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Eugenio Barba

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  • 1. Eugenio Barba Resource pack
  • 2. Biography
    • Eugenio Barba ‘Theatre Practitioner and Visionary’
    • Eugenio barba was born in Italy in the year 1936 where he lived until the age of fifth teen. Barba then went to a military college for three years, planning to follow in his father’s footsteps. It was during these three years he became interested in theatre, seeing many performances. In 1954 barba graduated from military college.
    • After graduating barba began work as a welder in Norway, after a year of welding barba went to work on a merchant marine so he could join a ship he knew would travelling through countries which he had become fascinated with, especially in indian religions. Whilst working on his ship he got to travel through the middle east, Africa, Lapland and, parts of Scandinavia.
    • In the year 1965 barba graduated from university of Oslo with a master of the arts degree in French and Norwegian literature and the history of religion. After winning an award in 1960 barba went to Warsaw in Poland to study ‘theatre directing’ at the state theatre school, barba left the institution after a year because he didn’t like the contrast between the theatre productions and post war in poland. He then decided to travel around Poland for a year; it was during these travels that he came across Teatr 13 Rezedow – the theatre of thirteen rows in Opole.
    • In was here that eugenio barba met Jerzey Grotowski, the leader of Teatr 13 Rezedow. Barba then stayed and worked with Grotowski for the next three years. At first barba was not very impressed with Grotowski’s work but when he learned that they were both very interested in Asian religions and philosophies he returned to observe Grotowski’s works. During his three years with Grotowski barba chose to observe and learn from the performers rather then join in.
  • 3.
    • Eugenio barba did a lot of promotional work and wrote many articles whilst with Grotowski and he got the groups work noticed, eventually the group were invited to go to Europe and perform some of their works.
    • In 1963 barba travelled to india on a study trip, it was here he first came into contact with Kathakali. Kathakali is a form of theatre, it was at the time ignored by western theatre practitioners and scholars and so barba became one of the first to write a technical description of it. After his visit barba wrote a book on this form of theatre entitled ‘Grotowski, in search of a lost theatre’.
    • On returning from India barba was not allowed back into Poland because he was foreign, so he instead decided to return to Norway. Back in Oslo in 1964 barba tried everything to join the mainstream theatre in the hopes of becoming a professional theatre designer but was met with constant rejection because he was foreign and no one was interested in hiring a foreigner.
    • In the end barba was forced to start his own theatre group which he did on october 1 st 1964. he called his group Odin Teatret. The group was nade up of youngsters who had not made it into the state theatre school.
    • Barba and his group trained and rehersed a show called Ornitofeline by Jens Bjorneboe, and after they performed it they were invited to create a theatre library in Norway. In the year 1979 Eugenio Barba founded the ISTA – the International School of Theatre Anthropology where he studies the science of theatre and performers.
  • 4. Biography of works
    • 1963 – travelled to India and wrote an essay on Kathakali, a form of theatre that had been over looked by west. The was published in France, Italy, the US and Danmark.
    • 1965 – His first book about Grotowski In search of a lost theatre was published in Hungary and Italy.
    • 1979 – he founded the International School of Theatre Anthroplogy (ISTA) During the past forty two years Eugenio Barba has directed 65 Productions with Odin Teatret and the Theatrum Mundi Ensemble, the best include:
    • 1896 - 1993 Ferai
    • 1872 – Min Fars Hus (My Fathers House)
    • 1980 – The gospel According to Oxyrhincus
    • 1988 – Talabot
    • 1991 – Itsi Bitsi
    • – Kaosmos
    • 1998 – Mythos
    • More recently:
    • 2002 - Salt
    • 2003 – Great Cities Under The Moon
    • 2005 – Andersen’s Dreram
    • 2006 – Ur-Hamlet
    • 2006 – Don Giovanni all’Inferno
  • 5.
    • recent publications, translated into several languages are:
    • The Paper Canoe
    • Theatre: Solitude, Craft, Revolt
    • Land of the Ashes and Diamonds, My Apprenticeship in Poland
    • 26 letters from Jerzy Grotowski tp Eugenio Barba
    • The Secret Art of the Performer in collaboration with Nicola Savarese
    • The revised an updated version: A Dictionary of Theatre Anthropology
    • Eugenio Barba is now on the advisory boards of scholarly journals like the ‘Drama Review’ and in the last thirty six years he has directed twenty three theatre productions some of which took upto two years to produce. Amonug these are ‘Ferai’ 1969, ‘Min Fars Hus’ 1972, ‘Brect’s Ashes’ 1980 and many more. More recently a play was ‘Mythos’ 1998.
    • Barba has written and is refrenced in many books and is the winner of many awards such as the honorary dontorates from the university of Arnos, the Danish Academy award. Mexican theatre critic’s prize, Pirandello international prize, the sonnig prize from the university of Cop Hagen and many more.
  • 6. Summary of the idea’s and practices of Barba
    • Theatre Anthropology is the study of the pre-expressive scenic behaviour which lies at the base of different genres, roles and personal or collective traditions. An actor has the ability to mentally and physically prepare himself for the role this is called technique and can be done consciously or unconsciously. Preparation such as the positioning of the spinal column, weight, balance, the direction of their eyes in space, all these respectively produce physical expressions, also known as pre-expressive tensions. These new tensions generate a different energy quality, they render the body theatrically "decided", "alive", "believable" and manifest the performer's "presence“. These three aspects are: 1) The performer's personality,the characterisitcs which makes their performances unique due to their own personal context, what the actor brings to the character. 2) The particularity of the scenic tradition and the historical-cultural context through which the performer's unique personality manifests itself. 3) The uses of the body-mind according to extra-daily techniques, using the actors pre-expressive tensions defined by Barba’sTheatre Anthropology.
    • The first two aspects determine the transition from pre-expressivity to performing. The third is that which does not vary, underlying the various personal, stylistic and cultural differences. Performance study has tended to prioritise theories and utopian ideas, neglecting the empirical approach. Theatre Anthropology directs its attention to this empirical territory in order to trace a path between the different techniques, aesthetics, genres and specialisations that deal with stage practice. It does not seek to fuse, accumulate or catalogue acting techniques. It seeks the elementary: the technique of techniques. On the one hand this is utopia. On the other, it is another way of saying learning to learn.
  • 7.
    • ‘ Teacher, Director and Theorist’
    • Since his first visit to the theatre, when the unexpected appearance of a horse on stage broke the “uniform veil of the stage” Eugenio Barba has enjoyed doing things differently and breaking the ‘rules’ of theatre.
    • Barba has a love for Indian forms of theatre such as ‘Kathakali’ and his experiences with this lesser known form of theatre have enabled him to develop his performance theories.
    • Eugenio Barba has completely rejected western theatre , he has new unheard of ideas about theatre, and he scientifically studies it. Barba is the founder of the International school of Theatre Anthropology – the ISTA.
    • Barba covers four main areas of study, the Odin Theatret , Third Theatre , Theatre Anthropology and the International School of Theatre Anthropology . He has spent over thirty years studying the art of the performer; it was through this research that he was able to formulate the theory that all performers of all cultures and either gender have similar pre-expressive gestures, and make observational studies of these through both video and notes. He calls this theory theatre anthropology.
    • Theatre anthropology is the scientific study of theatre on the biological level. In any performance situation, the way in which a performer uses his or her body and mind is very different to that of ‘real life’. Barba calls this use of body and mind the performer’s technique. He says that performers have many techniques and they can be used on purpose, consciously or they can happen on a subconscious level.
  • 8.
    • Barba covers four main areas of study, the Odin Theatret , Third Theatre , Theatre Anthropology and the International School of Theatre Anthropology . He has spent over thirty years studying the art of the performer; it was through this research that he was able to formulate the theory that all performers of all cultures and either gender have similar pre-expressive gestures, and make observational studies of these through both video and notes. He calls this theory theatre anthropology.
    • Theatre anthropology is the scientific study of theatre on the biological level. In any performance situation, the way in which a performer uses his or her body and mind is very different to that of ‘real life’. Barba calls this use of body and mind the performer’s technique. He says that performers have many techniques and they can be used on purpose, consciously or they can happen on a subconscious level.
  • 9.
    • Barba has documented many recurring principals in these techniques – things like the way the weight is held, balance, movements of the eyes etc. human language is supposed to be 80% body language, people have an inbuilt ability to ‘read’ emotions on people, these pre-expressive actions are being taken in by the audience and making the performer look ‘alive’ or ‘decided’ before performing.
    • The ISTA group is controlled by Barba and involves sessions with members of the group usually involving private research sessions, performances and open discussions with theatre practitioners and scholars who do not attend the private meetings. Work is often shown via demonstration and observation. The group does not offer much opportunity for discussion of work and has been criticized for this.
    • Barba criticises western theatre for having the audience as the big important focus, he believes the focus should lie with the talent – the performers. He criticises western theatre for working from a play text and a director’s instruction too, he believes the focus should be on the physical actions of the performer.
    • Although Barba criticises western theatre, and has a love for eastern forms of theatre, he claims that oriental actors have very specific traditions to which they must conform and he criticises them for not exploring new traditions and styles.
    • Eugenio Barba is a practitioner of the third theatre and is constantly searching for useful bits of information for both eastern and western theatre. He is always looking for what he calls the ‘unknown’ , for the essence of theatre and performance.
  • 10. Influences on Barba:
    • When Barba migrated to Norway, he formed his own approach to directing or, in is words, a 'maitre du regard'. As a migrant, Barba felt like an outsider as he was not of the culture in which he was living, and could not understand the language. Barba, therefore, found he interpreted meaning through the physical gestures of the people he met. He observed only of the gesture but of the possible meaning behind it.
    • During a chance meeting with Jerzy Grotowski, Barba decided to join the Theatre Laboratory. He discovered that he shared an interest in Asian religions and philosophies with Grotowski which led to Barba accepting the invitation to go to Opole and see Grotowski’s company’s work.
    • Barba calls his time with Grotowski's Laboratory his 'period of apprenticeship'. His initial approach to his own work was inspired by Grotowski's notion of a theatre laboratory and the emphasis on performance research. How the actors worked and lived together was to become more important than the performance.
    • Barba visited India in 1963, to investigate further the theatre form ‘Kathikali’. His experience here was to have a profound influence on the development of Barba’s own theatre company, the Odin.
    • He was particularly taken on his visit to the Kathakali Kalamandalam in Kerala, India by the notion that theatre could be performed anywhere, and an audience could be spellbound in the atmosphere of an Indian railway station.
  • 11.
    • Barba liked to work with artists from classical Asian theatres and was particularly influenced by his 15 year collaboration with Sanjukta Panigrahi, with whom he founded the International School for Theatre Anthropology. From his work with her, he deduced “The real collaboration actually begins when I forgot about traditions, about geographical and cultural distance, when all the differences are embodied in the individuality of the person in front of me…Theatre Anthropology does not give advice on ethics; it is the premise of ethics”.
    • Antonin Artaud influenced Barba through his idea of the Theatre of Cruelty. He believed that the audience should be affected by theatre as much as possible, and used a mixture of odd and slightly disturbing lighting, sound and performance in his plays to gain this effect (often a violent, physical determination to shatter false reality). Artaud also expressed as appreciation for Eastern forms of theatre, particularly the Balinese. He particularly admired the codified, highly-ritualistic and precise physicality of the dance form.
    • Also influenced by Jean Genet – a controversial and prominent French writer and alter political activist. He is associated also with the Theatre of Cruelty, genet’s plays are “highly-stylised depictions of ritualistic struggles between outcasts of various kinds and their oppressors”. He parodies social identities and manipulates the inherent potential of dramatic fiction giving a complex layering effect. He was explicit and often deliberately provocative in his portrayal of such taboos as homosexuality and criminality.
  • 12.
    • Samuel Beckett, an Irish writer, dramatist and poet is also said to have influenced Barba. His work is desolate and fundamentally minimalist. He has been accused of being intensely pessimistic about the human condition; however, it has been counter-argued that his pessimistic attitude is not so much toward the human condition as such, but more for that of an “established cultural and societal structure which imposes a stultifying will upon otherwise hopeful individuals; it is the inherent optimism of the human condition , therefore, that is at tension with the oppressive world”.
    • Barba was also influenced by Commedia Dell’arte – a popular form of Italian improvisational theatre. The performances were always put on outside with few props. Barba continued this idea with the Odin Theatret.
  • 13. Kathakali
    • Kathakali - big influence
    • according to kathakali“One cannot penetrate the secrets of the Kathakali actor, much less copy his training or technique because to be a Kathakali actor is not a choice but a calling.”
    • Kathakali started from Ramanattom and krishnanattom a form of enactment. Kathakali shares a lot of similarities to both Ramanattom and Krishnanattom. But it also incorporated several outside elements, which is thought to have contributed to its popularity. In particular, the increasing use of Malayalam, which is the local language made it more popular among the masses. During its evolution, Kathakali also imbibed elements from folk and martial arts which existed at the time in Keral Characters with vividly painted faces and elaborate costumes re-enact stories from the Hindu epics. Kathakali has traditionally been performed in Hindu temples, but nowadays it may also be seen in theatres.
  • 14.
    • Kathakali actor uses immense concentration, skill and physical stamina, gained from training based on Kalaripayattu, the ancient martial art of Kerala, to prepare for his demanding role. Training can often last for 8-10 years. The training programme is intensive. In Kathakali, the story is enacted purely by the movements of the hands, body and by facial expressions. The expressions are derived from Natyasatra (the science of expressions) and are classified into nine as in most Indian classical art forms. Dancers also undergo special practice sessions to learn control of their eye movements.
    • Traditionally, a Kathakali performance is usually conducted at night and ends in early morning. Kathakali is usually performed in front of a lamp. Traditionally, the lamp used to provide light when the plays used to be performed inside temples, houses of nobles and palaces. Enactment of a play by actors takes place to the accompaniment of music (geetha) and instruments. A distinguishing characteristic of this art form is that the actors never speak and use hand gestures, expressions and rhythmic dancing instead of dialogue
  • 15. :
    • Discuss any problems which might have been raised by Barba’s work :
    • Barba's notion of pre-expressivity had been criticised for lack of ability to differentiate between culture and gender.
    • Also, Barba's lack of reference to other disciplines of study has been poorly received.
    • Barba has been accused of distancing himself from the history of Western theatre and living on a ‘Floating Island’.
    • Barba’s definitions of theatre have been said to be limited. By attempting to define a theatre that is nether first nor second, he ends up creating a non-definition.
    • According to Barba; “Theatre Anthropology does not seek to define in a scientific sense. It is a search for 'bits of advice', 'information', that can be followed or ignored.”. However, in the attempt to find ‘bits of advice’ and a reluctance to define anything, Barba actually arrives at many definitions, which can get very confusing.
    • Accused of lacking or suppressing his own originality – he prefers to wait for colleagues to instigate new ideas and points of departure.
    • Eugenio Barba is a theatre practitioner; therefore his theories have developed as a result of his practical work. However, as Barba limits himself to particular parts of practice and performance approaches, the basis of his theories is therefore just as limited. Barba is not interested in theatre that has a pre-written text as its starting point.
    • His arguments are based on his personal experience, which are never-the-less vast, and he does not relate in his ideas to any other theorist.
    • There is also a strange division between Barba's use of other cultures and the intercultural exchange through the organised barters.
  • 16. The impact Barba’s work has on us!
    • Barba’s work has very little support and is heavily criticised by many theatre practioners, therefore his work has very little impact on us because his theories aren’t generally practiced, and his idea’s not publicised or used very little.
    • However being a somewhat recognised critic, appearing in magazines and in several books does suggest he has some influence in contempory theatre.
    • Barba is a teacher and in turn means he is passing on his theories to the next generation of actors, in doing this his abstract theories could become more wide spread and accepted as the norm.
    • His theories focus on the actor rather than the audience, teaching new techniques and studies, this again could bring a whole new perspective on performances and in turn create a whole new theatre experience for the audience.
    • Because of Barba, Grotowiski’s work was publicised and became popluar, without it Grotowiski’s contribution to theatre would be minimal and his techniques would have remained un-used completely changing the shape of theatre, so in that respect Barba’s work has a great impact on us as a theatre going audience, Barba has also paved the way for more abstract concepts in the future of theatre, which again could change how we see theatre today.
  • 17. References
    • Towards a Third Theatre: Eugenio Barba and the Odin Teatret: Ian Watson, London:Routledge, 1993
    • www.wikipedia.comhttp://www.odinteatret.dk/ista/anthropology.htm
    • http://www.odinteatret.dk/general_information/eugenio.htm
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenio_Barba
    • www.google.co.uk
    • http://www.ucd.ie/irthfrm/issue4.htm#aduffy
    • A dictionary of theatre anthropology: Eugenio Barba and nicola sabarese