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Grandfathers, Orphans, and the Family Saga of European Theatre

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 October 2003


In this essay Eugenio Barba, director of Odin Teatret, founder of the International School for Theatre Anthropology, and a Contributing Editor of NTQ, traces his own ‘orphanage’ from a professional family – and his discovery not only of an ‘elder brother’ in Grotowski, but of his two ‘grandfathers’, Stanislavsky and Meyerhold. He extends the metaphor to suggest how these two branches of a theatrical family tree, apparently of quite different impulses and temperaments, shared a working language, however differently this translated into their theatre practice. He sums this up as a common concern with ‘showing how thoughts move’, and relates this in particular to the ways in which the theatre lost, preserved, and has slowly rediscovered the work of Meyerhold, and to how the ‘disconnected tradition’ of his work re-emerges in unexpected places. This takes Barba on a journey from the home where Meyerhold received his friends in Moscow, as lovingly restored by his granddaughter, to Mexico and Colombia, where Seki Sano brought to a new continent his own discoveries from the ‘theatre paradise’ he believed he had found in the Soviet Union, in which ‘the discoveries of Stanislavsky and Meyerhold were part of the same baggage’, thus passing, ‘through the rigour of the craft, the meaning of a theatre that lives through revolt and a feeling of not belonging’.

Research Article
© 2003 Cambridge University Press

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