Monday, July 22, 2013

Workcenter

Finally, after close to fifteen years of following reports, articles, books and personal imaginings I attended a presentation of the Workcenter of Thomas Richards and Jerzy Grotowski on a wonderous July evening in Lari, Italy. Both teams of the Workcenter participate in the Collinarea Festival.

We ascended ninty-five steps to the top of the Lari castle where Mario Biagini, director of the Open Program we are about to witness, greeted comers with an open-hearted smile, bending down to chat with children and embracing friends as they arrived. As we trickled in the two male and five female actors sat, squatted or stood on the periphery of an open space. A box, staff, cane, bones and percussive instruments (bell, rattle, stone, tin pan) were discretely though obviously carefully placed in the 30X20 foot cobble-stoned square. We sat on chairs or carpets surrounding the space. All were dressed in white and barefoot, exactly as I had seen in the many documented photos. The progam notes (google translation as is for entire festival is Italian)

Open Program - A dedication in action (Studio) 

Part of the research and practice of group of the Open Program of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards is based on the use and exploration of traditional songs of the southern United States. They are songs that possess qualities such as to cause intense interpersonal processes, and give way to a circulation of contacts between the actors and bystanders. 
In the practice of our work we wonder what might be the function of these songs and, in relation to the processes set in motion and the event to which they give life, whatever its nature and meaning. We ask ourselves a question: is it possible that the quality of these processes can circulate and somehow reach the caregiver? And if this is possible, what can possibly happen? Touches us the insight that such an event can take place in the name of a shared desire. If so, it could be the occasion when, in the name of such a desire, even those who act together and do it for someone else. In other words: offer a special kind of dedication. 
The Open Program would like to invite you to be present with us as he knocks on the door of this shared desire and perhaps forgotten. And see if the door opens. 

The event began with a seated women singing a song in English  ... sounded like a lament or cry her face wracked with pain and voice trembling ... a gospel song, I guessed, though couldn't be certain ... a string of songs fron the american south, occasionally interrupted by text followed ... each individual centered a song supported by the group both vocally and with a patterned movement/choreography ... all movement was light, precise and consistent in all bodies with very little individual variation ... a dancing designed, it seemed, to circulate the air/song/energy ... only once did an actor slip into "characterization" ... there were in the songs an intoning of a personal process & actions suggested/associated moments of memory or ritual - even narrative ...

A song/call for a new day completed the cycle of action ... we had journeyed the human condition experiencing sorrow, betrayal, fear, resurrection ... I don't know if insights were aroused ... I felt the tranquility of the Tuscany twilight ... there had been an ever so cautious knocking at the heart's door ... I knew I had seen a practice ... a heart of the practice ... it felt we had been preoccupied too much with pleasing the caregiver to experience a release or liberation ... yet this was a dedication after all  ... 

... descending the steps afterwards was a neither a coming or going ... I had absurdly journeyed close to the home of my grandparents to share a desire, a quest and heard songs of the American south ... walking the narrow streets into the open piazza I listened to the ancient, medieval castle, first documented in 937 ... the stone walls were themselves a dedication in action ... an action demanding centuries of devotion ... 



My thoughts turn to performative activity and creation ... In his book Creative Land, anthropologist James Leach ... "describes cultural practices where the creation of new things, and the ritualised forms of exchange (the performative) enacted around them, function to “create” individuals and their social relations, “creating” the community they inhabit." ... Which community do We inhabit ...

:: Note :: ... Wrote this post while traveling ... Completely disappeared while writing and just like theatre repeated ... what is lost is the uncalculated first impression ...