The advent of Modernity has made it necessary to question the existing structures and systems of power by actively breaking conventions and seeing where the path thus created leads – whether to Utopia or its complete opposite. This is true of the Arts as much as it is of Politics, especially in a time when these realms no longer exist in isolation but instead exist to serve each other. The field of experimental theater is one notable example where there is great potential for art to serve as a vehicle for the empowerment of the common man.
In many countries, particularly those who possess, in recent history, a heritage of repression, colonization or other forms of disenfranchisement, experimental theater serves as a vehicle for expression for actors and audience members alike. Among these areas is Jordan, where directors like Khalil Nisairat ,Majed Algesas, Hakeem Harb and Mohammed Kair Al-refai have drawn upon the tradition of modern theatre that originated in Europe with artists like Jerzy Grotowski to contribute towards a body of work in the national theatre scene where public dialogue on political, social and economic issues becomes possible.
While the work of these artists have earned some recognition, thorough research has yet to be conducted on the manner in which experimental theatre in Jordan has drawn upon the ideas of what Grotowski called “the theatre of the poor,” where the costly trappings theatre production are discarded in favour of the use of “found space” and the craft of the “holy actor,” where emphasis is laid upon elimination and cutting away layers of convention to arrive at the point where performers and audience can engage in meaningful – and psychologically more painful, and thus relevant – interaction as members of one community.
At this point it must be mentioned that Grotowski, who was influenced by the Polish political scene at the time he established his laboratory theatre, takes into account the circumstances of the living, breathing human organism than existing on an elevated plane where one can escape into a well-structured, and therefore psychologically “safe” experience of theatre. Also relevant to the transformative experience is the breaking of what Mnouchkine called “the fourth wall” that exists in conventional stages which isolates the community from the performers even as the latter are ostensible visible and audible to the former.
A thorough examination of the manner in which Grotowski’s methods, originating as they did in a time of uncertainty and unrest, will hopefully strengthen the practice of the craft in communities where the times call for Art that allows, in the words of Sullivan, “…actor and spectator to come together with souls bared, ready and open for self-analysis and self-realization…” Where “rich theatre” in Grotowski’s terms is flaccid and ineffectual as it lulls whoever takes part in it, the theatre of the poor does the exact opposite.
In the course of conducting such a study, the researcher intends to engage in a qualitative analysis, where information will be gathered by visiting the experimental theatre community in Jordan and conducting extensive interviews with the directors, actors, script writers and other members of the theatrical scene. In the course of the study, video and audio recordings of interviews as well as films of actual performances, will serve as primary source material as well as provide a means for documentation.
These collected recordings will allow the researcher to examine the techniques employed by the performers as well as the various elements – sound, space, story – upon which the performances are built and thereby determine the extent to which Grotowskian influences contribute to furthering the political and social agenda of the community.