"ISaid Yes to the Past": Interview with Grotowski Margaret Croyden
CROYDEN: Your production of Akropolis juxtaposes classical myth with Auschwitz. What are you trying to convey?
GROTOWSKI: Akropolis is based on a classical Polish play. I reworked it to analyze not only the great myths of the past but the biblical and historical traditions as well. It dramatized the past from the point of view of heroic values. Since World War II we have noticed that the great lofty values of Western civilization remain abstract. We mouth heroic values, but real life proves to be different. We must confront the great values of the past and ask some questions. Do these values remain abstract, or do they really exist for us? To discover the answer we must look at the most bitter and ultimate trial: Auschwitz. Auschwitz is the darkest reality of our contemporary history. Auschwitz is the trial of humankind. What has been our goal in this play? To put two opposite views on the stage, to create brutal confrontations in order to see if these past dreams are concrete and strong, or only abstractions. In other words, we wanted to confront our ancestral experiences in a situation where all values were destroyed, and that is why we chose Auschwitz. What was the reaction to this play? The audience watches the confrontation; they observe the dreams of the prisoners, and the dreams of the great people of our past. Past dreams appear annihilated by the reality of Auschwitz. But in another sense, the dreams survive because they give weight and depth to the prisoners, for they feel themselves part of the collective past. Man in that situation is being tested, pitted against past ideals. Does he survive the test? The audience will decide.