Arts & Events

Around and About Theater: Grotowski show

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday April 20, 2011 - 02:11:00 PM

Jerzy Grotowski was perhaps the most influential theater director of the 1960s-70s. During the last years of his life--and of last century--he founded The Workcenter in Pontedera, Italy, to research performance, not necessarily theater--"not a spectacle," said his collaborator Mario Biagini last week at SF Museum of Modern Art, "in that it doesn't have to be looked at by an audience. But it can embrace an audience. And don't look too hard for a story!" 

Biagini's troupe is here from Italy for the first time. (Thomas Richards, Grotowski's better-known "heir" at The Workcenter, is in Brazil performing and giving workshops). The ensemble is young, open and friendly. There's much choral singing and movement. The material is based on texts by Allen Ginsberg and songs from the American South. Biagini is a splendid director, fine singer and performer; an excellent commentator. 

You don't have to be a fan of Ginsberg--though it doesn't hurt!--to enjoy this.It's refreshing, sometimes exhilarating, often simple and profound, with much to say for all the performing arts. 

Thursday there're films on Ginsberg from 6 and a performance starting around 8 at SFMOMA, all for the price of museum admission. The troupe will use the public space of the museum. On Saturday, from 8, another performance of different materialat the Performance Art Institute, 575 Sutter, San Francisco downtown, for $20 suggested donation. (reservations@the 

Something unusual--and highly recommended. 

After writing about the Grotowski Workcenter visiting the Bay Area, I went to an open rehearsal of the show they'll present Saturday only, 8 pm, at the Performance Art Institute, 575 Sutter (between Powell and Mason) in downtown San Francisco--a very intimate space ...

It was a phenomenal evening--I say "evening," but it was only an hour and ten minutes, though packed with dynamic song, delivery of lines from Ginsberg poems, exciting ensemble movement ... a brilliant staging by Mario Biagini, with great focus and performing by the young international cast. And this after thoroughly enjoying the events of this past week ... but this's the blockbuster, a thrilling show, pure rhapsody of performance technique that reaches sublimity. No wonder Andre Gregory praised 'I Am America' as one of the best things he'd seen onstage in years.

I urge everybody who can go to see it. A truly unique event. The place is small; contact A donation is requested, $20 suggested.