Grotowski, Jerzy

Grotowski, Jerzy
born Aug. 11, 1933, Rzeszów, Pol.
died Jan. 14, 1999, Pontedera, Italy

Polish-born U.S. stage director.

He joined the Polish Laboratory Theatre of Wrocław in 1959 and founded a permanent company in 1965. The Laboratory Theatre made its U.S. debut with Akropolis (1969); it was followed by Undertaking Mountain (1977) and Undertaking Earth (1977–78), by which time Grotowski was living mostly in the U.S. Known as an avant-garde theorist, he sought to create dramatic tension by setting up emotional confrontations between audience and actors. His book Towards a Poor Theater (1968) emphasized the centrality of the actor and advocated minimal stage sets. He influenced U.S. experimental theatre movements, notably the Living Theatre.

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▪ 2000

      Polish-born theatre director (b. Aug. 11, 1933, Rzeszow, Pol.—d. Jan. 14, 1999, Pontedera, Italy), was one of the most influential and innovative theatrical personages of the 20th century. As founder and head of the avant-garde Polish Laboratory Theatre, he presented productions that emphasized emotionally charged and challenging encounters between actors and audience; the actor's intelligence—not special effects, music, lighting, or scenery—was central. After graduating (1955) from the National Theatrical Academy in Krakow and studying further in Moscow, Grotowski became (1959) director of a company in Opole, where he established what was called a “poor” theatre because of the simplicity of its operation. The experimental Theatre of the 13 Rows later became the Laboratory Theatre. It moved to Wroclaw in 1965 and remained there until it disbanded in 1983. Through such inventive productions as Akropolis (1962), Faustus (1963), Hamlet (1964), and The Constant Prince (1965), Grotowski established an international reputation, and his renown and influence were furthered by tours of productions and by the publication of his book Towards a Poor Theatre (1968). He also worked abroad and during the 1980s taught at Columbia University, New York City, and the University of California, Irvine. Thereafter, Grotowski's work was carried out in Pontedera.

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▪ Polish theatrical director
born Aug. 11, 1933, Rzeszów, Pol.
died Jan. 14, 1999, Pontedera, Italy

      international leader of the experimental theatre who became famous in the 1960s as the director of productions staged by the Polish Laboratory Theatre of Wrocław. A leading exponent of audience involvement, he set up emotional confrontations between a limited group of spectators and the actors; the performers were disciplined masters of bodily and vocal contortions.

      Grotowski studied at the National Theatrical Academy in Kraków (1951–59), then joined the Laboratory Theatre in 1959, the year it was founded. Grotowski's permanent company first appeared in western Europe in 1966. He became a guest lecturer and influential director in the avant-garde theatre of England, France, and the Scandinavian countries. His productions included Faustus (1963), Hamlet (1964), and The Constant Prince (1965). Grotowski's methods and pronouncements—which can be found in his highly influential work Towards a Poor Theatre (1968)—influenced such U.S. experimental theatre movements as The Living Theatre (Living Theatre, The), the Open Theatre, and the Performance Group. In 1969 the Laboratory Theatre made a successful U.S. debut in New York City with Akropolis, based on a 1904 play by Stanisław Wyspiański. Later productions of the Laboratory Theatre included Undertaking Mountain (1977) and Undertaking Earth (1977–78). In 1982 Grotowski immigrated to the United States, where he taught for several years before moving to Pontedera, Italy. There in 1985, a year after the closing of the Laboratory Theatre in Poland, he opened a new theatrical centre.

Additional Reading
Lisa Wolford, Grotowski's Objective Drama Research (1996); Thomas Richards, At Work with Grotowski on Physical Actions (1995); Lisa Wolford and Richard Schechner (eds.), The Grotowski Sourcebook (1997); James Slowiak and Jairo Cuesta, Jerzy Grotowski (2007).

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Universalium. 2010.

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