A three year project in Olsztyn, Poland, collaboration between STRATWA, ROK, New World Performance Laboratory,
and The University of Akron.
Project Coordinators: Ryszard Michalski (Ashoka Foundation
Project Artistic Directors: Jairo Cuesta and James Slowiak
with the New World Performance Laboratory
In December 2000 and January 2001, James Slowiak and Jairo Cuesta conducted two 4-day workshops to select
a group of young Polish actors to work on a long-term three year project in craft. More
than 50 participants arrived from throughout Poland and abroad. After selection,
Cuesta, Slowiak, and members of New World Performance Laboratory, will hold various meetings with the group throughout the
year (lasting from one week to one month). In the absence of the two artistic
directors, The Guild will meet monthly with other performance master teachers in group workshops or individual training sessions.
Potential master teachers include: Maud Robart, Iben Nagel
Rasmussen, Abani Biswas, Piotr Borowski and others.
The first meeting of The Guild was May 19-May 27, 2001. An
intensive month long summer session took place from July 15, 2001 to August 12, 2001.
This session culminated in several public sessions where the group demonstrated The Rendering, a performance structure
based on essential Performance Ecology activities and songs from the Shaker tradition.
Prior to the first meeting, Guild members were required to participate in at least one workshop a month
held either at ROK or at the Grotowski Center in Wroclaw or other appropriate workshops.
Possibilities included work with: Zygmunt Molik, Rena Mirecka, Maud Robart,
and others. Guild members also had a bibliography of books to read before the
first meeting in May 2001. Required books are:
Towards a Poor Theatre, At Work with Grotowski on Physical Actions, Stanislavsky in Rehearsal,
The Empty Space.
The work of The Guild will develop in the following manner:
Year 1: Basic elements of theatre craft and creative training
techniques (1) physical exercises, voice work, attention and perception, precision and flow, seeing, listening, meeting and
memory; (2) collective or individual exercises in coordination, rhythm, and untaming, space awareness (both indoors and outdoors),
singing and dancing; (3) The Rendering (improvisation)a structured flow of detailed actions and exercises organized in a creative
montage that serves to reclaim the performers vital forces and capacity for contact.
The intention is to give the participant a foundation in the ethics, principles, and basic techniques of performance
Year 2: Creating performance:
gathering material, sources research, development of performance structures and meetings with a public, work with text
and story, work with a detailed line of action, composition, the performers montage, the spectators montage, continued work
on the basic elements of theatre craft and creative training techniques.
Year 3: Performance and Pedagogy: continued work on the development of performance structures and creative training techniques with a focus
on clarifying pedagogical methodology.
The Gildia Project is taking place in Warmia, a region in northern Poland. This region has traditionally been a place of passage. A region
of immigrants and displaced persons, it is one of the most economically depressed regions in Poland, with unemployment near
30%. What significance can a project in performance research and training have
in such a cultural and social landscape? In his recent memoirs Threads of
Time, Peter Brook speaks eloquently of the theatres purpose:
Theater is not just a place, not simply a profession. It is
a metaphor. It helps to make the process of life more clear. It is said that at its origin, theater was an act of healing, of healing the city. According to the action of fundamental, entropic forces, no city can avoid an inevitable process of fragmentation. But when the population assembles in a special place under special conditions to partake
in a mystery, the scattered limbs are drawn together, and a momentary healing reunites the larger body, in which each member,
re-membered, finds its place. Hunger, violence, gratuitous cruelty, rape, crime,
these are constant companions in the present time. Theater can penetrate into
the darkest zones of terror and despair for one reason only: to be able to affirm,
neither before nor after but at the very same moment, that light is present in darkness.
In keeping with Peter Brooks conception of theatres
purpose, New World Performance Laboratory has designed its primary research program, Performance Ecology (which forms the
basis for The Guild Project), around
the rudimentary performative elements concerning one's humanness and relationship with the physical world. As we enter
the post-human age of high technology and globalization, Jairo Cuesta and James Slowiak have organized various aspects of
their respective research into a flow of detailed exercises (individual and collective, songs, dances, texts, and creative
work) that serve to reclaim the human beings vital forces and capacity for contact.
It is an attempt to rediscover the urge to act. As the participant struggles to remember,
to reveal, to accomplish or to create, he/she fights for mastery of the body and voice, vitality and purpose. Participants
express themselves in patterns of voice and movement whose tension, composition and energy uncover a unique and untamed power
and precision. Performance Ecology seeks to liberate the dormant energy and creative impulses in the participant/performer,
in solitude or in company, with the space or with the partner.
Performance Ecology and the work proposed in The Guild Project might be looked at as an example of what cultural historian Morris Berman
calls the monastic option: embodied knowledge which can serve as a counterweight to the world of schlock, ignorance, social
inequality, and mass consumerism. Berman believes that if this embodied knowledge,
authentic ways of living, can be preserved and passed down then our cultural heritage may well serve as a seed for a subsequent
renaissance, a New Enlightenment. He quotes a haiku by seventeenth-century Japanese
poet Bash (which may well serve as a motto for NWPLs work):
Journeying through the world
To and fro, to and fro
Cultivating a small field.
Whether it be Bermans
twenty-first century monk, a member of the New World Performance Lab, or a participant in The Guild project, this kind of
work does not lead to heroic outcomes. What is important is the sense of worth
and meaning in the action itself, doing the work. In The Guild Project, Cuesta
and Slowiak will attempt to craft a structural tool that builds quality, community and compassion while exploring the participant's
individuality, creativity, and cultural dignity. The social and cultural implications
of such a project may be evident; or they may not. Berman ends his book, The
Twilight of American Culture, with a poem by Lew Welch, a San Francisco Beat poet:
What strange pleasure do they get whod
wipe whole worlds out,
to end our lives, our
But we have charms against their rage
must go on saying, Look,
if nobody tried to live this way,
all the work of the world would be in vain.
And now and then a son, a daughter, hears it.
Now and then a son, a daughter
Important themes for the project which intersect
with NWPLs research in Performance Ecology: songlines, nomadism, walking in place,
traditional creativity vs. modern creativity, Objective Drama, Acting Home.
Manners of documentation: photos, video, articles, etc
Schedule of encounters with Slowiak, Cuesta, and
July 15-August 15, 2001
June 15-July 15 2002
Summer 2003 (final phase)