1. A manuscript is a large undertaking, what was your vision upon starting Grotowski, Women, and Contemporary Performance: Meetings with Remarkable Women and do you believe you have achieved your goals?
Virginie: I designed this book and its companion documentary film series, featured on the Routledge Performance Archive, to provide insight into the teaching and creative research of key women artists who worked with influential theater innovator Jerzy Grotowski. While my intention was to invite performance studies scholars and theater practitioners to reassess the significance of Grotowski's legacy for contemporary performance, I also wanted to make my interdisciplinary approach relevant to scholars in the humanities and social sciences whose research on the performative dimension of cultural processes has become increasingly focused on experiential cognition, embodiment, and creativity. My main objective for this book, therefore, was to strike a balance between practice and theory by foregrounding the dialogical relationship between scholarly and artistic modes of knowledge production.
I have achieved these goals through a multiplicity of means, which include examining the reassessment of Stanislavsky by feminist theater scholars in light of recent debates about the neuroscientific conception of embodiment; building on this examination to delineate what I identify as the Stanislavsky-Grotowski lineage; and using the defining features of this lineage, namely the notions of impulses, organicity, and associations, as points of entry into the work of Grotowski's women collaborators to map out interconnections between their distinct approaches. I also situate my embodied research at the intersection of performance studies, cultural anthropology, and Indigenous epistemologies, and ground my investigation in four years of multi-sited fieldwork funded by two major grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Significantly, the ethical research principles advocated by Indigenous scholars have guided me throughout the research and writing process, and have enabled me to develop a range of writing strategies to engage with questions pertaining to positionality, reflexivity, dialogism, lived experience, and embodied ways of knowing. This has required me to strive for reciprocity, relevance, and accessibility as part of the goals that I prioritized for the creation of this monograph.
2. What do you hope resonates with the reader?
Virginie: The artistic approaches developed by women artists in the Grotowski diaspora oftentimes cross the boundaries of aesthetic and ritual performance, and I hope that this dimension of their creative research resonates with theater scholars and practitioners interested in experimental theater and post-theatrical performance practices. I argue in my book that the physical and vocal training specific to these practices induces the performer to experience within her organism the flow of energy which characterizes the life of natural ecosystems. This leads me to articulate an alternative performance paradigm grounded in what I define as an ecosystemic conception of organicity derived from the scientific hypothesis that human life and natural ecosystems share fundamental features, and I suggest that such a paradigm supports an ecological understanding of performance, in the broader sense of ecology articulated by Indigenous scholars. I hope this resonates with performance studies scholars seeking to develop an ecocritical perspective, as well as with researchers seeking to legitimize experiential ways of knowing, including Indigenous scholars, artists, and educators committed to decolonizing dominant approaches to research and pedagogy. Finally, I hope that young women searching for alternatives to actor training that perpetuates gender normativity in service of commercial theater and the entertainment industry will be inspired by the artistic journeys of the women whose work I discuss in my book and document in the companion film series.
3. Who are the intended audience?
Virginie: My intended audience are theater/performance artists-scholars, practitioners, educators, and students interested in experimental and intercultural theater, physically-based performance training, paratheatre, theater anthropology, performance ethnography, and arts-based research, as well as scholars conducting interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research in the humanities, fine arts, social sciences, health, environmental studies, and education.
4. What makes this book different from similar titles on the market?
Virginie: This book is the first investigation of the artistic journeys and current creative practices of women from different cultures and generations who share a direct connection to Grotowski's theatrical and post-theatrical investigation of performance. Grounded in an interdisciplinary approach combining performance studies, experimental ethnography, and Indigenous research principles, this book engages with important methodological questions, from designing multi-sited fieldwork and conducting embodied research, to writing responsibly, reflexively, and creatively about experiential ways of knowing.
5. Can you summarize the book’s key message?
Virginie: The artistic approaches to performance examined in this book sustain an interconnection between the organicity of the human body and the organicity of the natural world, and I suggest that the ecosystemic performance paradigm underlying such approaches points to alternative conceptions of creativity, embodiment, and spirituality that challenge anthropocentric and gendered conceptions of agency.
Find out more about Grotowski, Women, and Contemporary Performance: Meetings with Remarkable Women
Watch the book's companion Documentary Film Series on the Routledge Performance Archive.