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Lurching towards oblivion? Sculpture on Swidnicska Street, Wroclaw Poland, where dozens of American theater directors — the majority from Los Angeles —  have gathered for the Grotowki Festival through June 30. Left out in the last posting's roll call for L.A. guests is Tali Pressman, Cornerstone Theater Company's new managing director and ARTEL's Garth Whitten.

The word “pilgrimage” was the word used by Mabou Mines' Lee Brueuer at

yesterday's U.S. Artistis Initiative Session on the theme of laboratory

theater. Can a theatrical idea be investigated with any seriousness within the confines of a four-week rehearsal/four-week production schedule, with budgets continuing to diminish the number of actors who can appear in any given production? Questions such as these, revolving around the need for alternative models for doing theater, are still percolating.

The session was introduced by Philip Arnoult (founder of the Center for

International Theatre Development), who delivered extensive biographical and some personal/anecdotal notes on on the experimental Polish director Jerzi Grotowski (for whom the festival is dedicated) before the main event — a discussion — could proceed. (After leaving Poland, Grotowski continued his work for a while in California at U.C., Irvine.) When we got to the main discussion, it was co-hosted by Olya Petrakova, Byan Brown and Garth Whitten of L.A.'s ARTEL theater laboratory, and Jeremy Louise Eaton and Brian Fairley of Massachusetts'  Double Edge Theater.

ARTEL's Bran Brown, Olya Petrakova and Garth Whitten, yesterday morning

Both companies have a deeply felt mission to integrate theater into a kind of life/learning process, without the confines of a traditional rehearsal schedule, or the narcissistic ambitions that accompany traditional theater. ARTEL operates in in urban Los Angeles and Double Edge Theater in the rural isolation of dairy farms two and a half hours from Boston.

ARTEL has Santa Monica Boulevard transvestites at its doorstep; Double Edge Theater has bovines. Petrakova says her mission was inspired by her father, a Soviet geologist who's job was to purify toxic waters in Soviet republics. The art of purification is what she seeks in her theater. Eaton said that Double Edge recruits fees-paying interns who work in theater classes/laboratories for two years before appearing on stage.

“You don't pilgrim in a barn,” the multiple-Obie-award winning Breuer noted, turning the noun into a verb. “You pilgrim by running into people. The pilgrimage is in your head.”

The Session revealed how difficult it is to articulate the many abstract/metaphysical principles of exploring an idea in a room with no audience, sometimes for years, before finally presenting it. Is this a worthy use of time and effort, or an indulgence of those who can afford it because of trust funds.

Issues of “privilege” and financing got a little touchy. Arnoult pointed out that San Francisco's behemoth regional theater, American Conservatory Theater, has an annual budget in the region of $19 million, while Double Edge operates on $250 thousand a year. They too have to pay to keep their lights on, and pay for their barn in an impoverished part of their state.

Breuer will be speaking today at length about Mabou Mines. Tonight we'll be seeing Polish director Kryzstof Warlikowski's production of Sarah Kane's Cleansed.

Sarah Kane, the British playwright whose suicide turned her into a international cult heroine, is alive and well in Wrocslaw


Check back here Monday afternoon for NEW THEATER REVIEWS of Inside Out, about a sex-change operation at Actors Circle; Cabaret at the MET, The Secret Rose Mini Musical Festival; Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt's 2 Pianos 4 Hands at the Colony; Athol Fugard's Coming Home, at the Fountain Theatre; Meryl Friedman's musical adaptation of Aristophanes' The Wasps at The Lost Studio; David LeBarron's play about drag queenery, Little Black Veil, with the music of Abby Travis at The Complex; Godspell at the Knighsbridge; and Cirque  Berzerk at the L.A. State Historic Park downtown.

LA Weekly