring about
miracles. The exercises were always very relative. They made sense
because of what was being done; they were ordered into a discipline
and demanded precision. But the discipline, the precision, and also
the experience, were completely devoid of meaning if their foundation
was not in the spontaneity of the human being. That is, the human
being maintained a certain precision of elements, each time making
them anew in his own way .... The exercises could not and cannot
make any sense as some kind of preparatory devices to "the act."
(Dialog (1972))
From late April through early May 1965, Grotowski was both a member of
the international jury and of the Honor Committee for the Second World
Festival of Student Theatres in Nancy. He led a seminar on "Working Face
Muscles and Vocal Resonators" with a demonstration by Mirecka and Cieslak.
This was Raymonde Temkine's report:
Grotowski had two lectures (with demonstrations) which he delivered
to a full and very interested audience made up of directors, critics, and
other people of the theatre, mainly participants in the Festival.
After Grotowski introduced his concept of the "poor theatre,"
89 Zbigniew Osinski
which locates the essence of theatrical experience in the relationship
between actor and spectator, we were shown an entire gamut of exer-
cises by the two young actors. Local critics acknowledged these exer-
cises as "dazzling." Then Ryszard Cieslak did the final scene from The
Constant Prince, and Rena Mirecka a scene from Akropolis . . . . The last
demonstration ended with Grotowski's presentation of methods using
vocal resonators. The pupils of the Drama School at Strasburg, run by
Hubert Gignoux (who was present) served as ... guinea pigs. They
submitted themselves gladly to the experiment. (Teatr [1965])
A similar seminar took place in Paris directly following the Festival, this time
under the aegis of the Theatre of Nations "where the troupe from Wrodaw was
also enthusiastically acclaimed" (Gazeta Robotnicza [1965]). In late May and
early June, Grotowski, in collaboration with Cieslak, held seminars and con-
ferences on the methods of the Laboratory Theatre in several Italian cities:
Padua, Milan (at the Piccolo Theatre), and Rome. In August, Grotowski went
to London at the invitation of Peter Brook. There was a showing of the
documentary film of Tragical Hiswry of Doctor Faustus (Mike Elstern had made
the film in l6dz in 1963), a lecture by Grotowski, and a discussion.
In the period from April through September 1965, several valuable publica-
tions on Grotowski's theatre appeared in Poland. Krystyna Konarska-Losiowa
discussed the functions of the spectator and the actor: "In this theatre, ... we
inevitably must face the necessity of settling accounts with ourselves." The
viewer "becomes an indispensable part of the drama that is being acted." The
author underscored the fact that this understanding of the aims of theatre is
closer to the traditions of the Far East than to the traditions of Western culture:
Psychoanalytic therapy and the complete control of one's physical
capabilities are areas of unceasing toil for the small group of actors of
the Theatre of 13 Rows . ... Superficial humanists are outraged at the
cruelty of this theatre. They do not understand what belongs to the
wisdom of the Far East: that the good spirits, in order to effectively
battle the demons, must sometimes borrow their monstrous masks.
( W i ~ : t [1965])
Andrzej Wirth observed that, if there had not been a troupe like
Grotowski's, "one could speak of theatrical experiments in Poland but not of
an experimental theatre. It is necessary to make a distinction between suc-
cessful and simply innovative ideas, which become apparent from time to time,
and the experimental theatre which conducts long-term laboratory work and
formulates its own precepts on the experiences of a specific company":
One may not agree with Grotowski on any point of his doctrine, but it
is impossible to ignore the uncommon broadening of theatrical
Grotowski and His Laboratory 90
possibilities through his techniques developing the
capabilities of the actor. ... The most efficient actors in
technique in the conventional theatre might be called
passenger airliners. Grotowski's actors are like astronauts
parison, who, by achieving a certain prowess, gain the abil
and act in conditions that kill pilots of conventional
this metaphor can be developed. Grotowski's cosmic flights
validate the conventional theatre; they simply show the
absolute limits as relative. (Teatr [1965])
In September, two essays by Grotowski were published: "T
Theatre" (Odra) and "The Exposed Actor" (Teatr). The latter was
the following editorial note:
As a result of the growing interest and increasingly lively
the activities of the Theatre of 13 Rows both in Poland and
turned to Jerzy Grotowski, the founder and director of
tion, with the request for an article concerning his rolnNn""'
theatre and his working methods with actors. The text
by the author is based on his talks at meetings and
theatrical circles (in England, Italy, and other countries).
In keeping with the Polish tradition of receiving Grotowski
Laboratory Theatre, both essays were greeted with vicious
Maslinski was the first to respond to the proposals contained in
Poor Theatre":
A production by such a director will be the sum of its lyrical
And that is how it is with the Theatre of 13 Rows. We are
with this from the last decade of the nineteenth century.
matter that this time we get it in a version almost
This is not the whole truth about man nor is it a full
"actor-spectator relationship." (Zycie Literackie [1965])
Shortly thereafter, a writer from Kierunki "worked over" the essay,
Exposed Actor":
Grotowski really likes the words "as if," "almost," and "in
sense." He admits to "magic" and "witchcraft." He speaks
"ineluctable, inexpressible process" that characterizes that
mission. I am on my knees, but "as if" with a solid question
my forehead. Isn't there, by any chance, too much of
and mysterious Young Poland Movement Oate nineteenth
91 Zbigniew Osinski
centuries] in that magic?
, the American periodical, the Tulane Drama Review, edited
, devoted a large section of one issue to Grotowski's
Barba's "Theatre Laboratory 13 Rzedow," Barba's and
of Magic and Sacrilege," and a selection of reviews from
the theatre's achievements.
grasped the essence of the Laboratory Theatre's paradox-
article published in fall 1965 titled "The Unbearable
to characterize the singularity and originality of the
... has international renown: critics, people of the
professional journals from many countries ... show a
in it. It is least known and esteemed in Poland, which
_a confirmation of its innovation, if one is to believe
Mann's observation that true values are usually recognized
by "contemporary heirs." (Pamifltnik Teatralny)
The 1965/1966 Season
full season in Wrodaw for Grotowski and the company. A
official inauguration of the theatre, Krystyna Tyszkowska
about the role and objectives of the new institution in
theatre, the only one of its kind in Poland, and, real-
-only one of its kind in Europe .... As in previous years, there
students corning to the Theatre of 13 Rows. Someone is
distant Caracas, Venezuela [Elizabeth Albahaca], and
be a group of students from the theatre school of Carl-Erik
Sweden . . .. This annual migration of people to the Theatre
is a known but unacknowledged and uninstitutionalized
there is more and more talk that the working techni-
of the theatre are practically inaccessible to actors
ilfford to study at their own expense. Perhaps it is time to
Qlablish a micro-studio in affiliation with the Theatre of 13
.that acting students from Poland and bordering countries
In Oslo, Barba founded just such a studio .... It seems
the creator of the new methods and the troupe
them are the ones who should be disseminating these
L:_(.Gazeta Robotnicza [1965])
Grotowski and His Laboratory 92
In early September, Odra organized a discussion of "The Future of Wrodaw
Theatres." The following participated: Skuszanka and Krasowski, directors of
the Polski Theatre; Grotowski; Jerzy Bajdor, literary director of the Roz-
maitosci Theatre; and two members of the editorial board of Odra, ]6zef Kelera
and Tadeusz Lutogniewski. Grotowski spoke of assimilating the Theatre of 13
Rows into the life of Wrodaw and about the dangers of "excessive
It is with some apprehension that I observe ... our coming here to
Wrodaw to be met with the expectation of something exceptional,
something that is to be quickly attained-that is, that five months,
maybe a year goes by, and suddenly something exceptional has to be
produced. Psychologically this is a bad situation for us, because ...
everything that makes development a gradual and taxing effort-if it is
confronted with such strong community needs and expectations
-could easily result in the opposite: one great groan of dissatisfaction.
This community, which places its hopes and ambitions in us, must
understand that we will be able to fulfill those hopes only gradually,
and, as far as we are concerned, in our laboratory .... In the past, we
prepared a production, then showed it right there in the theatre, made
corrections, and only then did we go on tour. Now we are in the posi-
tion of a fakir who has been sitting out in the desert on nails and who
now is sent to Baghdad not only to maintain the mosque but to
develop it. This is a troublesome situation. At the same time, Wrodaw
is undoubtedly our big chance. For two years we have understood that
the time is ripe for us to enter a community which could be a partner,
where we would have the possibility of confrontations on the spot and
the possibility of having professional contacts in the fields of cultural
anthropology and voice study, for example ....
Our immediate objective is research in the area of theatre craft. The
statute which the city has imposed on us says that the theatre has the
character of an institute that conducts methodological research ....
In Wrodaw, we have a scholarly community with whom we see the
possibility of collaborating, not only in the field of theatre arts but also
on related problems that lie in a "no man's land." ...
If a theatre begins to have something of a profile, it is usually
designated by the name of whoever stands at its head .... There is a
certain inaccuracy in this .... I am always somewhat uncomfortable
when our institutions are known by one word or name. The Theatre
of 13 Rows would have been something else entirely if Flaszen and
Gurawski and I had not met at the right time. This theatre would have
been something else if other actors were in it, people of a different sen-
sibility, someone other than Cieslak, Mirecka, or Jaholkowski. The
93 Zbigniew Osinski
theatre would have been better or worse, but certainly different. (Odra
Before the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Polish National
Stage, the editorial board of Teatr conducted a survey among theatre artists
,,. representing various generations. They were asked to respond to the following
questions: (1) If you had to choose a portrait of a theatre practitioner (manager,
director, scenographer, actor) to place in the foyer or in the office of the direc-
F=':.: ... ... rot ofthe Warsaw National Theatre, whose portrait would it be? (2) Whose
portrait would you place in your own office? Grotowski's answers are worth
noting, since they indicate at the time his choices of theatrical tradition. After
that he himself had no director's office and that if he did, he would not
hang portraits in it, Grotowski suggested that the director of the Warsaw Na-
tional Theatre ought to have the right to select portraits of his own choice. But,
Grotowski continued, if he absolutely had to hang some kind of portraits, he'd
hang them more as a warning and in memory of certain theatre martyrs, name-
ly Meyerhold, Witkacy, Artaud, and Stanislavsky. If, however, he were to stay
strictly with Polish theatre artists, "it would be necessary to display the por-
traits of Mssrs. Osterwa and Limanowski":
I would do this so that theatre people who laugh uproariously at
Osterwa's superstitions, at "Liman's" strange ideas, and the monastic
rigor of work in Reduta (and who are always ready to laugh anew at
the vision of solid work and a decent treatment of the profession, in
other words, of that which in bygone times was referred to as a voca-
tion), may see that the old truths which Reduta advocated have not
gone out of style .. .. (Teatr [1965])
After a few performances of The Constant Prince in Wrodaw, the Laboratory
Theatre went on tour in October, first to l.6di and then to Gdansk. In
November, Stanislaw Scierski replaced Gaston Kulig (who left the troupe) in
the role of Don Enrique.
The first production planned for the new season was to be Samuel Zborowski,
based on Slowacki's play. Grotowski and Flaszen had thought about doing
Sfowacki's work as early as July 1959. As it happened, the Slowacki Theatre in
Krakow produced Samuel Zborowski in October for the two-hundredth anniver-
sary of the Polish National Stage. It was directed by Jerzy Kreczmar;
scenography was by Stanislaw Bakowski; music was by Zbigniew Turski . One
of those who reviewed the production was Haszen, and his statements, at least
indirectly, cast some light on the starting point for the Laboratory Theatre's
version of Sfowacki's play:
Producing Samuel Zborowski is undoubtedly a bold undertaking and,
Grotowski and His Laboratory 94
thereby, a risky one. Samuel Zborowski has remained in rough draft
form, one of those fascinating rough drafts, which make up Slo-
wacki's last works. At that time, the poet habitually did not com-
plete his works, and they constitute one long stream of feverish vi-
sions, constructed with Baroque opulence on the main themes, about
which a researcher of archetypes, or maybe even an ordinary
Freudian, would have much to say .... The mystical works of
Slowacki endure by virtue of their brilliant conceptions, and more
often, by virtue of the brilliance of their poetic detail and fury of
speech. These plays are like unusually fantastic structures, in which
there is not enough calculation and solid engineering. Large and un-
shapely, they stretch toward the heavens of Poetry and Truth,
heedless of the natural weight of matter. They arouse as much fascina-
tion as they do confusion.
In translating Samuel Zborowski for the theatre, Jerzy Kreczmar oc-
cupied himself chiefly with the construction. From the lush, shapeless
fog of the play, he tried to construct a bright and converging whole.
Anyone who has read Zborowski and has gotten lost in its poetic
meanderings knows that the attempt to extract such a meaningful
structure is not an easy task. Whatever else one may say about the pro-
duction that is negative, one cannot deny its consistency. And this is
understandable. . . . The production has been thrust into a ra-
tionalistic lucidity and specificity of thought. The text is recited as if it
were logical. The mise-en-scene is simple and uniform in its solemn tem-
po, reminding one of a poetic oratorio. Even in group scenes, in ar-
rangements of a visionary character, symmetry prevails. The produc-
tion is lucid, but it has lost its visionary momentum, its disturbing
hallucinatory atmosphere, which Slowacki introduced into Polish
dramaturgy. This is one of those productions from the romantic reper-
toire which relies on extraction of a rational core. It elicits one's
respect because of its striving for clarity. This clarity, however, is at-
tained in a unique way: it does not meet the madness of romantic
mysticism head on, but moves evasively in order to bypass it. (Echo
Krakowa (1965])
Early in December, Grotowski began rehearsals for Samuel Zborowski. During
this same period, he granted a brief interview in which he talked about his "ac-
ting method":
If one wanted to articulate this in just a few words, one could say it is a
method which strives to help each actor overcome his own individual
psycho/ physical restraints. It is a method which helps the actor to
avoid mistakes, to determine what is in his way, and to release the ac-
tor's spontaneous psychic processes with the help of special exercises.
95 Zbigniew Osinski
... Naturally, the research and experience of the past, from Stanislav-
sky to Artaud, from Chinese opera to Indian theatre, are, undoubted-
ly, the starting point for our own research and experiences. (Interview,
K. Zbijewska, Dziennik Polski [1966])
In February 1966, the quarterly of the World Festival of Theatres in Nancy
published Barba's lengthy interview titled "Meetings with Grotowski." The
Laboratory Theatre's first foreign tour lasted from 6 February to 25 March and
included three countries: Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. Barba introduced
Grotowski to Scandinavia but Proft also had a considerable hand in bringing
this part of the world and Grotowski together. The tour was prepared very
carefully. Before the entire troupe arrived, Grotowski and three actors (Cieslak,
Jaholkowski, and Mirecka) were already conducting instructional s e m i n a ~ s in
which Grotowski's acting methods were discussed and illustrated with exer-
cises. Such seminars took place in three Swedish cities: Norrkoping, where the
audience was comprised of professors and students of the theatre school; Skara,
where there was a course organized for lecturers and students of the remaining
theatre schools; and Stockholm, where a course on acting methods for direc-
tors and actors was organized. Grotowski described as follows the character
and goals of these seminars:
We involved ourselves with all the theatre schools in Sweden and con-
ducted classes in keeping with our methods. The training included all
aspects of the art of acting: vocal exercises, movement-plasticity exer-
cises, the composition of movement, building the face mask, and
means of getting at the actor's individual obstacles and appropriate
ways to eliminate such obstacles. (Interview, K. Zbijewska, Dziennik
Polski [1966])
In this way, the Swedish theatrical community was prepared to receive the per-
formances of the troupe. Swedish television served to popularize the company
before its arrival among a wider audience by showing a film (made earlier in
Wrodaw) concerning the group's work. Altogether the company gave twenty-
three performances of The Constant Prince in Scandinavia: ten in Stockholm;
ten in Copenhagen, where Grotowski conducted additional conferences on
method for Danish actors and directors; and three in Oslo, where he met also
with Norwegian actors and directors. Upon his return to Poland, Grotowski
evaluated the tour: "We were asked ... to prolong our stay for a few weeks.
Unfortunately, our schedule did not permit it. ... We ourselves were startled
by our success" (Interview, K. Zbijewska, Dziennik Polski [1966]).
In spring 1966, the Laboratory Theatre officially took the Reduta trademark
as its own. The first official document on which the new logo appeared was an
invitation to "A Theoretical Session on Problems of Acting," which was held
in Wrocl:aw 20-22 May. The program included the following subjects: "The
Grotowski and His Laboratory 96
Technique of Collaboration Between Actor and Director," "The Psychic
Technique of the Actor," "Vocal Techniques of the Actor," "The Lifestyle and
Creative Work of an Actor," and "The Theatre of Cruelty as a Viable Alter-
native." These meetings were part of the Seventh Wrodaw Festival of Polish
Contemporary Plays. One press release of the period stated: "Grotowski in-
vited participants of the Festival to his own ... theoretical session, during
which he spoke very engagingly and well, thereby gaining additional adver-
saries but also more well-wishing advocates and deeply interested adherents"
(A. W. Kral, Teatr [1966]).
The Laboratory Theatre's second foreign tour occurred in June and July. The
Constant Prince was performed five times under the aegis of the Tenth Season of
the Theatre of Nations in Paris. There were five more performances at the
Holland Festival 1966 in Amsterdam in late June and early July. During the
Parisian appearances, Grotowski's essay "Towards a Poor Theatre" was
published for the first time in French in the Cahiers Renaud-Barrault, while the
program for the performances contained Flaszen's texts for "The Laboratory
Theatre of 13 Rows," "The Institute for Research of Acting Methodology," and
"The Constant Prince." The result of this tour, particularly the first part of it,
was world fame for Grotowski and his company. While the group was a p p e a r ~
ing abroad, Flaszen wrote columns about it for both Wrodaw dailies, Sfowo
Polskie and Gazeta Robotnicza. Here are a few excerpts:
In keeping with Jean-Louis Barrault's prediction, interest in the
Wrodaw theatre has exceeded all expectations. Leading represen-
tatives of French culture such as Aragon, Ionesco, Claude Roy, and
many others announced in advance that they would attend perfor-
mances. The number of performances had to be increased from three
to five . French radio and television as well as Belgian radio made offers
to the management of the theatre for broadcasting rights ....
Barrault gave the troupe a large portrait of that classic of French
theatre research, Artaud, as a sign of recognition. The outstanding
British director, Peter Brook, sent a telegram bearing warm wishes for
success and announcing his arrival on Thursday. Jerzy Grotowski was
offered a job as a director in Paris. A Belgian representative invited the
troupe to perform in Liege ....
Jerzy Grotowski and Ryszard Cieslak granted an interview to local
television. Grotowski was also interviewed for French Radio, Paris
Radio, and French Radio Abroad. In the afternoon, there was a
theoretical conference taking place in the foyer of the Odeon Theatre,
which summoned a large number of theatre people, critics, etc. Jean-
Louis Barrault, who opened the conference, had words of the highest
praise for the work of Grotowski and his troupe. There was a short lec-
ture by Grotowski, after which there was a very interesting discussion.
Grotowski and His Laboratory 104
course at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London for Peter Brook. There
Grotowski met Joseph Chaikin, who had been invited to collaborate on the
production of US. Bohdan Drozdowski later described one of Grotowski's
The session was exhausting and fascinating at the same time.
Grotowski told the actors to keep Hamlet's monologue silent and they
kept it silent . He told them to think Hamlet's monologue in their own
words and they thought it, though not without great effort .... He
told them to declaim it in the traditional way. Then he told them to
shout it, all at once, but each just a little after the other had begun.
There was an indescribable cacaphony of Hamlet monologues. One
shouted "robe," and the other was already at "question." A third was
at the "to die" section and another was even further still. Then they
had to pose ... . Then they had to think the monologue as old men,
then as youths during the war period, as heroes .... Grotowski spoke
quietly in his accurate but blunt French. Brook translated, even more
quietly, into English ... . Fifteen people sat under the windows and
faithfully noted Grotowski's every word. Actors went into a trance.
The silence of the monologue was as eloquent as its shouting ....
This was more than just a rehearsal. It was forcing the actor ... to co-
author each word, ... to dredge up from himself strata of existence
which he had not suspected of being within him. (Albion od srodka
In the fall, the Brook article, which later appeared as the introduction to the
book Towards a Poor Theatre, appeared in Flourish, a publication of the Royal
Shakespeare Theatre.
Grotowski is unique.
Because no-one else in the world, to my knowledge, no-one since
Stanislavski, has investigated the nature of acting, its phenomenon, its
meaning, the nature and science of its mental-physical-emotional pro-
cesses as deeply and completely as Grotowski.
He calls his theatre a laboratory. It is. It is a centre of research ....
Grotowski's work was a reminder that what he achieves almost
miraculously with a handful of actors is needed to some extent by each
individual in our two giant companies in two theatres 90 miles apart .
The intensity, the honesty and precision of his work can only leave
one thing behind. A challenge. But not for a fortnight, not for once in
a lifetime. Daily.
I' '
~ r
105 Zbigniew Osinski
The 1966/1967 Seasqn
On 1 September 1966, the Laboratory Theatre of 13 Rows officially changed
its name to the Laboratory Theatre Research Institute of Acting Method. This
change was the object of much malice, such as that expressed in an article ap-
pearing in Kultura by one calling himself "Hamilton" [actually J. Z. S1ojeski]):
The Theatre of 13 Rows was always a theatre so bored with itself that
it riever really wanted to be a theatre at all, although it did consider
itself a much better theatre than any other in Poland .... At one time,
this theatre bore the subtitle "Laboratory Theatre"; currently it is not
a theatre but a research center, because its name is the Institute of Ac-
ting Method (really!). After all, the Theatre of 13 Rows always had
scholarly interests. At the performances there were dances of the
possessed, mad physical feats, Wyspianski's Akropolis performed in
concentration camp uniforms, and they did refer to Jung in these
The season began with the company's participation in the Festival of Young
Theatre in Liege, organized by the Culture Section of that city. The Constant
Prince was performed four times. In October, Grotowski and Cieslak conducted
a series of lectures and acting exercises at the Ecole Superieure des Arts du
Spectacle in Brussels. A week later Grotowski was in Warsaw to participate in
the Congress of Polish Culture.
The January 1967 issue of Odra published Grotowski's essay titled "He
Wasn't Entirely Himself," which is a discussion of the importance of Antonin
Artaud to contemporary theatre. The essay was a direct reaction to the recent-
, ly published Polish edition of Artaud's The Theatre and Its Double, translated
with an introduction by Jan Bfonski. In February, Flaszen appeared at the In-
ternational Meeting of Young Writers in Paris, discussing the situation of
theatre worldwide based on the experiences of the Laboratory Theatre. At the
same time, Grotowski, Cie5lak, and Jaholkowski presented lectures and
demonstrated acting exercises at the Centre Universitaire International de For-
mation et de Recherche Dramatiques in Nancy. In this period many interviews
with Grotowski and articles discussing his methods appeared in the French
press. On 21 and 28 March, "French-Culture" broadcast two programs on form-
ing the actor. Grotowski and French director Roger Blin participated. Also in
March in Wrodaw, courses were conducted for twenty-eight people from the
Theatre Department of Charles University in Prague. These participants saw a
performance of The Constant Prince and one of the many open rehearsals of The
Gospels [the title of the work that had begun with Slowacki's Samuel Zborowski
and would eventually emerge as Apocalypsis cum figuris].
In April, the Wrodaw press awarded Grotowski a prize for artistic creation.
Tadeusz Burzynski at the time assessed the situation of Grotowski and his
Grotowski and His Laboratory 106
The Laboratory Theatre is now famous throughout the entire world.
In 1966 alone, there were approximately 1000 reviews, articles, and
other publications abroad concerned with the theatre and
Grotowski's methods. And what about in Poland? Rather muffled
press discussions (this is too bad) accompanying the birth and develop-
ment of this theatre. Experts visit Grotowski from various theatre
centers throughout the world. Perhaps the first Polish monograph on
the Laboratory Theatre will appear and initiate creative discussion
and abolish certain myths. Like the myth about the cost of the experi-
ment, for example. The Laboratory Theatre costs the state 1.4 million
zlotys annually (five to seven times less than the big theatres) and
sometimes brings in pretty good hard currency [i.e., Western
In May, Grotowski chaired the jury for the Seventh Annual Theatre
Meeting in Kalisz and also presented a lecture for the International Festival of
Student Theatres. Also in May a new version of Akropolis was premiered [this
was the fifth and final version and the one filmed the next year in England].
The program accompanying the performance contained Flaszen's essay on the
production and an essay by Grotowski titled "The Research Institute of Acting
Method." Also at this time appeared a collection of articles in French (publish-
ed by the Laboratory Theatre) giving a general outline of the research and ar-
tistic program of the Institute.
The third foreign tour by the Laboratory Theatre included Holland,
Belgium, and Italy and extended from 16 June through 12 July. This time the
group performed both Akropolis and The Constant Prince. The tour began with
participation in the Holland Festival with performances of Akropolis in Amster-
dam, Utrecht, The Hague, and Rotterdam. As the group performed,
Grotowski went to Canada for several days to take part in the international
theatre symposium held in Montreal [in connection with Expo 67]. His presen-
tation bore the title "Theatre Is an Encounter." After the Holland Festival, the
group then gave three performances of Akropolis at the Palais des Beaux Arts in
Brussels. One of these performances was filmed in entirety for Flemish T elevi-
The tour concluded with participation in the Festival dei Due Mondi
(Festival of Two Worlds) in Spoleto with seven performances of The Constant
Prince. The first issue of the Italian periodical Teatro contained a translation of
Grotowski's essay "T awards a Poor Theatre" together with Emilo
Copfermann's interview with Roger Planchon titled "The History and
Metaphysics of Grotowski and the Living Theatre." In all three countries, the
Laboratory Theatre was greeted as a troupe of established fame, and its role was
107 Zbigniew Os
compared to that of Brecht's Berliner Ensemble or Jean Vilar's Theatre
tiona! Populaire. Akropolis was compared to the visions of Dante
Hieronymous Bosch. The Constant Prince was described as "a strong
devastating experience." Il Paese viewed the production as proof of "g
cultural and theatrical maturity" and underscored the "efficiency of
unusual work invested in the actor." Critic Sandra de Feo wrote in Rome'"
presso: "The newness and beauty of the Polish performance lies in its unus
almost inhuman discipline and devotion on the part of the actor ." And Ro
to de Monticelli of the weekly Epoca said unequivocally that "the most frui
theatrical experience at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto is the encoUI
with Grotowski 's troupe."
The following report, however, written by Jerzy Hordynski in Spoleto,
peared in Poland:
The real sensation of the Festival turned out to be the Theatre of
Rows from Wrodaw. Tickets for the tiny, eighty-person auditori1
were among the most difficult to obtain. Seated in the audience w
some very outstanding personalities, but critics from the three m
popular newspapers, Carriere della Sera, Momenta Sera, and Unita, <
not get in at all because they appeared after the performance h
started (and were obviously not used to punctuality). This smacked
scandal and that helped to advertise the production. The productio
were praised for their modernity and innovation. I sat at the perfon
ance of The Constant Prince, dual authorship of Calderon and S1
wacki, with bated breath and with growing sympathy for bo1
classics. Why doesn't Grotowski just write the texts himself or wri
them together with someone else? In the press and in the corrido
there was talk of sadism, even masochism. It is true there was i
treatment, but mainly of the text, which was very difficult to uncle
stand. It was chattered away too quickly; it vanished in the raucm
and whistling sounds, and the Italians could confirm that we really d
speak an anti-musical and very difficult language. That poor Ciesla!
who is really a gifted actor , was at first demonic then Christ-like an
he tired me out incredibly, as he did the entire assembl y. I left th<:
Grand Guignol with relief, having assured myself with satisfactio
that this really was the agony of the theatre. ('Zycie Literackie [1967]
In a later essay, Hordynski noted with satisfaction that Polish critic Adam Tart
in a meeting in Rome had figuratively "poured a bucket of cold water on one o
Grotowski's Italian enthusiasts by pointing out ... that Grotowski abandon:
contemporary theatre by muddling around in the classics" ('Zycie Literackit
Between 10 and 30 July, Grotowski and Cieslak conducted classes in
Grotowski anc:::::::3. His Laboratory 108
Holstebro, for Scandinavian professional actors, and from 1 through
10 August, the -y conducted similar classes at the Royal Theatre in Stockholm.
In July GrotOv'-=--ski was honored by the Polish Ministry of Art and Culture for
"creative achie--vements in the field of acting." In an interview conducted by
Flaszen, said: "One cannot allow oneself to be lulled by success. One
must maintain = Jtumility in the face of the theatrical profession. Luckily enough,
less has been d <me than there is left do do" (Wiecz6r Wrodawia [1967)).
The 1967/1968 Season
From 6 11 September, the Laboratory Theatre took part in the First
International of Research Theatres, "BITEF 212," organized by the ex-
perimental Atelier 212 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The Festival was
devoted to creative tendencies in world theatre, and eleven troupes par-
ticipated: two e .ach from Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and one company
each from India, Great Britain, Switzerland, the United States,
Rumania, and P -<:)land. The Wrodaw group appeared three times (9 through 11
September) with The Constant Prince on the Chamber Stage of the Atelier 212.
The production -was considered the best of the festival and received the Golden
Award "BITEF 212."
In November, <Jrotowski and Cie5lak conducted a four-week course in acting
methodology at ]::""'Jew York University at the invitation of the N.Y.U. School of
the Arts. Upon :bis return to Poland, Grotowski said:
The cou rse we taught was designed for the most advanced students in
the acti program (that is, working actors who are trying to sharpen
their ski ::lls) and for all the auditors of the directing program. In four
weeks w could only attempt to define the difficulties and restraints
which bl ..ock the creative processes in specific actors. Cieslak and I sug-
gested those attending that they seek a method and training that
would appropriate to their own specific needs, that is, methods that
would them overcome or break down those difficulties that arise
in the prc:::Jcess of working creatively. The classes had a purely practical
charactez:=-. We approached the sessions the way we would work on a
role: we to work on monologues, dialogues, and scenes from
selected plays. We devoted a great deal of time to individual train
By indi vi.. dual I mean different for each actor, because the exercises
serve ro '"3Unblock the actor's own creative sources and to overcome
whatever is undeveloped, untrained, and unconscious. This is dif-
ferent for each person. (Quoted in M. Kosinska, Zycie Warszawy [1967])
Of the numerous American companies which claimed the influence of the
Laboratory Thea tr:-e and its acting methods, Grotowski acknowledged only the
109 Zbigniew Osinski
Open Theatre with its production of Jean-Claude van ltallie's America Hurrah,
directed by Joseph Chaikin:
They have, indeed, taken something very essential from us: the search
for spontaneity which has a disciplined and conscious character and
which leads to structure. Outside of that, and this is most important,
they do not ape us in anything. They seek their own way and at their
own risk. Only this form of reference to our experiences with method
can have any meaning whatsoever. (Quoted in M. Kosinska, ibid.)
In the United States, Grorowski signed an agreement with Simon and
Schuster to write a book about the acting methods of the Laboratory Theatre.
Just before Grorowski left the United States in December, Theodore Hoffman
and Richard Schechner conducted a long interview with him that appeared in
the fall 1968 issue of The Drama Review.
Grotowski went directly to France from the United States, where he stayed
through the first half of December. "In France I met with Peter Brook .. . . I was
in Aix-en-Provence, where the local drama school decided to concentrate on
learning our methods .... Our role is supposed to be as experts from afar, ex-
cept that we are able to visit the school every four to six weeks to suggest the
direction of further work and to evaluate the work achieved." When asked
about the situation in the Laboratory Theatre, Grorowski replied: "The actors
conduct their classes, there are performances (mainly Akropolis right now), and
there are many students from other countries. We decided to cancel our tours
as a group at least until summer, not only because we are preparing a new
premiere, but also because we do not want to become uprooted and sidetracked
from our own work. The new premiere? Speaking very generally, it will be bas-
ed upon motifs from the Gospels" (Quoted in M. Kosinska, ibid.).
The premiere of The Gospels according to the New Testament and the tale of
Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor [from The Brothers Karamazov], which was put
off until January 1968, did not come to pass. In Poland, where there was no
tradition of long work on a production, the constantly delayed premiere caused
great impatience, often vented in the press. Boguslaw Czarminski, a critic who
had watched the group's work from the beginning, commented:
Jerzy Grotowski has stopped irritating his greatest opponents, but he
has nothing to offer his supporters. He is not creating as he was earlier,
and he is not enlivening theatrical life. He is exploiting what he has
already created (for a year now he has been presenting only The Con-
stant Prince and has made everyone wait far beyond the limits of pa-
tience for the premiere of The Gospels) . ... The phenomenon known
as Jerzy Grotowski has been acknowledged for quite awhile, at least in
Poland. What is worse, however, is that this phenomenon has been
laid on a shelf, like a book already read which dust is slowly covering.
Grotowski and His Laboratory 110
It is easier now to succumb to the suggestion: Grotowski has been
acknowledged, recognized; he has achieved stability because he has
won what he wanted to win. He can now peacefully export his goods
and draw his deserved recompense. The artist and restless creator is
slowly becoming a lecturer and teacher. (Kultura [1 968])
In March, a new version of The Constant Prince premiered. Zygmunt Malik
and Zbigniew Cynkutis took the roles of Maja Komorowska and Mieczysfaw
Janowski, both of whom had left the troupe. Also in March, Grotowski had
another consultation session at the Centre National Dramatique in Aix-en-
Provence. At that time, as well, he was nominated as professor at the Ecole Na-
tionale Superieure Aix-en-Provence by the French Ministry of Culture.
The year 1968 marks a much livelier coverage in Poland of the work of the
Laboratory Theatre. Many articles, interviews, and translations from the
foreign press appeared in Polish periodicals. The Theatre in Poland devoted a
double issue Ouly-August) to the Laboratory Theatre. It contained French and
English translations of programmatic statements by Flaszen and Grotowski.
The main reason for this growth of interest by the Polish press (confirmed by
editorial notes and the texts themselves) was that Grotowski and his theatre
were still better known and appreciated abroad than they were in Poland. This
state of affairs was troubling if not downright embarrassing, and the Poles had
to find a way out. Of all the texts which appeared at this time, the most impor-
tant for Grotowski and the troupe was an article by Jan Kreczmar. The article
had the tone of a personal confession and drew attention to the Laboratory
Theatre's research as "extraordinarily significant ... for the development of
the art of acting":
I would like our young actors to pass through Grotowski's "steam
press" and to taste the sweetness of true toil, whether or not these
young people really want to perform professionally in the future ... . I
want to draw attention to this very important thing happening in our
midst and to say this is needed by each of us who still has the strength
and health to enhance his craft. This is a very revivifying current in
our art and one capable of returning true meaning and a somewhat
belated dignity to our acting. (Teatr [ 1968])
The next production was called Apocalypsis cum figuris. At first there were
supposed to be two other works produced: Samuel Zborowski, based on
Slowacki, and The Gospels, based on motifs from the New Testament . But it
was Samuel Zborowski which, after a lengthy period of rehearsal, eventually
transformed into The Gospels, and it was The Gospels which, again after a long
rehearsal period, crystallized finally into Apocalypsis cum figuris. The whole pro-
cess took approximately three years. There was a single open rehearsal of
Apocalypsis on 19 July 1968. The actor Stanislaw Scierski described the long
Ill Zbigniew Osinski
road leading to this final theatrical production by Grotowski and the group:
I do not think there was an elaborately conceived method behind the
process by which Apocalypsis came into being. Nor was there anything
close to a plan, a type of external framework or assumption ....
There was a starting outline, a rough draft of a text based on Samuel
Zborowski written by Grotowski himself. In it were suggestions con-
cerning the division of roles, and there was even something of a discus-
sion of the rough draft itself: What is this for us? What of each of us is
contained in this? What vital thing does it give me? What vital thing
can I bring to it? When we began to do the etude work, both collective
and individual, not even using the text of the rough draft, not even
"basing" ourselves on it, but preserving it only on the outskirts of
memory, it turned out that the seed, the essence of these etudes, led in
a direction away from Samuel Zborowski, namely to The Gospels, as
they were present in us not in any literary or religious way, but simply
as they lived in us, as time lives in us, in our humanity. So we headed
in that direction.
The progress of what we were about was entrusted to Grotowski. He
helped develop etudes, respecting our right to take risks. He would
select the etude and often inspired them. In other words, he kept
watch over the course of the production. One should note that many
of the etudes were improvised. This is how the production with the
working title of The Gospels came into being. There were even a few
closed performances. After one of these, we and Grotowski came to
the conclusion that even though this was an entirely new structure, it
was based on a certain familiar region we had already explored (we
could see traces of all our achievements up to then). We decided,
therefore, to discontinue it, keeping everything that had been fruitful
for us. It was then that we saw the real possibilities which, as it later
turned out, led us to Apocalypsis. From the etudes that we performed
for Grotowski, and the ones he co-created with us from the beginning,
he built a new whole. If there were etudes which needed a text, both
we and Grotowski made some proposals. In addition to Dostoevsky,
he added excerpts from Eliot and Simone Wei!, writers known and
close to all of us. All of this work was an experience that was both
thrilling and dramatic and bore a sense of that specific community,
where the closeness of someone close carries an unexpected hope and
power. (Interview, K. Starczak, Odra [1974])
Apocalypsis seemed to be an attempt to broaden the experience of The Con-
stant Prince for the entire group: there the "total act" encompassed one
character; here it was intended to include everyone. The title of the production
comes from Thomas Mann's novel Doctor Faustus and contains an allusion to
Grotowski and His Laboratory 112
the last work of [Mann's central character] Adrian Leverkuhn, who, "as a.
thirty-five-year-old man under the influence of the first wave of euphoric in-
spiration, composes his main work or his first great work, Apocalypsis cum figuris
.. . in an incredibly short time" (T. Mann, "How Arose Doctor Faustus" [1947]).
The title seemed to augur that this Apocalypsis would be Grotowski's last work,
and then, something like madness, an entirely new path. Leverkiihn became,
as we know, truly insane. For Grotowski, on the other hand, an entirely new
horizon appeared in his creative life, a new dimension which is difficult to
underst and and even more difficult to evaluate. ..
There is a definite association of Apoccilypsis with a vision of the world's
downfall. The production arose from terrifyingly everyday material or directly
evoked it: human breathing, blood, sweat, stearin, bread, water, fire, air-all
create the world of Grotowski's and his actors' Apocalypsis.
The spectators were assigned the role of witnesses. This was not a work
directed against the spectators but towards them. At first, about forty viewers
sat on benches set up along three walls of the performance space. As Grotowski
The vocation of the viewer is to be an observer and more: to be a
witness. A witness is not someone who pokes his nose everywhere,
who tries to be the closest or who interferes in the actions of others. A
witness keeps to the sidelines, does not want to interfere, wants to be
aware, to see what happens, from the beginning to the end, and to re-
tain it in his memory; the picture of events ought to remain in him
alone .. . . Respicio is a Latin word meaning respect for things. That is
the function of a real witness: he does not interfere with an insistent
demonstration of "Me, too." To be a witness is not to forget, not to
forget no matter what it costs. (Dialog [ 1969])
The following participated in the performance: people, six actors and the
spectators; the cane of the Simpleton (Cieslak); a loaf of bread; a pail of water; a
knife, a towel, candles, and two reflector spotlights. Only this. Grotowski said:
In Apocalypsis we have departed from literature. This was not a mon-
tage of texts. We were approaching this during rehearsals, through
flashes of insight, through improvisation. Twenty hours of material
were accumulated. We had to build something out of this that had its
own energy, like a stream. Only then did we turn to the text, to
speech. A language arose from these various texts, a language which
has no author and which is the language of the human race. We cite
no one in what we're doing now. The word appears when it is in-
dispensable. That is our point of attainment. For now. (Quoted by E.
Morawiec, Zycie Literackie [1973])
113 Zbigniew Osinski
Apocalypsis cum figuris is recognized as Grotowski's most outstanding work
and undoubtedly the most complete work by his actors, each of whom created
a performance of exceptional intensity. For seven months, until the official
premiere, the only testimony to the production was a review by Tadeusz Buski
(Burzynski) of the open rehearsal of 19 July 1968:
This time the entire performance space/auditorium is the stage. There
is not even the small barrier that divided actors from viewers in The
Constant Prince. The viewer is "composed into" the stage space, becom-
ing one . .. of the elements of the production .. ..
One enters an auditorium illuminated by a few spotlights. On the
floor, placed at various points and in various poses, insensitive to our
presence and as if in a trance, are the actors. Five of them are dressed
in white, one in black. Almost no props .... The production is raw,
there is no practical scenery, no music. (Gazeta Robotnicza [1968])
From late July through mid-August, Grotowski and Cieslak conducted a
course in Holstebro for Scandinavian actors as well as for participants from
both the United States and Belgium. Also together with them in Denmark was
the leading performer from the Wrodaw Pantomime Theatre, Stanislaw
Brzozowski. The text of Grotowski's pronouncements was published in the
Italian monthly, Teatro [1969]. And two interviews with Grotowski, one by
Marc Fumaroli [with questions prepared by Harry Carlson and Gerald
Rabkin], the other by Margaret Croyden, appeared in the fall 1969 issue of The
Drama Review. A very detailed report of Grotowski's classes was published by
the Journal de Geneve [1968].
In August, the first edition of Grotowski's book, Towards a Poor Theatre (with
Brook's introduction), appeared in Holstebro. It contained Grotowski's
theoretical articles, interviews, articles by his collaborators (Barba and Flaszen),
and also notes prepared by other authors on the classes conducted by the
Laboratory Theatre troupe and its leader in various countries. Grotowski
himself described the book as a "ship's log." Because it was in English, the book
gained wide readership and became a kind of new Bible for experimental
theatre groups throughout the world. In years following, the book was reissued
and translated into many languages.
At approximately the same time, Peter Brook's book, The Empty Space, was
published. In the chapter titled "The Holy Theatre," the director grasped the
"essence" of the Laboratory Theatre's research at that time:
In Poland there is a small company led by a VISionary, Jerzy
Grotowski, that also has a sacred aim. The theatre, he believes, can-
not be an end in itself; like dancing or music in certain dervish orders,
the theatre is a vehicle, a means for self-study, self-exploration; a
Grotowski and His Laboratory 114
possibility of salvation. The actor has himself as a field of work. This
field is richer than that of the painter, richer than that of the
cian, because to explore he needs to call on every aspect of himself.
hand, his eye, his ear, and his heart are what he-is studying and
he is studying with. Seen this way, acting is a life's work-the actor
step by step extending his knowledge of himself through the painful,
ever-changing circumstance of rehearsal and the tremendous punctua-
tion points of performance. In Grotowski's terminology, the
allows a role to "penetrate" him; at first he is all obstacle to it, but
constant work he acquires a technical mastery over the physical and
psychic means by which he can allow the barriers to drop. "
penetration" by the role is related to exposure: the actor does
hesitate to show himself exactly as he is, for he realizes that the secret
of the role demands his opening himself up, disclosing his own ...
So that the act of performance is an act of sacrifice, of sacrificing what
most men prefer to hide-this sacrifice is his gift to the spectator. Here
there is a similar relation between actor and audience to the one be-
tween priest and worshipper. It is obvious that not everyone is called
to the priesthood and no traditional religion expects this of all men.
There are laymen-who have necessary roles in life-and those who
take on other burdens, for the laymen's sake. The priest performs the
ritual for himself and on behalf of others. Grotowski's actors offer
their performance as a ceremony for those who wish to assist: the ac-
tor invokes, lays bare what lies in every man-and what daily life
covers up. This theatre is holy because its purpose is holy; it has a
clearly defined place in the community and it responds to a need that
churches can no longer fill. Grotowski's theatre is as close as anyone
has got to Artaud's ideal. It is a complete way of life for all its mem
bers, and so it is in contrast with most other avantgarde and ex-
perimental groups whose work is scrambled and usually invalidated
through lack of means. Most experimental products cannot do what
they want because outside conditions are too heavily loaded against
them. They have scratch casts, rehearsal time eaten into by the need
to earn their living, inadequate sets, costumes, lights, etc. Poverty is
their complaint and their excuse. Grotowski makes poverty an ideal;
his actors have given up everything except their own bodies; they have
the human instrument and limitless time-no wonder they feel the
richest theatre in the world.
115 Zbigniew Osinski
The 1968/1969 Season
The fourth foreign tour of the Laboratory Theatre lasted more than three
onths, from late August through late November, and included visits to Great
, Mexico, and France. The troupe first took part in the annual Edin-
lnternational Festival, performing Akropolis eight times in a specially
~ r P n ~ , . P d auditorium of the old festival office. While in Edinburgh, Grotowski
an interview to both French and American television, and Flaszen met
partiCipants in the international course for theatre students at the Univer-
of Edinburgh.
in September, the company took part in the Cultural Olympics at the
Games in Mexico City. The group performed The Constant Prince
times in the auditorium of the University Theatre, and the Olympic
filmed fragments of the presentation.
From Mexico, the company was scheduled to go to the United States for a
six-week tour. But American authorities did not grant the group entry visas [in
protest against the recent Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia]. Sixty represen-
tatives of various aspects of American cultural life signed a telegram petition
the American State Department's decision. This petition was
published in the Sunday edition of the New York Times (18 September 1968).
Among those signing the protest were Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Walter
Kerr, Jerome Robbins, plus numerous directors and actors from the New York
generally. Because of the entry visa denials, the Laboratory Theatre
went to France instead.
The group's stay in France included thirty performances of Akropolis in Paris
at the Theatre de l'Epee de Bois from late September through late October.
French radio conducted several hours of interviews with Grotowski, which
were then broadcast each Thursday for six weeks. While in Paris, Grotowski
presented a lecture-"Today's Theatre in Search of Ritual"-at the Center for
the Polish Academy of Science. Then in late October and early November, the
group went to London to film Akropolis at Twickenham Studios. The film was
introduced by an extended statement by Peter Brook. The tour ended with the
group's participation throughout most of November in the Action Culturelle
du Sud-Est in Aix-en-Provence, where Akropolis was performed twenty-three
In December, La Cite' in Lausanne published Raymonde Temkine's book
titled Grotowski as part of its series called ''Theatre vivant." At that time,
Temkine's book was the second (after Barba's) to be devoted to Grotowski and
the work of the Laboratory Theatre.
At the end of 1968, Grotowski made his first visit to India.
The film of Akropolis was shown on American television on Sunday evening,
12 January 1969. Anthony G. Bowman, commenting generally in Ameryka [an
American publication distributed in Polish] in 1970 on the reception to the
Grotowski and His Laboratory 116
television film, said: "This film was received coolly. Stanley Kauffmann later ex-
plained this reception in The New Republic: 'There is an enormous difference
between the theatrical production of AkTopolis and the film version, as much
difference as between an event and its description.' "
The official premiere of Apocalypsis cum figuri s [as opposed to the '
rehearsal" of the previous summer] occurred on 11 February 1969. Reviews and
articles about the performance appeared shortly thereafter. Of the dozens
published at the time, two had special significance: the analysis by
Puzyna in Teatr [still considered by Grotowski and members of the
the most definitive critical statement about the work (translated in the Fall
1971 issue of The Drama Review)] and the essay in Odra by playwright and poet
T adeusz R6iewicz, who concluded:
It is my deepest conviction that this theatre ought to continue to exist
for a few more years unchanged. It should become better known in
Poland. Before it takes another shape, another form. The theatre
still known mainly through legend, gossip, jokes .... Not many of
critics, actors, directors, and writers are familiar with it, and this is not
a good thing.
In March, Radio Paris broadcast for International Theatre Day a program
Polish playwright Stanislaw Wyspianski, directed by Bronislaw Horowicz. A
fragment of Akropolis, prepared by was included in the broadcast.
In April and early May, Grotowski and Cieslak conducted classes (at the in"
vitation of Antoine Bourseiller) at the international training session for actors
at the Centre Dramatique National du Sud-Est in Aix-en-Provence. An article ,
signed by Claude Sarraute titled "Grotowski and His Followers" appeared in Le
, Monde shortly thereafter. Actually the article is Grotowski's own sharp indict-
ment of those who automatically imitate certain devices of the Laboratory
Theatre and who thus contribute nothing of their own. The August issue of .
Dialog was devoted almost entirely to the work of the Laboratory Theatre, and
later in the October issue appeared another article, this by Jan B!onski, who
Years of work have resulted not just in the dazzling success of perfect
craft and penetrating theoretical thought. They have also resulted in a
genuine reconstruction of the theatre, which was done in the spirit of
highest fidelity to its essential sources and most immediate
priorities . . . . The Laboratory Theatre was born from a collision of
the romantic theatre of participation and a modern concept of the ac-
tor, best and most beautifully described by Stanislavsky, to whom
Grotowski so willingly pays his due. Grotowski, however, goes beyond
and discards both these traditions, concentrating on the basic rela-
tionship between spectator and actor, between spontaneity and
117 Zbigniew Osinski
discipline, myth and tragedy .... The actors' extinguishing of the
spotlights themselves in Apocalypsis cum figuris is worthy of the most
refined lighting effects; and the irregular running of the Simpleton
through and around groups of actors, sketches the striking configura-
tions of a tragic ballet in the space of the auditorium. Similarly with
the literature. Until now, Grotowski has shelled the necessary nucleus
from the great dramas. Now it is probably correct to say that, having
used the Bible, Dostoevsky, and Eliot, "he wrote" Apocalypsis himself.
The words init come from well-known sources, but the arrangement
(that which gives value to the theatrical) summons the original action
and original meaning. In the end, then, this "poor theatre" indirectly
regains what it had gotten rid of earlier. It blossoms into a theatre
which, if it is not total (this word is over-used), then is surely whole.
The 1969/1970 Season
In September 1969, the International Festival of Research Theatres (BITEF
212) was held for the third time in Belgrade. The program included a number of
performances by significant avant-garde companies from around the world: the
American Performance Group's Dionysus in 69, under the direction of Richard
Schechner; Peter See berg's Ferai, performed by the Odin T eatret from
Holstebro, Denmark, under the direction of Eugenio Barba; the Italian Teatro
Libra's production of Orlando Furioso, as adapted and directed by Luca Ron-
coni; the American Bread and Puppet theatre with The Cry of the People for
Meat, directed by Peter Schumann; the Marionetteatern from Stockholm with
Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, directed by Michal Meschke; the Cinoherni Club from
Prague with Machiavelli's Mandragola, directed by Jiri Menzel, as well as pro-
ductions titled Labyrinth and Doctor Burke's Strange Afternoon, written and
directed by Ladislav Smocka. Franco Quadri of the Italian monthly Sipario
wrote in the November issue:
Jerzy Grotowski was invited as an honorary guest of the Festival, and
he came, saw, destroyed, and left. He spared us four hours once, but
they deserve special attention. These were four hours of unending
public confessions and analyses of world theatre. The Polish director
settled accounts with the entire avant-garde (with the exception of
Barba) and particularly with Schechner's production (although he did
praise the Performance Group and the goal of its research), to a cool
and very troubled public. One should look at Grotowski's criticism,
however, from the perspective of his method, which is the act of
doubting, above all else, a struggle, destruction, self-destruction, a
beginning from zero. In today's theatrical and cultural context, this
figure of a monk and his pathetic quest for the absolute may seem
Grotowski and His Laboratory 118
anachronistic. It would be dangerous to entrust him with the role
Grand Inquisitor, but it would be equally unjust not to
his model of work.
The Laboratory Theatre's fifth foreign tour, from mid-September
mid-December, turned out to be the most important and most fruitful to
The group toured Great Britain and the United States with three
In London, in September, the group played Apocalypsis cum figuris and
Constant Prince five times each. Next the troupe appeared during an event tit
"From Poland With Art," organized by the Polish Ministry of Art and
in collaboration with the Institute of Polish Culture in London. There were
performances of The Constant Prince, four in Manchester and two in
in early October. Two anticipated performances in Liverpool were cancelled,
however, when Grotowski found the auditorium in Liverpool unfit for the
The previous summer, the management of the Brooklyn Academy of Mus
Ninon Tallon-Karlweiss, and Ellen Stewart (founder of the La Mama
perimental Theatre Club in New York) announced that the Labo
Theatre from Wrodaw would be in the United States for five weeks
in October. The group stayed in the United States a full two months from l
October through 17 December and presented forty-eight performances instead
of the anticipated thirty-four. All were given in the Washington Square
Methodist Church in Greenwich Village. There were twenty-three perfor-
mances of The Constant Prince, eleven of Akropolis, and fourteen of Apocalypsis
cum figuris. During the tour, Grotowski held four open meetings at the
Brooklyn Academy of Music, where he at least hinted at what was to come in
the Laboratory Theatre's post-theatrical phase. Here are a few fragments of opi-
nions, collected by Stuart Little in Saturday Review [ 1970], expressed after the
Laboratory Theatre's visit. Little himself wrote:
Two months have gone by since ]erzy Grotowski and his Polish
Laboratory Theatre performed three plays in an eight-week engage-
ment in New York, but the theatre community is still talking about
the visit. The Grotowski ideas reverberate, the images of the actors are
unshakably fixed in the mind, and one wonders what will be the
residue and result of this extraordinary visit ....
Robert Brustein, Dean of the Yale School of Drama: "American actors
don't have the self-abnegation required in Grotowski's technique. To
create this theatre one has to believe in something greater than the
theatre .... "
Lee Strasberg, the Actors Studio: "Everybody is impressed one way or
another with his sincerity and with his intensity which, given the con-
dition of our theatre today, is unique. In his theatre we see people who
119 Zbigniew Osinski
are willing to stay together and who are committed and people who
seem to belong together on the stage and are not up there just answer-
ing cues .... "
Joseph Papp, the Public Theatre: "I have watched the imit'ators of
Grotowski, and they are almost laughable. They are childish com-
pared to Grotowski; one looks like a child, the other looks like an
adult. But one influence Grotowski will have here is to give people
heart that the theatre is not simply a series of shows to be put on to be
enjoyed or ignored but can be of extreme importance to the people.
In late December, there was a press conference with Grotowski in the Hotel
Europejski in Warsaw, where the director discussed the group's stay in both
Great Britain and the United States. Numerous notices appearing in the
American press particularly confirm the significance of that stay. Anthony G.
Bowman (Ameryka) suggested that no foreign theatrical group had left such an
indelible impression since Stanislavsky had come to New York with the
Moscow Art Theatre. According to Bowman, the majority of American critics
regarded the performances as the most significant events of the theatrical
season, if not of the past decade. The American weekly, Time, contained a list
of the most important events of the decade 1960-1969 in various fields. The
magazine listed Grotowski's Laboratory Theatre in first place among the top
ten theatrical achievements. At the same time, leading New York critics ac-
daimed Ryszard Cieslak the best actor off-Broadway in 1969. Cieslak occupied
first place in the polls in two separate categories: as most outstanding creator in
the field of acting and as the actor with the greatest promise. He was the first
laureate of this award who acted in a language other than English and the first
actor to win awards in both categories simultaneously. In September 1970, the
Laboratory Theatre was granted the "Drama Desk" Award by the New York
Theatre Society for Apocalypsis cum figuris, which was recognized as the best
production of the 1969-1970 season in that city. The distinguished American
critic, Eric Bentley, described his reaction to that production in an open letter
to Grotowski (in the New York Times of 30 November 1969], which he began
quite negatively:
In short, for many of us, your work got the worst conceivable send-off,
and don't reply that so many have swooned over you, fawned on you,
etc. etc., because we know that is true, and it only made the whole
thing all the harder to take. It was not until the evening of your third
show that I recovered from the trauma. During this show, Apocalypsis,
something happened to me. I put it this personally because it was
something very personal that happened. About half way through the
play I had a quite specific illumination. A message came to me-from
Grotowski and His Laboratory 120
nowhere, as they say-about my private life and self. This message
must stay private, to be true to itself, but the fact that it arrived has
public relevance, I think, and I should publicly add that I don't recall
this sort of thing happening to me in the theatre before .. ..
In the same letter we read:
You insist on a very small theatre. Correction. You insist on nq
theatre. What you insisted on in New York was the Washington
Square Methodist Church. And when I saw Apocalypsis I saw, too,
why you had been so fussy. Fussiness is the name given to perfec--
tionism by those who see no need of perfectionism. You needed it
because, in addition to clear outline, you wished your image to have
many delicate, shifting details which would get lost in a larger place. --
Your non-theatre is so small, it has many of the advantages of movie
close-ups. One watches the play of wrinkle and muscle on your actors'
Of special importance in these excerpts are the two phrases "You insist on no
theatre" and "Your non-theatre." Both signal the change that was about to oc-
cur in the Laboratory Theatre.
In the final days of the year 1969, Grotowski visited India for the second
In late February 1970, the creator of the Laboratory Theatre met in the
Wrod_aw City Hall with publicists from various cultural magazines from all
over Poland who had come to Wrod_aw to attend a performance of Apocalypsis.
At this point, the theatre and its director were at the height of their success,
just having returned from their triumphal British and American tour.
Grotowski was recognized as the primary experimental theatre figure in the
world, regarded as a "classic of modern theatre." It was then that he said:
The number of tours at this moment interfere with our work. The
trips must be shortened. Concentration demands this of us. We return
home with great joy .... We live in a post-theatrical epoch. What
follows is not a new wave of theatre but rather something that will
replace it. Too many phenomena exist by sheer habit, because it has
been generally accepted that they should exist .... I feel that Apocalyp-
sis cum figuris is a new stage for me in my research. We have crossed a
certain barrier. (Quoted by Zofia Raducka, Tygodnik Demokratyczny
This was a clear prediction of a new direction for Grotowski and the
Laboratory Theatre. Grotowski also spoke of the necessity of enlarging the
troupe and of consequent difficulties:
121 Zbigniew Osinski
The strength of our group lies in the idea of the team. This is a
specialized group of actors, whose selection took ten years. We are a
small organism because there are only seven of us. Life demands a cer-
tain broadening, however, and the building or rejuvenation of our
group. When we began working, the oldest members of our group
were thirty. Today we are all between thirty and forty. It will not be
easy to draw other people into our work .... We cannot allow a split
between the "old" and the "new"-between those established and
those just beginning their artistic lives. The assimilation must be im-
mediate. We do not want to accept the status of a school or actors'
workshop. Nor does it seem possible to "guarantee" rapid creative
development to someone just beginning, who is a novice and undefin-
ed. But we cannot accept an actor who is immature initially. That is
why we hope to find young people with initiative and with the need to
express themselves in the theatre. They have to be able to pass through
the absolutely indispensable aspects of the creative training program,
about which legends abound, relatively quickly. We are not really
acrobats, and we do not base our research on circus feats. These young
people, however, must be able to accept the risk of the creative act im-
mediately .. . . (Quoted by Raducka, ibid.)
Grotowski, of course, here uses the words "actor" and "theatre," but there is
in his statement also the implication of a move toward hitherto unknown
horizons, the inevitable end of the "old" and a striving in the direction of the
"new." At this point, he seemed to be still operating in the "theatre." To be
sure, it may have been a theatre quite unlike any other of its time, but it was
still a theatre. Many did not fully understand what Grotowski was about in
1970 and speculated on the reasons behind Grotowski's public statements.
"The Hero is Weary" was the title of Bronislaw Maroon's report from Wrodaw.
Mamon concluded:
Grotowski's heroic epoch, when he created in spite of critics, the press,
and his sponsors, is behind him. Now that he has tasted renown,
recognition, and glory; now that he has toured to general enthusiasm
half of Europe and both 'A.mericas with his productions; and now that
many young people in Western theatres call him master, I think that
he longs for that period when he was unknown and unimitated. Can
he uphold the creative tension of those years if he is deprived of
solitude and silence? (Tygodnik Powszechny [1970])
Grotowski himself later characterized this period of his life as follows:
That was a time when a man's natural inertia, fear of the unknown,
and the feeling that to leave the confines of the known discipline is
Grotowski and His Laboratory 122
madness and must end badly. But I knew I could not continue what
thought to be a beautiful but closed chapter of my life. Nor could I
enough strength and courage to create another .... So I did not
enough heart for one endeavor nor enough courage for another.
does one do in such a case? One can force oneself to continue, but
must have a very strong character, because there is something wretch-
ed in that; everything becomes a kind of lugging of heavy sacks:
can seek refuge in illness-this is not a bad solution-or become a
fessor or rector and create some sort of extra-special theatre
which I thought about for a while .... Usually it turned out
when I knew something had to be done, I could advise others of it.
advised those whom I care about to set out and travel. Until I c
and this has happened to me a few times in my life, that I should take
my own advice. (Interview, A. Bonarski, Kultura [1975])
This also happened during the course which Grotowski and Cieslak
ducted at the Centre Dramatique National du Sud-Est in Aix-en-Provence in
late and early July. He advised one of the participants to go wandering.
Grotowski. himself then went directly to India from France. That summer he
spent six weeks in India and Kurdistan. When he met the troupe of
Laboratory Theatre at the airport in Shiraz, his closest colleagues failed to
recognize him. He looked like a completely different man: he had lost over
eighty pounds and had grown a beard.
Thus in late August, the Laboratory Theatre began its sixth and, as it turned
out, last purely theatrical foreign tour. Their travels this time took them to the
Middle and Near East, to Iran and Lebanon, a tour lasting until mid-October.
Altogether the group gave twenty-seven performances of The Constant Prince, of
which six were presented in Shiraz at the Festival of Arts (26 August-S
Sept_ember), Shiraz-Persepolis 1970; five in the palace of Emir El Amin near
Beirut (6-16 September); and sixteen in Teheran (17 September-11 October).
There was a press conference at the Shiraz Festival which attracted several hun-
dred people. What was billed as a round table discussion turned into a friendly
dialogue between Grotowski and Peter Brook.
During the tour of the Middle and Near East, Grotowski flew to Colombia
for the Latin American Festival (of which he was honorary president)
Manizales. Numerous theatrical troupes from various Latin American coun-
tries came to Manizales even though they were not participants in the festivaL
They simply wanted to establish personal contact with Grotowski. Grotowski
reviewed the work of troupes using his methods and analyzed their
achievements at public meetings lasting several hours. A text based on
Grotowski's appearance at Manizales was published in September under the ti-
tle "What Happened." In its own way, it seems an attempt by Grotowski to set-
tle accounts with his own theatrical experience and with "theatre" in general. It
123 Zbigniew Osinski
contains, however, the future theme of his para theatrical research. That is
whY the lecture has an extremely personal tone:
l i ~ - .
This meeting is a special meeting and it is taking place at a very special
moment in my life .... This is a dual moment in my life. That which is
theatre, "technique," and methodology is behind me. That which has
been reaching for other horizons within me has finally resolved
itself .... What was a quest in the theatre, in the "technique," even in
the professionalism (as we understood it, that is, as a vocation), is dear
to me. It has led me to where I am. It has led me out of the theatre, out
of technique, and out of professionalism. It is still alive in me as an ex-
perience of life. But I am already breathing another kind of air. My feet
are touching a different kind of ground, and my senses are drawn to
another kind of vocation. That is where I am going. I hear your voices,
your questions. About theatre. I turn my head toward it, toward
theatre. That is the past. I am speaking about that which was, about
that which I sought in another life ....
If you intend to do thea ere, you ought to ask yourself the question: is
theatre indispensable to my life? Not as theatre. Not as an institution
and a building and not as a profession: but as a group and a place.
And, yes, it can be indispensable to life, if one seeks a space where one
does not lie to oneself. Where we do not conceal where we are, what
we are, and where that which we do is what it is and we do not pre-
tend it is anything else . .. . And this, in time, will lead us out of the
theatre .... (Reprinted in Dialog [1972])
At about the same time, Grotowski's appeal to young people in Poland was
published in several daily newspapers and read during the popular radio pro-
gram "Afternoons With Young People." The appeal was to those "who, simply
because they need to, would choose to leave behind personal comfort and seek
exposure in work, in an encounter, in movement and freedom." The appeal
was titled "A Proposal for Working Together." Grotowski had written it at the
end of June, a fact which tends to negate the opinion so prevalent that the new
period of the Laboratory Theatre was a simple consequence of its mentor's
physical metamorphosis in India later in the summer.
In October, Grotowski received the "Diploma of the Foreign Affairs Minister
for outstanding service in propagating Polish culture abroad," this being the
first time such diplomas were bestowed. In early December, the Laboratory
Theatre took part in Polish Culture Week in West Berlin. The group played
The Constant Prince seven times, these being the last performances of the work.
Thereafter, the troupe performed Apocalypsis cum figuris exclusively. Grotowski
went directly to New York from West Berlin. Because of his lectures at New
York University in 1967 and the Laboratory Theatre's performances in New
- --- - ---------- ---------
Grotowski and His Laboratory 124
York in 1969, New York University invited him once again for a series
meetings with students and professors. American directors, actors, wri
critics, and hundreds of the simply curious came to the first meeting on
day, 12 December, in New York's Town Hall. Everyone seemingly
gathered to hear Grotowski explain the misunderstandings that had grown
in the United States surrounding his methods. The meeting turned
"talking marathon" that lasted until four o'clock in the morning. The
critic Franck Jotterand described the atmosphere of the meeting as
Grotowski answered the questions of hundreds of students and
fessors of theatre assembled one evening at midnight in Town
Grotowski's entrance was greeted with the cry: "How he's c ~ & ' - ' U ' " '
The first question asked was "How were you able to change your
pearance to such a degree?" It was difficult to recognize the mys
man who had been here before for a few lectures. The new
is thin, has light-colored glasses, a short beard, and a jacket
epaulets .... The style of his short, nervous sentences, spoken in
cellent French, emphasized his concept of theatre as a place of
work and an area of confession. (Le Monde [1971])
New York Times critic Mel Gussow solved the problem
Grotowski in the following way: "Yesterday, the director's American re1Jre:ser1'
tative, Ninon Tallon Karlweiss, confirmed that it was indeed Mr.
'He lost 88 pounds,' she said. 'He was a fat man and now he's a very thin
There were no explanations about the psychic or physical reasons behind
transformation, although that was the subject of one of the first
Saturday night." The participants could not rid themselves of the thought
someone was putting them on. After four hours of serious and honest
sian, it was evident that if the speaker was not Grotowski, he
knew more about him than Grotowski himself.
Somewhat later, in speaking of this period of his theatrical evolution and
called "exit" from the theatre, Grotowski said:
One says about a dancer that she should stop dancing for a
Well, so I stopped being a director after Apocalypsis. I entered
domain .... Only the question remains: What interests people?
tempts them? What devours them? Is the theatre that is known in
civilization simply a product for which one buys a ticket? Even in
case of Apocalypsis this is so. It is still theatre. Arid I ask myself
question: Could I do a production now? A production in the sense of
theatrical production? Maybe I would be able to do that better
before, because I am relaxed. But I can't get myself to do that kind
work. I've already measured myself against what I've sought in
theatre .... Repeat it? Preserve it so that it could be done over
125 Zbigniew Osinski
over and over again? It is destiny to go in the direction of a new
horizon, which really beckons. On the other hand, a horizon is not a
leap, because if there had not been an earlier one, the present one
would not have loomed. (Interview, A. Bonarski, Kultura [1975))
((In Search of Active Culture"
Wrodaw 1971 .. 1976
The text of Grotowski's "Holiday" [in Polish, the title is "Swieto,"
"holy day"] begins as follows:
Some words are dead, even though we are still using them. There
some that are dead, not because they ought to be substituted
others, but because what they mean has died. This is so for many
us, at least. Among such words are: show, performance, theatre,
tator, etc. But what is necessary? What is alive? Adventure
meeting: not just any one; but that what we want to happen to
would happen, and then, that it would also happen to others
us. For this, what do we need? First of all, a place and our own
and then that our kind, whom we do not know, should come, too.
what matters is that, in this, first I should not be alone,
should not be alone. But what does our kind mean? They are
who breathe the same air and-one might say-share our senses.
is possible together? Holiday. (Odra [1972])
This was the mission of Grotowski and the Laboratory Theatre at the end
1970. The group continues to be bound to this direction even today [1
In early March, in the small auditorium of the Ateneum Theatre in Warsaw .
was a meeting organized by the Polish Center of ITI. Both Flaszen
Grotowski attended. In April in Krakow, Jan Blonski, Jerzy Broszkiewicz, Jerzy
129 Zbigniew Osinski
, and Flaszen participated in a discussion meeting eventually reproduced
Dialog [1971]. The subject was romanticism in contemporary Polish theatre,
the Laboratory Theatre was to serve as an illustration of the thesis. In
the publishing house Wydawnictwo Literackie released Flaszen's book
Cyrograf (The Contract). Included were Flaszen's articles "The Philologist
the Theatre and Others," "Wyspianski the Mulch," "Immorality, Sad and
y," "Theatre Doomed to Magic," and "After the Avant-Garde." In the issue
in Poland devoted to the Wrodaw Institute, the following texts were
.mDuu"'-' "Grotowski In Poland" by Jan Kbssowicz, "Apocalypsis cum figuris"
Konstanty Puzyna, and "Opinions About Jerzy Grotowski's Laboratory
by Andrzej Ikanowicz. At this time also, a theatre building in Colom-
was named after Grotowski.
In June: Jerzy Gurawski won one of the first awards given at the second
"Quadriennale." The publishing house La Cite in Lausanne published
authorized French version of Towards a Poor Theatre, and a Japanese ver-
; sion of the book appeared in Tokyo with commentary by director and theatre
expert Tetsuo Toshimitsu. In Wroclaw, the first rehearsals took place of a new
version of Apocalypsis cum figuris. For this version, specifically for younger au-
the benches were removed and the audience of approximately one
sat on the floor or stood against the walls. From this time on, two ver-
sions-one with benches, one without-were presented.
In July, Grotowski and Cieslak conducted a course for actors from several
countries at the Centre National Dramatique du Sud-Est in Marseilles. The
author of Towards a Poor Theatre was named Professor of the Ecole Superieure
d'Art Dramatique in Marseilles, while Antoine Bourseiller, the director of the
school and well-known director himself, published Grotowski's Exercises.
Shortly thereafter, the journal Le Theatre, edited by Fernando Arrabal, con-
tained a long statement by Grotowski titled "The Voice." The author himself
attributed great significance to both these texts, in which" ... one can find an
analysis of our path, the changes that have taken place in our view of the actor,
evolving from work with the actor to collaboration with mankind generally.
Essentially, but a little under the pretext of analyzing exercise, training, etc., we
discuss matters which I consider most essential" (Teatr [1972]). In July and
August, Cieslak appeared in an Italian television film about the creative train-
ing of the actor. The film was done in Denmark with the participation of the
Odin T eatret in Holste bro.
During this period as well, various articles appeared on the activities of the
Laboratory Theatre. The magazine Poland published the last chapter of
Grotowski's book plus Flaszen's remarks about Ryszard Cieslak's acting. The
August issue of the West German monthly Theater heute devoted a large section
to the Wrodaw theatre. There was a lecture given by Grotowski in New York
in 1969, "Nudity in the Theatre: Moral or Obscene?" together with fragments
of the scenario of The Constant Prince as prepared by Ouaknine.
Grotowski and His Laboratory 130
In late August and early September, the group visited Denmark,
twelve performances (four of the new version) of Apocalypsis in the audi
of the Odin T eatret in Holstebro. Danish television and radio devoted a
of hour-long specials (including interviews with members of the troupe) to
work of the Laboratory Theatre. After the visit, the publishing house T
Teorii og Teknikk published a notebook entitled Grotowskis trening,
devoted to the work of the Laboratory Theatre. It included Grotowski's
on nudity in the theatre, the voice, and physical training plus
Jabfokowna's interview with Cieslak, Maria Krzysztof Byrski's "Grotowsk.i .
the Indian Tradition," and _Bentley's open letter to Grotowski.
In late September and early October, the Laboratory Theatre performed
Warsaw. Apocalypsis was played sixteen times (eight in the new version) at
Stara Prochownia [literally the Old Powder-Keg) on Bolesc Street. In
to the performances and the conversations that followed them, there were
number of open discussion meetings. All these appearances had the aura of
sensational about them, corroborated by the remarks of the press:
As elsewhere in the world, so here too, the performances by
Laboratory Theatre have become an artistic event. Tickets, or
passes, have become the impossible dream of many .... (M.
Zycie Warszawy [ 1971))
Just as in New York, London, Shiraz, Paris, and now Warsaw, the
pearance of the Laboratory Theatre has created an unusually tense
mosphere. The places where the performances are to take place are
kept in strict secret until the last minute. No one knew whether it
could be found or not. 0. Klossowicz, Wsp6lczesnosc [1971))
Grotowski was in Warsaw! He was here and the performances of his
company took place in an aura of unheard-of sensationalism and
secrecy. I have seen groups of serious people signing some sort of peri-
tion protesting against showing the Laboratory Theatre's work ex-
clusively to "the bureaucrats of the National Council." (M. Karpinski,
Sztandar Mlodych [ 1971))
Reactions were significant after the performances and meetings-an outlet for ..
extreme emotions-from fascination to definite dislike or hatred:
For someone who saw Grotowski two years ago, the way he looks is a
revelation. . . . Nothing has remained of the old Grotowski, the
conventional-looking man. Instead we have a thin, tall, young guru
with a beard, long hair, dynamic (but internally rapt), bare feet in san-
dals. He looks a little like a Durer painting .... Grotowski ... has em-
phasized many times that the most important thing for him is sear-
ching for answers to the question: how should one live? His main goal
131 Zbigniew Osinski
is to come to know mankind, to accept the thoughts of others and to
pass on his own. It is pure chance, however, that at the beginning of
this search he happened to be in theatre; othewise he would have
sought answers to these questions elsewhere .... How this man is
capable of overwhelming an auditorium; what a miraculous gift he has
for making contact with others, for giving of himself and understand-
ing the thoughts of others. (A. Lechicka, Szpilki [1971])
On the other hand, there were also attempts to ridicule and compromise
Grotowski. Andrzej Kijowski's article, "Grotowski is a Genius," appearing in
Tygodnik Powszechny, had the appearance of libel. Kijowki accused the
Laboratory Theatre of imposing its own doctrines on the viewer. In Apocalypsis,
Kijowski saw "clamorous gibberish," "a lack of precision, rhythm, invention,"
"attacking the spectator who is plastered to the wall," and "terror, as the only
consistent principle":
All art is an attempt to communicate by means of more or less obvious
patterns of signs. Grotowski draws out into the light of day and
realizes in the form of a production and its organization, a sado-
masochistic arrangement ... in interhuman relations .... Grotowski
is not, therefore, an artist creating signs of communication, but a
watchman in an itinerant prison for volunteers, a brilliant policeman
who has raised terror and torture to the principle of spiritual co-
existence. He is the creator of a utopia for masochists, that is, a world
in which torment pretends to be a value. Wielding an act of violence
instead of understanding, he has created a substitute spiritual life for
the participants: music for the deaf, vision for the blind, mysticism for
those who are deprived of the mystical instinct .... Grotowski ... has
discovered that the job of not understanding is similar to that of
understanding, and that revulsion may be similar to enchantment if
the victim is convinced ahead of time that he is chosen.
"Go and come no more" [the final words of Apocalypsis, spoken by
Simon Peter]-these last words sound like a perfidious invitation. It's
too bad each spectator doesn't get bashed in the face when entering or
leaving. Boy, would they crowd in then!
Yes, Grotowski is a genius. The history of his theatre could be one of
the most splendid books on the culture and society of the twentieth
century, and he himself could be the hero of this unusual novel.
When asked what he thought of Kijowski's review, Grotowski answered: "I
don't know how to analyze it critically, especially since that is probably im-
possible because the review is written within the limits of impressions: 'not
good,' 'dilettantish,' 'sham brilliance.' But die fact is that it affected me, hurt
and stunned me, that the old game is still being played. I suppose one can do it
Grotowski and His Laboratory 132
this way. I don't think I stand a chance of changing my comrade. I don't think I
should wonder at it. I should just accept it" (Quoted in Odra [1972]). Later he
spoke of the matter in a broader context:
Sometimes I wonder why this happens to me and if this is just typically
Polish. And then I say to myself, maybe there is nothing strange in it
after all, because people have spoken this way about Bergman in
Sweden and Brook in England. Sometimes they speak even worse of
them. So maybe this is normal. Here, of course, I hear putraged voices:
by what right do I compare myself with "such people"? Pardon me, but
if "such people" compare themselves with me, then perhaps I have the
right to do so as well. (Quoted in Odra [1972])
Grotowski gauged the significance of the Laboratory Theatre's stay in War-
saw as follows:
I have the feeling we did the right thing in coming here .... There
were very unusual things going on here, in reactions and in conversa-
tions with many people who came to see us. I have the impression we
had to be here. I have probably come to know another, a different
Warsaw. (Quoted in Odra [1972])
In late October, in the student club called "Palacyk" (Little Palace) in
Wrodaw, there was a meeting with Grotowski of participants and guests of the
Third International Festival of Student Theatres. He had by this point
somehow come to grasp the essence of the evolution occurring both in himself
and in the institution of which he was the director:
I will stop working, I will suspend my activity at the moment I become
my own follower .... This does not mean that, after t w e l v ~ years of
work, I have suddenly come to the conclusion that I now ought tobe
doing something else. In the course of many years, everything we've
ever done at any given moment was to question what had been done
up to that point. Of course it wasn't just a matter of questioning,-we
reaped much more-but our work was always a polemic with itself.
Each new undertaking in the workshop was a victory over what we'd
already done. Otherwise all our work would have been simply a strug-
gle to reach a certain position, and then a struggle to maintain that
position, like climbing a mountain peak and digging in with our claws
so that no one could tear us away. No, that's a nice game, but it turns
life into defeat. There are real adventures in life; the other things re-
main banal. If we struggle creatively with our lives, if we struggle to
cleanse our lives of lies (which is one of the real adventures), then it
becomes obvious that we must keep asking the same basic questions
133 Zbigniew Osinski
without respite. It is not right to praise to the skies what others have
already accepted in us. On the contrary, we must be able to come to
terms with the fact that those who were our friends at one point in the
search will feel offended by what we do afterwards .... This is no joke,
since it involves an indispensable step beyond our own limitations.
Just as the great [Polish] poet Norwid understood it ... who said
somewhere: in everything man does or writes, there is always
something in his concealment and silence that is quite different from
what he chooses to reveal. A different but not necessarily opposite
something, which is the reverse of the same card which we either do
not yet know-or which we do not yet know that we know. Norwid
noticed this in each of his great works, each sentence silently contain-
ing the following one. The next sentence has already been born
without words. And it is still possible nor to know it. The same goes
for human deeds. (Quoted in T eatr [1972])
He also spoke of the Laboratory's preparations for a "new encounter" and
the difficulties involved:
As to the evolution of Apocalypsis and especially the next "work,"
the next encounter for which we are preparing: we are trying to find a
way not to turn anyone, who wants to come, away from our doors. But
if the number of people who come grows like an avalanche, problems
will occur. At that time we'll have to find a way of organizing our en-
counters so that the people who want to meet with us will be able to.
I'd like to emphasize that . . . I see no harm in a person's being turned
away if that person simply wanted to participate in "cultural events."
There will be no harm done if that person misses out on just another
of these events .... I have nothirig against this kind of spectator, but
there are people who seek us out specifically and those who come to
see us "among other things." We should be able to give priority to the
first type, not only in our hearts but also in our encounter. (Teatr
The meeting was not exactly placid. According to one report in Kultura (by
Tomasz Lubienski), someone had whistled and another shouted that he would
prefer questions and answers instead of a long lecture by Grotowski. Another
report published in Teatr (from notes taken by Swiss participants and prepared
by Flaszen) shows Grotowski's skill in calming the situation:
I'm sorry, but I am incapable of satisfying everyone. I wish to speak as I
know how, and it seems to meJ:hat this is what should be done. If you
came to meet with me, then you should be capable of adapting
yourself to the circumstances of the meeting. That's how it is in life:
Grotowski and His Laboratory 134
man must always adapt to something. (A few whistles in the
auditorium.) If someone feels like protesting, please do so. (Loud
laughter and applause in the auditorium.) If someone needs to protest,
shout, whistle, go ahead, I can wait. And then I will continue as I
began. And when I am through, he can have his turn and speak.
After this statement, the heckler called out: "But we can read about all these
ideas of yours in your books." To which Grotowski replied that none of the
ideas he was dealing with at this meeting were discussed in his book. This drew
applause from most of the audience, but there were still a few whistles.
Grotowski said: "Our rather unintelligent exchange has only taken a lot of
time, during which, if it had not taken place, I would have already finished
what I had to say. So I will finish what I have to say, and then you may have
the floor, if you wish. I continue."
In November, Grotowski was guest of honor at the Sixth Festival of Theatres
of Argentina in Cordoba. He received an honorary award, bestowed annually
by the "Talia" Society and the journal Seminario Teatral de l'Aire as the
outstanding foreign visitor to Argentina. The citation read: "For the outstan-
ding quality of his distinguished pedagogical personality." Grotowski also con-
ducted seminars while in Argentina, and the materials based on stenographic
notes from the seminars were published by the Centro Dramatico Buenos Aires
in a special double issue of the journal Teatro '70. This was one of the so-called
"wild" or non-authorized editions of Grotowski's work. Many such editions cir-
culated among young theatrical troupes in Latin America.
On 23 March, Wroc!aw's S!owo Polskie carried a story concerning a building
.that was being given the Laboratory Theatre for rehearsals by the Wroclaw city
authorities. It was an old barn in the village of Brzezinka near Olesnica, some
forty kilometers from Wrodaw. The building was to be appropriately adapted
for use by the troupe. Several days later in the same newspaper, there was infor-
mation about the troupe's preparations for a new premiere, the title and con-
tents of which were to be kept secret until the first showing:
There is work going on in the Laboratory Theatre on a new produc-
tion. Twelve members of the troupe are taking part in it (including
quite a few novices) under the direction of Jerzy Grotowski. The work
is being created through the collective participation of group members,
who are sharing their life's experiences. The basis for the work is no
dramaturgical text nor any written word whatsoever. People predict
this will not be a production at all but rather a specific kind of compos-
ed encounter with other people-the spectators.
135 Zbigniew Osinski
In early April there was a meeting attended by Grotowski and students in the
Coastal Student Club "Zak" [Prankster] in Gdansk. A few days later, a similar
meeting was organized in the Student Club "Od nowa" [From the New] in Poz-
nan. Both talks were concerned generally with the Laboratory Theatre's "Holi-
day." Tadeusz Rafalowski describes the first ofthese meetings:
Grotowski j s now a good twenty years younger than the Grotowski
with whom I discussed Indian theatre, the number of resonators in the
human body, and the already then famous "method" in the Gdansk
railway station restaurant after a performance of The Constant Prince .
. . . Now at the meeting in "Zak," Grotowski (surrounded by listeners)
is as unusually and fascinating a phenomenon as the world which he
calls into existence. He asks that there be no filming for television dur-
ing the meeting, since lights and the presence of cameras cause a
"falsification" of expression; they force one unconsciously to "act," to
be inauthentic. (Gtos Wybrzeza-Magazyn [1972])
From April through June, Odra published in three consecutive issues
Grotowski's texts titled "How One Could Live," "Such as One Is-Whole,"
and "Holiday." In late April, Grotowski conducted a seminar at the Theatre of
Nations in Paris. On 20 April, there was a public discussion organized in which
Grotowski and the seminar participants took part at the Theatre Recamier.
Among these was the Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki, who described his first
encounter with Grotowski:
I saw him for the first time at the Espace Pierre Cardin theatre in Paris.
There was also an American troupe there, somewhat in the "hippie"
style. Grotowski, undressed to the waist, was playing with these young
people. It all seemed very stupid to me, but he seemed to derive great
pleasure from it. When I asked him about it now (August 1973), he
dismissed the matter, saying: "Ah, that was just a joke." (Quoted in
Dialog [1974])
On 10 May was the twenty-fifth anniversary of]uliusz Osterwa's death, and a
solemn commemorative ceremony was organized at the Institute of the Polish
Academy of Arts and Sciences in Warsaw. The evening began with a reading of
fragments from Osterwa's writings and letters. The entire affair was presided
over by Tadeusz Byrski. The middle section of the program included statements
by Jarosfaw lwaskiewicz, Juliusz Starzynski, and Grotowski, the latter of whom
discussed Osterwa's work within the framework of his own personal tradition.
In early June, further changes were made in the performance of Apocalypsis
cum figuris. For the first time, the actors appeared not in their white costumes
but in their everyday clothing. The Simpleton-Cieslak remained in a black
Grotowski and His Laboratory 136
coat, which never had had the appearance of a costume as such. When
white costumes were disposed of, the which the Simpleton
was replaced by an ordinary wooden one. Malgorzata Dzieduszycka ' ntfrnrMorl
these changes as follows:
The attraction of these changes for the 'a'ctors is seen most clearly
ing the first performance .... This was for the actors; they seem-
ed different to one another. They played with exceptional verve.
The number of viewers has also increas'ed. Often people sit in a
rows against the walls. At the beginning, when some of the
in the audience, their entry into the action is startling.
cum figuris: Opis spektaklu [1974])
In late July Grotowski became a laureate of the State Prize of the First Degree
in the area of art, with the following citation: "For your creative in the
Laboratory Theatre in the area of mise-en:scrme and research in the of acting,
with specific recognition of Apocalypsis cum figuris." This was the only State
Prize of the First Degree granted to a person of the theatre. All jdurrtals con-
tained the communique of the Polish Press Agency: Laureates of
Prizes-1972. There were also articles about Grotowski. KlossowicZ's was
Jerzy Grotowski has attained a position in world theatre uriequa!led by
any other Pole. Everyone knows of Grotowski, some adore hirri;
others hate him, but no one who is seriously interested in i:he
can ignore him and what he has done, written, and spoken. Ohe !nay -
not like Grotowski, one may argue wit!: him, but he cannot be ig-
nored. The place which he occupies in contemporary theatre dri.t1ot
be undermined .... There has been much talk and writing devoted to
theatre, and for almost a hundred years how, there are more and rriore
reformers. However, only a few among i:hem have known how tb
create or say something genuinely new. And Grotowski belongs with
those-next to Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, and Artaud. That is his real
position in the contemporary theatre. (Literatura [1972])
During the Olympic Games in Munith, the Laboratory Theatre again took
' _, !' ,
part iri the Cultural Olympics. In the o.ld half-destroyed church of All Saints,
from 22 August through 4 September, thete were twelve showings of Ap'_Ocalyp-
sis in its two different versidri.s. Each type of performance was to be a different,
specific encounter between people: there were six performances for young
people (300 audience members for each playing) and six regular performances
(tor up to 60 people). The appearances drew the interest of the West Gerfnan,
Swiss, Austrian, and French presses. Abendzeitung, an afternoon Munich
137 Zbigniew Osinski
newspaper, awarded Grotowski the special honorary diploma cf "star of the
week," for an outstanding cultural event in the 'iife of the city. Le carried
a detailed report of the production on its first page ("The Apocalypse
ding to Grotowski"). During the Munich visit, Flaszen was interviewed for
Austrian television. Grotowski and the troupe received numerous proposals for
collaboration and appearances from German-speaking countries. Hamburg
and Vienna asked him to tour, and the University of Munich asked Grotowski
to do a series of lectures. Tadeusz Burzynski noted, however , that Grotowski
was not currently accepting any of these offers:
More and more often, speaking of his work, Grotowski uses the past
tense. It seems he considers a certain period of research closed. His
work has taken on an independent life, and certain processes begun by
him continue in the contemporary theatre independently. Now
Grotowski and his troupe intend to undertake new assignments. What
kind? To that question I can give just one evasive reply: Those of us
from Wroclaw will know about them first. (Gazeta Robotnicza [1972))
Grotowski spoke in more detail about these "new assignments" back in
Wrodaw at an open meeting. Stanislaw Srokowski described the situation flS
The last meeting was again an opportunity for reflection qp()ut the
essence of theatre and its function in contemporary culture. But ip
truth the real reason was the return of the Laboratory Theatre from
Munich-but that alone was not the object of the meeting ... . Some
time ago, many years back, not only was Grotowski accepted unwill-
ingly, but he was denied the right to and, in my opinion,
that was as naive then as calling him a Messiah is now and expecting
him to furnish a miraculous recipe for saving the theatre, while he is
simply himself full of doubt and seeking. (Wiadomosci [1972])
In mid-October, Grotowski appeared at the Polish-French colloquium at
Royaumont. Witold Filler writes about the event:
For Frenchmen, Polish theatre is contained in one name: Grotowski.
But one should write his name in capital letters: GROTOWSKI. The
creator <Jf the "poor theatre" knows his worth, which has begun to ir-
ritate many of us. Therefore, as if to spite those very people,
i ' . !
Grotowski emphasizes his differentness. But he does it with the pro-
vocative abandon of a child. While [Artur] Sandauer carries on about
Gombrowicz .. . , takes a jar of coffee out of his backpack,
carefully dissolves-the powder in water, and just as carefully wipes the
Grotowski and His Laboratory 138
spoon afterward. Sandauer does not see this, but the French see only
this. Sandauer drones on, but his audience watches only Grotowski.
When Grotowski speaks, the journalists and their pencils come to life:
the dark-eyed Colette Godard of Le Monde takes notes and the young
people from various Parisian theatres turn on their tape recorders. At
the theatre colloquium in Royaumont, there were over 160 French-
men .. I think that almost everyone came to see Grotowski. When he
finished speaking, he was applauded. As if the hall were already a
theatre. (Kultura [1972])
Polityka carried another report, malicious, by Jerzy Waldorff:
Grotowski introduced lofty theoretical accents. I admired this extraor-
dinary apostle of platitudes. . . . All these old dreams were com-
municated by the old master from Wrodaw with such suggestiveness,
almost hypnotically, that, even though they were related to the au-
dience in very bad French, they fascinated the listeners at Royaumont
and aroused enthusiastic applause, just as he had in the United States,
Canada, Italy, and everywhere else. During the reception at the em-
bassy, a young man came to the door, said that he had no invitation,
but that he must be allowed to touch Grotowski. He was allowed in,
touched Grotowski, and left elated.
Grotowski's talk was published in the weekly, Kultura, in December under
the title "This Holiday Will Become Possible." On the day of Grotowski's ap-
pearance at Royaumont, Zycie Warszawy noted that performances of Apocalyp-
sis cum figuris would resume in after a three-month hiatus. At the end
of October, Polish Television broadcast a program from the series "Intimate
Encounters" that carried a conversation between Grotowski and Jarostaw
Szymkiewicz. The American edition of Raymonde Temkine's book, Grotowski ,
appeared in December, based on the French text (abridged) but also carrying
information concerning Grotowski's stay in the United States. In mid-
December, there was a conversation in the Senators Hall on W awe! [in
Krakow] in which Grotowski, Puzyna, and the general public participated. The
text was published in the July 1973 issue of Dialog. Later in December,
Grotowski gave lectures in Paris at the Theatre d'Orsay, which was under the
direction of Jean-Louis Barrault. Also in December, Apocalypsis was shown for
the last time in the version with benches. By the end of 1972, the performance
had been presented a total of 188 times.
139 Zbigniew Osinski
For ten days in early February, Grotowski presented a series of lectures in
New York and Los Angeles. Later in the spring he presented lectures in
Holstebro, Denmark (23-25 April), Paris (26-28 April), and Quebec and
Montreal (28 April-4 May). Evelyne Ertel published a report in Travail Thetitral
on the meeting with Grotowski in Paris's Theatre Kecamier on Friday evening,
27 April:
This lecture is a unique thing in Paris: the audience is limited (in addi-
tion to the usual rows of seats, a few chairs were added on both sides of
the stage); about thirty people will sit on the floor and in the aisles;
and we are among the specialists, almost among the chosen. When the
lecture begins, the doors of the auditorium will be closed .... When
everyone has finally settled down, Grotowski gives the sign that he is
ready to speak. There is an immediate silence full of rapt attention, no,
more of respect, a surprising thing and almost an anachronism at a
time when the smallest gathering is carried on in an atmosphere of in-
describable uproar. ...
Grotowski asks that people give him questions and, in this way, he
will be able to speak, taking into consideration the interest of the peo-
ple present and the subjects about which they are most interested. A
hand goes up in the audience, then another; the questions begin to
come one after another. Grotowski notes them down on a piece of
paper. If he considers a question unworthy of attention, he answers it
immediately to dispose of it. Sometimes he answers ironically or be-
littles the issue, as with the first question: why is there an admission
charge to this lecture? Grotowski proposes his questioner turn to the
organizers of the lecture in this matter, they being the ones who must
pay the rent for the auditorium. The charge for students was five
francs, which is not really expensive .... The discussion of the subject
is closed .... Basically he improvises his answers. He speaks entirely
without notes, walking along and around the table. A truly masterly
lecture ....
"Holiday." This is the culminating point of the transformations of
Grotowski and his group. Grotowski uses the English word "holiday"
and reminds the audience that etymologically the word means "holy
day," while retaining its contemporary meaning of "free day." The
Polish word 5wifEto has no equivalent in French, but it refers to
"holiness, holy, pure" and sounds like the Polish words for "light"
[swiac1o] and "world" [.Swiat].
At this point in his lecture, Grotowski sought to reconstruct what had hap-






Grotowski and His Laboratory 140
pened organizationally with the Laboratory Theatre. There had been a meeting
in early November 1970 with seventy of the 300 or so people who had respond-
ed to his "Open Letter" of invitation of September 1970. This meeting lasted
for four days and four nights: it was a kind of small festival, completely im-
provised. As a result, a ten-person group was formed which, until the end
1971, worked first with Grotowski then later with Zbigniew [Teo] Spychalski:
So that the new people would not feel like pupils when compared with the
established members, it was decided that the two groups would work separate- .
ly. By the end of the year, only four of the original ten of the new people r;.
mained: Irena Rycyk, Wieslaw Hoszowski, Zbigniew Koslowski, and
Aleksander Lidtke. Others came later: two graduates of the Acting Depart-
ment in Warsaw, Teresa Nawrot and Jerzy Bogajewicz, plus the leading
from the STU Theatre in Krakow, Wlodzimierz Staniewski. Finally the two
groups came together. On 15 November 1972, fourteen people-the a b o v e ~
mentioned seven new people plus seven from the old group (Albahaca, Cieslak,
Grotowski, Jahoikowski, Molik, Paluchiewicz; and Spychalski)-went to work
in Brzezinka for three weeks. "The new group ... has installed itself in the
forest after having found and purchased old buildings and a water mill. We had
to renovate the whole place to make it usable. It was the first common meeting
of the new group."
In December 1972, the thirteen-member group (Spychalski left for a time with
other commitments) began work in the auditorium in Wrodaw, which lasted
until the first half of January 1973. Then a whole group moved to Brzezinka, to
work and live there but not permanently. For every few days spent there, a rest
period was allotted, during which time each person returned to the city, to his
private life and to his personal and family matters. According to Grotowski,
"The life in the forest had the characteristics of life in a community, except that
adherence to the 'strict rules of the game' was enforced: the principle of private
property was respected and there was nothing that could be labeled a familio-
erotic commune . . . . The movement into the forest (which is not a 'return to
nature') helps to establish a rhythm of work different from life in the city,
which is more inhibiting. It's the rhythm of space, time, freedom. And one is
not haunted."
All of this lasted until June 1973, when a meeting was held in Brzezinka to
which persons from the outside were invited. Among these was Jacek
Zmyslowski, who subsequently was asked to stay on with the Laboratory
Theatre. The meeting lasted three days and three nights and had the working
title "Holiday." Later it was called the first "Special Project." Shortly thereafter,
two members, Bogajewicz and Hoszowski, left the group.
From June through August, Grotowski and remaining members of the group
took a series of trips. Flaszen, Mirecka, and Cynkutis held lectures and classes
in the Dramatisches Zentrum in Vienna, while Grotowski himself took a trip
around the world. In July, he was in the United States, where 800 people at
141 Zbigniew Osinski
tended his lecture at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. The real purpose
of the trip was to settle the conditions for work and performances of the
Laboratory Theatre during its planned visit to the United States in the fall.
Grotowski went from the United States to Canada and from there to New
Zealand and. Australia in August, where he presented lectures in Wellington,
Sydney, and Melbourne. According to information in the Australian press, the
Arts Council of Australia had tried for three years to have the LaboratOry
Theatre come to Australia. And the main reason for Grotowski's trip at this
time was to discuss the conditions and prepare the ground for the coming of
the entire troupe in February 1974. There was widespread coverage of
Grotowski's visit and some wrote of the particulars of his current research:
Katherine Brisbane in The Australian and Helen Frizell in The Sydney Morning
In mid-August, Grotowski was in Tokyo, where he met with Tadashi Suzuki
and Kayoko Shiraishi (the leading actress of the Waseda Sho-Gekijo troupe).
Grotowski and Suzuki visited the Shibuya district at night and attended a No
theatre rehearsal. Shingeki, a monthly devoted to theatre, published in its Oc-
tober issue Suzuki's interview with Grotowski and his account of their meeting:
Grotowski arrives in Japan with a sleeping bag and knapsack, his en-
tire luggage. He walks around the city at night, looks, listens. Without
prejudice, for he does not accept ready formulas, he listens with ge-
nuine interest and does not believe in anything which he himself can-
not confirm. Looking at him, I thought: "This fellow really knows
how to move, how to be there, where things are taking place." ...
Grotowski spoke often about overcoming cultural barriers. I imagine
this idea arises from his specifically Polish circumstances. He grew up
in a country which, geographically and culturally, found itself at the
crossroads of various cultures and influences .... During our conver-
sations, we ourselves wondered why it was so easy to talk. Grotowski,
laughing, explained that we had a similar attitude toward life. Perhaps
I should add that we have the same attitude toward our people, our ac-
tors. I asked him "What is Poland to you?" He answered with a half-
smile: "Poland is my mother-but not my father. I am looking for my
father." ... I think Grotowski's future is to be an eternal wanderer
without a homeland. Or he will bury himself somewhere in Poland,
will go crazy, and as a madman, in a conceptual and emotional sense,
he will be isolated from those around him. With his character and
makeup, I see no alternative. On the other hand, in that very same
character, I see the guarantee that he will never rest content with what
he has achieved, and he will not be sated with the paeans in France or
anywhere else. (Reprinted' in Polish in Dialog [1974])
Grotowski and His Laboratory 142
The Laboratory Theatre's fourteenth season began with a five-week visit to
the United States. The trip was, as usual, quite thoroughly prepared for. The
Drama Review in its June 1973 issue had published four of Grotowski's texts (in
translations by Boleslaw Taborski): "The Day That Is Holy," "Such As One
Is-Whole," "I See You, I React To You," and "This Holiday Will Become
Possible., The group was in the United States from 10 September through 16
October. Apocalypsis cum figuris was performed fourteen times in Philadelphia
in St. Alphonsus Cathedral. Later, Grotowski and the group plus selected
ticipants recruited from students in the area did a so-called "Special Project"
together, which lasted eight days. Cynkutis, Mirecka, and Flaszen conducted a
separate.course at the University of Pittsburgh. On 23 September, Grotowski
receiyed the tide Professor honoris causa from the University of Pittsburgh "for
his artistic and uncompromising devotion to transforming and
theatre arts so that they become a testimony of understanding between
people." On 15 October, there was a press conference with Grotowski at
Sardi's in New York, and on the same day, the Smithsonian Institution
honored him in Washington with a Diploma of Service for his "outstanding
contribution to the development of world theatre." The next day, before his
departure for Poland, Grotowski gave a lecture at the Smithsonian rnlCJrf>Tn
his most recent research.
On 27 October, the Student Club "Palacyk" in Wrodaw again
meeting with Grotowski and participants and guests of the Fourth I n t e r n a ~
tiona! Student Festival of the Open Theatre. An account of the meeting is
given by j6zef Kelera in the article "Grotowski in Semi-Indirect Speech"
published in Odra (1974). The reason for the title is that Grotowski allowed .
Kelera to tape the meeting but only under the stipulation that the critic simply
report events and not attribute any statements to Grotowski in the first person.
According to Kelera's account:
He [Grotowski) would like to ask all those present not to record and
not to take notes on what he says. For a variety of reasons. He has
often come across unauthorized publications on the subject of con-
ferences taking place in various countries. These published
were distorted and contained what is called "editing" in English ....
(A voice from the audience: "And what about Polish?") That is to say,
such accounts produce a montage that results in omissions
misunderstandings. But that is not the only point. The atmosphere
the meeting is important, inseparable from him, and that is not com-
municated in such publications ....
And now he waits for questions. He will not write them down, in
connection with which he will forget some of them (merriment), and
that will not be accidental. (Clapping, great merriment.) It is
that these questions do not strike or interest him. He probably will
forget the questions which seem essential to him.
143 Zbigniew Osinski
During the Festival, the Laboratory Theatre performed Apocalypsis four
times. Rena Mirecka replaced Elizabeth Albahaca [as Mary Magdelene]. This
was called "the second version of Apocalypsis-October 1973," but, in fact, it
was the third, [since the discarding of the white costumes for street clothes was
the actual second version]. With the production of Min Fars Hus (The House of
My Father) by the Odin Teatret, directed by Eugenio Barba, the issue arose
once again of Grotowski's "influence." It was in 1967 that the issue of "im-
itators and pupils" began to form. In 1969, of course, Claude Sarraute had
published "Grotowski and His Followers" in Le Monde. In 1971, the Perfor-
mance Group's production of Commune, directed by Richard Schechner, was
supposed to have been under Grotowski's influence. Later Tadashi Suzuki pro-
tested when Jack Lang called him "The Japanese Grotowski" in Le Monde. In
his review of Min Fars Hus, J6zef Kelera had this to say:
And here was the surprise: real Grotowski pupils! Independent and
practically like sons. Especially one of them: Eugenio Barba, the first
and oldest from Opole. He is the first liberated one, the first apostle of
the word and the glory of the Master in the world, and, today, a first-
rate artist ....
This was the most favorable review of the Odin T eatret appearing in the Polish
press. Others were more harsh. Both August Grodzicki (iycie Wars zawy) and
T adeusz Burzynski (Gazeta Robotnicza) saw Min Fars Hus as no more than a
well-done replica of the work conducted by the Laboratory Theatre in The Con-
stant Prince and Apocalypsis cum figuris. Grodzicki titled his account "Grotowski,
Scandinavian Style," while Burzynski believed that the entire Wrodaw Festival
labored in "Grotowski's shadow."
The Laboratory Theatre was in France the whole of November. Both Colette
Godard of Le Monde and Caroline Alexander of L'Express heralded the group's
arrival and explained the purpose of their visit. Alexander titled her article
"Grotowski's New Research. A Pagan Mystery Play in Sainte-Chapelle: For
Grotowski in France This is Just the Beginning":
The Year 1969: The birth of a new man . ... The beginning of new
research. Grotowski makes a tabula rasa of aesthetics . . . and all
"theatricalizing." He wants technical awareness to transform itself into
human awareness. He rejects the acting instinct. Life itself becomes
the object of his efforts. Grotowski becomes a hermit and a humanist.
In Poland, Grotowski regularly isolates himself in a forest with his
actors and a few novices. The purpose of this is to look life in the face
with complete objectivity. He W"luid like that objectivity to be the
basis of a bond between people . . . . That confrontation, which has
nothing to do with the "encounter groups" fashionable of late in the
United States, will take place in France after the last performance of
- --- - - -
Grotowski and His Laboratory 144
Apocal ypsis. . . .
Three different groups will be created simultaneously:
-a conventional class in theatrical technique will be held
in Paris for about twenty pupils;
-a workshop in paratheatrical research will be conducted
in a city in southern France for about thirty participants;
-a "holiday," a total experience, which will last eight days and
nights will occur in a distant corner of Brittany. Grotowski will
soul, and he will accept from five to eight people.
What is all this for? This research will one day lead to the birth
new type of art. Without spectators, but with real participants.
A utopia? Undoubtedly. But those who dare to su
themselves, to support each other in the unreal, may find ~
treasure there.
From 12 through 18 November, the group performed Apocalypsis cum
seven times in Sainte-Chapelle as part of the Festival d'Automne in
Afterwards, between ZO and 30 November, Grotowski conducted
paratheatrical sessions of "Special Project" as well as two other sessions in
attempt to realize the so-called "Composite Research Program" which he
begun in the United States.
Because of Grotowski 's participation in the Festival d'Automne,
published a collection of Grotowski's texts in both his own and Jerzy Lisows
translations: "Jour saint," "Tel qu'on est, tout entier," "Ce qui fur," and "Et
Jour saint deviendra possible." Grotowski then traveled from France to
United States, where he attended on 22 December the inauguration of an
stitute in New York named after him: The American Institute for the
and Study of the Work of ]erzy Grotowski. Its main goal, according to its faun
ding charter, was "the dissemination of Grotowski's artistic discoveries and
ideas in the United States." The inauguration took place in the apartment of
George White, president of the O'Neill Foundation, and numerous well-known
actors and directors, including Elia Kazan and Andre Gregory, were in atten-
The December 1973 issue of Dialog contained this statement by Zbigniew
The purpose of my reflection is not to question the theatre's right to
exist. The theatre itself does this well enough .... When considering
theatrical reform today, one must first of all leave the theatre a certain
amount of freedom and not mark out rigid paths (either artistically or
administratively) so as not to destroy the potential birth of something
which may not even be called theatre but which will grow from
theatre. Perhaps we will witness the birth of an entirely new human
thing-for people.

145 Zbigniew Osinski
At the beginning of the year, Grotowski was gone from Wroclaw for three
[ months. At the end of]anuary and beginning of February, he was in Australia,
he gave a talk at the University of Sydney and a lecture at the Polish
on the development of theatre. In Australia, he traveled more than
4000 kilometers to find the proper place for the forthcoming project to be con-
- ducted by the Laboratory Theatre. In March, he went to Sao Paulo in connec-
with the planned appearances of the Laboratory Theatre in Brazil. On his
; way back to Poland, he stopped in New York and Paris. During this period, in
:_ February, Ryszard Cieslak conducted classes in acting technique at the School
of the Arts, New York University.
At the end of March, the Laboratory Theatre arrived in Australia at the in-
---vitation of the Arts Council of that country. The group stayed in Australia for
almost three months, returning to Poland in mid-June. The group was involved
in two major enterprises during the trip. The first was a series of thirty-two per-
formances of Apocalypsis cum figuris presented in Sydney from 4 April through
18 May. The second task, whose significance to the developing research of the
group was especially great, was a continuation of the paratheatrical and other
experiments-the "Complex Research Program"-begun in both the United
States and France. Four different workshops were contained in this program,
including two paratheatrical ones: "Narrow Special Project," devoted to the in-
dividual work of participants; and "Large Special Project," geared to group
The performances of Apocalypsis were played in a specially-prepared chapel of
a Sydney cathedral: St. Mary's Cathedral Chapter House. 3600 spectators,
86% of whom were young people under the age of twenty-five, attended these
performances. The following are excerpts from reviews of Apocalypsis written by
critics attending the Sydney premiere:
Memories of the Polish resistance, the Warsaw sewers, the mass graves
under public buildings, the history of the foreign overlords and the
betrayal of allies are only just below the surface in any Pole, who
creates rituals to keep the memories fresh. All this is to be found in
Apocalypsis cum figuris, because it is the work of a Polish master ....
The actors, led by Cieslak . .. draw the audience into their own con-
centration . ... Being part of Apocalypsis is not an easy experience for
an Australian: and I do not mean because the words are foreign but
because the impulses on which it presses are strange to us in our
comfortable, materialistic, nominally ... adolescent country ....
Grotowski, the greatest dramatic innovator of the second half of the
20th century, has been enormouslv, influential in facing the theatre
with elemental impulses. (K. Brisbane, The Australian [1974])
Grotowski and His Laboratory 146
The actors are masters of the art of physical presence. They can
silence with a whisper or the slightest shuffle, they can evoke a
ing cataclysm with amazing outbursts of furious energy. When they
tack each other you can feel the blow, when they get randy you
smell the juices and when they chuck each other to the floor it is
bones which can give a silent yelp. These are not normal
actors. They have legs and feet and arms and fingers and torsos
faces through which the passing emotions of the moment flow
ingly. They are highly complex living organisms who have m
self-control. By eliminating the usual posturings and pretensions
have made themselves more approachable and contactable,
more impressively memorable .... It is a reflection of reality
many Australians may be unfamiliar with, may not wish to accept.
is dark and pessimistic and often violent, very much a product of-
Polish environment, a post-Auschwitz world in which a
Catholic tradition has collapsed in a welter of half-remembered
rors, a loss of faith and spiritual guilt. (B. Hoad, The Bulletin [1
After each performance, Grotowski, Cieslak, and Cynkutis carried on
versations with candidates signing up for specific groups organized within
framework of "The Complex Research Program." The number of
didates-over two thousand in the first screening process-far exceeded
number predicted both by the Australian organizers and members of the
troupe. The next stage was for the four workshop leaders-Grotowski, Cieslak,
Flaszen, and Cynkutis-to hold additional interviews with those who had s u ~
vived the original screening and had been directed to one or the other groups,
depending upon individual predispositions. In the end, fifty-four people were
selected for participation in the workshops. "That is the maximum," said
Flaszen. "Such research can be carried on, at least for now, only in small
groups" (Quoted by B. Majorek, Slowo Polskie [1975]).
The activities of the Laboratory Theatre were not limited to their perfor-
mances and "The Complex Research Program." Flaszen and Cynkutis con-
ducted practical classes with the troupes of the Syndicate Company and John
Bull's Nimrod Theatre. Grotowski had a press conference at the University of'
New South Wales and a second meeting at the Polish Consulate. The day .
before the group left Australia, Flaszen summed up the stay as follows:
Was this just a cultural event or something more? Did we find genuine
human understanding here, real human contact beyond the dif-
ferences in culture, traditions, experiences? Are we really leaving
something behind? Have they given us something of themselves? You
had a chance to see what happened at the performances of Apocalypsis. _.
You saw people who did not leave the auditorium until late into the
night, how they sat quietly in deep reflection, and how they spoke to
14 7 Zbigniew Osinski
~ - .
l ~

t ...
~ - -
~ ..
each other in whispers. They received the performance as a living ex-
perience and not as mastery of an art. In this kind of silence there is
wonder-at the world, at oneself, and at one's own life. It is difficult
not to feel grateful to them .... And then, every evening there was an
avalanche of requests from people who wanted to participate in our
workshops: the desire to prolong the mutual encounter beyond
Apocalypsis . ... Now, as we are leaving, I can say: we are leaving many
close friends behind ....
As for the Australians, ... they cannot live the events of the wide
world. They are far away, they have an entire continent at their
disposal, the four elements, and each in an unusually beautiful form.
. . . But when something important to them came from distant
Poland, they naturally began to ask about it. They wanted to know
what kind of tradition and experience stood behind us. A few par-
ticipants from my group plan to go to Poland. (Quoted by B. Majorek,
Slowo Polskie [1975])
After a brief return to Poland, Cynkutis began a two-month stay in Vienna
in late June. On 30 June, Grotowski too was in Vienna, where he gave a lecture
at the Palais Palffy. In early July, Grotowski was in Brazil, where he gave lec-
tures in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. From there, he went to Paris where he
participated with thirty others-writers, painters, architects, film and theatre
artists-in a UNESCO-organized international colloquium titled "The Role
and Place of the Artist in Modern Life." Grotowski's own address was entitled
"The Theatre of Contact, Meeting and Roots"; the Journal de Geneve the
following year published this talk under the altered titled "Changing Theatre
Into Encounter." On 25 July, Grotowski was back in Poland to be decorated by
the State Council with the Cross of the Order of the Rebirth of Poland. This
was one of the distinctions bestowed on creative talents and cultural activists
on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the Polish Peo-
ple's Republic at the close of World War II.
At the beginning of September, there was a series of performances of
Apocalypsis in Wrodaw in the new version. Ryszard Cieslak described the
essential changes:
Apocalysis cum figuris originated as a classical stage production with the
audience separated from the actors. The spectators (always 40 in
number) sat on benches ranged along the wall. They observed and
witnessed as if from a distance the events that transpired between the
actors in the center of the room. A while later we removed the ben-
ches and the audience grew to 150 persons. They sat on the floor in a
ring around us and were ro,uch closer to the actors. Finally we tore
down the black plaster from the walls and uncovered the bricks so
that we got rid of the legendary black hall .... But all these "external"
Grotowski and His Laboratory 148
changes, the removal of benches, the costumes replaced by ordinary
clothes, were not the most significant factor in the evolution of the
Apocalypsis. They astonished us, allowed us to take a new look at each
other, produced fresh reactions and associations, but they were not
the essential part of the transformation. I think that the most essentia
part was and is the search for ways of transcending, of getting away
from what is dark in Apocalypsis, an effort to move toward light and
also to see, to sense the direct and close presence of the people around
us which produces something that is most important (that cannot be
expressed in words), something sincere that happens between the in-
dividual who still is in som(> small part a spectator and the individual
who still is in some small part an actor. Although one yearns that the
old "spectator-actor" relic give way to another human relation. T h ~
score of the Apocalypsis is in effect as permanent as a river-bed, only
the water that flows in it is new and unknown. Apocalypsis is a kind of
sketch that always remains open to new experience, a cross between
theatre and experiment beyond theatre. (Interview, B. Gieraczynski,
Kultura [1975])
In late October and early November, Grotowski was again in Paris. In
November, as well, he was a guest of the Odin Teatret in Holstebro, where he
granted an interview to Italian Radio and Television. The second of the Polish
cycle of "Special Project" took place in late November and early December in
Brzezinka. In late December, Grotowski wrote officially to Jan Soyta, director
of the Wrodaw office of the Department of Culture. His lengthy document
contained the heading, "The Laboratory Institute: Program 1975-76," and was
shortly thereafter published in Teatr. In essence, the document defines quite
specifically the vast areas of focus for the coming year. Some of the topics
discussed specifically are "The Laboratory of Professional Therapy," designed
for professional actors seeking to remove blocks to their creativity; "The
Laboratory of Group Theory and Analysis," designed for group reflection on
problems bordering on art and life; "The Laboratory of Theatrical Matters,"
for critics, researchers; "The Laboratory of the Method ofEvents," designed for
actors attempting to go beyond technical aspects in the arranging of "events"
through action and improvisation; "The Laboratory of Collaboration with
Psychotherapy," for professional therapists interested in collaborating in group
experiments, etc. Grotowski closed his statement with the following words:
I The work of the laboratories, connected indirectly with the creative
processes in the field of theatrical arts, is not understood as a relic of
our theatrical past; we are now interested in how much paratheatrical
experiments can apply to the creative processes (or in professional
therapy), which we understand as a form of human contact and ex-
F .d

149 Zbigniew Osinski
Immediately following the publication of Grotowski's "The Laboratory In-
stitute: Program 1975-76" in Teatr, information began appearing about specific
workshops: a three-week series of "Spoken Encounters" to be conducted by
Flaszen; a paratheatrical meeting lasting several days titled "Special Project,"
for which one had to contact Ryszard Cieslak; and the inauguration of "The
International Studio" under the direction of Sypchalski and Flaszen, etc. The
public was systematically informed of the new undertakings of the Laboratory
Institute through meetings with members of the group in student clubs, at in-
stitutions of higher learning, in the press, and on radio and television.
Gazeta Robotnicza published in January an article by Tadeusz Buski (Burzyn-
ski) titled "Grotowski's Exit From the Theatre," and in February Wrodaw
Radio broadcast an interview with Grotowski by Stanislaw Gorzkowicz, which
ended with this admission:
Grozkowicz: You stopped being a director in order not to be your own
Grotowski: Yes, not to be my own follower, and ifl am to be my own
pupil, then I should be a rebellious one.
In March, Kultura published Bogdan Gieraczynski's interview with Ryszard
Cie5lak entitled "Without Acting" and republished "Exit from the
Theatre." Later in the month, it published Andrzej Bonarski's interview with
Grotowski. In June, Polish television aired a halfhour long interview with
Grotowski conducted by Witold Filler, and Odra published Grotowski's
theoretical statement concerning a new undertaking: "Project: the Mountain of
Ram e." All these activities provided information for candidates who wished to
participate in the "Special Project" and other workshops and were in essence an
invitation to such people. They were also signs of the evolution of the Wrodaw
theatre, which Burzynski summed up as follows:
It is always developing and uncovering unexpected aspects of its activi-
ty. The Laboratory has ceased to exist as a theatre. One should not ex-
pect new "premieres." After Apocalypsis cum figuris, Grotowski, if he is
to remain true to his principles (which exclude repetition, non-
creativity, copying his own previous achievements ... ), cannot realize
something that would fall into the category ... of a theatrical produc-
tion. The step beyond Apocalypsis had to lead out of the theatre in the
direction of the unnamed, which, if it fits within the boundaries of art,
will become a new of art. That step has been taken ....
Grotowski's goal, which he is seeking to achieve in stages through the
work of the Laboratory Theatre, .. . is to find the other pole of life and
Grotowski and His Laboratory 150
theatre, that is, the place and time where human beings stop
"disarm," and throw off their masks and simply be. But to be in
tion, in coexistence, with others. (Gazeta Robotnicza [1975]
In both his television interview with Filler and conversation with
Grotowski described his position in the Laboratory group as follows:
If someone claims that I ought to continue putting on
then he probably assumes that I was not a bad director, that I
something there, that there is some evidence you can trust me.
when I have entered another domain, a domain which I have
paratheatrical experiment, I need that credit. I am saying all this,
ventionally, in the first person, but I am thinking about our entire
I was a producer, a former director, and now I don't know how
describe it-or perhaps just a little . .. some say, a scientist. Maybe not
really a scientist, but some man who has had a theatrical adventure,
yes, somewhere along the line, a theatrical one. If we get close to this,
if we get to know this area [of theatrical adventure], this domain, so
well that we will be reproducing it-then I am sure we will enter
another domain. (Interview A. Bonarski, Kultura [1975])
Paratheatrical workshops of the "Special Project" type were held in Brzezinka
in February and March. But the first herald of the so-called Research Universi-
ty to be held in connection with the Theatre of Nations in Warsaw that sum-
mer appeared on 13 February in Gazeta Robotnicza. Burzynski published there
an informational article titled "Grotowski's Laboratory Becomes the Universi-
ty of the Theatre of Nations": in addition to the Laboratory Institute, there will
be two other groups-the Odin Teatret from Holstebro and probably STU
from Krakow-and that well-known directors such as Barrault, Ronconi, and
possibly Brook will participate.
In April and May, Grotowski traveled to the United States and Canada.
After that he went to Sweden, holding a number of meetings in academic
circles at universities in Stockholm and Malmo. Then in June, he was in War-
saw for the opening of the Theatre of Nations. From 11 through 13 June was a
symposium (held in Wilanow Palace) on the subject "New Tendencies in Con-
temporary Theatre." Grotowski spoke on the first day of the symposium, and
Leonia Jablonk6wna described his effect as follows:
The most striking and most controversial element of the afternoon
debate was Jerzy Grotowski's talk. With his usual flair, he first outlined
the successive evolutions and ideas transforming the former
Laboratory Theatre . . .. Of course, this talk provoked many doubts
; ~
151 Zbigniew Osinski
and questions .... Grotowski's talk found echoes in the conversations
and discussions of the following days. There were those who believed
that Grotowski's talk should not be included in discussions of theatre,
as long as Grotowski is declaring himself someone working beyond
theatre. The next day, Jean Darcante responded by saying that an ar-
tist of Grotowski's stature, who has achieved remarkable prowess in
world theatre, may and should participate in every debate on the sub-
ject of theatrical phenomena, independently of his own position at
any given moment . (Teatr [1975))
The Research University of the Theatre of Nations, directed by Grotowski
and the company of the Laboratory Institute, occurred in Wrodaw from 14
June through 7 July. Jozef Kelera described events in Odra as follows:
In the course of three weeks, Wrodaw became a real Mecca for theatre
people somehow dissatisfied with theatre or dissatisfied with
themselves in the theatre-people seeking a common solution.
Altogether over 500 participants came to Wrodaw to the Research
University from twenty-three countries (including Australia), as well
as from many cities in Poland. There were actors, directors,
dramaturgs, critics, lecturers from institutions of higher learning, an-
thropologists, psychologists, medical doctors, and .iournalists. Peter
Brook, Jean-Louis Barrault, Joseph Chaikin (Open Theatre), Eugenio
Barba (and his troupe from the Odin Teatret), Luca Ronconi (from
Orlando Furioso), and Andre Gregory (Manhattan Project). In other
words, "everybody."
Everyone gathered around Grotowski: those who had gone beyond
theatre and those still in it. The common slogan was: "to seek a basic
ground of understanding between people"; a new form "of encounter
with mankind"; and, in the case of theatre professionals, "seeking a
new vital base for practicing one's profession."
On Saturday, 14 June, in the Senate Hall of Wrodaw University, a round-
table conference lasting several hours officially inaugurated the Research
University. It was chaired by Jean Darcante, Secretary-General of ITI. The
complete program of the Research University consisted of (1) a general
laboratory, (2) specialized laboratories, (3) consultations in areas directly con-
nected with acting, (4) classes for foreign theatre artists, (5) public meetings with
foreign artists, (6) a steady program of works performed by the Odin Teatret,
(7) a program by the Daidalos Theatre of Malmo, Sweden, (8) film showings of
Laboratory Theatre performances, (9) film showings of experiments by foreign
artists, (10) a festival of films from. Sweden by Marianna Arhne, (11) perfor-
mances of Apocalypsis cum figuris, a ~ d (12) performances by theatres from Ugan-
Grotowski and His Laboratory 152
da, Scotland, and Japan.
The general laboratory was made up of various types of exercises and con-
sultations in which everyone participating in the Research University
part. Every evening, for example, were the so-called "beehives,"
experiments with several dozen people run usually by members of the
but also by others. The specialized laboratories were extensions of classes
previously conducted by members of the Laboratory Theatre. They
meetings with small groups of participants, conducted by members of th
troupe. This work took place both in Wrodaw and beyond the city. The
tivities were similar to those of the general laboratories, but the research
conducted among smaller groups of people. The specialized laboratory
Stanislaw Scierski, for example, was described as "Working Meetings," and
intention was to explore various forms of communication between people. Lui
wik Flaszen's specialized laboratory was called "Meditating Aloud" and
sisted of improvised dialogues by participants. Zbigniew Cynkutis called
specialized laboratory "Happening," and here analysis occurred as a result
concrete action. Zygmunt Malik's laboratory was called "Acting Therapy" and , '
was concerned with freeing the organic reactions of body, breathing, voice, and
Among the various consultations for participants were those conducted
Dr. Jan Kwasniewski and Kazimierz professor of psychiatry.
Kwasniewski advised actors on distributing energy and on diets.
consulted with actors on the subject of "positive disintegration" in creative
Then there were the workshops conducted by foreign theatre artists, Peter
Brook worked with a dozen or so people for three days. Joseph Chaikin did
likewise for a shorter period. The workshop of Andre Gregory lasted about two
weeks. The first part was conducted in Wrodaw and attracted about thirty peo-
ple. During the last few days, however, Gregory worked with a smaller group
and moved out to the countryside. Most of those Gregory worked with were
young people not connected to the theatre.
There were, as well, a number of public meetings with Peter Brook, Luca
Ronconi, Joseph Chaikin, Eugenio Barba, Jean-Louis Barrault, and Andre
Gregory at both the Polski and Wsp6kzesny Theatres. These were essentially
question and answer sessions, but often there were films shown illustrating the
work of the troupes working under these various directors. Grotowski usually
acted as translator at these meetings.
Probably the so-called "beehives" were the most widely attended events of
the Research University. There were a number of attempts in the press to
describe some of them. Of these descriptions, that of professor of psychiatry
Kazimierz deserves special attention:
Unusual forces appeared and were at work here. Imaginative, emo-
tional, intellectual; but also animistic, irrational, that is, those that
~ -
153 Zbigniew Osinski
could only be grasped intuitively. I observed bright, intelligible, and
clear dynamic reactions, on the one hand, and dark, irrational, almost
magical ones, on the other. It was because of the latter and because of
the animistic element that an aura of mystery appeared. Please notice
that this kind of mutual play of dynamisms can be found in great
works of literature such as Faust and Forefathers' Eve, which are, after
all, mystery plays .. ..
These two basic types of dynamism appearing in the "beehives"
represented for me a situation of development-the versatility of
development but also its authenticity. I observed rational, impulsive,
and social forces which evaded rational explanation. That's why I
have mentioned authenticity-and versatility as well.
I can give as an example the tendency-occurring in the course of a
"beehive"-to create a harmonized social milieu; the tendency to give
one another help-both rational and irrational-in situations of
danger or crisis. Another example can be the desire to experience
courage and heroism, to gain an understanding of difficult situations .
. . . The "beehive" is a developmental drama. Sometimes art is such a
drama, but this happens rarely, and then one calls it great art.
"Beehives" may have significant meaning in practice because they are
a demonstration and participation in a developmental mystery play.
There can be various types of "beehives," but I that in addition
to their artistic value, they have, from the psychiatric and
psychological point of view, a very significant therapeutic value ... .
I participated in a "beehive" where we were working on overcoming
fear and in liberating our empathic desire to help others .... It seems
that individual personality was sublimated and higher aims appeared.
Social contacts were broadened and deepened.
I should like to draw attention to two other things. "Beehives" free
one from routine activities and break harmful stereotypes. One notices
other values; one sees more universally. Furthermore: in the dynamics
of the "beehive," I see the opportunity to free oneself from a one-sided
position. I see the revitalization of many aspects of human life, in-
dividual and social: empathy, aestheticism, sincerity, directness, con-
trolled impulse, harmony ....
In "beehives" I see the possibility of "grafting" and of creative in-
fluence in many areas beyond the reaches of art as such .... This is
something new, although there were forms in the past that were
similar. It is enough to recall the Greek mystery plays, whose main
purpose was to release developmental stimuli. "Beehive" is a novelty in
the sense that it is theatre which constantly ceases to be theatre and
turns passive participants, t,hrough action, into actors of their own
fate. That is, it contains eiements of individual and collective self-
improvement that result from active participation in developmental
Grotowski and His Laboratory 154
In "beehive" I see the union and synthesis of multi-layered
multi-leveled action. In "beehive," the elements at work are
emotional, and imaginative. "Beehive" acts through the
and synthesis of movement, colors, words, songs, and music. It
to me t.hat this is one form of the theatre of the future, a theatre
improves man and stimulates his development. (Interview,
Bonarski, Odra [1975])
There were innumerable press accounts concerning the specifics
significance of the Research University. Mafgorzata Dziewulska best grasped
It will take us ten years to assess the significance of the
University. That is how much it was directed to the future. Today
not the time for a summary: this is just the beginning of a start!
almost incomprehensible broadening of the concept of theatre. Just .
each new stroke of boldness is universally condemned, so too will
be condemned. (Dialog [ 197 5])
Andre' Gregory said during the session that "what is happening here today is .
one of the most important events in the entire history of theatre . . .. What is
being done in Wroclaw today has the dimensions of Woodstock, but, this,
hope, won't vanish." (Interview, A. Bonarski, Dialog [1976])
From late September through late November, the Laboratory Institute par-
ticipated in the yearly Biennale in Venice. The group from Wrodaw had its
base on the island of San Giacomo in Palude in the Venetian Lagoon.
Through September and October, the group gave nineteen performances of
Apocalypsis. A Polish correspondent in Italy gave the following account:
The Italian press is full of Grotowski .... Everyone speaks and writes
only of him. His troupe's two-month visit overshadowed everything in
Venice, everything that was presented at the Biennale .. .. The press
reviews emphasized the mastery of acting technique, the sublimation
of form, and the actors' perfect control of body and gesture . . . .
Critics devote a great deal of attention to Grotowski himself: "Jerzy
Grotowski, who, during the last decade has revitalized the world stage,
introduced his concept of theatre, which works with itsown hands,
feet, skin. This is the creative hope of today's theatre .. . ", wrote
L'Unita. "Of the six excellent actors, Ryszard Cieslak is a personality
impossible to forget" (Paese Sera). (iycie Warszawy [1975])
Burzynski wrote in a similar vein in Gazeta Robotnicza:
:, . ,
'::" "


155 Zbigniew Osinski
!>,, ...
.. .. :.:
For the press conference organized on 25 September with Grotowski, a
thousand people squeezed into an auditorium having a seating capaci-
ty of 700. Grotowski presented the principles behind his "Special Pro-
ject," the complex research program. He answered questions. The con-
ference goes on longer than expected. When the rental contract for
the auditorium expired, the participants moved to San Samuele
Square, to continue their exchange.
The Italian press exhibits great interest in the activities of
Grotowski's Institute. It is unanimously considered the main event of
the Biennale. He is called the "leader of the world theatre vanguard"
in L'Unita, Rinascita, Il Giorno, Carriere della Sera, and other publica-
tions carrying accounts of Apocalypsis. The accounts are full of ap-
probation. In the 29 September issue of Il Giorno, the widely-respected
Italian critic Guerriere wrote: "Apocalypsis cum figuris, in analyzing
myths, reaches for the roots of European culture .... This production
is a point of transition, an opening onto another adventure, like
'Special Project,' the scattered seed of the Laboratory Theatre ....
There is much that remains after the performance."



In Italy the Laboratory Institute also focused on its research program, a con-
tinuation of the kinds of experiment conducted for the Research University in
Wrodaw during the summer. The whole thing was calleL Research University
ll, which, in addition to performances of Apocalypsis (after which candidates
were selected), was made up of eight workshops. They were conducted in
various places: on the island of San Giacomo in Palude, in the Biennale
gardens in the Villa Comunale in Mirano, and in the twelfth-century castle of
Montegalda near Vincenza. The number of applicants for specific workshops
far exceeded the number planned for. There was also a scholarly session on the
"Special Project," where Grotowski spoke on the topic "The Development and
Evolution of the Actors' Institute of the Laboratory Theatre into the Research
University of the Theatre of Nations." Also for this group were shown films of
Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, Akropolis, The Constant Prince, and Cieslak's
Exercises. At another session, there was a discussion meeting in which Peter
Brook, Luca Ronconi, and Grotowski participated.
During the period the group was in Venice, there was a heated discussion be-
ing carried on in the pages of Polish publications such as Kultura and Literatura,
among others, concerning the complexion and meaning of the current work of
Grotowski's troupe. The argument was begun by Madej Karpinski in his article
"Anti-Grotowski." The critic sharply criticized Grotowski's television interview
of 1 June 1975 together with publications appearing over the past few years
about the Laboratory Theatre's work, including Bonarski's interview with
Grotowski. "Therefore, Grotowski's y.rork today is nothing more than turning
his earlier fame and respect to and respect that work in the theatre
- ----------
Grotowski and His Laboratory 156
has brought him. In this context, his escape from the theatre
something suspect .... The result of this, then, is that Grotowski's prem
have no authority, since they are based on individual, incommunicable
perience .... The only kind of artistic philosophy that makes any sense is
kind from which derive common truths which are applicable in all

Then Karpi_nski criticized the "beehives" on the basis of two published
tions, one of which was conducted by Andre Gregory and described
Malgorzata Dzieduszycka: "If there really is a beautiful, wise, and lofty idea
what Grotowski is doing, then it has a chance to burn brightly only
fog of innuendo burns away. If this does not happen and the ugly
'mystification' is uttered, then please remember I was the first" (Kultura [19
]6zef Maslinski went ever further: " .. . it is I who long have claimed
Grotowski should not be supervised by the Ministry of Culture but by t
Ministry of Health. I kept repeating: don't look in that direction for
Until he finally announced it himself .... But the miracle seekers are no(
satisfied. They will continue sniffing Grotowski 'for theatre.' " ('Zycie L -
Antoni S!onimski in an article titled "The Talkative Couch" in Tygodnik
Powszechny speaks of "raving" and "murky statements" by "guru Grotowski,"
whose words cannot be summed up because there is nothing to sum up:
I am afraid of ravings, violence, pigheadedness. I am afraid of that wall
which suddenly looms up between people. The wall of fanaticism ca
not be punctured; it deflects words of common sense and the call for
proportion .... It is not important what goes on in Brzezinska outside
of Wrodaw .... The result is not mutual understanding but complete
misunderstanding. This is an alienating of oneself from the difficult
times in which we live. It is the creation of an enclave, a separate group
tied together with an emotional rigor and the charisma of the leader.
I do not fear that Grotowski will seize power in Brzezinka and near-
by Wrodaw, but all of this is old and boring, even though it is
Thus at the end of 1975 and beginning of the new year, the same old game
was being repeated. Tadeusz Byrski probably best got at the crux of the matter
in a letter to the editor of Kultura:
There is one thing I am sure of. In our theatrical life, Grotowski has
played the role of a pike released into a pond full of overfed, stupified,
drowsing carp ....
Was Osterwa crazy when in the period of his greatest triumphs as an
actor ... , he threw out his entire store of acting charms and began to
157 Zbigniew Osinski
reform? Surely he began with himself. He thought things through,
worked out a new kind of method, and, of course, he took advantaoe
of his professional experiences and included them in a new form ~ f
practice. And so what? Didn't he have the right to do that?
It is known, and I believe that Karpinski knows about this too, that
Osterwa was accused of exactly the same things as Grotowski : that he
was a mystifier, a clown (worse than what Karpinski has said about
Grotowski), a big zero .... Grotowski and his Laboratory undoubted-
ly fascinate us; and it is all right to write about them and criticize them
sharply. But I have the impression that the author of "Anti-
Grotowski" was led astray by his desire to be the first heroic unmasker
of this uncommon phenomenon.
The polemic with Karpinski [and others] was taken up by Kelera and Burzyn-
ski. It had an excessively journalistic tone, and the mutual invective and
defense of egos dimmed the subject of the argument. In any event, the argu-
ment was carried on in general ignorance of the character and resiarch level of
the Laboratory Institute as well as of Grotowski's own statements, especially
the most personal of them expressed in the interview granted to Andrzej
What came to be called "Openings" soon began to function like the perfor-
mances of Apocalypsis, which, since 1971, had been the source whereby people
were selected for specific paratheatrical projects and workshops. At the begin-
ning of February, Burzynski reported the following:
The Jerzy Grotowski Laboratory Institute will in the next few months
conduct an entirely new form of paratheatrical meetings. They are
called "Openings-the City of Wrodaw." These will be experimental
workshops conducted in an urban setting (in contrast to the "Special
Project"). These are thought to be a continuation and development of
the so-called "beehives" from the Research University of the Theatre
of Nations.
This time they will be open to everyone who can stand the long-
term effort. The only form of participation is active participation,
because this is a form of paratheatrical experience and not a play. Ob-
viously if a person has overestimated his strength and finds the ac-
tivities inappropriate, he is free to leave at any time. In order to avoid
misunderstandings and to help those who are willing to choose an ap-
propriate experiment, the various encounters will differ only in their
points of departure. The actual activity of the encounters will be deter-
- --- -- --------
Grotowski and His Laboratory 158
mined by the participants themselves. "Openings" are preceded
"Openings-the City of Wrodaw" were conducted by
Cieslak in March, and Spychalski in April.
In the meantime, Grotowski was in Paris in February to sign an agreement
with the French Secretary of State to Cultural Affairs, Michel Guy. The
ment was for the Laboratory Institute to conduct experiments in France at an
historic monastery near Saintes in the southwestern part of France.
In April, Grotowski went to Paris again and from there on to Mexico. It was
at this time that the books of Carlos Castaneda-about Don Juan the Y
witch doctor-were being widely read among young people in the West. In
characteristic way, Grotowski decided to see for himself and arranged a
meeting with Castaneda. He had done things like this before. After re
Wtodzimierz Pawluczuk's Wierszalina, for example, he had set out for the most
remote corners of the Bialystok region in Poland in search of traces of the peo-.
pie described by Pawluczuk.
The Laboratory Institute's projects in France lasted from the beginning of
May to the end of July. Leszek Kolodziejczyk made the following
The old rundown abbey in Ia T enaille and the equally rundown palace
next to it were a Mecca drawing Grotowski enthusiasts from all over
France and the world for three months. Some of the participants were
drawn by an earlier acquaintance with the Wroclaw Laboratory and
their curiosity concerning the directions its research was taking.
Others were drawn by the name and the desire to be a part of what
Grotowski calls "a meeting" or "an experience." Others, professional
actors and teachers, were attracted by the opportunity to improve the
techniques of their craft. When last March there was an extensive in-
terview with Grotowski in Le Monde and the announcement that from
May to September he would conduct courses and experiments in Ia
T enaille, there was no end of applications. About two thousand came
from France, Italy, Japan, the United States, Latin America, and from
other countries and continents. (iycie Warszawy [1976))
Only a few over 200 people were chosen from all who applied. The activities
of the Institute or "Grotowski '76" as the French officially referred to it, includ-
ed a whole series of courses and a program which was, in large measure, parallel
to the project "The Mountain of Flame." This was the Laboratory Institute's
first trip abroad without a production.
Similar workshops accompanied by performances of Apocalypsis were plan-
ned for fall at the Tenth Festival of Arts in Shiraz, Iran. Grotowski even travel-
ed to Iran in March, but the group itself never got there. Shortly before the
festival was to begin, a boycott was announced by a group of critics and artists

a.; ,

159 Zbigniew Osinski
in protest against the terror in Iran [under the Shah]. The initiator of the
boycott was Eric Bentley, and he was followed by Kenneth Tynan, John
Arden, and David Mercer. A few other groups, as well, did not show up for the
Shortly after the return of the Laboratory Institute from France, a few dailies
published information about the selection of candidates to help prepare "Pro-
ject: The Mountain of Flame." The person responsible for its artistic realization
was Jacek Zmyslowski, and it was to him that applications were to be sent .
Iri August, Grotowski met in Wrodaw with a group of Americans (in col-
laboration with the Kosciuszko Foundation in New York) from the Summer
School of Polish Culture. Barbara Osterloff wrote the following report of the
In a few of the conversations I had, my partners did not conceal that
they had come to Poland, first of all, to take a close look at the
Laboratory Theatre . . . but also to meet Grotowski, whose_personali-
ty had an almost magnetic power. The courses at the Laboratory
Theatre were the focal point for the participants in the program, if not
the focal point of their stay in Poland. (Teatr [1976])
In late September, Grotowski was in Belgrade for the Theatre of Nations. He
was a member of the organizing committee. Under the auspices of UNESCO
and with Barba as a guide, there was an International Workshop of Theatre
Research, which was inaugurated by a three-hour meeting with Grotowski.
Young troupes from thirteen countries took part in the workshop. There were
also dramaturgs, lecturers in theatre, and critics from throughout the world.
The films of Akropolis and The Constant Prince were shown.
In the fall, press articles describing the activities of the Laboratory Theatre in
the new season began to appear. The chief focus would be on "Project: The
Mountain of Flame," and, because of this, no foreign tours were planned by the
The production of "The Mountain of Flame" is being prepared, accor-
ding to Grotowski, through " .. . two types of permanently renewed
experiments, namely 'The Way' and 'Vigil.' 'The Way' is a course of
action which develops through movement in a very broad space. It
prepares the way, among small groups, to the place 'Project: The
Mountain of Flame.' These experiments prepare the way of par-
ticipants whose sensitivity and needs are similar-before they meet the
others on the 'Mountain' as well as those quite different from them
later on.
" 'Vigil' is a series of short several-hour meetings open to everyone
who accepts the of active participation. Of course, by its very
nature it is something completely different from a play, because, first of
- - - - - ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Grotowski and His Laboratory 160
all, the progress of the experiment is dependent to a very great degree
on the participants, and, secondly, there is no division into actors,
viewers, or action. It can be compared to the function of performances
in the Laboratory Theatre insofar as it is continued rhythmically a cer-
tain number of times per month on specific days.
"What I am talking about here is not a work in the sense of a creative
product, but it is in another sense a creative and collective process, .
open to new possibilities and, . therefore, different each time. That is
how it is with 'The Way' and 'Vigil' and especially with 'Project:
Mountain of Flame.' " (Interview, T. Burzynski, Trybuna Ludu [1976])
The first "Vigil" took place on 27-28 September 1976 in the performance
space of the Laboratory Theatre. Grotowski also said that :
Together with "The Mountain of Flame," we are also putting on "Ip.-
tercontinental," a program for foreign students in various artistic in-
stitutions, universities, and research institutes. This is really a type of
Research University spread out over several countries. Its courses and
experiments are conducted by specific members of our group. We also
have agreed to continue the program which we recently organized in
France. In January, our studio renews its courses for foreign students.
We are filming some of the previous works and research: on unblock-
ing the voice and on physical dynamics which, as it turned out in prac-
tice, found application not only among students but also among
specialists in cultural animation, those who work with children, and
practicing psychologists and orthophoniatrists. (Interview, Burzynski,
In October, Grotowski went to Paris and from there on to Canada, where he
stayed for almost a month, presenting the lectures and holding meetings in
Hamilton, Ontario. At the end of October, the Wrodaw press informed the
public that in November and December there would be a series of experimental
meetings at the Laboratory Institute. Ludwik Flaszen, for example, would con-
duct "Conversations": "In conversation, in dialogue, in the thinking through
of things together, in being with other participants, the participants will have
the opportunity to test themselves, to test what is creative in human beings
... " (Gazeta Robotnicza [1976]).
In mid-November, Grotowski was in Moscow to take part in a two-day
Polish-Russian theatre seminar. He talked of the various stages in the develop-
ment and evolution of the Laboratory Theatre and about its new program of
cultural research. He was invited to participate in discussions in the offices of
the monthly T'eatr and to meet with members of the Moscow Art Theatre and
the Sovriemiennik. The accounts of these sessions emphasized the following:
"Grotowski's artistic path stirs all the more interest among Soviet creative ar-

161 Zbigniew Osinski
tists, as we know, because he studied in Moscow, and one of the basic sources
of inspiration in his theatre research was the artistic work and theories of
Stanislavsky" (T. Burzynski, Gazeta Robotnicza [ 1976)). During his stay,
Grotowski visited one of his teachers, Yuri Zavadsky, in the hospital (Zavadsky
died in April 1977 in Moscow).
In December, there was an announcement that Apocalypsis cum figuris would
not be performed again (Gazeta Robotnicza [1976)). [In actuality, Apocalypsis
contined to be performed by the group almost until the death of Antoni
Jahol:kowski in September 1981.]
During the Christmas holidays, Grotowski took a trip to India with his
One of the participants in the paratheatrical research of the Laboratory In-
stitute described its meaning and significance:
"The Mountain of Flame" is one of the most interesting and most con-
sistently far-reaching creative programs designed in Po:ish culture in
the past few years. Touching on important issues of in
culture, its institutionality, alienation of artistic creativity, and means
of interhuman communication, this program touches the crux of all
the great humanistic issues of our times. It is a question directed to the
future of mankind and his culture. (L. Kolankiewicz, Kultura [1976))
Grotowski's and the Laboratory Institute's path to active culture is summed
up in this. In some ways, they are representative and carriers of "the new."
Their situation in the wider context of contemporary culture is perhaps best
characterized by the Polish religious historian and psychologist, Jerzy Pro-
The people who are bearers of this tendency [toward "the new"] are
accused by the representatives of the old, dying culture, of what else
but escapism. These people "run away" from the world (the world
shaped by the old culture) just as at the end of the ancient world the
Fathers of the Desert or the first monks escaped. But, as Toynbee cor-
rectly says: can someone be accused of escapism if he leaves a sinking
ship to bring help? (Zycie i Mysl [Life and Mind, 1977))
1976 .. 1986: A Necessary Afterword-
Robert Findlay
Zbigniew Osinski's book stops at that point when the first significant in-
stances of the new paths taken by Grotowski in the early 1970s were
demonstrated and acknowledged publicly. Much of the Labo-
ratory Institute's paratheatrical experimentation in the early 1970s had gone on
chiefly in private among members of the troupe and perhaps a few friends, but,
by summer 1975, with the Research University held in Wrodaw in connection
with the Theatre of Nations in Warsaw, Grotowski and his people "went
public"-and clearly in an international manner. There was enormous interest
in Grotowski's work generated in the international press at this time.
Grotowski in 1975 had brought together most of the major theatrical ex-
perimenters in the world-Peter Brook, Jean-Louis Barrault, Joseph Chaikin,
Andre Gregory, Eugenio Barba, Luca Ronconi, et al.-to work on a collective
experiment. It was the theatrical equivalent of the Bohr Institute for advanced
physicists in Copenhagen, about which Grotowski had spoken a number of
years earlier (see "Methodical Exploration" in Towards a Poor Theatre). Malgor-
zata Dziewulska's prediction at the time, quoted by Osinski, that the Research
University was so much directed to the future that it would take ten more years
to truly assess its significance, today seems prophetic. But also clear at the point
that Osinski ends his discussion in 1976 is the desire by Grotowski and his col-
leagues, as part of"Project: The Mountain of Flame," to open up paratheatrical
experiments such as "The Way" and "Vigil" to an even wider public than had
ever served simply as audience members for the group's theatrical perfor-
Despite Osinski's commendable attempt to provide an account of these new
directions, specifically through quoting an extended interview with psychiatrist
Kazimierz who participated in one of the so-called "beehives" at the

167 Zbigniew Osinski
Research University, Osinski's effort generally does not give the reader who has
never participated in such experiments a very concrete image of what a
"beehive" might have been like. Dl!browski's description, though highly in-
teresting, is essentially theoretical rather than specific and is more concerned
with the psychological and psychiatric implications of these new methods than
with their significance as works existing somewhere on the fine line dividing art
and life. And only tangentially recognizes the important implica-
tions of this work for actors.
To provide a somewhat more solid basis for understanding Grotowski's and
the Laboratory Institute's work over the past decade, following are several con-
crete descriptions of events, paratheatrical and otherwise, that have been
recorded by participants. Grotowski has gone in other directions since the
period 1975-1976, toward what he has called "Theatre of Sources" and now
presently in Irvine, California, what he calls "Objec ;ive Drama." But each of
the more recent directions, not unlike the evolution of his theatrical work, is an
extension from previous experiments. In short, where Grotowski is today is
best understood by noting where he has been.
The first example, like account, is a very early description of a
"beehive" at the Research University, this time led by Ryszard Cieslak. The ac-
count is by Iwona Wojtczak, and it appeared in the November 1975 issue of
It is the largest room of the Laboratory Theatre. Every fifteen seconds
another person enters the room. One can feel only that the space is
filled with people. Someone is leading me by the hand: "What's your
name? Repeat it aloud. Let it appear now among the breathing in the
darkness, in the silence." A small light comes on; somebody
distributes boxes of matches. Cieslak says: "In their light, one has to
see everyone, to see each face." People light the matches, walk around,
stop in front of one another. Some are looking; others don't know
"how to look, how to see." To some that gesture so human and at the
same time impersonal comes with difficulty. They sit against the wall
and are looking (though looking at others is not acceptable because it
doesn't allow others to concentrate). They are looking to see how
those who are "liberated and free" behave. Those sitting against the
wall can at least ponder the question, "How come I'm not capable of
doing that?" But if they are allowed to observe and if they are willing
enough to try, after some time even for them those channels which
were blocked before open up. The first small step toward spontaneity
is taken. That spontaneity is achieved by an effort of the conscious
will; it is, in a sense, learned, like everything else that one wants to
have. We are out of matJhes; everyone gets two small pieces of wood;
everybody catches the common contact in the rhythm of the same
beats. Some are dancing; others are singing; somebody catches a torch
Grotowski and His Laboratory 168
and a mad pursuit of the fire begins. When everything quiets down, in
that silence Cie5lak says: "We are moving in the clouds . . .. We are sit-
ting and our hands are swaying in the wind .... "Making those calm,
swaying movements, people are sitting on the floor, then lying down.
Cieslak is tying with twine the hands and feet of those lying down.
One . feels every movement, the slightest vibration of the people
around. The windows are opened at that moment-it is very early,
bluish dawn. Cieslak says: "Now listen to the city." There is thick
silence so characteristic of all those meetings. A girl is singing; it's
three a.m.
For those who were to participate in later, more elaborate paratheatrical pro-
jects with members of the Laboratory Institute, the "beehive" described by
Wojtczak may seem quite primitive. Its basic features, however, are similar to
most para theatrical works that came later: namely, it had a structure with ,a
clear beginning, middle, and end; it had at least one leader from the "inside"
and a group of participants from the "outside"; it made no clear separation be-
tween performers and spectators, as in a traditional theatrical piece; its action
also made no distinction between a fictive world and the real world but rather
trod a fine metaphoric line between the two; and its energy grew not simply
from a leader but, within the confines of its form, from the improvisatory im-
agination of the total group. What is striking about the "beehive" described by
Wojtczak is the great amount of verbalization and instruction that Cieslak
seems to have given. In later projects, communication among participants and
leaders was invariably non-verbal.
What follows in abbreviated form is my own description of the "opening" of
the paratheatrical project "Tree of People," conducted by Zbigniew Cynkutis,
which occurred in Wrodaw in January 1979 and lasted for seven days and
seven nights. The full account may be found in Theatre Journal for October
On Friday the 5th of)anuary 1979 at approximately 5:30p.m. I arriv-
ed with some fifty others (Australians, Canadians, British, French,
Germans, Dutch, Italians, and other Americans) at the offices and
rehearsal rooms of the Teatr Laboratorium in downtown Wrodaw,
Poland. We were given a hot meal of soup and chicken and told to im-
mediately separate our gear into those things that would be absolutely
essential for several days and those non-essentials we could store.
Later that evening each of us was taken individually by a member of
the Laboratorium and introduced to the space where we would be
confined for the next seven days and seven nights . ...
There were approximately fifteen members of the Laboratorium
with us throughout the seven days and nights: Grotowski himself,
Ludwik Flaszen, the entire acting company that performs Apocalypsis

169 Zbigniew Osinski
cum figuris, plus a number of newer, younger members added in the
early 1970s when the emphasis was shifting from theatrical to
paratheatrical experiments .... We had been told in a letter .. . not to
count on regular sleeping and eating. Also we were not to come as
students expecting them to be our teachers. Nor were we t o come ex-
pecting to create a theatrical situation or to function as actors. The let-
ter [in English] did contain something of a statement of direction for
us, but it was intentionally poetic and ambiguous and thus open to a
multiplicity of interpretations and responses: "Tree of People is for us
opus river, stream time, a place where one can dip in. Therefore when
you arrive be a part of the stream, let it be born in you, let if flow
through you. To give a chance to it one must remove the obligation of
productivity and approach the element of attentiveness and
straightness.". . .
The aCtivities occurring ifl ... [the performance space on the third
floor] were collective and improvisational, usually involving as few as
twenty and as many as sixty people. It was not against the rules to sit
and watch for a time. Grotowski, for example, watched frequently
from as unobtrusiv,e a position as possible. Early on in our stay, the
members of the Laboratorium functioned most clearly as guides or
leaders in this room, creating physical images and vocalized sounds
that the rest of us would follow. But as the days and nights progressed
and further silent arose within the entire group, the
Laboratorium members retreated from these roles of leadership, seem-
ingly encouraging them to be handled by those of us from the outside.
As most came to see eventually, however, one functions best both as
leader and follower simultaneously if the group is really functioning
creatively together .... I was reminded frequently of the manner in
which a jazz ensemble improvises spontaneously, listening to one
another, and playing off one another ....
A collective creation usually began with the group walking
counterclockwise in a large ellipse. Sometimes the tempo of our walk-
ing would be rapid, sometimes slow, sometimes we would be running.
Gradually some of the group would begin to move in a clockwise direc-
tion, and thus we would be compelled to move around one another as
we met going in opposite directions .... Frequently the meeting [with
another person] would grow from a simple little walking dance. We
would circle one another frontwards and backwards in this dance and
then move on to another partner ....
As physical and vocal contacts between two or several would evolve,
the group sense would become more pronounced. Bodies sometimes
piled together or rari together. Sometimes people lay on their backs
and improvised melodies together. Sometimes running, we chanted
nonsense syllables. Sometimes slow-motion wrestling matches occur-
]rotowski and His Laboratory 170
red. Occasionally something resembling an American Indian dance
and music would evolve. Sometimes only one person would improvise
vocally while others would respond physically to the rhythm and
melody ....
On our final night together, it was the youngest members of the
Laboratorium who seemed to be functioning as guides. There was
some good guitar music (by Jacek Zmysfowski], a lot of improvised
non-verbal singing, and a seemingly strong spirit of camaraderie. As
night progressed into day, those of us who were older tended to sit
back _along the walls watching the younger ones, but still singing with
them, both observers and participants, witnesses to what was occur-
ring, but at the same time collaborators and contributors .. ..
"Tree of People" was a work the Laboratory Institute "performed" with
rious groups of outsiders throughout 1979 and 1980. It was a work that ex-
xed the far reaches of the actor/spectator relationship, the sources of human
!ativity, and the manner in which individuals can make connections, both
.ysically and non-verbally, with one another. But more than that it seemed to
:Jlore what might best be called "a third realm"-a realm that is neither art
the one hand nor life on the other but rather something else that partakes
both without really being either.
n May 1981, Grotowski appeared at an open meeting at Hunter College in
w York, where a film documentary of "Vigil" shot in Milan by Mercedes
egory was shown. "Vigil" was conducted in a large empty room by Jacek
,yslowski with four other younger members of the Laboratory Institute, who
ved as guides, with a group of approximately thirty-five outsiders. Unlike
:ee of People," in which participants improvised movement and non-verbal
mds and melodies, "Vigil" was simply soundless movement. In most other
Jects, however, the two paratheatrical works were similar. After the film,
Jtowski spoke with great specificity about the techniques employed by
ysfowski and his colleagues in realizing "Vigil" and in general about the
1niques used in all paratheatrical work. Participants for "Vigil" were never
cted beforehand by interview, said Grotowski. Those who came simply
:le a reservation and presented themselves at a specified time and place, hav-
been told only that they would not be a traditional audience but would be
,ct\y participating. Zmyslowski and his colleagues during the first phase of
structure always brought people into a large room in essentially the same
, creating a "field," as Grotowski explained, or "a kind of spider's web" that
:ld allow easy entrance into physical participation by those from the out-
. The essential movement and rhythm were always dictated by the out-
rs. If they were active, the guides followed. If they were less active, then the
les subtly "stimulated the space, creating certain vibrations in the space, but
the participants alone. If the participants were not pushed, gradually they
171 Zbigniew Osinski
entered the field of movement. But always the participants dictated the
Grotowski then spoke of the second structural phase in which the partici-
pant, now "caught in the spider's web," was taken by the guides "in a track of
movement," which was much more open than the first phase. "When the
movement became false or chaotic, then the leaders once again would weave
the spider's web. Then the participants would enter. Then the guides would
follow the participants." In this phase, Grotowski spoke of what h ~ called "the
strategy of personalization," a permissive tactic in which the concentration of
all group leaders was on one or two among the entire group of participants who
were "in a state of grace." These were the ones most clearly involved, "most
organic," and the guides adapted all their activity toward them-and hence the
rest of the participants followed. In a sense, these participants became leaders
under the guidance of Zmyslowski and his colleagues.
In the third phase, or the ending, there was always silence and a stopping of
movement. "It is not a spiritual silc;nce-not a silence of monks," said
Grotowski. "It is a silence of saturation, a silence of intensity." And
Zmystowski, according. to Grotowski, always recognized the precise moment to
end, to take each person individually out of the room. "What counts in this
work," Grotowski said, "is a sense of opening the movement and the space, the
body and the space, the body and the movement, and nothing else-really
nothing else: no miracles, no mystery, no monkey business, nothing spiritual,
no big emotions. It's simple" (Grotowski spoke in French, with a simultaneous
translation into English by Andre Gregory).
Certainly one of the reasons that Grotowski was able to speak at Hunter Col-
lege of the paratheatrical work with such an objective and clinical eye was that
by 1981 he himself had left such work far behind, just as a decade earlier he had
left the theatre behind. Grotowski had begun work on the project he titled
"Theatre of Sources" as early as 1977 through the support of International
Theatre Meetings and the Ministry of Art and Culture in Warsaw. The project
eventually received the honorary patronage of ITI in Paris and financial
assistance from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National University of Mex-
ico, and the Center for Theatre Research in Milan. Over a period of three
years, from 1977 to 1980, Grotowski had worked with a multi-national group of
thirty-six people representing such diverse cultures as India, Colombia,
Bangladesh, Haiti, Africa, Japan, Poland, France, Germany, and the United
States. While members of this primary group at various times spent a number
of months at a field base near Wrodaw, there were also expeditions to study
specific source techniques in the voodoo culture of Haiti, in the Y oruba area of
Africa, among the Huichol Indians of Mexico, and with yogis in India.
"Theatre of Sources" was a project of vast dimensions and ramifications, the
primary focus of Grotowski's attention until approximately 1983 when he
began work at the University of California at Irvine on his present project,
Grotowski and His Laboratory 172
"Objective Drama." "Theatre of Sources," owing to its complexity, is not easy
to explain, but one facet of Grotowski's search in this project seems to have
been a concern with the nature of perception in the contemporary world. Ac-
cording to Grotowski, a culture programs its people to perceive the world in a
peculiar and indirect (as opposed to immediate) way. Like a computer, our
mind through its memory circuits responds to stimuli in a predictable and pro-
grammed manner. We think and perceive as we have learned to think and
perceive. There is a culturally conditioned "wall" thai: keeps us from experienc-
ing the world directly. "We think we see," says Grotowski, "but we don't see."
He speaks of how we marvel at a child entering a garden for the first time. The
child's experience is a primary one. The child sees everything fresh, purely. As
adults, we are closed off by our computer-like memory when we enter the
garden. The garden seems to us like any other or just the way it was the last
time we were there. In reality, Grotowski suggests, it is not like any other garden
nor is it the same as it was the last time. It has changed, but our programmed
manner of perceiving it severely clouds our experience of it. Thus at the outset,
when Grotowski said in 1978 that "Theatre of Sources" dealt "with the
phenomenon of source techniques, ancient or nascent, that bring us back to
the sources of life, to direct, so we say, primeval perception, to organic primary
experiences of life," he was defining one of the principal objectives of the pro-
ject (International Theatre Information [1978]).
During the summer of 1980, for example, at five-day intervals, groups of
twenty-five to thirty people were invited to Poland to work with Grotowski and
his primary group of internationals. The work was non-verbal, and each par-
ticipant was expected to imitate the movements or actions of each of the group
leaders with whom he or she worked. This was not slavish imitation but rather
an imitation based on the sensitivity of the participant to pick up the move-
ment or action of the leader.
In the first two days of each five-day session, each participant worked with
ten different groups of four or five people from the outside and ten different
group leaders. In the early morning, for example, one might work for two or
three hours walking through the woods with the leader from Poland: sensing
the woods with one's chest, keeping one's eyes soft and responsive, imitating
the motions of the leaves, stopping and turning into the wind, embracing trees,
etc. Then after a short break, one might work for another two or three hours
before lunch with the Haitian leader. Again there would be the walk through
the woods, but this time it ended at a farmhouse where other Haitians were
singing a voodoo chant and one could join in. Later the same day, one might
work with a yogi for several hours, repeating over and over a single pattern of
body movement. One participant, Kevin Kuhlke, said his most intense ex-
perience occurred with the leader from Colombia: "Walking through the
woods with him, I had a feeling of dissolving, of being unaware of myself as
something separate from the woods. I felt myself in tune with the woods. My
173 Zbigniew Osinski
skin was open, taking everything in." At the end of the first two days, each par-
ticipant then discussed with Grotowski which group (sometimes groups) he or
she would like to work with exclusively during the remaining three days. The
participant then explored techniques of sources from a particular culture or
tradition, presumably with the hope that these techniques would induce at
least occasional moments of primary perception or what Grotowski has refer-
red to as "the original state" (International Theatre Information [ 1978]).
Grotowski left Poland in the period of martial law and has been based in the
United States since December 1982, first at Columbia University, and, since
the academic year 1983-84, at the University of California at Irvine. Since going
to Irvine, he has been involved with the major project he titles "Objective
Drama," which, as in the past, seems a natural artistic extension of all that has
gone before. The work is support \d not only by the university but by grants
both from the National Endowme-htfor the Arts and the Rockefeller Founda-
When Grotowski moved from theatre to paratheatre and then eventually
from paratheatre to 'Theatre of Sources," there were some who accused him,
unjustly I think, of abandoning research that ultimately would have implica-
tions for theatre practitioners. Para theatre had no traditional separation of per-
formers and spectators and no artistic form, so the argument went,
and "Theatre of Sources" was simply a lot of chanting and yoga movement,
more related to the field of anthropology than to theatre arts per se. While
some of the same charges might be leveled against "Objective Drama," because
its program of exploration grows from the findings of previous research, it
nonetheless would be difficult to escape seeing the profound theatrical implica-
tions of "Objective Drama" for the performer. It is not that Grotowski in "Ob-
jective Drama" has gone back to theatre so much as it is that his research has
carried him forward to the sources of technical precision and discipline
necessary for professional performance. A "Research and Development
Report" of 1984 defines some of the areas of his concern:
"Objective Drama" is Jerzy Grotowski's term for those elements of the
ancient rituals of various world cultures which have a precise, and
therefore objective, impact on participants, quite apart from solely
theological or symbolic significance. Mr. Grorowski's intention is to
isolate and study such elements of performative movements, dances,
songs, incantations, structures of language, rhythms and uses of space.
Those elements are sought by means of a distillation process from the
complex through the simple and through the separation of elements
one from the other.
A team of four "Technical works with Grotowski at Irvine. These
are highly qualified performing artists, thirty-five years old or younger, with
skills in both modern and traditional cultures. They are the ones who, under
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~ -
Grotowski and His Labora-tory 174
Grotowski's guidance, record, perform, and teach the body of practical
knowledge to the participants in various stages of the work. In March 1985,
when I went to Irvine to participate in "Objective Drama," this team was com-
prised of Du Yee Chang (from Korea), I Wayan Lendra (from Bali), Wei-Cheng
Chen (from Taiwan), and Jiero Cuesta-Gonzales (from Colombia). In addition
to the "Technical Specialists," Grotowski for varying lengths of time in the past
two years has brought to Irvine a number of "Traditional Practitioners," these
being masters of ancient liturgies or rituals of specific old cultures. These are the
people who supply "material." There has been a Sufi dancer for a short period
as well as a Buddhist incantation teacher; the longest in residence, however,
were two Caribbean ritualists from Haiti, Maud Robart and Tiga Oean-Claude
Garoute), who stayed at Irvine from November 1983 to August 1984.
The largest group of those who participate in the project on an extended-
term basis are students enrolled at the university, but there are, in addition, a
small number of people from the outside who work in the program in a variety.
of ways. Among these is Magda Zlotowska, a Pole whose connections to
Grotowski and his work go back to even before the "Theatre of Sources"
period. Then too, for brief periods, there may be various others working with
the project: scholars of various kinds (anthropologists, religious historians,
ethnomusicologists, ethnic dance specialists, theatrical performance specialists,
etc.) in addition to individuals invited simply as public work session par-
In "Objective Drama," Grotowski seems very much concerned with
discipline and precision-with technical skill . He is also much concerned with
recording the findings of this research:
To record the findings of the Program, systems must be created with
the capability to communicate precisely all the qualities of sound and
movement. The current notation system of music, for example, con-
veys the pitch, volume and length of a sound but not its vibratory
quality, which this work seeks to record. The vibratory quality of a
note can be changed drastically by the use of different body
resonators, body position or forms of respiration. It is necessary that
means be found to communicate the qualitative as well as quantitative
values. The recording system which the Program must devise can pro-
foundly affect professional training and notation systems for all situa-
tions where precise measurement, and not interpretation, is required.
("Objective Drama: Research and Development Report" [1984])
Undoubtedly the best way to clarify something of what Grotowski is doing in
"Objective Drama" is to provide a basic description of what occurred on 9 and
10 March 1985 during the twenty-one hours that some forty people came
together to participate in the project. I had been told to arrive at noon Satur-
day at "The Barn," a reconverted historical building at the south edge of theIr-
175 Zbigniew Osinski
vine campus. The interior of "The Barn" is an arch-ceilinged polished wood
floor performance space approximately 50' x 40', somewhat larger than but
reminiscent of the Laboratory Theatre's space in Wrodaw. The complete south
wall of "The Barn" is a series of windows looking out on an expansive, hilly
prairie where a herd of horses live and graze. In the evening, the only light in
"The Barn" comes from kerosene lanterns. Just to the east of "The Barn" is a
smaller, essentially circular or hexagonal building, where there are tables and
where participants can get tea, coffee, and eventually hot food (a mixture of
rice, celery, and beef).
At the outset I'm told that unless I find it absolutely necessary to speak (an
emergency, for example) that I should remain non-verbal (not necessarily non-
vocal) and avoid social amenities while participating in the project. After stor-
ing my gear, I'm taken individually out to the prairie by one of Grotowski's
people. He very diligently and patiently works with me, teaching me over the
period of an hour and a half or so "The Motions. '"."The Motions" are a com-
plicated series of very physically difficult ritualistic body positions and
movements. The positions and movements are oriented on the position of the
sun. The eyes also come into it, in that one seeks not to focus on a single point
on the horizon but rather to see the vast panorama of the horizon. There are
held, frozen positions, for example, in which one is balanced on one foot with
the rest of one's body parallel to the ground or where one is balanced in a semi-
squatting position. I was, at first, constantly falling off balance, but my patient
teacher continued to work with me until I learned the basics of the whole se-
quencedfhen he took me to the smaller circular /hexagonal building, and I had
some lunch (steamed rice and celery).
A little later, after all the participants had gathered, Grotowski provided a
brief (verbal) orientation. Of the group of forty or so in the circular/hexagonal
building, I determined there were about ten of us who had been invited from
the outside. Unlike the paratheatrical projects in which I had participated in
Poland, where the ratio of outsiders to insiders was approximately three to one,
here the ratio was reversed. From the circular/hexagonal building, we went to
"The Barn," and there we were checked as a group in "The Motions," orienting
ourselves to the corners of the room as if to the points of a compass. Here there
was great concern with precision of movement and position. Du Y ee Chang
and Grotowski checked and adjusted our positions constantly. Sometimes the
difficult positions were held longer than I believed I could hold them, but
gradually I began to feel "The Motions" becoming a part of my body.
Next we were taught non-verbally and simply by demonstration a series of
(for me) complicated dance steps and a Creole song that provided the com-
plicated rhythm for these steps. The group would move in serpentine fashion
throughout the room, and, of course, those who were the insiders led those of
us from the outside until we got' at least the basics. Later, after a brief rest and
some more food in the circular /hexagonal building, Grotowski added another
dimension to this dance and song: we should now do it as if we were animals
Grotowski and His Laboratory 176
moving upright. This time I finally got the "feel" of the whole thing: I didn't
have to count to myself anymore. Suddenly I felt free and spontaneous, despite
the fact I was singing and dancing generally in unison with some forty others. I
remembered the previous summer in New York when, talking with Grotowski
in the Utopia Restaurant at 7Znd and Amsterdam about the idea of repetition,
he'd said: "We sing the song, but then eventually the song sings us." This was
exactly the way I felt at this moment of"breakthrough" in Irvine: from absolute
awkwardness in trying to get the steps and song just right, I'd come from a very
self-conscious movement and singing to a feeling of my whole body and voice
operating correctly without my intellect intervening. The song was singing me,
but, in a sense, for better or worse, I had found my way of being with the
rhythms and motions of everybody else. We were, by now, finally, all generally
in precision, physically and vocally together /.!
By this time the sun had gotten very low in the west. We gathered outside.
One part of the group (all insiders, I think) had gone off earlier. The second
group, of which I was a part (made up of outsiders, "Technical Specialists," and
other insiders) moved in single-file, following the motions and rhythm of our
leader, in serpentine fashion up into the hills of the vast pasture. At some
distance, but still accompanying the group moving in single file, were two wild-
ly running figures: a woman in a white dress and the man who had taught me
"The Motions." The sun was very low now, and the feeling of evening was
beginning to fall on the pasture. As we reached the top of the highest hill, off in
the distance, down in the valley perhaps three-quarters of a mile away was the
other group; and then just to the northwest perhaps a quarter mile away was
the herd of horses grazing. It was very quiet. On the top of the hill, orienting
ourselves on the setting sun, we did "The Motions." They must have taken us
about thirty-five to forty minutes, although that's a very relative judgment. As
we moved slowly in physical unison single file from the top of the hill down
toward "The Barn" and the circular/ hexagonal building once again, the sun
having now set, and dusk falling rapidly, the horses approached us quietly,
touching us with their noses as we passed.
There was more food in the circular/ hexagonal building, and we ate it in
silence. After awhile, we went to "The Barn," and there Grotowski served as a
quiet master of ceremonies to a performance demonstration by several of those
working with him. In each case, there was a short demonstration of a tradi-
tional performance from Korean, Balinese, Chinese, or Hebrew culture. This
was followed by a rendering of the "scene" in a manner stripped of all but its
essence, but seemingly a rendering in which that essence had been filtered
through the totality of the performer. So that what we saw was the total per-
former playing the absolutely precise sounds and movements of the tradition
but in a fully personalized way. When the Korean, Du Yee Chang, performed,
for example, I was reminded in many ways of Ryszard Cieslak. His total
sacrifice of his body in one "scene" was reminiscent of Cie5lak's performances
in The Constant Prince and Apocalypsis cum figuris. One of the most interesting
177 Zbigniew Osinski
experiments was a contrapuntal "scene" in which both Du Yee Chang and the
Taiwanese Wei-Cheng Chan performed simultaneously traditional "scenes"
from Korean and Chinese cultures. Of interest as well was Wendy Vanden
Heuvel's treatment of a work from Hebrew tradition. During these demonstra-
tions, GrOtowski also talked briefly about the role of the audience. He said
there were certain physical positions that supported the performer: for exam-
ple, through his suggestions, I found it a strong supportive position to stand
against the wall, like all the insiders, and lean toward the performer. It's hard to
explain what this does, but, as an audience member to a performance, I felt
more as I had in Wrodaw on that final evening of "Tree of People" when Jacek
Zmyslowski played his guitar and the young people sang and danced while
those of us who were older sat along the wall, singing too, in a more passive
participation-but nonetheless participating.
I Wayan Lendra from Bali ledthe next segment in which there was a kind of
celebration: there was the dance movement we'd learned earlier in the day plus
other dances never really taught-and there were a lot of Creole songs sung
together. At this point there was, as I had experienced it in the paratheatrical
work years before in Wrodaw, a sense of a total group together. The separation
between insiders and outsiders was, for the most part, gone. Those of us from
the outside were accepted; and we'd accepted them too. Despite the fact that we
outsiders were not as adept at dancing and singing as the insiders, we knew
somehow underneath that if we really worked hard and practiced, gained real
discipline and precision, that we too, as they, could participate more fully. I
found myself singing the Creole melodies but not the words, which I couldn't
really understand well enough to pick up. In this session in "The Barn," as in
all other sessions, Grotowski sat at a small desk in the southwest corner of the
room, watching very intently and sometimes taking notes.
After the session with Lendra, there was more food in the small, cir-
cular/ hexagonal building. Jiero, with Grotowski's assistance, gave us the basic
rules for the next session: that we should follow the leaders until we sensed
what was going on, that we should not use our voices, that we should not make
noises on the floor with our feet, that we should not use dance movements or
walk around like animals on all fours. Grotowski said: "This is not what is com-
monly called 'improvisation.' " We were told that once we entered the perfor-
mance area of "The Barn," if we left, we could not come back to this particular
session. But if we wished to rest for awhile in the room itself, we should sit by
the wall with our faces toward the wall. Each of us then was taken individually
by Jiero and placed in a particular position in the performance space of "The
Barn." What occurred in the next approximately hour and thirty minutes was
an exciting paratheatrical event very similar to those I'd been involved with in
Wroclaw, but here, as in "Vigil,'; led by Jacek Zmyslowski, there was movement
but no vocalization. The session led by ]iero was very exhausting physically,
and a good many left the room, since, by this time it was well into the early
morning and probably some wanted to sleep briefly. Grotowski watched from
Grotowski and His Laboratory 178
his desk throughout.
Shortly after the para theatrical segment, there was a relatively brief session,
again led by Jiero, which occurred at a rock-walled fire pit just south and up the
hill from "The Barn" and the circular/hexagonal building. Those still awake
gathered to the north of the fire pit until the logs burning inside flared up over
the wall. Then, led by Jiero, who moved in a strangely rhythmic but soundless
way, we moved up the hill to the fire pit. We all stared at the flames, sometimes
climbing over the wall into the pit itself. Grotowski was there, watching all of
There were by now some faint traces of light on the eastern horizon, and the
man who had taught me "The Motions" many hours before gathered us all out-
side in the area between "The Barn" and the circular/hexagonal building
where he led us in a series of vigorous calisthenics. I was too tired. I couldn't do
them all. Then, as it began to get even lighter in the east, we reformed the order
of our original serpentine single file and began, once again, to move out onto
the prairie hills. At the top of the same hill as the night before, once again
orienting ourselves now on the rising sun in the east, we did "The Motions."
Most of us were exhausted. I could not keep my balance as well as I had at
sunset, and neither could some of the others. Du Y ee was right in front of me
when we faced east, and I even noticed him almost fall over once. So I didn't
feel so bad. About forty minutes later, as before, we moved slowly down the
hill, single file, toward the buildings. I felt energized inside, but physically I was
exhausted and stumbling. Back at the circular/hexagonal building, it was clear
that "Objective Drama" was over: everyone was talking now, laughing, smok-
ing cigarettes, drinking strong tea, thinking about going out for breakfast, look-
ing a little bleary-eyed but energized too. Grotowski talked animatedly with a
representative from the Rockefeller Foundation who had been, like myself, a
participant from the outside. A little while later, when Grotowski, Magda
Zlotowska, and I went out together for Sunday breakfast, I jokingly told him
how exhausted I was coming down the hill after doing "The Motions" as the
sun had risen and how I'd wondered at the time if I'd ever be able to do
anything like that again. He looked at me and smiled with reassurance, saying
"Oh yes .... "
It should be remembered that, although this discussion of the period
1976-1986 has dealt exclusively with Grotowski's post-theatrical work,
Apocalypsis cum figuris continued to be performed by the Laboratory Theatre on
a fairly regular basis until September 1981 and the death of Antoni
Jaholkowski in Wrodaw. Since that time, two other members of the group also
have died: Jacek Zmyslowski (in February 1982 in New York) and Stanislaw
Scierski (in July 1983 in Wrodaw).
In January 1984, the Wrodaw daily Gazeta Robotnicza carried a brief state-
ment signed by a number of the founding and long-standing members of the
Laboratory Theatre: Rena Mirecka, Ludwik Flaszen, Ryszard Cieslak, and Zyg-
179 Zbigniew Osinski
munt Molik. The statement said in effect that, after twenty-five years, as of 31
August 1984, the Laboratory Theatre, directed and managed by Jerzy
Grotowski, was officially dissolving. The statement said the decision by the
members still in Wroclaw to bring about such an official dissolution came as a
result of the members' varied and independent research projects and
workshops in various parts of the world.
Early in August 1984, Zbigniew Cynkutis returned to Poland from teaching
for more than two years in the United States at the University of Kansas and at
Hamilton College. Cynkutis returned to become artistic director of a new ex-
perimental theatre called Drugie Studio Wrodawskie (the Second Studio of
Wrodaw) that would be housed at Rynek-Ratusz 27, where since 1965 had
resided the Laboratory Theatre. On 27 November 1984, Cynkutis issued a
statement (in English) which generally clarified the direction and emphases of
the new operation:
The Second Studio of Wrodaw is open for various forms of exchange
and ready to invite to Poland those practitioners and thegrists of all
branches that belong to the broad name of Theatre .... [The Second
Studio] . . . organizes special workshops for actors, directors, and
theatre-life organizers who are interested in searching for new forms .
. . . The main intention of the Second Studio is not only in experienc-
ing and investigating new forms of artistic communication but also in
building up an International Group of the Second Studio of those
who will be interested in longer cooperation. . . . For visitors in-
terested in the history of theatre, we can propose the special depart
ment of History and Research in which one can find documents,
photos, films, and tapes connected with the twenty-five years of ex-
istence of the Laboratory Theatre. According to statute, the Second
Studio of Wrodaw takes care of all documents and other audio-visual .
materials of the Laboratory Theatre and is the successor of all
copyrights and contracts signed by the Institute of the Actor
-Laboratory Theatre.
At this point, Cynkutis is working with a group of actors on a performance of
Seneca's Phaedra, in which Stacey MacFarlane, an American, is appearing.
And what of other former members of the Laboratory Theatre? Because they
are operating in all parts of the world, it is difficult to keep up with them. Rena
Mirecka permanently does workshops all over the world; she was recently in
Boston for a short period. Zygmunt Molik does the same, particularly working
with the voice. He was recently in Toronto, at the Actor's Lab Theatre, where
he developed a performance of Macbeth with a number of Canadian actors.
Teo Spychalski is in Montreal working with former students from Poland.
Elizabeth Albahaca is in Italy working with a company ~ n Pontederra. Ludwik
------------ - ~ - - - - -
Grotowski and His Laboratory 180
Flaszen is in Paris scheduled to conduct a series of workshops at L'Enfance de
!'Art from November 1985 through July 1986. The titles of these workshops are
"The Tragic Flesh," "T awards Daily Training," and "On Human Limits: Dosto-
yevski's Zoo." And Ryszard Cieslak is working with Peter Brook.
And what of]erzy Grotowski himself? Since last I saw him in March 1985 in
California in connection with "Objective Drama," he has been to Mexico for a
period of time. In June he was presented an honorary doctorate by De Paul
University in Chicago. At the moment (1 July 1985), he is in Italy, on a moun-
tain in Tuscany continuing his research.
[ (5 December 1985) In a telephone conversation yesterday with Grotowski, I
learned that recently a center in Italy had been dedicated in his name (Centro
di Lavoro Europeo di Jerzy Grotowski [European Work Center of Jerzy
Grotowski]) and that Grotowski considers this center his permanent European
home. Grotowski stressed that this center is in no way involved with the work
he is presently conducting at Irvine. While it had been reported that Grotowski
had been experimenting at Irvine with Peer Gynt, this is simply not the case. He
says he used Peer Gynt only as an exercise: it was nothing major, nothing im-
portant, and should be ignored.]