During the 1960s, the Polish experimental director, Jerzy Grotowski, theorized a "poor theatre" in opposition to the "rich theatre" and richer cinema of the Western metropolis. The concept of poverty, however, now appears to have even greater resonance in regions such as the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, and India, where powerful "new national and postcolonial" theatres have taken shape without the expected conjuncture with commerce. This essay begins by exploring the extent to which current methodologies in theatre studies impede or support transnational and intercultural comparisons of this kind. Referring primarily to Derek Walcott, Rabindranath Tagore, and Badal Sircar, and more briefly to Wole Soyinka and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, the essay then analyzes the forms of impoverishment that these authors confront (or actively advocate) in their theoretical work, and accommodate variously in their artistic practice.


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