Art & Spirituality…Musings on Theatre and Yoga
Jerzy Grotowski, was a luminary of experimental theatre. His views and work, cultivated in his “Theatre Laboratory” are truly extraordinary and inspiring:
“There is only one element of which film and television cannot rob the theatre: the closeness of the living organism. Because of this, each challenge from the actor, each of his magical acts (which the audience is incapable of producing) becomes something great, something extraordinary, something close to ecstasy.”
Indeed good theatre is cathartic, magical, even! The actors make mirrors and expressions of themselves in order that they (audience AND actor) may share this elevated experience. And, there is something special about the shared experience between the performers and the audience which I believe is incomparable in art. Grotowski , on the actor:
“The actor makes a total gift of himself. This is a technique of the “trance” and the integration of all the actor’s psychic and bodily powers which emerge from the most intimate layers of his being and instinct, springing forth in a sort of ‘translumination’.”
Grotowski believed that training an actor should involve a clearing away of negative habits, thought patterns, blockages. In doing so, through various physical, vocal and mental exercises, a state of “passive readiness” is cultivated.
I cannot help but think of Yoga here. And, incidentally, Grotowski drew heavily from the Yoga tradition in creating the exercises he experimented with, in his laboratory of theatre.
In Yoga, you must first create a firm foundation, space in your body, and from that effort toward stability and spaciousness the pose will naturally expand. I always think of a flower blossoming. Never forcing the pose happen, but essentially allowing the pose “do you”. It’s the same with a good performance. Once an actor has cultivated that state of “passive readiness”, the performance can then blossom forth from a place of intuitive wisdom, and spontaneity! The same can be said of other performance arts: music, dance, opera. If you’ve ever seen any live show and afterward felt like you just had a mystical, spiritual experience, then you know what I am talking about!!!
It’s an interesting symbiosis to reflect on: the place where art & spirituality cross paths. Without acting I would not have found Yoga, and it turned out to be acting & the theatre of all things that helped reinvigorate and inspire my yoga practice.