Vol. 10, Issue No. 29/2003


Gardzienice [is] one of ... the world's premiere experimental theatre companies....
[They] constitute the very heart and essence of Polish experimental and anthropological performance.
Richard Schechner

After the theatres of Grotowski and Kantor, The Gardzienice Center of Theatre Practices is the most internationally acclaimed theatre company of Poland. The twenty-five year old company has performed and taught at prestigious theatres, festivals, universities and theatre schools across the globe--including Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford, Moscow's 2002 Theatre Olympiad, New York's La Mama Theatre, Los Angeles' Getty Museum, Suzuki's Toga Festival in Japan, and the Experimental Theatre Academy of Paris, as well as Brazil, Sweden, Germany, and Egypt, where artistic director Wlodzimierz Staniewski was awarded Egypt's medal for outstanding contribution to world theatre.

The troupe's home is a remote village in southeast Poland. Gardzienice’s identity is deeply rooted in the Polish folk tradition on the one hand, and its committed multiculturalism on the other. The basis of their performance practice derives from their interactions with the gradually disappearing folkloric traditions of marginalized ethnic communities. Since 1977, the group has been making expeditions into isolated rural communities of Poland (and later, throughout Europe), in which oral tradition still survives: "reformulating and reshaping performance [and] developing all theatrical means of expression from observation and study of genuine native creativity." During these expeditions, the company "actively participates in folk rites, songs, religions, and festivities within local environments”; in exchange, "as a reciprocating gesture of hospitality -- the company performs for the community;" "afterwards meal is shared.  It is at these moments of mutual exchange that theatre becomes a communicating process by which performers and audience share in community." This contemporary anthropology in turn informs Gardzienice's extensive and ongoing research into medieval European and ancient Greek imagery and music. Like the American classicists Milman Parry and Albert Lord, Gardzienice’s methods demonstrate that careful study of extent oral cultures provides multiple clues about ancient performance techniques.

Gardziniece's productions interweave music, dynamic movement and dramatic text. The company's hallmark is its fusion of extremes: the theatrical and spiritual dynamism of its productions derives from a synthesis of pagan and Christian imagery and sensibilities, contemporary social concerns and ancient mythos, the spiritual and the earthy; from its geo-cultural position on the border between East and West; and above all, from a Bakhtinian negotiation of "the relationship between high and low cultures," understood "as a fertile ground for developing a different and vital theatre language."

Metamorphosis, or The Golden Ass according to Apuleis.
A Performance, Lecture/Demonstration

METAMORPHOSIS "is a rediscovery, in the present tense, of the vital energy and the compelling dramaturgy of Ancient Greek theater: a theater in which the song, dance, and text are a natural execution of the extremes of human experience..." A musically driven synthesis of dramatic text, gesture, body movement, vocals, and instrumentals, METAMORPHOSIS is structured around the unique modalities of ancient Greek music, reconstructed by the company from papyrus remains and stone carvings from the 5th century BC to the 2nd century AD.

The performance will be followed by a presentation of Gardzienice's working methods, incorporating a lecture/demonstration by Wlodzimierz Staniewski and company members, slides and excerpts from a video documentary of the company's expeditions into the "Hidden Territories" of Eastern Europe, and the ways in which the ritual performances practices they have learned in their travels inform their work with medieval and ancient Greek texts and music.

Vol. 10, Issue No. 29/2003

The Summit Times

© Copyright 2003 by Andrzej M. Salski