- Re-Reading GrotowskiGuest Editors' Introduction
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Dedicated to Jerzy Grotowski (1933–1999), this special issue of TDR presents critical thought on key aspects of Grotowski's research, reflecting on his links to such "artistic ancestors" as Konstantin Stanislavsky and Juliusz Osterwa, as well as on the continuity of research found in the ongoing practice of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards in Pontedera, Italy. Grotowski, who puzzled the world in the early 1970s by quitting work on theatrical [End Page 14] productions when he was only 36 years old and at the peak of his directing career, has yet to receive proper recognition for the practical research in performance to which he devoted the remaining 30 years of his life.
Recently there is a reawakened interest in Grotowski's work, demonstrated through numerous manifestations of a theatre practice that locates its heritage there, as well as by a range of recently published and forthcoming texts that attest to Grotowski's continuing relevance for theatre artists and scholars. Among the current publications, we wish to make special note of Thomas Richards's Heart of Practice: Within the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards (Routledge 2008), an intimate and direct testimony to the subtle potentialities of the ongoing research in the domain of Art as vehicle. This issue of TDR does not present an exhaustive view of the Workcenter's activities in the 22 years since its founding but instead juxtaposes Grotowski's texts to materials that emphasize the independent work of Richards and his colleagues in the years since Grotowski's death and the maturation of their autonomous research. Through these choices, we invite the reader to consider Antonio Attisani's assertion that any deep apprehension of Grotowski's work requires reading the late director's texts through the lens of the Workcenter's ongoing praxis.
The guest editors for this issue of TDR extend thanks to Thomas Richards and Mario Biagini (associate director of the Workcenter and co-executor, with Richards, of Grotowski's literary estate) for authorizing the translation and publication of three important essays by Grotowski never previously published in English (including one never before released in any language), a gesture by which they honor Grotowski's lifelong habit of choosing TDR as the venue for initial publication of English translations of his texts.
All three texts are edited versions of material first delivered in the form of talks during the period of Grotowski's work with the Laboratory Theatre in the late 1960s. Initially transcribed and prepared by Leszek Kolankiewicz, the materials were subsequently edited and later revised by Grotowski in the early 1980s. Such a process was characteristic of Grotowski, whose "texts" almost always originated as spoken language and were subsequently revised and elaborated in writing. Grotowski viewed each new publication or translation of a text as an opportunity to refine his thoughts and their articulation, often prompted by a desire to block misinterpretation or counter misunderstandings that had arisen in response to earlier versions of utterances. In preparing each new translation, he paid utmost attention to the smallest details, insisting in his contracts that editors refrain from unapproved changes aimed at standardizing his grammar, punctuation, and syntax, altering his word choices, or adding phrases "for clarity." Whether in regard to his own texts or in translating materials from either contemporary or archaic languages, Grotowski insisted that the task of the translator was neither to interpret nor improve, but rather to render meaning with as much precision and as little distortion as possible. Those who accepted the task of translating for him at live events or who assisted him in translating written works learned to anticipate that their proposed renderings would be subject to constant assessment and review by Grotowski himself. He offered forceful and immediate corrections when he felt the translation strayed too far from exactitude, sometimes switching languages to clarify a point by interjecting his own translation of a contested word or phrase.