Returning to the Source of Ancient Hellenic Theatre
A PERSONAL MESSAGE AS PROEM
The theme for our first year of workshops is titled “Shed the skin, trace the path, set the post,” three actions that signal a beginning, a journey and an end, watersheds marking important stages in our re-discovery of the Ancient Greek performance tradition, and important milestones in the programing of our work-sessions, that is culminating this Spring with the lifting of our first training pavilions in Epidauros.
The unifying thread that emerged organically with our first steps towards an ancient body of practice drew to us such international artists and teachers as Phillip Zarrilli, Atsushi Takenoushi and Gennadi Bogdanov, each of whom brings a highly refined approach to pre-verbal training and psycho-physical work, having developed creative processes out of well-attested performance traditions and deep personal commitment. It is with great pleasure that we welcomed them as our first collaborators outside of Imalis.
All our laboratory-workshops for the 2011 and 2012 Pilot Seasons share a common thread. They invite us to begin with the performer’s most primordial gesture, by which we shed or peel away a part of our selves in order to create a new space and touch others: at the root of theater, this gesture is confirmed by the linguistic root that the word “scene” holds in common with “skin,” and “stage” with “tent” in Greek — σκηνή. Those minimal elements by which a tent is made: in other words skin and post... a stage in its most primitive form, as it is understood, conventionally, to refer to an artificial and external space... but also, unconventionally, to a primal space within and beyond the natural boundary of a human body, which we sometimes, under very special conditions, manage to share. It is these conditions that we wish to invoke with Imalis’ 2011 and 2012 series, and seek to recreate in Epidauros.
These are the first dimensions defined by the scene of ancient performance practice, otherwise summed in another significant cognate — σκήνομα — which was used to define what we as human beings carry with us in this worldly existence, our peculiar collection of props and sets, trappings and personas, masks and desires, continuously taking them up and putting them down to survive and grow as we move through life, and beyond... Between skin and post, the path that led us to meet in Epidauros for the first time will not have been accidental, and we are called to deepen our understanding and the implications of these meetings and convergences this year and in the years to come.
In this first collective gesture of Imalis towards its public, joined as we are in our purpose by the historic townships of Epidauros, we carry a responsibility towards past, present and future which weaves new relationships around the economics and politics of heritage. These have obscured the path of learning and sharing, a bequest that remains impeccable, and that we are impelled therefore to honor and share. And perhaps, there is no more priceless a gift, amongst those that we yet retain, than that venerable tongue, which in Greek is plural —for a reason— in both space and time: we still speak “Greeks” as it were, or more properly “Hellenics,” indeed a unique admission in the history of language and culture, of identity in the plural. Which is the key, along with place that unlocks the treasure of Ancient Hellenic Theater for the contemporary practitioner, regardless of ethnic origin.
To access the treasure house: that key is what Imalis offers to its guests, teachers and students alike from across the world, and extends an open invitation for all to come and experience first hand, on the ground where the post of theater’s living god was first planted, the breath, the action and the word of our playwrights. Their tradition neither fears nor covets modernity. Nor need we, as contemporary practitioners, fear their living tongue, to hear, to speak, to feel the words of the great texts that deliver to those who seek it, all their intensity, all their depth. The act of embodiment, that most fundamental theatrical act of personal commitment, which every true actor understands, is enough, by its very nature, to lead us beyond the limits of scholarship into the truth of a living art form from before the schism of the arts and sciences. Nor need we fear scholars either, they can be very useful as long as we lend them our ear just so much... and then move on to the work at hand.
That living tongue, the spirit of the theater as both art and science of healing, is the lightning of meaning that renders up the strangeness and distance of time as the echo of a fathomless mystery which yet cleaves to the simple present moment of an actor before an audience, who needs make it sound neither old, nor new, to be understood. Just true, by delivering up to those listening, the pure source from which it first sprang forth. It is what we intend to do, here with Imalis, in our first year in Epidauros, and in the years to come.