- Returning to the SubjectThe Heritage of Reduta in Grotowski's Laboratory Theatre
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Although the issue the title references has already been discussed by me—and other authors as well—it deserves another look. We have new material on Grotowski's connections with Reduta at our disposal today and, considering the changing direction of scholarship, we can approach the problem differently and more broadly than before.1
In 1966 the Laboratory Theatre—following Grotowski's initiative—took Reduta's emblem as its own, and by so doing publicly announced that [Juliusz] Osterwa and [Mieczysław] Limanowski's group had been and would be its "ethical heritage." Grotowski justified this alignment on numerous occasions, but most extensively in an interview for the students' weekly, ITD:
The loop of Reduta had the letter "R" written in the center—we took it over without a change, writing in an "L" for "Laboratory." The idea [of taking over the emblem] came first of all from my irritation with the lack of respect theatre people often have when they [End Page 52] speak about the monastery style and naïve ideas of Reduta. In my opinion Reduta was the most important theatre phenomenon during the interwar period, mainly because of their attempt at long-term research on the actor's craft and because of their ethical proclamations, which may sound naïve today, but which made perfect sense, because they were an attempt at cleansing theatre of the influences of the artistic demimonde. Craft, and a vocation through craft—I think there is no way to create theatrical work without confronting these two notions. Reduta was an attempt at that confrontation. Our research on techniques in the art of the actor differ, but our understanding of the purpose of this work seems parallel, at least, we would like it to be. We consider Reduta a great tradition of Polish theatre, and we would feel proud if our work were recognized as a continuation [of theirs]. And this is the second reason for our taking up Reduta's emblem. […] In our aspirations, Reduta provides us with a moral heritage.(Grotowski 1966a:8-10)
In another interview that year, Grotowski stated that Reduta was "the only group in the history of Polish theatre, that had a crystallized vision of theatre, and followed that vision faithfully" (1966b).
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In Żywot Osterwy [The Life of Osterwa] Józef Szczublewski presents the following interpretation of the emblem: "a symbol of fertility and proliferation of ideas, a symbol of an unending quest for perfection"(1971a:178). Supposedly, Limanowski linked its genealogy to Kabbalah.
For Grotowski, the emblem meant "being on the road, a movement towards infinity."
It must be noted that the Laboratory Theatre adopted Reduta's emblem only during its seventh year of operation, when it was commonly recognized as the world's leading avantgarde theatre. The move was, to Grotowski and his colleagues, merely an external confirmation of what for them had been a reality since much earlier. During the first months of operation of the Theatre of 13 Rows, Grotowski already had referred to his company as "the only professional theatre focused on laboratory work in the country" (1960a:4)—his indirect acknowledgment of the ideological legacy of Reduta. The first time Reduta was mentioned directly, as far as I know, was in an internal company note signed by Grotowski and probably issued in May 1961:
This is a reminder that during the meeting held on the 27th the Company decided to follow the example of Reduta and observe absolute silence within the Theatre premises one hour before the performance to provide colleagues with a chance to appropriately focus on their creative tasks. Any failure to comply will result in administrative penalties.(Grotowski [1961?])
A year later, on 13 June 1962, Grotowski wrote to Halina Gall thanking her for her letter and for "Iwo Gall's text":
Believe me, we consider our work and our fervent search an incarnation of what...