The University of Research of the Theatre of Nations

[Uniwersytet Poszukiwań Teatru Narodów] a companion event to the Festival of the Theatre of Nations in Warsaw which took place in Wrocław between 14 June and 7 July 1975, inspired and directed by Grotowski. The Wrocław event combined a festival of experimental and avant-garde theatre, meetings with artists and creators, and a series of activities taking the form of open paratheatrical training sessions. This was the culmination of paratheatre, as it was the largest-scale attempt at expanding its experiments.

The University’s guests were some of the most renowned theatre experimenters of the time, belonging to several generations. One guest who received particular honours (including a ceremonial open-top car ride through the city) was Jean-Louis Barrault, who during a meeting led by Grotowski at Teatr Polski gave a spontaneous mime study of taming a wild steed. There were also public meetings with Peter Brook, Luca Ronconi, Joseph Chaikin, Eugenio Barba (who assisted Grotowski in organising the whole event) and with André Gregory. Brook, Barba and Gregory also led workshops for selected participants of the University.

The greatest part of the programme was, however, taken up with training sessions and works-in-progress led by members of the Laboratory Theatre both for larger groups of willing participants (known as the General Laboratory and Ule [Beehives]) as well as for a smaller, more specialist group of participants. These sessions included Zygmunt Molik’s Acting Therapy, Ludwik Flaszen’s Medytacje na głos (Meditations Aloud), Zbigniew Cynkutis and Rena Mirecka’s Zdarzenia (Events), Stanisław Scierski’s Spotkania warsztatowe (Workshop encounters), Teo Spychalski’s Twoja pieśń (Your song), Włodzimierz Staniewski’s Działania nocne (Night-time actions) and Special Project led by Ryszard Cieślak. Aside from this, medical consultations were also part of the programme, including sessions with the renowned psychiatrist Kazimierz Dąbrowski and the dietician Jan Kwaśniewski. Odin Teatret Permanent Programme also featured and included workshops, studies, open rehearsals, film projections and lectures. There were also workshops by the Swedish group Daidalos and film showings documenting the activities of both the Laboratory Theatre and foreign artists. Relatively little of the programme was taken up by actual theatre performances: aside from several presentations of Apocalypsis cum Figuris, three other works invited to the Festival of the Theatre of Nations could be seen in Wrocław, including Tadashi Suzuki’s Dramatic passions II.

The exceptional nature of the University was perhaps best captured by Gregory who said that it was the Woodstock of theatre. The experiences gained during the Wrocław encounters were employed by the Laboratory Theatre several months later when it organised as part of the Venice Biennale The University of Research II (22 September – 25 November 1975), which involved meetings with Italian theatre companies and training sessions led by various members of the Laboratory group.