Source Material on
Jerzy Grotowski
Filling in Grotowski's background

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Editor: (Owen Daly)  I am again grateful to Robert Ellermann..  In response to my piece on Grotowski and Yoga, filled in a lot of the blanks for me regarding both Grotowski's background in theatre and in Eastern philosophy.

     I read your piece on Grotowski and eastern thought and you should know that Vakhtangov and all the members of Stanislavsky's First Studio were deeply influenced by eastern philosophy through their teacher and director Leopold Sulerzhitsky.  If you read Vakhtangov's notes you will find him recommending books on Hatha Yoga. Sulerzhitsky was a great friend of Tolstoy and of course Tolstoy was an early supporter of Gandhi.

     Sulerzhitsky even led a group of Doukhobors, a eastern inspired religious sect in Russia to Canada in the early part of the 20th century to settle and their community exists to this day.  Many of the early experiments in creating the Stanislavsky System were based on yoga inspired principles and exercises. Boleslavsky, another member with Vakhtangov of the fabled First Studio, was in reality a Pole and he returned to Poland to run a studio theatre and a school there from about 1919 to 1921 or so.  He was responsible for training many of the young theatre artists there who would have become Grotowski's direct and indirect teachers in Poland.

     The deep spirituality of the First Studio; of Vakhtangov's studio; of the Habima; of Boleslavsky's brief Polish studio -- all these mirror Grotowski's Laboratory Theatre.  I believe Barba has recently published references where Grotowski says Vakhtangov was everything to him.

     I hope this helps.

Robert Ellermann

Robert Ellermann trained with Lee Strasberg, Bobby Lewis, among others, and was artistic director of the Cactus Theatre in Chicago, and taught with Bobby Lewis in Los Angeles. -Ed.




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