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 Ryszard Cieslak in The Constant Prince, 1965, photo by Andrzej Paluchiewicz

August 11, 1933 Jerzy Marian Grotowski is born in Rzeszów, southeastern Poland.

September 1951 Grotowski applies to the Acting Department of the State Theatre School in Kraków with the following results: Physical Appearance: C; Diction: F; Voice: B; Expressiveness: C; Written test: A.

June 1955 Grotowski graduates with an actor’s certifi cate and receives a scholarship to study directing at the State Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS) in Moscow. He travels there to study under Yuri Zavadsky and becomes known as a “fanatic of Stanislavsky.”

Theatre of Productions 1959-69 The first period of Grotowski’s work during which he engages in the creation of theatre performances. During this period he is an early pioneer in the field of environmental theatre, creates and realizes the idea of “poor theatre,” elaborates and refines a unique investigation into the nature of acting departing from the principles of Stanislavsky’s method of physical actions, distills the theatre to an encounter between the actor and the spectator, and leads his actors toward “the total act,” an absolute disarmament during which the actor “reveals […] and sacrifi ces the innermost part of himself” (Grotowski 1968: 35). Grotowski is well known for his productions of this period, such as Acropolis (1964), The Constant Prince (1965), and his last performance, Apocalypsis cum Figuris (1969-1973).

Spring 1959 Theatre theorist and dramaturg Ludwik Flaszen invites Grotowski to join him in reviving a small theatre in out-of-the-way Opole, Poland. With Flaszen as the literary director and Grotowski as the artistic director, the two work with a core group of 8 actors to form the Theatre of Thirteen Rows.

January 1965 What is now known as the Laboratory Theatre relocates to Wroclaw, Poland.

Fall 1967 Grotowski makes his fi rst visit to the U.S. when he and Ryszard Cieslak lead a workshop with actors studying at New York University’s School of the Arts. Subsequently, Grotowski made frequent trips to America to lecture and eventually to lead his “Objective Drama” program at UC-Irvine between 1983 and 1986.

1968 Towards a Poor Theatre is published. This seminal work, edited by Eugenio Barba, continues to have deep and far reaching repercussions on 20th-21st century theatre.

Fall 1969 The Polish Laboratory Theatre performs in New York with The Constant Prince, Akropolis, and Apocalypsis cum Figuris. The reactions of public, press, and theatre specialists are electric.

Paratheatre 1969-78 In this phase, also known as the “theatre of participation” or “active culture,” Grotowski shifts his focus away from theatre art and questions of technique towards eliminating the distinction between actors and spectators in events that involved spontaneous contact between experienced leaders and outside participants. Often, Laboratory Theatre Actors lead these paratheatrical events.

Summer of 1975 The University of Research of The Theatre of Nations is held in Wroclaw under the sponsorship of theLaboratory Theatre. Over 4,500 people participate in classes, seminars, workshops, performances, public meetings, fi lms, demonstrations, and paratheatre events.

Theatre of Sources 1976-82 Working with an international team of practitioners from India, Mexico, Haiti, and elsewhere, Grotowski seeks to identify “source techniques, archaic or nascent, that bring us [those actively involved] back to the sources of life, to direct, so we say, primeval perception, to organic primary experience of life. Existence-presence” (Grotowski 1978: 9-11).

August 31, 1984 After 25 years of work, the Laboratory Theatre is formally dissolved.

Objective Drama 1983-86 Conducted at the University of California-Irvine, this phase explored specifi c elements of ancient rituals coming from a variety of cultures, performative elements that could have a precise and thus objective impact on participants. A renewed emphasis on performance craft begins.

1986 Grotowski is invited by the Centro per la Sperimentazione e la Ricerca Teatrale to shift the base of his work to Pontedera in Tuscany, Italy, where Grotowski is offered an opportunity to conduct long-term research on performance. The Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski is founded.

Art as vehicle 1986-present the final phase of Grotowski’s work, also known as ”ritual arts.” During this phase of research, conducted in Pontedera, Grotowski develops performance structures consisting of “actions related to very ancient songs which traditionally served ritual purposes and so can have a direct impact on – so to say – the head, the heart, and the body of the doers, songs which can allow the passage from a vital energy to a more subtle one” (Thibaudat 1995: 29). In this phase, Grotowski collaborates with Thomas Richards, a young American actor who had studied at the Yale University.

1991 Grotowski is awarded a MacArthur ”Genius” Award.

1996 Grotowski changes the name of the Workcenter to: “Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards.” During the fi nal phase of his research, “Art as vehicle”, Grotowski concentrates with Richards on the process of “transmission” in the ancient, traditional sense of the word. During this phase, Mario Biagini, a member to the Workcenter team since its beginnings and key contributor to the work of “Art as vehicle”, also works closely with Grotowski.

1997 Grotowski is appointed to the fi rst chair of theatre anthropology at the Collége de France.

January 14, 1999 Grotowski dies in Pontedera, Italy after a prolonged illness.

The Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards
Pontedera, Italy

Since Grotowski’s passing in 1999, Richards and his Associate Director, Mario Biagini, have been carrying forward the artistic development of the company. Jerzy Grotowski entrusted Richards and Biagini as the sole legatees of his Estate, including his entire body of written work. Today at the Workcenter, Richards and Biagini actively continue this performing arts research as a living tradition, pursuing and developing its essential investigations.

The Grotowski Institute, Wroclaw, Poland

In 1990 The Centre for Study of Jerzy Grotowski’s Work and of the Cultural and Theatrical Research started its activities under the direction of Zbigniew Osinski in the building of the Laboratory Theatre, which was formally dissolved in 1984. This institution, which changed its name in 2006 to The Grotowski Institute, is devoted to documentation and research of the artistic activities of Grotowski and the Laboratory Theatre, as well as organizing international meetings, conferences, and theatre workshops.