By Patrick Hayes, Dramaturg
In my last blog post I talked about A Wrinkle in Times’s use of performance theories. For this post I wanted to dive a little deeper into the theories and practices of devised theatre, giving you an inside scoop on the two theories that we are incorporating into our show.
Many performances are rooted in the theories and practicum of two individuals. Some would say that these two people are the two most influential theatre directors and theorists in the twentieth century. Here’s a brief look at both the men and the basic ideas behind their theories.
Jerzy Grotowski (11 August 1933 – 14 January 1999) was a Polish theatre director and innovator of experimental theatre concepts, namely the “theatre laboratory” and “poor theatre” concepts.
Growtowski’s Poor Theatre
He asked the great question “What is theatre?” His answers were formed in devising two brand new theatre techniques / practices, Poor Theatre and Theatre Laboratory.
Growtowski said in order for Poor Theatre to exist there only needed to by two essentials: the audience and the actor. Poor Theatre productions are categorized by stripping down the essence of the performance to two single elements on stage, the audience and actors. Actors trained so nearly every muscle of the body would be under complete control and could be moved at will. This allowed the director to focus on the body, making “it” the theatrical spectacle instead of the traditional spectacle / theatrical elements staged during that time period.
Richard Schechner is a professor of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. He is considered to be the founder of the Performance Studies discipline.
Schechner’s Six Axioms of Environmental Theatre
Schechner’s theories are based around 6 specific axioms. They are:
- The Theatrical Event is a Set of Related Transactions
- All the Space is Used for Performance; All the Space is Used for Audience
- The Theatrical Event Can Take Place Either in a Totally Transformed Space or in a “Found Space”
- Focus is Flexible and Variable
- All Production Elements Speak in Their Own Language
- The Text Need Be Neither the Starting Point Nor the Goal of a Production. There May Be No Text at All.