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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Grotowski's Penchant for Eggs

Jerzy Grotowski’s Polish Theatre Laboratory gave its first performances in New York in the fall of 1969. The performances were originally to take place at BAM and in the Hanson Place Central Methodist Church (next door to BAM), though once Grotowski arrived to scope out the premises he felt the spaces would not work. Instead, a suitable space was found at the Washington Square Methodist Church in Greenwich Village, and the performances were hosted by BAM.

Grotowski was an exacting artist—which in some situations led to tensions and miscommunications. Harvey Lichtenstein, who had invited Grotowski to BAM, remembers that during the premiere of The Constant Prince
"I come in with Ray Oliver [director of the Chelsea Theater Center], and we come in to see the play. And all the seats are taken. So we sit down on the floor, and Grotowski comes up to us and says, “I’m sorry, you’ve got to leave.” We say, “What do you mean, we gotta leave?” He said, “No sitting on floor allowed. No seat, no see.” I say [laughs] “You’ve got the producer here, and you’ve got the guy who’s giving the opening night party there.” “We don’t begin unless you leave.” So Oliver and I left the opening night. We went to his after-party. We got drunk before they got there. [Laughs.] But that was Grotowski."
Apparently, Grotowski and the team from the Polish Theatre Lab did not show up to the after-party until well after most of the guests had left, which annoyed Lichtenstein and the rest of Grotowski’s New York hosts. A hilarious letter exchange on this topic is currently on view in the exhibition From Brooklyn to the World, which also includes several other artifacts from Grotowski’s BAM visit. One of our favorite artifacts, however, is this excerpt from Lichtenstein’s oral history, on Grotowski’s penchant for eggs:

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