chapter  41
23 Pages

Action, The unrepresentable origin

Lisa Wolford

Action is a performative opus with a consciously crafted, repeatable score developed at the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski in Pontedera, Italy, by workleader Thomas Richards and his group of actors/doers, a stable team of performing artists who commit to a minimum of one year of intensive practical research. One could say that Action, the central opus of the investigation conducted by Grotowski and Richards in the field of Art as vehicle, is analogous to a theatrical performance in its structure and precision of details, its use of performative means (song, movement, physical action in the sense described by Stanislavsky (see Toporkov 1979)), and its basis in the craft of acting. Yet the structure is not intended for public performance, even though invited guests periodically witness Action. The essential aim of the work, its primary purpose, is not to create meaning in the perception of an outside observer, but rather to facilitate a special process that can occur within practitioners performing with and around certain songs taken from African and Afro-Caribbean ritual traditions.' The performing structure functions as an objective support to assist the doer in what Grotowski terms an "itinerary in verticality:"

At the time I witnessed Action - five times during July and August 1995 - the performance team consisted of Richards, Mario Biagini, Jerome Bidaux, Nhandan Chirco, and Przemyslaw Wasilkowski.' It is important to remember that Grotowski is not the director of Action (insofar as "director" is an appropriate term); rather, he functions as Richards' teacher and, in his own words, as an "advising ancestor" to the group. It would be more appropriate to regard Richards, leader of the day-to-day activities of the research team, as the creator of the opus, as it was he who assembled the performance and textual montage, in addition to serving as primary performer and teacher for the group members.