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Eugenio Barba Eugenio Barba founded the Odin Teatret in 1964. Prior to that he worked with Grotowski in the early days of the Polish Lab, and studied Kathakali in India. The Odin Teatret, based in Denmark, tours widely around the world. It is also the home of Barba's International School of Theatre Anthropology. Barba's writings on theatre are collected in The Floating Islands. This interview was conducted by Gautam Dasgupta in New York on the occasion of the Odin's first American appearance at La Mama, May 1984. What made you and the Odin Teatret come to New York after all these years? We came to New York because Ellen Stewart at La Mama asked us to. She came to Holstebro in 1966 when we were completely ignored and still not recognized, and since that time she has wanted us to come here and present our work. Also, in the past few years the Odin Teatret has been developing a sort of practice or policy of establishing a collaboration and touring especially where there are theatre groups working anonymously in contexts outside a big city or away from the glamor of recognition and critical attention. These are groups which have been called the "Third Theatre," groups not traditional or avant-garde but created by the necessity of the personal needs of certain young people to socialize and create their own pedagogy-a learning process vis-&-vis the group-and using the results of this socialization in places often far from the recognized theatre 8 culture of our society. The fact that we've been working with these groups has accustomed us to go to places where we know the people physically; the audience is not only an anonymous crowd-even if motivated or interested in our work-but people to whom we feel we have a tie, a common situation, a sort of vision. It's more existential than aesthetic. We feel that for such audiences it was a necessity for us to go there. New York has always seemed to us a big quicksand landscape, with very voracious spectators who look at a famous caravan arriving, then it disappears , and then they wait for the next caravan. There is missing in this attitude the possibility of ecological balance and development of the flora and fauna of theatrical cultures, which goes from the amateur groups to the political groups to street theatre to the commercial to the avant-garde-I think of them all as very, very rich, even if not rich in important artistic results. This rich life is something we find in most of Europe. What dictated the choice of the two plays [The Million and Brecht's Ashes II] that you brought to New York? They are the two plays in the repertory that we use to present ourselves in a very traditional situation, the tradition being the way our culture presents theatre-there's a building, the audience comes and buys tickets, and they see the show that's being presented. But of these two productions, would it be correct to say that Brecht's Ashes 1i is more suited to the traditional theatrical environment, whereas The Million is less of an urban piece, as it were? That's right. The Million is the production we use in a barter situation. By barter, we mean literally that we go to a place where we exchange our group culture, which is manifested in The Million, with the culture of the people in the place where we are. The exchange would take place after our presentation of The Million. The people there will then sing their traditional songs, dance, recite poetry, etc. There can even be a barter in urban neighborhoods where you have a precise radiography of the degradation-a syncretic manifestation of an Italian culture, for instance, where you may hear an old man sing traditional songs of the village he left behind, or a young man imitating television stars and rock musicians. In New York, our entire program was meant to be presented from a performing point of view, because most people here are interested in that. It seems from most of your past...


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