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Grotowski, Women, and Contemporary Performance

Meetings with Remarkable Women

By Virginie Magnat

Routledge – 2014 – 244 pages

Series: Routledge Advances in Theatre & Performance Studies

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    October 9th 2013


As the first examination of women's foremost contributions to Jerzy Grotowski's cross-cultural investigation of performance, this book complements and broadens existing literature by offering a more diverse and inclusive re-assessment of Grotowski's legacy, thereby probing its significance for contemporary performance practice and research. Although the particularly strenuous physical training emblematic of Grotowski's approach is not gender specific, it has historically been associated with a masculine conception of the performer incarnated by Ryszard Cieslak in The Constant Prince, thus overlooking the work of Rena Mirecka, Maja Komorowska, and Elizabeth Albahaca, to name only the leading women performers identified with the period of theatre productions. This book therefore redresses this imbalance by focusing on key women from different cultures and generations who share a direct connection to Grotowski's legacy while clearly asserting their artistic independence. These women actively participated in all phases of the Polish director’s practical research, and continue to play a vital role in today's transnational community of artists whose work reflects Grotowski's enduring influence. Grounding her inquiry in her embodied research and on-going collaboration with these artists, Magnat explores the interrelation of creativity, embodiment, agency, and spirituality within their performing and teaching. Building on current debates in performance studies, experimental ethnography, Indigenous research, global gender studies, and ecocriticism, the author maps out interconnections between these women's distinct artistic practices across the boundaries that once delineated Grotowski's theatrical and post-theatrical experiments.


Grotowski, Women, and Contemporary Performance is the recipient of the Canadian Association for Theatre Research 2014 Ann Saddlemyer Book Award Honorable Mention: "Virginie Magnat’s Grotowki, Women, and Contemporary Performance: Meetings with Remarkable Women, is the result of a vital and timely scholarly project…Magnat carefully negotiates a variety of key methodologies drawn from performance ethnography in order to present an intimate and compelling portrait of women who took up and extended Grotowski’s invitation to understand performance as a privileged area of human experience within which life might manifest itself at its fullest."

"With Grotowski-based training of her own, Magnat is an insider of sorts …. Her methodology is an exquisite ethnographic balance of researcher and participant…. I found she did a splendid job of placing [this study] within the context of Polish history. …Her overall argument follows a post-theatrical path in Communist Poland instead of capitalizing on Grotowski’s international reputation….The volume is a comprehensive collection of the practising female Grotowski practitioners in which Magnat succeeds in demonstrating their techniques by having learned them in practice, rather than simply observing. This is a valuable body of work that is not only the first to give full attention to the female angle of Grotowski’s legacy but also reflects on a personal ?work on the self’, while at the same time exploring the author’s and the women collaborators’ individual growth." - Review by Lara Szypszak, Canadian Theatre Review

"Influenced by the fields of indigenous and feminist research methodologies and her personal contact with Cree director, performer and writer Floyd Favel, Magnat lays out an approach that stresses the necessity of abandoning the position of a distanced, objective observer of cultural material in favour of an approach that acknowledges the researcher’s personal, sensuous involvement in the subject being researched. She also gives a theoretical and historical background for her project based on the spread of ideas and techniques from Stanislavski to Grotowski and ultimately the subjects of her study…. In bringing to light the work of these practitioners, Magnat also has the opportunity to further analyse the development of Grotowski’s Paratheatrical experiments – a period of his work that is often given only cursory or dismissive treatment in accounts that address the officially sanctioned direction of his work and successors….The book provides much interesting ethnographic detail and well-constructed arguments … Magnat is asking provocative and important questions, and offering access to a rich and fascinating realm of performance practice." - Review by Brian Schultis, Studies in Theatre and Performance


1. Research Context, Interdisciplinary Methodology, Fieldwork Objectives 2. Practice: Mapping out Interconnections 3. Towards an Ecology of the Body-in-Life 4. At the Crossroads of Theatre, Active Culture, and Ritual Arts Afterword

Author Bio

Virginie Magnat is Associate Professor of Performance in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Name: Grotowski, Women, and Contemporary Performance: Meetings with Remarkable Women (Hardback)Routledge 
Description: By Virginie Magnat. As the first examination of women's foremost contributions to Jerzy Grotowski's cross-cultural investigation of performance, this book complements and broadens existing literature by offering a more diverse and inclusive re-assessment...
Categories: Theatre & Performance Studies, Performance Theory, Practice & Practitioners, Women's Studies, Anthropology - Soc Sci, Ethnography & Methodology, Qualitative Methods, Indigenous Peoples, Environment & Society