February 22, 2007, by Peter Kirwan

Actors and the community

I’ve just been reading the biographies of the actors in Teatr Piesn Kozla, and wanted to post about some of the things that they’ve done. They don’t advertise themselves as a community theatre group, but yet I found reading their CVs very inspiring. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Actor Alexander Rogaczewski has, since the late 1970s, “conducted extensive research on Russian settlers in Siberia and their assimilation into traditional cultures. He has been the driving force and main organiser of many ethnographic expeditions, whose main purpose has been to discover the musical heritage of the Siberian Atlantis – the villages and hamlets flooded during the construction of the Angara dam”. He collected material from this lost culture, established the Irkutsk Authentic Music Ensemble in 1989 which “attempts to reconstruct and perform the ‘Drowned Songs’”, and after 10 years of intensive work concluded the research by releasing a CD of the project’s work.

How amazing is that?! Devoting 25 years of your life to reclaiming the art of a lost culture and attempting to preserve it. Three of the actresses in ‘Macbeth’ were also recruited from his ensemble, and these four provided much of the music that guided the play.

  • The company run an Acting MA in collaboration with Manchester Met. Many of the actors in ‘Macbeth’ are either taking the MA or are teachers on it. Considering they’re an avant-garde troupe, it seems pretty cool that they are so much engaged with theatre education and the teaching of their art, as opposed to being precious about it or holding closed rehearsal periods. Others of the actors are lecturers and workshops leaders with other institutions too.
  • Gabriel Paul Gawin, who is one of the founder members of the company and played Macbeth, has done some of the foremost work in disabled people’s theatre- he “founded and became Artistic Director of New Breed, the acclaimed disabled people’s theatre company” and, in collaboration with Peter Brook, has led research workshops with severely disabled participants, exploring theatre with specific groups.
  • Christopher Sivertsen, who payed Banquo, is a physical theatre specialist, who has developed his own system of training. “He has directed and performed in a variety of productions based on the exploration of fire, music and movement”, and while preparing his MA dissertation conducts workshops around the world.
  • Finally, there are director Grzegorz Bral and Anna Zubrzycki, who played Lady Macbeth. These two have been working together since the early 1990s, when they became two of “the foremost acting workshop leaders in Europe, teaching in major workshop festivals”. Anna was also a founding member at the end of the 70s of the Gardzienice Centre for Theatre Practices, which “became the foremost avant-garde theatre group in Poland”.
  • Grzegorz, in 2005, “became Artistic Director of the Brave Festival in Poland, a festival against cultural exile, presenting the art of vanishing cultures and traditions from all over the world”.
  • Finally, since 1997, Grzegorz and Anna have “organised annual soup kitchens for the homeless and hungry in Lublin and Wroclaw”.

I don’t know about you, but those things really inspired me. It’s a collective of artists with their own methods, their own interests and own research projects, who yet come together to create ensemble pieces that weave together their strengths. And still they find the time to do their own work and contribute to the theatrical and local communities.

More like this, please.

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