ANTONIN ARTAUD

IN THEORY, PROCESS AND PRAXIS OR,
FOR FUN AND PROPHET

by

RICHARD LEE GAFFIELD-KNIGHT

August 17, 1993


Accepted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for

the degree of Master of Arts in Theater

in the Graduate School of the

State University of New York

at Binghamton

By

George E. Wellwarth__________________________August 17, 1993, Theater Department

Donald M. Boros_____________________________August 17, 1993, Theater Department


 

DEDICATION

Derrick, Bruce, Christian and Nathan
my only real claim to immortality

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to acknowledge the general good work of Professor Robert Carey, my undergraduate mentor, and his associates at Empire State College, who supported and encouraged the completion of my Bachelor of Professional Studies degree at the age of forty-nine.

I would like to thank my friends and the understanding souls that helped me toward fulfilling graduate study goals at Binghamton University.  But special thanks are directed to the Theater Department and Professor John Bielenberg for his leadership and advice, Professor Allan Jackson for his trust and patience, Professor Don Boros for his exacting exactitude, and Professor George Wellwarth for his sense of humor.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER 2. LIFE AS ART

CHAPTER 3. THEATRE OF CRUELTY

CHAPTER 4. THE THEATRE AND ITS DOUBLE: THE PLAGUE

CHAPTER 5. CONCLUSION

BIBLIOGRAPHY


PREFACE

My thesis will show how the dramatic theories of Antonin Artaud, as expressed in The Theater and Its Double influenced the work of Peter Brook, Charles Marowitz and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) during the mid-sixties.  The question is:  why did Artaud's theories succeed as prophecy and process during the sixties and seventies of this millennium, but didn't succeed for him and his audience during his own lifetime, only thirty years prior?  It is my opinion, after research and study, that the best and most effective use of his theories were by Brook and Marowitz  during the RSC's Theatre of Cruelty season, 1964-1965 and the following season's RSC production of Peter Weiss' Marat/Sade, directed by Peter Brook.  So, it is their work on which I will focus in conclusion.  However, before discussing these important collaborations, I will first examine the artistic environment which produced Artaud, the artist, and then devote considerable space to his work and theories of the theatre.


 

CHAPTER 1

INTRODUCTION

   As with all prophets, we must separate the man from his followers.  Artaud never attained his own theatre, maybe the power of his vision is that it is the carrot in front of our nose, never to be reached.  Certainly, he himself was always speaking of a complete way of life, or a theatre in which the activity of the actor and the activity of the spectator are driven by the same desperate need. [1]

Peter Brook, The Empty Space.

Like many of his artistic associates of the Paris of the 1920s and 1930s, Artaud thought his work and theories could be a catalyst for change in a society which had grown oppressively fat in its middle-age and blind to its human potential.

What is most important, it seems to me, is not so much to defend a culture whose existence has never kept a man from going hungry, as to extract, from what is called culture, ideas whose compelling force is identical with that of hunger.

. . . to believe that whatever is produced from the mysterious depths of ourselves need not haunt us as an exclusively digestive concern.

. . . if it is important for us to eat, first of all, it is even more important for us not to waste in the sole concern for eating, our simple power of being hungry. [2]

Artaud, an artistic descendant of Alfred Jarry, who helped to cause so abrupt a break between the Victorian and the Modern eras, and, according to Oscar G. Brockett and Robert Findlay in their 2nd edition of Century of Innovation, viewed "the theatre as an instrument for saving mankind." [3]

David Zinder adds in the "Introduction" to The Surrealist Connection, An Approach to a Surrealist Aesthetic of Theatre:

. . . No longer interested in the imitation of external reality, the avant-garde turned to the imitation of personal experience which, it felt, was more truthful, more profound, and even more universally significant than any form of art that had preceded it. . . . every product of the mind, however realized in concrete form, was a valid artifact, communicable not in the traditional sense of comprehension, but in terms of its being essentially human and susceptible of a rendering, a manifestation, in some physical form. [4]

For the first time in almost two hundred years the artist imagined, painted and wrote much more for him or herself than for anyone else.  This was the freedom that André Breton wrote of in his First Manifesto of Surrealism in 1924 as "the freedom of the individual to be a god unto himself and, consequently, in the realm of art, the freedom to create without any concessions to general comprehension."  It was a freedom which "led to extreme subjectivity in art" and manifested the fantasies and dreams of their creator's subconscious.  These works of art were "wholly unmodified for public appreciation, and consequently, as he saw it, inimical to the very core of art creation: the necessary communion between artist and spectators." [5]

Artaud was a living metaphor for the Surrealist credo, or so one would think if one read the correspondence between him and Jacques Rivière, then editor of the Nouvelle Revue Française, the first dated June 5, 1923:

I suffer from a frightful disease of the mind.  My thought abandons me at all stages.  From the simple act of thinking to the external act of its materialization in words.  Words, forms of phrases, inner directions of thinking, simple reactions of the mind--I am in constant pursuit of my intellectual being.  Hence, whenever I can seize upon a form, however imperfect it may be, I hold it fast, lest I lose the entire thought.  I am beneath myself, I know it, it makes me suffer, but I accept the fact in the fear of not dying entirely.

. . . out of respect for the central feeling that dictates these poems to me and for the strong images and phrases that I have been able to find--I nevertheless offer them to existence.  I have felt and accepted these ungainly phrases, these ungainly expressions which you criticize.  Bear in mind:  I have not questioned them.  They come from the deep uncertainty of my thinking.

. . . it is very important that the few manifestations of spiritual existence that I have been able to give myself not be regarded as inexistent because of the blotches and awkward expressions with which they are marred.

. . . do you think that a poem which is faulty but which has fine and powerful things in it can be considered to have less literary authenticity and power of action than a poem which is perfect but without great inner resonance? . . . For me, it is no less than a matter of knowing whether or not I have the right to continue thinking, in verse or prose. [6]

Artaud's spiritual being, which he equated with the artist in all mankind, was in a state of total anarchy.  Yet, according to Zinder, he claimed he wanted to "give form to this formlessness . . . to find a way in which this chaos could be harnessed and reproduced under control."  He wanted "to achieve on a grand scale the purification" being offered by the creative energy he felt was infinity within himself. [7]

Jacques Rivière, in no hurry to become engaged in the discussion of Artaud's physical or psychological dilemma, again rejects Artaud's poetry and responds in a letter to him dated March 25, 1924:

. . . If by thought one means creation, as you seem to mean most of the time, it must, at all costs, be relative.

. . . It is this quite subjective impression of utter freedom and even utter intellectual license that our 'Surrealists' have tried to render in the dogma of a poetic dimension.  But the punishment for this soaring follows close behind:  the phantom that is seized is avenged by twenty inner phantoms which paralyze us, which devour our spiritual substance.

. . . In order for the mind to tap its full power, the concrete must serve as the mysterious.  All successful 'thought,' all language that grips, and the words whereby one then recognizes the writer, are always the result of a compromise between a current of intelligence that emerges from him and an ignorance that befalls him, a surprise, a hindrance. But where . . . the obstacle . . . is entirely lacking, the mind continues, inflexible and weak; and everything breaks up into an immense contingency. [8]

Artaud's response to Jacques Rivière, June 26, 1924, outlined his challenge and his life-long need:

. . . to have within oneself the inseparable reality and material clarity of a feeling, to have them to such a degree that the feeling cannot but express itself, to have a wealth of words and formal constructions which might join in the dance, might serve one's purpose--and at the very moment when the soul is about to organize its wealth, its discoveries, its revelation, at the unconscious moment when the thing is about to emanate, a higher and evil will attacks the soul like vitriol, attacks the word-and-image mass, attacks the mass of the feeling and leaves me panting as at the very door of life.

. . . All I ask is to free my brain. [9]

His own challenge then became his personal mission and quickly grew into an eternal call to all those committed to the art of theatre in practice.

"The ultimate goal of the avant-garde" of that time and place was on the one hand, a "fundamental reshaping of artistic principles" and on the other, a "total transformation of society on all levels." [10]   In 1896, Alfred Jarry suggested masks and his unique clipped vocal delivery for the main character, Ubu in Ubu Roi, to advance the idea of making the theatre non-collaborative, the product of a single controlling intelligence.  In other words, Jarry wanted the actors to look and sound exactly as he had conceived them.  Zinder states that Jean Cocteau furthered Jarry's suggestion that theatre be non-collaborative as a way of protecting the creator's original concept in the preface to his Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel, 1921, when he wrote that "a theatrical piece ought to be written, presented, costumed, furnished with musical accompaniment, played and danced by a single individual . . . [a] universal athlete."  Zinder goes on to say that Artaud states categorically in The Theater and Its Double that "the starting point for any theatrical production must be the director, whose task it is to execute the entire production, from scenario to performance." [11]   But, I will show later, Artaud learned in his rehearsal and production of Les Cenci (The Cenci), the subjective control that can be exercised by the creator as actor and director of a theatrical work is at least limiting and at best precarious.

Artaud wanted his audience to experience theatre the same way it would if it viewed a painting or a sculpture, or an approaching hurricane, i.e., viscerally.  By exploring the void within himself, this embodiment of Surrealism was probing a place within himself that had no center, circumference, or metaphysical limits.  In his first letter to Jacques Rivière he wrote, "I would like you to realize that it is not a matter of the higher or lower existence involved in what is known as inspiration, but of a total absence, of a veritable dwindling away." [12]   When he wrote this he must have sensed something, a place, a moment within himself which he felt existed even before the creative impulse he felt to write it.  Until he was diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic and institutionalized in 1937, Artaud's reality, that is his life and fantasy, knew of no walls--no rules or restrictions.  As this sort of god, to himself, he thought theatre could somehow be an instrument of healing the violence and cruelty of bourgeois society by persuading it to listen, look, feel and think past it's paycheck, and to consider it's part in maintaining the planet as a ". . . slippery world which is committing suicide without noticing it . . . ." [13]

During the breakaway decade of the twenties, playwrights sometimes attempted to retain control over their creation by making it impossible for them or anyone else to stage.  There were plays written that exceeded the physical possibilities of stage production and could not be performed at all.  However, most also recognized the basic nature of theatrical communication and attempted to modify their imaginative flights to fit the physical limitations of the stage.

The Surrealist Artaud looked upon Alfred Jarry as his prototype.  Jarry had "a precocious and voraciously curious intelligence, an extraordinarily fertile imagination, and an absurdist philosophical stance that rendered all knowledge, however acquired, utterly meaningless." [14]  In place of physics, he invented 'Pataphysics, "the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments." [Alfred Jarry, Faustroll, in Selected Works, p. 193.] [15]

Jarry described the traditional universe as being "codified for convenience" which for him meant that all names given to anything were purely arbitrary and so a supplemental universe was the only "truly workable one.  If this supplementary universe is the realm of exceptions and of the individual interpretation of the world," then:

1. All perceptions, by all human beings, are equally valid.

2. Any fantasy is scientifically provable.

3. All things are equal, hence opposites are interchangeable and identical.

4. The universe can be grasped only experientially by living it, not conceptually by thinking it. [16]

Jarry's reputation in the theatre is based primarily on one play, Ubu Roi (1896), a work begun in 1888 by Jarry and his schoolmates for puppets in their Théâtre des Phynances.  Ubu Roi is a grotesque and bitter comedy about which Jarry stated:

Once the curtain went up, I wanted the stage . . . to become like that mirror in the stories of Mme. Leprince de Baumant in which the vicious see themselves with bull's horns and a dragon's body. . . . The public is made up, as Catulle Mendes has so well expressed it, "of eternal human imbecility, eternal lust, eternal gluttony, baseness of instinct which takes over completely; of decorum, virtue, patriotism, and the ideal of people who have dined well." [17]

The first production of Ubu Roi was played on a bare stage with a two-dimensional suggestion of reality in contrast to the realism on the other French stages at the time.  By doing so it must have created conditions of necessary interaction between the performers and the audience through the employment of "a child's convention of irrational juxtapositions that forced the individual spectator to supply for himself rational connectives that would make sense of the illogical progressions." [18]   Zinder suggests that Jarry's early intention was to shake up the audience and perhaps elicit a few grunts to verify its existence to all within earshot.

The Dadas were the most direct descendants of Jarry's non-theatrical intentions.  Zinder writes:

As far as the Dadas were concerned, the war was proof enough that there was no hope for man, nor reason for belief in optimism of any kind, no transcendent values.  And in this atmosphere of disintegration, of "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die," the Dadas trod that elusive line between meaning and nonsense, art and anti-art, rationality and absurdity.  "The Dadas took the stage merely to revile anyone fool enough to buy a ticket for the event, to provoke audiences into violent reactions, and create the kind of total chaos which, as the Dadas perceived it, precisely depicted the state of Mankind." [19]

Within this context and time-frame, two forms of theatre existed:

. . . a theatre that is totally guided by a single artistic consciousness, that of a director or of a single player in a one-man play of his own composition, or the totally random, improvisatory performance of a number of performers, all equally disponible, inspiring one another to a performed creation. . . . the former in a controlled manner that relies heavily on Dali's paranoid-critical activity, and the latter in an uncontrolled manner that finds its origins in the very early Surrealist games of reciprocal inspiration, such as Cadavre-exquis, and automatic writing. [20]

The use of the theatre by the Dadas and the Surrealists was not accidental.  With its physical relationships, the auditorium of the theatre was an ideal locale for the launching of attacks on accepted public mores.  The theatre was also a revered institution of the bourgeoisie where culture was usually obtained from a trough in small, tame, and concentrated doses.  This recommended the theatre even more highly for its part in the cultural assault of the avant-garde.  Although both were inherently aggressive, communication in Dada was generally outward oriented with the objective of assault leading to disruption while Surrealism was inward toward a subjective assault leading to a catharsis that avoided the destruction it was determined to achieve.

Despite his public excommunication by Breton from the Surrealist movement, Artaud personified its message most uncompromisingly and, through a truly visionary grasp of theatre, transformed it into a twentieth century version of Aristotle's concept of catharsis.  Again Zinder states this aspect most convincingly:

For hundreds of years western civilization had sought progress through the rejection of the chaotic origins of Man. Artaud felt, in true Surrealist manner, that this chaos should be rediscovered and recognized, and that means should be found to control it to useful ends without destroying its immense, regenerative power.

. . . In a manner reminiscent of Lautréamont, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud, his instinct led him to advocate a descent into evil as a first step, an embracing of the chthonic forces that once raged out of control in Nature, as the only means toward purification, an ultimate balance between chaos and order that would allow Man to live his entire life as a moment of excruciatingly suspended tension: the exact moment when a bomb explodes, its casing still intact, but the explosive power of its detonation already accelerating outward. [21]

Artaud was strongly drawn to the era of the distant past that gave birth to the great myths.  His characterization of these myths in the following passage from The Theater and Its Double is a crucial element of his thought:

. . . that is why all the great Myths are dark, so that one cannot image, save in an atmosphere of carnage, torture, and bloodshed, all the magnificent Fables which recount to the multitudes the first sexual division and the first carnage of essences that appeared in creation. [22]

He believed the raging forces of disintegration to be physical, sexual, beyond reason and even beyond the senses--metaphysical. "The body and all its saps are one with the mind and all its flights of images." [23]

Whether it was his intention or not, Artaud's theatrical visions went way beyond his or anyone else's ability to realize them on the stage.  ". . . Well, Artaud himself didn't really make his theories work. . . .", [24] answered Charles Marowitz in an interview with Simon Trussler, about the RSC's Theatre of Cruelty season of 1963-64.  During his lifetime, and despite his overwhelming preoccupation with the stage from the early twenties until his death in 1948, Artaud wrote only three plays:  Le jet de sang, 1925 (The Spurt of Blood), Ventre brûlé, ou la mère folle, 1927 (The Burnt Belly), and The Cenci, 1935, of which two, The Burnt Belly and The Cenci were produced in his lifetime, and the third by the RSC as part of their Theatre of Cruelty season.  What is more, none of Artaud's pieces enjoyed notable acclaim either from the audiences or from the critics.  However, in flights of inspired imagination, he envisioned a theatre that would burst its bonds of culture, and re-educate Man to simultaneously realize, release and control the chaos raging inside him--a theatre that would attack humanity at its core through vocal and artificial sounds, symbolical gestures and violence, shatter the psyche, then reorganize its pieces in a completely new mode, healed.

Back to Table of Contents

 

CHAPTER 2

LIFE AS ART

   Artaud applied is Artaud betrayed:  betrayed because it is always just a portion of his thought that is exploited, betrayed because it is easier to apply rules to the work of a handful of dedicated actors than to the lives of the unknown spectators who happened by chance to come through the theatre door. [25]

Peter Brook, The Empty Space

Antonin Artaud was the first-born of Antoine-Roi, who was French, and Euphraisie, who was of Greek origin.  He was born in Marseille on September 4, 1896, at 8 A.M.  At the age of four, just a few months after his brother Robert died at the age of three days, he was attacked by an illness that almost killed him.  This childhood illness may have been meningitis.  Whatever it was, it left him with a nervous disability which remained with him all his life, and according to Martin Esslin in Antonin Artaud, may have been the source of his later sufferings. [26]   Altogether he lost six other brothers and sisters in infancy, and the death of Robert left him with only a younger sister, Marie-Ange.  If he imagined himself to be an only survivor, certainly the oldest of the two and all the responsibility that fact entails, an extraordinary sense of mission must have been instilled in childhood which could have propelled him throughout his life, or at least to Ireland in 1937.  He began to stammer at the age of seven and at the age of ten he almost drowned while staying at Smyrna with his maternal grandmother.  When he was fourteen years old, Artaud and several friends started a little magazine and they published his first poems, under the pseudonym Louis des Attides, which, writes Eric Sellin in The Dramatic Concepts of Antonin Artaud, reveal the influence of Baudelaire and Poe. [27]

In 1915 Artaud experienced the first physical pains caused by his mental disturbances and went to the first of the many sanitaria where he was to stay during much of his life.  At the sanatarium in La Rougière, near Marseille, he was given tranquilizers and possibly opium to relieve headaches.  While there he painted a self-portrait, his stammering worsened, and his painting was encouraged.  He was called up and served nine months in the 3rd Regiment of Infantry garrisoned at Digne before he was given a medical discharge.  After a succession of visits to a number of sanitaria near Lyons and Ain, where he was encouraged to pursue his new interest in drawing by the painter, Yvonne Gilles, he was moved to Chanet near Neuchâtel in Switzerland.  After a brief stay in Marseille, he was sent to Paris and accepted by Dr. Toulouse as a patient at Villejuif by March of 1920.  Dr. and Mme. Toulouse encouraged Artaud's literary efforts, and Dr. Toulouse made him secretary of his little review, Demain, in which Artaud published some more of his own poems and reviewed art exhibitions and plays.  He also edited and wrote the preface for a collection of Dr. Toulouse's writings. [28]  

Artaud sent a group of poems to the Nouvelle Revue Française in 1923.  The editor, Jacques Rivière, turned them down but expressed a desire to meet the young poet by inviting him to his office where they met on June 5, 1923.  It is one of those ironies of fate that although Jacques Rivière was unyielding in his rejection of Artaud's poems, as described in the previous chapter, he was so fascinated by the correspondence between Artaud and himself that he published the correspondence in 1924.  In other words, Artaud's poetry was of little interest to the editor of the Nouvelle Revue Française, but the debate it inspired between them was significant.  Such ironies were to pursue Artaud throughout his career and even after his death.

When Artaud came to Paris in 1920, maybe while reviewing plays for Demain, he met Lugnè-Poë who gave him a bit part in Henri de Régnier's Sganarelle's Scruples.  In 1921 he attracted the attention of the famous actor Firmin Gémier who had created the role of Ubu in Jarry's Ubu Roi.  Gémier referred him to Charles Dullin at the Théâtre de l'Atelier, [29] where he played a number of roles in the next several years, including King Galvan, a Moor, in Alexandre Arnoux's Mariana et Galvan (Mariana and Galvan), Anselme in Molière's L'Avare (The Miser), Pedro Urdemala in Jacinto Grau's Monsieur Pygmalion.  He not only gave one of his best performances as Basilio in Calderón's Life is a Dream, but designed the costumes and sets for the play as well.

Charles Dullin was the first theoretician of a theatre in which gesture, mime, color, music, and movement would rival the dialogue in importance.  Artaud had himself been thinking along similar lines when he voiced enthusiasm for a theatre without props.  He was deeply impressed by Dullin's intentions when he wrote:

 . . . that his performances should . . . give the impression of things never seen before.  Everything takes place in the mind.  His idea is the Japanese actor who acts without props. . . . the Gods of the school are not Tolstoy, Ibsen, and Shakespeare but Hoffmann and Edgar Poe.  Our first performance will display stern frenzy demented sharpness. . . . It is, to say the least, curious that I with my tastes should have stumbled on an enterprise so closely linked with my own ideas" (OC III, p. 121). [30]

Dullin wrote a letter to the journal K, Revue de la Poésie on the occasion of its homage to Artaud in 1948 recalling Artaud's early days before and immediately after the founding of Dullin's Théâtre de l'Atelier:

. . . He loved our work on improvisation and brought to it a veritable poet's imagination.  As I was attracted to the techniques of the oriental theatre, he went even much further in that direction than I, and from the practical viewpoint this sometimes became dangerous, as when, for example, in Pirandello's The Pleasures of Honesty, in which he played a businessman, he arrived on stage with make-up inspired by the small masks used as models by Chinese actors; a symbolic make-up which was slightly out of place in a modern comedy. . . . He had a great personal triumph in a play by Jacinto Grau, in which he played a kind of incarnation of evil named Urdemala.  I can still hear him pronouncing that name while snapping a whip. [31]

Charles Dullin's own great interest in the oriental theatre underscored Artaud's enthusiasm and prepared him for the Cambodian dances in front of the reconstruction of the temple of Angkor in Marseille in 1922.  His direct source of reference, and probably inspiration for the mise en scène of The Cenci is the Balinese theatre, a combination of dance, song, pantomime, and sound, which he saw in Paris in 1931 on the steps of the Colonial Exposition.  From that day, he began to outline his "Theatre of Cruelty" in his by now renowned series of essays collected in 1938 while adapting The Cenci.

Only in theatre is the essential in man selected out of the excesses of his everyday activity and distilled into a series of actions that form a concentration of human-ness which is then assumed by a live person--the actor.  Divested of the trivialities of daily life by the selective nature of a play's text, the actor becomes a living paradox:  a solidified spirit.  It was the deliberate, conscious manifestation of this concept that drew Artaud to the Balinese theatre where he found almost mathematical precision coupled, through a symbolism of gesture, sounds, and movements, with profound violence:

The Balinese productions take shape at the very heart of matter, life, reality.  There is in them something of the ceremonial quality of a religious rite in the sense that they extirpate from the mind of the onlooker all ideas of pretense, of cheap imitations of reality.  This intricately detailed gesticulation has only one goal, an immediate goal which it approaches by efficacious means, the efficacity of which we are even meant to experience immediately.  The thoughts it aims at, the spiritual states it seeks to create, the mystic solutions it proposes, are aroused and attained without delay or circumlocution.  All of which seems to be an exorcism to make our demons flow. . . . There is something that has this character of a magic operation in this intense liberation of signs, restrained at first, then suddenly thrown into the air.  A chaotic boiling, full of recognizable particles and at moments strangely orderly, crackles in this effervescence of painted rhythms in which the many fermatas unceasingly make their entrance like a well-calculated silence. [32]

Much of what drew him and others to the spectacle of the Balinese theatrical productions, according to Albert Bermel, "applies to other forms of oriental theatre" as well, for example, "the Sanskrit, the Noh, Kabuki, and Peking Opera." [33]   But beyond the spectacle, the Balinese had shown him that theatre was the only place where the real life of the individual could be lived through an incarnation of the spirit, the only place where the myths and fables could be approximated; where great cataclysms, towering passions, ancient taboos and horrible crimes could be trusted to exist in a state of controlled anarchy.

While a member of George and Ludmilla Pitoëff's troupe, Artaud "brilliantly interpreted the minor role of one of the two Heavenly Policemen in Ferenc Molnar's Liliom" [34] in Pitoëff's 1922-1923 season at the Comédies des Champs-Elysées.  The following season he acted in several plays, including The Little Hut by Alexander Blok, Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, and Andreyev's He Who Gets Slapped.  He also played a robot in Karel Capek's R.U.R. and in film clips incorporated into Yvan Goll's play Methusalem in 1924.

Artaud's activity as an actor, designer and writer was not limited to the legitimate stage.  He was also interested in the cinema and was quite active in films from 1922 to 1935 as an actor.  His most memorable roles in film were Marat in Napoléon, 1926, directed by Abel Gance, and the confessor-monk Massieu in La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc), 1928, directed by Carl Dreyer.  Artaud's screenplays of this period included La Coquille et le Clergyman, (The Shell and the Clergyman), which was the only scenario by Artaud ever produced.  It was written in 1927 and first shown on February 18, 1928, at a tempestuous première at the Ursulines, during which Artaud insulted the producer, Germaine Dulac, with whom he had disagreed over interpretation.

In the mid-twenties Artaud was already dreaming of founding a theatre of his own.  After his brief association with the Surrealists, the culminating moment of which was his composition of nearly the entire third issue of La Révolution Surréaliste, Artaud broke with Breton, and late in 1926 he began to plan the Thèâtre Alfred Jarry with Roger Vitrac and Robert Aron.  The first manifesto for the new theatre appeared on November 1, 1926, in an issue of the Nouvelle Revue Française, and on December 12, Mme. Allendy, who with her husband, a psychiatrist, had befriended Artaud, drafted and circulated a letter soliciting financial aid.  By April, 1927, only a small portion of the budget, about three thousand francs, had been collected; however, the three metteurs en scène decided to attempt a production.  In May, rehearsals for Vitrac's Les Mystères de l'amour (The Mysteries of Love) were begun in a rehearsal room which Dullin had made available to them.

Two evening performances were presented by the Théâtre Alfred Jarry at the rented Thèâtre de Grenelle on June 1 and 2, 1927.  The program consisted of one drama by each of the three directors:  Ventre brûlé ou la mère folle (Burnt Belly: or, The Crazy Mother) by Artaud, Les Mystères de l'amour (The Mysteries of Love) by Vitrac, and Gigogne by Robert Aron, presented under the pseudonym, Max Robur. [35]  

The Burnt Belly; or The Crazy Mother opened the first series of productions, but the text was lost.  According to Albert Bermel in Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty, Artaud had the habit of jotting down summaries or "scenarios" on odd pieces of paper, like the backs of letters, to remind himself later of dramatic moments and images that he had envisioned.  Many of these ideas must have become the property of the production through the design plans or the stage manager's prompt book and are now gone forever, except in the memory of the audience.  Fortunately, this play was described by Artaud in a program note as "a musical sketch [music composed by Maxine Jacob], a lyrical piece, a comical exposition of the clash between theatre and the cinema." [36]   Esslin writes that "it is described by a critic as a short hallucination with hardly any text in which the author has condensed a synthesis of life and death. . . . it left an extremely strong and persistent impression of strangeness." [37]

Théâtre Alfred Jarry presented three more productions in 1928 and 1929 before it was disbanded.  The productions were: an act from Partage du Midi (Break of Noon) by Paul Claudel, given "against the author's wishes," plus Pudovkin's revolutionary film, Mother, adapted from Gorky, presented at a matinee on January 14, 1928, at the Comédie des Champs-Elysées; A Dream Play by Strindberg, presented at matinees on June 2 and 9, 1928, at the Théâtre de l'Avenue; and Victor, ou les enfants au pouvoir (Victor: or, The Children Take Power) by Roger Vitrac, presented at matinees on December 24 and 29, 1928, and January 5, 1929, at the Comédie des Champs-Elysées. [38]

Dullin again loaned the group rehearsal space at the Théâtre de l'Atelier for the second production which was "an even more curious mixture."  Gorki's The Mother, "which had been banned by the censor," was presented along with one act of Break of Noon, the name of the author withheld from the audience as well as the actors, probably because the author had not authorized them to perform it.  Also, according to Esslin, "the long dialogues of the work in fragment were incomprehensible and boring to the audience, who became restless and loudly voiced their dissatisfaction" to the delight of Artaud.  André Breton who was in the audience stood up and shouted, "Shut up, you idiots, this is by Claudel!"  At the end of this piece, Artaud appeared in front of the curtain and announced:  "The play is by Paul Claudel, Ambassador of France--who is an infamous traitor!" [39]   The Surrealists in the audience were now prepared to forgive Artaud his every transgression against them, but "the rest of the audience and the establishment press were deeply scandalized and indignant." [40]   So was the Nouvelle Revue Française, Claudel's publisher, whose copyright had been breached and to whom Artaud owed so much for publicizing his theatrical venture.  His relationship with his girlfriend, the actress Genica Athanasiou also suffered because she had acted the part of Ysé without being told the author.  But the scandal put Artaud and the Théâtre Alfred Jarry on the map, for a minute or two, so to speak.

Artaud then went about to scandalize the Surrealists with the next production, Strindberg's A Dream Play, which was subsidized by the Swedish Embassy in Paris.  His cast included Etienne Decroux, who later became the great mime.  The Swedish ambassador and royalty were in the audience along with approximately 30 Surrealists who sat in the front rows and hurled insults at the actors about being in the pay of Swedish capitalism.  "Artaud replied from the stage that he had agreed to produce the play only because Strindberg himself had been a victim of the Swedish establishment.  At this some Swedes, of course, walked out of the theatre." [41]

Robert Aron withdrew after this, but Vitrac stayed as he and Artaud continued on to produce Vitrac's Victor: or, The Children Take Power, which was written in 1928, after Roger Vitrac's enforced break with Surrealism.

The satirical import of the play, as well as its entirely conventional structure, take us back to that compass needle of avant-garde theatre:  Ubu Roi.  For although Jarry's play is fantastical and Vitrac's is basically realistic, both of them follow a well-worn path of dramatic development from exposition through conflict to climax and resolution.  But more important, both plays are deliberately satirical. [42]

Unlike the three-to-four foot tall view of the world most nine year-olds enjoy, Victor begins the play six feet tall, and is supposed to grow visibly throughout the evening.  It is not only his physique that makes Victor remarkable.  He is also given to flights of opaque Dada poetry and dense verbal autonomism.  The ex-card carrying Surrealist, Vitrac, in a way that should have made Andre Breton proud, "used theatre very effectively in this play to satirize," or in this case continues Zinder, "assault, bourgeois mentality."  The playwright gave:

. . . the world the kind of unsullied, unhypocritical view of itself that is available only to pre-adolescent children (and some surrealistically inclined adults who manage to retain their childhood into maturity) and to demonstrate the power with which the surreal can erupt into the real. [43]

Zinder writes that "Artaud saw in the character of Ida Mortemart the pivotal character of the play, and even went so far as to compose two versions of a letter to the fictional character" intending to use it in a program note for this production:

There is undeniable perverseness in this play, but it is no worse than any of us in this respect.  Everything dirty or filthy has some meaning and should not be taken literally.  Here we are in the heart of magic, in the midst of human decay. [44]

Ida Mortemart, the uninvited guest-lady, "who carries with her a truly Artaudian mixture of a physical incapacity of a scatological nature, and spiritual dignity," [45] then, may be "seen as a symbol of the fundamental Artaudian tension between containment and disintegration."  Ida "focuses all the symbolic meanings of the play both before and after her appearance with an unusual infliction--uncontrollable flatulence."  By the way, Victor's repeated complaints of a stomach ache are very similar to the student's complaints of a toothache in The Lesson by Eugene Ionesco, and there, too, the physical pain is a prelude to the death of a child.  Vitrac's "Ida compromises by bearing the names and the smell of death wherever she goes; Victor cannot release the Artaudian tension, and dies." [46]   The choice of this play of Vitrac's and the idea that Mortemart was the pivotal character, gives insight into Artaud's early emphasis on the idea of theatre, quiet or not, always being on the very edge of an explosion--the moment between the spark and the thunder.

Artaud's liaison with Genica Athanasiou, who played the female lead in the Paul Claudel fiasco, Partage du Midi, ended in 1928, but he continued to see her sporadically.  Two years later he lived with Josette Lusson, an actress who had also been connected with the Théâtre Alfred Jarry.  This liaison ended when he discovered that she had deceived him.  In her diary for March 1933 Anaïs Nin gives a vivid picture of Artaud, whom she had met because she was a student of psychoanalysis with Dr. Allendy:

Artaud. Lean, taut.  A haunt face with visionary eyes.  A sardonic manner.  Now weary, now fiery and malicious.  The theatre for him, is a place to shout pain, anger, hatred, to enact the violence in us. . . . He is the drugged, contracted being who walks always alone, who is seeking to produce plays which are like scenes of torture.  His eyes are blue with languor, black with pain.  He is all nerves.  Yet he was beautiful acting the monk in love with Joan of Arc in the Carl Dreyer film. . . . Allendy had told me that he had tried to free Artaud of the drug habit which was destroying him.  All I could see that evening was his revolt against interpretations.  He was impatient with their presence, as if they prevented him from exaltation.  He talked with fire about the Cabala, magic, myths, legends. [The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. I, pp. 195-96.] [47]

Artaud was writing his book on Heliogabalus, and long love letters to Nin.  While meeting at a café in June, pouring out poetry, talking of magic, he told her, "People think I am mad."  Then he asked, "Do you think I am mad?  Is that what frightens you?"  If she responded to him directly, we'll never know, but she answers in her diary:

I knew at the moment, by his eyes, that he was, and that I loved his madness.  I looked at his mouth, with the edges darkened by laudanum, a mouth I did not want to kiss.  To be kissed by Artaud was to be drawn towards death, towards insanity. "I am Heliogabalus, the mad Roman emperor, because he becomes everything he writes about."  In the taxi he pushed back his hair from his ravaged face.  The beauty of the summer day did not touch him.  He stood up in the taxi and, stretching out his arms, he pointed to the crowded streets:  "The revolution will come soon.  All this will be destroyed.  The world must be destroyed.  It is corrupt and dull of ugliness.  It is full of mummies, I tell you.  Roman decadence.  Death.  I wanted a theatre that would be like a shock treatment, galvanize, shock people into feeling."  For the first time it seemed to me that Artaud was living in such a fantasy world that it was for himself he wanted a violent shock, to feel the reality of it, or the incarnating power of a great passion.  But as he stood and shouted and spat with fury, the crowd stared at him and the taxi driver became nervous. (Ibid., pp. 238-239) [48]

Anger displayed in such a way is always a little frightening isn't it?  It frustrates and confuses certain societal expectations.  But anger directed into artistic endeavor can be very beneficial to the artist, and cause a healing process to begin for the spectator. [49]

After the financial failure of Théâtre Alfred Jarry, Artaud tried, on various occasions, to associate himself with Louis Jouvet, Charles Dullin, and others, usually as an assistant director, with the ultimate hope of having some autonomy within their stable organizations, but these efforts were unsuccessful.  From 1931 he began searching for financial support to start another theatre company.  His quest was rewarded when he established the Théâtre de la Cruauté (Theatre of Cruelty), which produced The Cenci, adapted and directed by Artaud from Stendahl and Shelley.  The disappointment he experienced over his production of The Cenci, 1935, which was indifferently received and poorly attended, brought the turning-point in Artaud's personal life and work.

According to Ronald Hayman in Artaud and After, Artaud, in a letter to Breton in 1946, said he had felt his life was close to that of Gérard de Nerval, who hanged himself at the age of forty-seven:

The poetry is like a supply of nerve-force to the heart.  The existence of Nerval was both a cavern and an issuing bank, a void that served as a crucible for all poetry to be re-minted.  As a man who was going to hang himself from a lamp-post in a sordid street, giving his own transfiguration to the Hanged Man of the Tarot pack, Nerval must have suffered agonies; but he had known how to make them into music.

. . . Nerval has dragged out into daylight the tragedies of a repressed humanity, the tempestuous complaints of the characters he brings to life.  During his dealings with alchemical science and with Tarot, there must have been terrifying explosions in his soul.  Poets, unlike magicians, have knowledge of the void, of that abyss of horror from which the awakening consciousness has always been trying to escape into something.  A world of parturition, not of something, but of nothing.  The soul is nothing and knows nothing. [50]

Antonin Artaud died at the age of fifty-two on March 4, 1948, two years after this letter to Breton.  "The date should be remembered as that of a new and terrible birth:  the moment this body and this mind, riveted together by long agony, parted company, Artaud's real life began. [51]

Back to Table of Contents

 

CHAPTER 3

THEATRE OF CRUELTY

   None the less, from the arresting words 'Theatre of Cruelty' comes a groping towards a theatre, more violent, less rational, more extreme, less verbal, more dangerous. [52]

Peter Brook, The Empty Space

 

In 1932 Artaud persuaded Louis Jouvet to hire him as his assistant for his production of a play by Alfred Savoir.  According to Esslin:

In a letter to Jouvet, dated February 5, 1932, he suggested that in the dream scene at the end of the play some twenty giant puppets, each more than fifteen feet in height, should appear, swaying to the tune of a military march made strange by the admixture of oriental harmonies, while Bengal fireworks exploded all around them.  These puppets should each carry a symbolical object:  One of them, for example, could have the Arc de Triomphe on its shoulders. [53]

It's small wonder that Jouvet became unsettled by his imaginative suggestions and fired him.

Next he asked Dullin if he could direct Büchner's Woyzeck, one of Artaud's favorites.  He wrote to Jean Paulhan, then editor at the Nouvelle Revue Française (NRF), and said he has a patron who is interested in the project "which might be for the theatre what the NRF is for literature."  Paulhan agreed to publish an article by Artaud which would be a program and manifesto for such a new theatre.  The magazine published the first "Manifesto of the Theatre of Cruelty" in its October 1932 issue. [54]

By 1932 the Surrealists had moved toward Communism which was gaining favor among the working class, Hitler was developing a power base in Germany and the depression had taken root in America, while Einstein's Theory of Relativity was being developed into a weapon that would threaten the future of the whole planet.  If Artaud's world was to be destroyed as he demanded, while riding standing up through the streets of Paris with Anaïs Nin, many options for its destruction either existed or were being developed.  If Artaud thought he could shock people into revolt and reconstruction without first destroying society, as he and other artists of the avant-garde of his period had tried to do for years, how would he do it?

Cruelty as a teaching tool is suggested 27 years later by a young absurdist playwright, Edward Albee.  In his one-act play Zoo Story, which premiered in Germany in 1959 and opened later in New York with Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape as the curtain raiser, his character "Jerry" tells us, after relating the "story of Jerry and the dog" to Peter in Central Park:

. . . We had made many attempts at contact and we had failed.  The dog has returned to garbage, and I to solitary free passage.  I have not returned.  I mean to say, I have gained solitary free passage, if that much further loss can be said to be gain.  I have learned that neither kindness nor cruelty, by themselves, independent of each other, creates any effect beyond themselves; and I have learned that the two combined, together, at the same time, are the teaching emotion.  And what is gained is loss. [55]

For Albee, it is when cruelty is used in combination with its opposite, kindness, that something "beyond themselves," of universal importance or value, is learned.

As used by Artaud a quarter century before, the word "cruelty" must be considered from a philosophical and, especially, metaphysical point of view.  Responding to his friend, Jean Paulhan, in a letter dated Paris, November 14, 1932, Artaud writes:

I use the word 'cruelty’ in the sense of hungering after life, cosmic strictness, relentless necessity, in the Gnostic sense of a living vortex engulfing darkness, in the sense of the inescapable necessary pain without which life could not continue.  Good has to be desired, it is the result of an act of willpower, while evil is continuous.  When the hidden God creates, he obeys a cruel need for creation imposed upon him, yet he cannot avoid creating, thus permitting an ever more condensed, ever more consumed nucleus of evil to enter the eye of the willed vortex of good.  Theatre in the sense of constant creation, a wholly magic act, obeys this necessity.  A play without this desire, this blind zest for life, capable of surpassing everything seen in every gesture or every act, in the transcendent aspect of the plot, would be useless and a failure as theatre. [56]

According to Bettina Knapp, Artaud means "everything that is not dormant in life is cruel."  She writes that when "Brahma, for example, left his state of rest, he suffered.  When a child is born, it knows pain.  Death, certainly, and, transformation, fire, love, appetite are all cruelties." [57]   The problem for me with this line of thought is that when anything is everything it becomes nothing because, like nothing, it is without a discernible definition.  Let's listen again to the source.  In a letter To Mr. R. de R., dated Paris, November 16, 1932, Artaud writes:

Cruelty connects things together, the different stages of creation are formed by it.  Good is always an external façade but the inner façade is evil.  Evil will eventually be reduced but only at the final moment when all forms are on the point of returning to chaos. [58]

With this he takes us forward again to Albee, who in Zoo Story uses cruelty to create and nurture a new and different animal in Peter.  An animal screaming in his cage, willing and able to defend his bench, his way of life to the death "at the final moment when all forms are on the point of returning to chaos" he is offered the weapon which enables him to restore order by killing Jerry.

Myths are the outcome of impersonal or transcendental experiences.  The fascinating and terrifying images man's unconscious produced, as a result of these experiences, took the form of dreams and premonitions and fantasies.  Transformed they became symbolic expressions of an inner drama which he could only cope with by projecting into nature or the environment.  The drama is a myth of Creation.  It is the enactment and re-enactment of the pain experienced by man as he is torn away from his state of original unity, from "Mother Earth" or from "undifferentiated reality." [59]  

What a thankless job, the perpetual hero, our Sun, has these days!  Gets up in the morning, pushes himself all the way up to the middle of the sky, all alone struggles against all odds, man-made or natural, for the better part of the day until the sky around begins to change from the coldness of the pale blue to a darker, deeper sort of light magenta and then eventually the warm crimson beckons him to the earth once again to join in a peaceful rest with the horizon.  He, or she, by the way, is home from the battle of just another day.  Does this simple myth of human struggle expressed in the ancient everyday ritual translate into exciting drama?

. . . If theatre wants to find itself needed once more, it must present everything in love, crime, war and madness.

   Everyday love, personal ambition and daily worries are worthless except in relation to the kind of awful lyricism that exists in those Myths to which the great mass of men have consented. [60]

Experiencing cruelty could be related to facing the truth of a present existence or reality, such as the violence of birth, war, death, or living in poverty without drugs:

It is upon this idea of extreme action, pushed beyond all limits, that theatre must be rebuilt.

   Imbued with the idea that the public thinks first of all with its senses and that to address oneself first to its understanding as the ordinary psychological theatre does is absurd.  The Theatre of Cruelty proposes to resort to a mass spectacle; to seek in the agitation of tremendous masses, convulsed and hurled against each other, a little of that poetry of festivals and crowds when, all too rarely nowadays, the people pour out into the streets. [61]

In the same letter to Jean Paulhan, of January 6, 1936 on Theatre and Cruelty, Artaud relates the Theatre of Cruelty to the Thèâtre Alfred Jarry and the Surrealists:

 . . . our dreams have an effect upon us and reality has an effect upon our dreams, so we believe that the images of thought can be identified with a dream which will be efficacious to the degree that it can be projected with the necessary violence.  And the public will believe in the theatre's dreams on condition that it take them for true dreams and not for a servile copy of reality; on condition that they allow the public to liberate within itself the magical liberties of dreams which it can only recognize when they are imprinted with terror and cruelty. [62]

Although Artaud supplemented cruelty with other words such as terror, violence and danger, he intended that a punishment of sorts be visited upon the spectators--a beneficent punishment.  Bermel writes that "life has in it a lot of ugliness and evil, which are both natural and man-made.  Instead of shielding spectators from their impact he would expose them, put them through the experience of a danger and then free them from it."  Therefore, Artaud's theatre was not a form of torture, but a facing of the worst that could happen, followed by a refreshing release from it.  At the end the spectator would feel relieved, as if awakening from a nightmare, the evil and terror cleansed away. [63]   In Chapter Five, the Conclusion of my thesis, I use Zinder to show how Brook illustrates this aspect of Artaud's theory in his production of Marat/Sade.

There are three features of the Theatre of Cruelty as Artaud projects it in theory.  First, it does not involve physical or spiritual maltreatment as the words suggest, but rather, it artistically expresses what he calls in different places the "rigor," "necessity" or "implacability" of theatre and life. [64]   Second, this theatre draws on the individual dreams and the collective dreams, or the myths, of all men.  It will furnish each spectator with the truth of the subconscious, in which a taste for crime, erotic obsessions, savagery, fear, utopian sense of life and matter, and even his cannibalism, pour out as honest feelings.  Third, because it works viscerally, on the nerves and senses, rather than on the intellect, and because it impinges on anxieties common to all men, the Theatre of Cruelty is aimed at a general public.  Whether realized or not, the poetic state of feeling such a theatre arouses is a transcendent experience of life for everybody.

Then as if to anticipate a slight resistance from the middle-class lovers of plot and character realism, who might rebel at the idea of constant allusions to "hidden, out-of-the-way attitudes of mind, there is still the double's nobly realistic acting, terrified as he is by apparitions from the Other World."  Who, by his trembling, childish yelping and heels striking the ground in march time with the unleashed subconscious, "hides behind his own reality, showing us that in human as well as in superhuman fields, Orientals are more than a match for us in matters of realism." [65]

. . . that mechanical eye-rolling, those pouting lips, the use of twitching muscles producing studiously calculated effects which prevent any resorting to spontaneous improvisation, those heads moving horizontally seeming to slide from one shoulder to the other as if on rollers, all that corresponds to direct psychological needs as well as to a kind of mental construction made up of gestures, mime, the evocative power of rhythm, the musical quality of physical movement, the comparable, wonderfully fused harmony of a note. . . . the most impulsive correlations constantly fuse sight with sound, intellect with sensibility, a character's gestures with the evocation of a plant's movements through the aid of an instrumental cry. [66]

He hears the sigh of a wind instrument which prolongs the vibrations of vocal cords so identically we do not know whether the voice itself is held, or if he is still savoring the after-sound.  He writes of "rippling joints," the:

musical angle the arm makes with a forearm, a falling foot, an arching knee, fingers that seem to come loose from the hand . . .  a constant play of mirrors where notes and the whisper of wind instruments, conjure up the idea of a passionate aviary where the actors themselves are the fluttering wings." [67]

He saw it as a popular, non-religious theatre that gave an extraordinary idea of a "nation's intellectual level, which takes the struggle of a soul as prey to the spectres as phantoms of the Other World to be the basis for its civic festivals." [68]   The Balinese Theatre sets up vibrations, not on a single level that follows what is going on in the drama, but on every level of the mind at once.  In its fixedness and in its power to evoke wonder, it has affinities with a religious ceremony, a rite.  And, like a rite, it can be participated in by anybody, not just a select group of the brightest or best-informed people.  It is popular theatre.

   The Balinese Theatre gives us an impression of pure theatre in the sense that it does away with the playwright, that behind the organizer of this wonderful collection of stage displays, one does not feel the presence of a certain number of themes introduced by what in modern Western theatre generally corresponds to the author.  Instead we feel this organizer, or if you like producer, his or his own author, his own creator, working with exclusively objective stage means. [69]

By removing the playwright as the final authority of the collaborative process of theatre, Artaud has helped to reserve that place for many directors who followed him, including Jerzi Grotowski.

His most practical, if not most lasting, contribution to experimental theatre was his use of space suggested by  "Theatre of Cruelty (First Manifesto)":

THE STAGE -- THE AUDITORIUM: We abolish the stage and the auditorium . . . so direct communication will be re-established between spectator and the spectacle, between the actor and the spectator, from the fact that the spectator, placed in the middle of the action, is engulfed and physically affected by it. This envelopment results, in part, from the very configuration of the room itself.

In effect, the absence of a stage in the usual sense of the work will provide for the deployment of the action in the four corners of the room.

For this diffusion of action over an immense space will oblige the lighting . . . to fall upon the public as much as upon the actors . . . the characters, swarming over each other like bees, will endure all the onslaughts of the situations . . . will (produce) the physical means of lighting, of producing thunder or wind, whose repercussions the spectator will undergo.

   However, a central position will be reserved which, without serving, properly speaking, as a stage, will permit the bulk of the action to be concentrated and brought to a climax whenever necessary. [70]

Of course, this reminds me of the scaffolding in the Kabuki theatre and also the present form of the Japanese stage, which became fixed probably in the early eighteenth century.

Artaud felt that destruction, like the plague, is a transforming force and that teaching through cruelty, is a means of transforming and healing the audience.  This differs with the concept of teaching of Christian morals of the Bible the Sentimentalists of the eighteenth century accomplished at the behest of the merchant class of England.  Artaud describes the extramural effects of cruelty in connection with his production of The Cenci:

My heroes . . . dwell in the realm of cruelty and must be judged outside of good and evil.  They are incestuous and sacrilegious, they are adulterers, rebels, insurgents, and blasphemers.  And that cruelty in which the entire work is bathed does not only result from the bloody story of the Cenci family, since it is not a purely corporal cruelty but a moral one; it goes to the extremity of instinct and forces the actor to plunge right to the roots of his being so that he leaves the stage exhausted.  A cruelty which acts as well upon the spectator and should not allow him to leave the theatre intact, but exhausted, involved, perhaps transformed! [OEuvres complètes, V, p. 21] [71]

By February 1935 the manuscript of The Cenci was ready and Artaud gave a reading at the home of Jean-Marie County.  It was a four-act play of blood, thunder, rape, incest and murder.

Artaud based his version of The Cenci on Shelley's five-act tragedy (1819) of the same name and on Stendahl's translation (1837) of a XVIth century account of an historical event. Beatrice was the daughter of Francesco Cenci (1549-1598), a Roman Renaissance aristocrat who had figured in a number of famous and scandalous cases before the papal courts.  His first wife had died after bearing him seven children.  He then married the wealthy and beautiful Lucretia Petroni.  Later, he plotted the death of his sons and raped his daughter, Beatrice.  Together with her step-mother and remaining brothers, Beatrice successfully plotted the murder of her father.  He was killed by hired assassins; a nail was hammered in one eye, and another in his throat.  The plot was revealed and the conspirators were brought to trial.  Pope Clement VII refused the sought-for pardon, and on September 11, 1599, Beatrice, less than sixteen years old, and her mother and brother, Giacomo were beheaded.  The Pope, among other motives for severity, probably felt that whoever killed the Count Cenci deprived his treasury of a certain and copious source of revenue.

The mad count who rapes his daughter not so much for lust but because he wants to condemn her to eternal damnation through incest, is a tremendous part; and so was that of Beatrice, the innocent victim roused to take bloody vengeance and then condemned to death.  Artaud cast himself as Cenci:

CENCI:  You don't understand me so badly.  Now look at me.  You see before you Count Cenci.  I may be old, yet I am sturdy enough despite my skinny frame.  I often dream that I am destiny itself.  This is how my vices are best understood, and my natural bent for hatred and, above all, why I loathe most of those who are closest to me in blood.  I feel myself to be, I know I am one of the forces of nature.  There is no life, no death, no God, no incest, no contrition, no crime in my existence.  I obey my own law, of which I am my own master--and all the worse for those who are caught and sink without trace in my inferno.  My rule, my intent, is to seek out and to practice evil. I cannot resist the forces burning with violence inside me. [72]  

While expressing no admiration for Cenci's personality, Artaud nevertheless appears to have admired his eagerness to defy social and moral convention and so become a first-rate candidate for enshrinement in a drama.

The entire first scene seems to be written to inspire a feeling of metaphysical anguish in the minds of the audience.  To shock the spectators back to the play's reality, Count Cenci strikes a gong with his sword at the end of the scene to call the servant Andrea.  By this motion against the gong, and his command to the servant, he causes a whole series of rippling sounds and events.  The first is a midnight meeting with his daughter, adding an act of incest to the supernatural aura of the spectacle.

During the banquet at the beginning of Scene Three, a violent orgy is revealed as all the bells of Rome ring out, however muted within the rhythm of the scene.  The actors' steps were reproduced and amplified via recordings of an amplified metronome oscillating at several speeds and played back at various intensities.  The electronically reproduced steps would sound far more theatrically real and significant than the actors' actual walking sounds.  The guests rush about, panic-stricken; their arms are outstretched, raised toward the heavens, as though they were about to attack an army of ghosts. 

In Act II, Scene Two, the storm rages and the wind howls as Beatrice, her brother Bernardo, and Lucretia, her stepmother, appear and join the priest Orsino, her brother, Giacomo, and Count Cenci, who walks at the end of the line.  They look like statues or shadows, performing the celebrated Danse Macabre, so popular in the Middle Ages.  The wind blows more fiercely now than ever.  The audience hears strange voices pronouncing the name CEN-CI four times in prolonged, sharp tones, rising and falling in pitch, resembling tonally, waves of birds in flight.  To increase the obsessive effect of the voices, Artaud had Roger Desormière use the Ondes Martinot, forerunner of the Moog synthesizer, today a staple of "rock," "pop" and "new-age" music.  As a result, frightening and inhuman sounds emanated from the recorded voices of the actors shooting out or whispering the CENCI-CI.

Artaud wanted to make a spoken language metaphysical by making it "express what it does not ordinarily express."  If words are to be effective, they must be manipulated like solid objects by the muscles of the chest, throat and diaphragm to act upon each other and upon the spectator.  Artaud intended to make use of the language of words:

. . . in a new, exceptional, and unaccustomed fashion; to reveal its possibilities for producing physical shock; to divide and distribute it actively in space; to deal with intonations in an absolutely concrete manner, restoring their power to shatter as well as really to manifest something; . . . and finally, to consider language as the form of Incantation. [73]

Some of the lines, for example an incantatory lament by Beatrice, were almost sung.  This is a throwback to the Greek theatre also used by André Serban and Elizabeth Swados for their production of a Greek trilogy at LaMama, E.T.C. in 1971-72.  As the forerunner of Ms. Swados' excellent work in Serban's production and many of her own which followed, Artaud thought that if modern musical instruments cannot produce the sounds he considers necessary to his production, then ancient instruments should be used, or new ones invented.

Artaud also thought the interplay of lights on the stage should be designed to create an atmosphere capable of moving the spectator to anxiety, terror, eroticism, or love.  Lighting would be a force which can play on the mind of the spectator because of its vibratory possibilities, cast onto the stage in waves, in sheets, or in fiery arrows. [74]   There should be no separation between the stage and the audience and the theatre should be modified according to the architecture of certain sacred places--as in Tibet.  The walls should be painted with lime to absorb the light; action should take place on all levels and dimensions, in height and in depth to grip and assault the spectator--as though the outside world were, symbolically speaking, acting upon and stimulating the spectator's inner world.  Esslin informs us:

As a further act of depersonalization he placed dummies on stage among the live actors, "to make the heroes of the play say what perturbs them and what they could not convey in ordinary conversation."  He was trying "to make beings, rather than men, speak."  . . . "like great incarnate forces," . . . they would have to remain psychologically plausible. [75]

Despite the hard work to create such a spectacle of theatrical risk-taking, the reviews were not good and the play closed after seventeen performances.  And for Artaud it was his last chance to establish himself as a working director in Paris.  André Frank has recalled Artaud during the last days of the run of The Cenci when he may have first became aware of the significance of its failure:

When Jean-Louis Barrault offered Artaud the chance of collaborating with him on one of his theatrical ventures, Artaud declined saying:  "I no longer believe in being associated with others, particularly since my experience with Surrealism, because I no longer believe in the purity of mankind."  It was, in effect, the end of Artaud's struggle since the early 1920s to find a basis for a moral existence within the framework of society as it was constituted. [76]

The Cenci is the only nominal presentation of his idea of a Theatre of Cruelty.  Others, "including Artaud, felt that perhaps the suppressed broadcast of To Have Done with the Judgement of God was a miniature sample of what the Theatre of Cruelty could be." [77]   But then, it was suppressed, of course.

Back to Table of Contents

 

CHAPTER 4

THE THEATRE AND ITS DOUBLE: 
THE PLAGUE

   In the Theatre, the tendency for centuries has been to put the actor at a remote distance, on a platform, framed, decorated, lit, painted, in high shoes--so as to help to persuade the ignorant that he is holy, that his art is sacred.  Did this express reverence?  Or was there behind it a fear that something would be exposed if the light were too bright, the meeting too near? [78]

Peter Brook, The Empty Space

 

The turning point of Artaud's life and the breakdown of his work process in the theatre came after the commercial failure of The Cenci.  Artaud eventually resumed his interest in working in the theatre, but he never staged another play.  In January, 1947, he gave a lecture or "Tête-à-tête," which was a sensation of mixed sorts, at the Vieux-Colombier; and in November, 1947, Artaud and several other actors recorded his piece for the radio entitled Pour en finir avec le jugement de Dieu (To Have Done With the Judgement of God).  The publication of his essay "The Theatre and the Plague" in Nouvelle Revue Française came seven months after the only production of the Theatre of Cruelty.  Five months before the publication of a collection of essays that inspired two generations of playwrights and directors over three or four decades, he was detained in a straitjacket aboard the S.S. Washington out of Dublin to Le Havre.  These extreme measures were taken to protect the other passengers and himself, from himself.

Artaud spent the next nine years in mental institutions, during which time his most important theoretical essays, composed in the early thirties, were collected under the title The Theater and Its Double (Le Théâtre et son double) and published by Gallimard in its "Collection Métamorphoses" in February 1938. 

After Le Havre came Sotteville-les-Rouen, Sainte-Anne, and Ville-Evrard, where the conditions were typically inhuman.  In 1943 Robert Desnos and several other friends succeeded in getting Artaud transferred to the asylum at Rodez in southern France, where Artaud fell under the care of Dr. Ferdière who administered Artaud's much-discussed electric shock treatments.  While at Rodez, Artaud began to write and draw again and showed sufficient signs of remission for Dr. Ferdière, who had been approached by Arthur Adamov and other friends of Artaud, to agree to sign the poet's release if assured that Artaud could provide for himself. [79]

The Theatre and the Plague"--an essay included in the collection published as The Theater and Its Double--proposes that one of the great scourges of mankind, the Plague, in many ways resembles the theatre which, as an art, consists of some of mankind's great acts of affirmation." [80]   In the essay, Artaud describes the plague as, ". . . a disease which progressively destroys the organism like a pain which, as it intensifies and deepens, multiplies its resources and means of access at every level of the sensibility." [81]   He tells us that during the 18th century the Viceroy of Sardinia has a dream that his community is consumed by the plague, so he forbids a passing ship to dock at Cagliari and it continues to Marseille where it unleashes the epidemic of 1720.  Artaud says that there must have been a "palpable communication, however subtle" between the Viceroy and the plague, anything but the usual "contagion by contact" as by words. [82]   The ideas expressed in this essay connect Artaud's work and process before his trip to Mexico to the cultural revolution of the 1960s.

Artaud believed that the only salvation for mankind and society as it was, was theatre working as one of its doubles, the plague, to purge the world of its violence and ugliness.  If we can think freely, let our mind make the connections freely, without thinking of the ugliness on the underside, as Artaud suggests in the essay, we will see the parallels that Artaud envisioned between the plague and his vision of theatre.

Please allow me to improvise freely now with Artaud's description of the Plague of 1720 in Marseille, by substituting the word "theatre" for "the Plague" wherever it appears in a selected paragraph from the essay, while updating some of the references.  Once the theatre is established in a city, normal social order collapses.  There is no more refuse collection, no police.  Pyres are lit to burn the dead whenever sanitation workers are available.  At first each family wants its own pyre.  Then wood, other fuels and space grow scarce and families fight around the fires, but this is soon followed by general flight from the cities since there are too many corpses and too few places to burn them.  The streets are already choked with crumbling pyramids of the dead.  Other theatre victims, those who remain inside their apartments lacking swollen glands or delirium, pain or rashes, examine themselves proudly in the mirror each morning, feeling in splendid health, only to fall dead in the bathroom with their toothbrush in hand.  This improvisation shows quite clearly the distruction and havoc that Artaud envisioned his theatre as a plague should wreak on a society that had lost its way in the metaphysical universe.

But if a major scourge or plague is needed, Artaud continues, to make this frenzied pointlessness of present day society appear to us clearly, and if that plague, borrowing from Jarry's science of 'Pataphysics, is renamed the theatre, we might attempt to determine the value of this pointlessness in relation to our whole personality.  The theatre victim, for instance:

. . . who dies without any material destruction, yet with all the stigmata of an absolute, almost abstract disease upon him, is in the same condition as an actor totally penetrated by feelings without any benefit or relation to reality.  Everything in the actor's physical aspect, just as in the theatre victim, shows life has reached to a paroxysm, yet nothing has happened." [83]

Artaud writes that although relating theatre imagery to an advanced state of physical disorganization is at the brink of senility, poetic imagery in the theatre is a mental power which takes full flight when it dispenses with reality after tipping its hat to tangibility.  Once launched in fury, an actor needs infinitely more virtue to stop himself from committing a crime than a murderer needs to perpetrate one of his or her choosing.  In their pointlessness, these acts of spontaneously discovered stage feeling appear as something infinitely more valid than those feelings worked out in life. [84]

According to Artaud, St. Augustine complains in The City of God of a "similarity between the action of the plague that kills without destroying the organs and the theatre which, without killing," causes very mysterious changes in the mind of the individual and his/her society.

. . . If then there remains in you sufficient mental enlightenment to prefer the soul to the body, choose whom you will worship.  But these astute and wicked spirits, foreseeing that in due course the pestilence would shortly cease, took occasions to infect, not the bodies, but the morals of their worshippers, with a far more serious disease. . . . so gross a darkness and dishonoured them with so foul a deformity, that even quite recently some of those who fled from the sack of Rome and found refuge in Carthage were so infected with the disease that day after day they seemed to contend with one another who should most madly run after the actors in the theatre. . . . [85]

The mind believes what it sees and does what it believes, writes Artaud, that is the secret of fascination.  St. Augustine does not doubt the reality of this fascination for one moment, [86] but he preaches that extending that fascination to fulfillment is evil.  Naturally, Artaud writes it as both good and evil.

The plague extends dormant images into the most extreme gestures.  According to Artaud, the theatre should also "take gestures and push them as far as they will go."  Theatre should also "reforge the chain between what is and what is not, between the visible and the invisible."  For Artaud it is the difference between the "virtuality of the possible and what already exists in materialized nature; between what is and what is only dreamed."  He writes on:

   The theatre restores us all our dormant conflicts and all their powers, and gives these powers names we hail as symbols: and behold! before our eyes is fought a battle of symbols, one charging against another in an impossible melée; for there can be theatre only from the moment when the impossible really begins and when the poetry which occurs on the stage sustains and superheats the realized symbols. In the true theatre a play disturbs the senses' repose, frees the repressed unconscious, incites a kind of virtual revolution (which moreover can have its full effect only if it remains virtual), and imposes on the assembled collectivity an attitude that is both difficult and heroic. [87]

In this paragraph I can hear the heartbeat of my thesis and Artaud's raison d'être.  His theatre would never be sided with those in power.  It would always be on the front edge of the avant-garde pushing the power toward change.  His theatre, like the plague, is in the image of this carnage (freedom of life, sexual freedom,) and this essential separation.  "It releases conflicts, disengages powers, liberates possibilities, and if these possibilities and these powers are dark, it is the fault not of the plague nor of the theatre, but of life." [88]

   It may be true that the poison of theatre, when injected in the body of society, destroys it, as St. Augustine asserted, but it does so as a plague, a revenging scourge, a redeeming epidemic when credulous ages were convinced they saw God's hand in it, while it was nothing more than a natural law applied, where all gestures were offset by another gesture, every action by a reaction. [89]

He writes later in the essay that theatre is a disease because it is the supreme equilibrium which cannot be achieved without destruction.  In the Mary Caroline Richards translation of The Theater and Its Double, we read:

(the theater) . . invites the mind to share a delirium which exalts its energies; and we can see, to conclude, that from the human point of view, the action of theatre, like that of the plague, is beneficial, for, impelling men to see themselves as they are, it causes the mask to fall, reveals the lie, the slackness, baseness, and hypocrisy of our world; . . . . [90]

Albert Bermel writes that if it wrecks "our present social state," so much the better; that state is "iniquitous."  The plague is an inescapable calamity in the cycle of man's history, a "triumph of dark powers," and a "total crisis"; but after it has struck and then exhausted itself "nothing remains except death or an extreme purification," for "a gigantic abscess, as much moral as social, has been collectively drained." 

The plague . . . cleanses.  Like a boil, it brings whatever would have noxious, hidden, and festering to the surface--and expels it.  Theatre can do likewise. It simulates the dark, unindulged passions, the abnormal feelings, of mankind (the actor is a murderer) and by expelling them at one remove, in performance, cleanses the performer and spectator alike in its collective experience. [91]

The performer infects the audience with the correct emotional response and the audience is cleansed through the contagion, but not until after the audience has gone through an experience similar to the one that the performer goes through. [92] [93]

Aristotle viewed theatre as an act of purgation, catharsis.  With "The Theatre and the Plague" Artaud goes much further.  Rather than concurring that theatre is a healthy diversion to be described by such adjectives as "pleasant, entertaining, enjoyable," he insists, and according to Bermel he was the very first writer to do so, that it is, like the Plague, a social necessity.  Theatre, as an art, has an obligation:  its every performance, by virtue of its cleansing and purifying, must transfigure its audiences.  "They must be, and feel, remade."  The right-wing Christian fundamentalists, no matter what the sect, would all agree that this is the job of religion; to be "born again" by sanctification of the Holy Spirit, the third entity of separation between Man and God, after the Father/Mother and the Son.  Artaud's images of transfiguration, however, are not Christ, but "alchemy, metaphysics, and culture." [94]

Eric Sellin in his book, The Dramatic Concepts of Antonin Artaud, writes that Artaud's specific recommendations all pointed toward an ideal which might well be the ideal of any serious playwright.  His concepts of "the double" and "cruelty" laid the foundation for his definition of catharsis or purgation of the emotions.  Through his language of an "environmental" stage space, and a purgation in the spectator through the actor's own experience, visceral catharsis, the second recurring theme in Artaud's theoretical writings is clarified. [95]

. . . for if the theatre is the double of life, life is the double of the true theatre, and that has nothing to do with the ideas of Oscar Wilde on Art.  This title will correspond to all the doubles of theatre which I thought I had found over so many years: metaphysics, the plague, cruelty.

   The reservoir of the energies made up of Myths which men no longer incarnate is incarnated in the theatre.  And by this double I mean the great magic element ("agent") of which the theatre, in its forms, is only the figuration while we wait for the theatre to become that element's transfiguration. [96]

Borrowing once again from Zinder, what he learned from seeing the Balinese was that the theatre was the only place where real life "could be lived through an incarnation of the spirit" and "the only place where the myths and fables could be approximated."  Also, "great cataclysms towering passions, ancient taboos and horrible crimes could be allowed to exist and be controlled at the same time." [97]   The Balinese also taught him that like one recovering from a certain kind of total immersion into a healing hypnosis, he knows something has changed, yet he is still aware of the existence of a lingering affliction, that will only disappear with total destruction of the host.

The third recurring theme in Artaud's theoretical writing is almost all-pervasive, and ironically it is the least definable, and perhaps the most important for subsequent playwrights, according to Eric Sellin in The Dramatic Concepts of Antonin Artaud.  This is the spirit of mission which Artaud not only felt but managed to communicate very successfully through his writings.  He respected the art of the theatre as the loftiest of arts and wrote that it, in direct contact with primal forces, has lent an "aura of aesthetic sanctity and martyrdom to many of the more impassioned but less explicable utterances . . . ."  Arthur Adamov has said, according to Sellin, "Artaud's theoretical work was completely inspirational.  There was something evanescent about his dramatic ideas, and when one thought he had grasped them, they vanished." [98]   Peter Brook has suggested, "You should take Artaud unadulterated as a way of life, or say that there is something in Artaud that relates to a style of theatre." [99]   Artaud concludes his essay, "The Theatre and the Plague" with this short but inspirational question, as translated by Victor Corti:

   And the question we must now ask ourselves is to know whether in this world that is slipping away, committing suicide without realising it, a nucleus of men can be found to impress this higher idea of theatre on the world, to bring to all of us a natural, occult equivalent of the dogma we no longer believe. [100]

His sense of aesthetic mission in the theatre was a call out to theatre artists all over the world.  Those apostles who worked with him or met him and knew of his life, his work, and his writing; working artists who never heard of Artaud, but were infected just the same; those who only heard mention of his "Theatre of Cruelty" and never read him, as I; or, leaders who thought the fulfillment of his prophecy and mission was really their own idea.  It was up to all of us to communicate the message, and when the time was right to take up where his courage, strength or sanity left him.  And we did.

Back to Table of Contents

 

CHAPTER 5

CONCLUSION

 

A CRY

 

The little celestial poet

Opens the shutters of his heart.

The heavens clash.  Oblivion

Uproots the symphony.

 

Stableman the wild house

That has you guard wolves

Does not suspect the wraths

Smouldering beneath the big alcove

Of the vault that hangs above us.

 

Hence silence and darkness

Muzzle all impurity

The sky strides forward

At the crossroad of sounds.

 

The star is eating.  The oblique sky

Is opening its flight toward the heights

Night sweeps away the scraps

Of the meal that contented us.

On earth walks a slug

Which is greeted by ten thousand white hands

A slug is crawling

There where the earth vanished

 

Angels whom no obscenity summons

Were homeward bound in peace

When rose the real voice

Of the spirit that called them.

 

The sun lower than the daylight

Volatized all the sea.

A strange but clear dream

Was born on the clean earth.

 

The lost little poet

Leaves his heavenly post

With an unearthly idea

Pressed upon his hairy heart.

 

Two traditions met

But our padlocked thoughts

Lacked the place required,

Experiment to be tried again. [101]

 

Antonin Artaud

January 29, 1924

This poem was enclosed in a letter to Jacques Rivière

 

To understand how Artaud's theory may be considered prophecy let us first note Zinder:  ". . . all works of art undergo a period of gestation in the subconscious of the creative artist, from the initial impulse, to the actual execution of the finished work."  If we were to think of all the theatre artists from 1938 to 1963 as one, as we did when relating the creative processes of the Surrealists at the turn-of-the-century to Artaud in his letters to Jacques Rivière, then the thread that runs between the theatre of Artaud and "that of the sixties and seventies appears to parallel" this idea "of gestation" on a broad scale. [102]

The re-birth of Artaudian theory in the sixties throughout Europe and the U.S. was due to many and varied factors.  The "ideational" context is detailed by Brockett in his and Findlay's Century of Innovation after reminding us that ". . . social and theatrical discontents reached a crisis in 1968."  However, many innovations of the "1960s and the 1970s reflected ideas that had been taking shape since World War II."  By the late 1960s the destruction and renewal that Artaud prophesied was being demanded by individuals and groups who were convinced of a need for change by influences and concerns of the "New Left," and a basic change in the social politics of personality. [103]

After reading Marx, Freud, Fromm, Laing, Dr. Spock and Norman O. Brown, the liberal-thinking members of the masses were ready for the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss to argue Alfred Jarry and his science of 'Pataphysics by saying that, according to Brockett:

. . . any system is arbitrary and functions only because it is composed of a societally accepted set of perceived categories, relationships, and contrasts that make up a 'grid' which determines how that society perceives the world and how its members communicate with each other.

If Jarry was accepted as politically correct, we could now consider one of his descendants, Artaud.  Lévi-Strauss, continues Brockett, argues further:

. . . that myths . . . when properly analyzed, reveal beneath their surface content the structural patterns . . . that constitute that society's communication grid.  Myth, then, is another way of thinking which, like language, decenters individual experience and privileges deep, archetypal structures.

   Structuralists (including Lévi-Strauss) suggest that whatever grid is imposed by a society also incorporates certain basic assumptions that unconsciously influence how its users perceive and think about the world.  Altering the grid, therefore, requires realigning all its parts, including the assumptions on which they are based. [104]

With these ideas in place the general audience was ready to experience, if not completely accept, the changes that were being offered in the areas of religion, politics and the popular arts.  "With the coming of electronic media, communication became multisensory, and the human perceptual apparatus was conditioned by the new media to assimilate multiple and concurrent stimuli." [105]   During the 1960s, groups under the direction of Peter Brook, Julian Beck and Judith Malina, Joseph Chaikin, Richard Schechner, and Jerzy Grotowski, to mention a few, "sought a new form of theatre that utilized undefined theatre spaces and either encouraged or manipulated audience participation for the purposes of the production." [106]   The political climate was right and artistic mind was willing; the western world was now ready for much of Artaud's dramatic theory to be praxis.

George E. Wellwarth in his essay, "Antonin Artaud, The Prophet of the Avant-Garde Theatre," published in his book The Theatre of Protest and Paradox states that all ". . . the plays of the current avant-garde experimental drama have a common source in the theories of Antonin Artaud." [107]   The endeavors of Artaud, who, according to Esslin, "forms the bridge between the pioneers of the avant-garde and the "Theatre of the Absurd" ended in utter failure and mental collapse.  And yet, in some sense, he triumphed." [108]   In the same book Esslin wrote that Artaud's "vision of a stage of magic beauty and mythical power [is] one of the most active leavens in the theatre." [109]   However, in his more recent study of Antonin Artaud, Esslin maintained that Artaud did not produce "anything like a tangible, verifiable system." [110]   Nonetheless, there is no dramatic theory that cries out for a new theatre as it supplies the needs of the professional in rehearsal as clearly as that expressed by Artaud in The Theater and Its Double.

Grotowski, whose stage movement concepts and practices might be compared to Artaud's ideas and attempts at "Affective Athleticism" because of their emphasis upon gesture, breath and emotional expression, has recognized Artaud's strong influence on the professional theatre artist.  In his essay, "He Wasn't Entirely Himself," he writes that "we are entering into the age of Artaud." [111]   In the same essay he writes:

When an eminent creator with an achieved style and personality, like Peter Brook, turns to Artaud, it's not to hide his own weaknesses, or to ape the man.  It just happens that at a given point of his development he finds himself in agreement with Artaud, feels the need of a confrontation, tests Artaud, and retains whatever stands up to this test. . . . And when . . . we discover that the essence of the theatre is found neither in the narration of an event, nor in the discussion of a hypothesis with an audience, nor in the representation of life as it appears from the outside, nor even in a vision--but that the theatre is an act carried out here and now in the actor's organisms, in front of other men; when we discover that theatrical reality is instantaneous, not an illustration of life but something linked to life only by analogy; when we realize all this, then we ask ourselves the question:  wasn't Artaud talking about just this and nothing else?

. . . Like Isaiah, Artaud knew of Emmanuel's coming, and what it promised.  He saw the image of it through a glass darkly. [112]

Grotowski believed that Artaud was a visionary and prophet who envisioned the expanded dimensions of the actor's physical expression and agrees with Esslin that Artaud left no methodology to fulfill his prophecy.

According to Raymonde Temkine, one of his biographers, Grotowski claims he didn't know of the Théâtre Alfred Jarry or The Theater and Its Double before 1964.  She writes he learned of Artaud's existence when a colleague of his at the Polish Laboratory Theater, Zygmunt Molik, referred him to an excerpt of Artaud's writing in Dialog, a Polish magazine.  As for The Theatre and Its Double, Temkine writes that in 1964, "The book, which was being re-edited, had been impossible to find: I quickly sent him a copy." [113]   An interesting aside is that although he attended classes in Paris with Artaud's director, Charles Dullin, at least twice, Grotowski says he ". . . would rather be considered as indebted to his compatriot, S.I. Witkiewicz (pseudonym Witkacy) who developed theories close to Artaud, a generation before, and committed suicide in 1939."  He also told Temkine that he "owed to Witkiewicz an idea that he considered essential:  the theater can be a religion without religion." [114]   I wonder if he ever read Richard Wagner? [115]

Jerry Crawford and Joan Snyder, in Acting: In Person and in Style, [116] and Hardie Albright, in Stage Direction in Transition, [117] according to Dr. Mark V. Rose in The Actor and His Double, suggested that Artaud, in fact, did "formulate a special acting system for his highly physical theatre."  Rose writes that for Crawford and Snyder it is his "extreme use of gesture and sensory response in order to communicate psychologically with an audience rather than through words."  These followers used an Artaudian technique of stimulating the audience's senses "through a variety of physical and emotive stage behavior" through the "kinetic or emotional relationship between the organic life of the actor and his audience." [118]   We know that Artaud introduced new breathing techniques as the basis for character portrayals.  He is said to have used this technique to enhance certain character traits of Cenci in his production of The Cenci.  Each character in the play was a type which was represented by patterns of inhaling (masculine) and exhaling (feminine) taught by the Cabala, which he describes in his essay, "An Affective Athleticism." [119]

A reading of Rose also teaches that besides the (1) "breathing techniques" mentioned above, his performances included the technical display of: (2) "puppet-like movements," (3) "animal movements," (4) "movements portraying monsters," (5) "masks, costumes, padding, stilts, fabric, puppets, objects and accessories," (6) "movements timed in relation to mechanically controlled puppets, masks, mirrors, scenery, furniture, lighting and objects," (7) "stage action combined with filmed movement and slide projections," (8) "elaborate solo and ensemble gesture and movement, often in a multi-leveled space surrounding the audience."  Emotional expression was communicated to the audience by: (9) "realistic gesture and action to depict ordinary and extraordinary human behavior," (10) "gestures and actions that contradict a character's intentions and lines," (11) "intensely emotional and exaggerated gestures and action through which the actor's latent cruelty is explored, expressed, and purged," (12) "dreams and fantasies as sources for movement, and nonlinear plot development," (13) "stylized, formalized, stereotypical, and illustrative dance movement which symbolized special inner states and metaphysical ideas," (14) "gestures and movements with a ritualistic quality appropriate for a theatre whose main goal is to purge the human tendency to violence and bloodshed through the depiction of horrifying subjects and events." [120]

Using certain tempos of breathing patterns, "taught us by the Cabala" an actor "makes use of his emotions as a wrestler makes use of his muscles." [121]   Artaud insisted that the breath could stimulate various organic centers in the body to release strong emotional memories stored there. [122]   Borrowing from Chinese acupuncture, the theorist, according to Rose, offered several curious hypotheses concerning the actor's inner research via the breath.  As an acupuncturist's needles relieve pain and infection by balancing opposing Yin (male) and Yang (female) forces through gentle pricking on the surface of the skin at selected sites, Artaud's method calls for actors to direct their breathing inward to the infected organs; there, the breath, like an acupuncturist's needles, could stimulate and release valuable memories.  Actors capable of this internal purge Artaud called "Affective Athletes"--calling to mind Stanislavky's "Affective Memory" technique. [123]

Artaud believed that surface truth in certain contexts is more persuasive than inner truth that may have been caused by using affective or sensory memory.  Charles Marowitz wrote in the Winter of 1966 that if "the spectator experiences the inner truth" of the actor, which for Artaud was an "actor going through" a purging process by displaying the right emotions in the right context, that is the only truth that matters.  "The Artaudian actor knows that unless" the inner truth "has been shaped into a communicative image," or gesture, "it's a passionate letter without postage.  Whereas pure feeling can be mawkish or leaden, an effective stage-image composed of--a gesture, a movement, or a sequence of actions,--is" a "statement in itself which doesn't require" the actor to display a life-like feeling "in order to register with the spectator; but when the gesture is true to its emotion it is many times more potent."  Marowitz writes on in the Tulane Drama Review article published as noted:

There is no fundamental disagreement between the Method actor and the Artaudian actor.  Both rely on consciousness to release the unconscious, but whereas the Method actor is chained to rational motivation, the Artaudian actor realizes the highest artistic truth is unprovable.  Like certain rare natural phenomena that defy scientific analysis, they can exist--and the actor's task is to conjure them into being.

   The Artaudian actor needs Stanislavsky in order to verify the nature of the feelings he is releasing--otherwise he becomes merely a victim of feeling.  Even Artaud's celebrated actor-in-trance is responsible to the spirit that is speaking through him. [124]

During the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1963-64 season Peter Brook and Charles Marowitz auditioned and cast a group of actors to investigate and experiment with Artaud's theories in order to train an acting company that was more suited for the plays of Genet, in particular their planned production of The Screens.  The first public showing of the group's work was titled "Theatre of Cruelty" and ran a scheduled five weeks at the LAMDA Theatre Club in January and February, 1964.  Marowitz writes that it was never intended as a "show," but as a "work-in-progress" which he thought would be of interest to the profession.  He found out, however, that it was practically "impossible to present anything short of a show in London." [125]   The work consisted of two short nonsense sketches by Paul Ableman, similar to the sound exercises that were used in rehearsal.  Artaud's published, but until then unproduced Spurt of Blood, which ran for three minutes, was played first in sounds and then as Artaud wrote it.  In addition, a dramatization in movement only of a short play by Alain Robbe-Grillet; two collages by Brook, one, The Public Bath, was a splicing-together of newspaper accounts of the John F. Kennedy funeral and the Christine Keeler testimony; the other The Guillotine was made up from original sources.  Also included in the evening were three scenes from Genet's The Screens; an anti-Marceauvian mime-sketch called The Analysis; a short play by John Arden, Ars Longa, Vita Brevis and the group's Collage--Hamlet. [126]

Peter Brook writes of the RSC's Theatre of Cruelty season of 1964-65 in his book The Empty Space:

Charles Marowitz and I instituted a group with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre called the Theatre of Cruelty to investigate . . . to try and learn for ourselves what a holy theatre might be.

. . . We used his title (Theatre of Cruelty) to cover our own experiments, many of which were directly stimulated by Artaud's thought--although many exercises were very far from what he had proposed.  We did not start at the blazing centre, we began very simply on the fringes. [127]

The audition and rehearsal process for the Theatre of Cruelty season consisted of many improvisational exercises devised by Brook and Marowitz.  For instance, an actor was asked to imagine a dramatic situation without physical movement, then the rest of the company tried to understand what emotional state the actor was in.  Brook writes that it was impossible.  But, he also writes, this was the point of the exercise.  They wanted to discover the very least that was needed, in terms of expression or gesture, before it was possible to understand the emotional state of the actor.  A sound, a movement, a rhythm--were these things interchangeable, or had each its special strengths and limitations?  In another exercise, the actor must communicate an idea--the start must always be a thought or a wish that he has to project--but he has only one finger, one tone of voice, a cry, or the capacity to whistle at his disposal.

In production there were two sections in the evening which were marked as "free":  improvisations which changed every evening without warning the actors, and a section towards the end of the second half composed of programs that occurred to Marowitz or Brook on the same day.  For instance, Brook used his section on the first night to rehearse a scene from Richard III.  On another night, this section was used for a spontaneous exchange between Brook and Marowitz which questioned their motives for being there.  One of the playwrights, John Arden, was asked to come to the stage and one of the actors in his play, who hated it, was set against him.

Marowitz devised new improvs every night and directed them from the stage.  The "Changing Gears" [128] exercise was played in sound, musical phrases and on another night, animal noises with suggestions of the Premise every night from the audience.  The roles were swapped, bits altered or dropped, and one scripted piece by Ableman was presented completely unstaged and unrehearsed each evening as the spirit moved the actors.  Some nights--disaster--some nights:

. . . startlingly new moods would appear.  The playing of this particular dialogue was greatly enhanced by the fact that the two players, who were sometimes required to play quite lyrically with one another, hated each other's guts.  The tensions that charged, disfigured, and enlivened the piece prevented it from ever becoming dead material. [129]

The £5,000 that was budgeted, probably no more than one-tenth of what it would cost today, was down the drain in a matter of 12 weeks.  Of course this was in keeping with the tradition of Artaud's theory in practice.  A mistake is made when we try to see this kind of work in the bright lights of commercial success and then deduce, if we can't see it, it doesn't deserve to be done, or at least it has value as a failure because we learn by its failure never to do it again.  The subjective nature of this kind of process-oriented work in the theatre denies it any hope of ever breaking even, financially.  Its success or failure can only be measured at the moment it is experienced by the actor and director in rehearsal, but it can't be counted on in a production which is intended to be commercial.

In "Private Experiment--In Public" an article by Simon Trussler, Peter Brook is asked by the INTERVIEWER:

Mr. Brook, what is your attitude as a director towards Artaud's theories?

BROOK: . . . I feel that in our theatre it is needed more by the director and the actor than by the writer. . . . the writer shares the privileges of almost all other artists, and to make experiments all he needs is the wish to experiment, imagination and very cheap materials--pencil and paper for the writer, sketchbook and pencil for the painter, or piano and a pair of hands for the composer.  The writer of plays is largely in the same position of absolute freedom--if he wishes to make an experiment he can sit at home and turn the theatre of his mind into a semi-realized form on a scrap of paper that he can then discard. . . . a lot of texts by writers who have gone a considerable way in tackling problems on paper, which they have partially resolved from their end, but which no theatre company in the world is yet truly qualified to resolve from their end. . . .  Now Genet has evolved over the years a very complex dramatic technique which calls upon all the resources of many different and often conflicting theatre traditions, from the Japanese theatre to naturalism --and there are aspects of all these in that particular many-leveled form of writing. . . . Artaud gave the company the ability to bridge conflicting ideas and theatre traditions . . .

INTERVIEWER:  Are . . . the actors going to have considerable freedom of approach?

BROOK: . . . What we are trying to bring about is for the actor, in making his choice, to make it as an independent, responsible creative artist.  Instead of turning his impulses into one of the many forms that are already there (so that his choice fits into the form that he has learnt to appreciate and assimilate), here his responsibility is to transcend his first naturalistic impulse, and then he has to manifest the best expressive choice, in a way that he can afterwards defend as being to the limit of his consciousness.  Funnily enough, what the actor first wants to do in an improvisation is only superficially his first idea:  when he realizes this, in a Zen-like way he can find an even quicker expression, one in which he is operating as an artist, not in accordance with his trained reflexes. [130]

It is generally agreed that the most thorough test of Artaud's theories in process were by Brook and Marowitz during the RSC's Theatre of Cruelty season.  The RSC production of Peter Weiss' Marat/Sade at the beginning of the next season, directed by Peter Brook, was probably the most commercially successful application of many of his theories in praxis.  So, it is this work which I will discuss next.

The Persecution and Murder of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the direction of the Marquis de Sade was a deliberately undramatic and pseudo-academic listing of the play's contents according to J.C. Trewin. [131]   At parties and in the bookstores the punchline became, "I haven't seen the play but I've read the title." [132]   It, like Artaud's version of The Cenci, was based on an historical situation.  Monsieur Coulmier was a liberal minded, pre-Freudian director of the Charenton Asylum for lunatics between 1787 and 1811.  He established regular theatrical entertainments in his clinic, which was located on a ridge near the convergence of the Seine and Marne, as part of his therapeutic treatment of the inmates.  The Marquis de Sade, with a life of reckless sexual indulgence to his credit, "was an inmate of Charenton from 1803 until he died in 1814."  These entertainments, which would now be called psycho-dramas, became a hot ticket in Paris and the stylish crowds would come to visit the Asylum as much to observe the "louche behavior" of the inmate-actors as to watch the show.  The performance at Charenton, if one could call it that from the description provided by J.C. Trewin, was acted on a specially built stage which "faced a box reserved for the director and his friends."  On each side stood, lounged, twitched and slobbered, specially selected patients, like freaks at a side show for the "fashionable Parisian crowd in the stalls."  Peter Weiss set his play in this quaint little snippet of Parisian life, "a communal bathhouse, the hydropathic department of the institution." [133]

The composer, Richard Peaslee, an American, reminisces on the liner notes of the recently released compact disc of the original cast recording of the music of Marat/Sade and the RSC's production of US:

I remember well one May afternoon (1964) in the offices of the Aldwych Theatre--the first conference on a wild new play from Germany by Peter Weiss.  Peter Brook, the director, Adrian Mitchell, the lyricist and adapter, plus others of the RSC management were present.  We had one battered copy of the rough English translation--no verse adaption, no lyrics, no music--and rehearsals starting in a fortnight.  Two questions concerned me as composer.  Had good singers been cast for all the songs?  Secondly, what about this polyglot combination of instruments mentioned in the script?  Harmonium, guitar, flute, drums and trumpet?  Surely we were not taking that literally! . . . Musicians became actors, actors became singers, and the music came alive in wilder and stranger ways that I had ever anticipated. [134]

The original company of seventeen from the Theatre of Cruelty season became was the nucleus for the company needed for Marat/Sade.  The bath-tub and guillotine imagery from the Theatre of Cruelty season found its way into the Aldwych production.  Brook had expert advice from his brother, Alexis, a consultant psychiatrist, as they rehearsed for two months.  A two month rehearsal period is a European luxury which was matched in this country only at LaMama E.T.C., and only into the mid-1970s.  The length of the rehearsal period gave Brook and the cast time to visit asylums in London and Paris, where they were able to observe the outward manifestations of insanity first-hand and to speak with those in charge.  Realizing the importance of a visual context for the actors who were working with minimal set and costumes, he asked them to "study paintings by Breughel and Hogarth and etchings by Goya."  Articles that were furnished by members of the company and the director pertaining to mental illness were read out loud and discussed together in rehearsal.

J.C. Trewin writes that Brook worked with the players to help them find the madness within "themselves; to find personal expressions of madness that--while remaining true to the piece--could be sustained for two-and-a-half-hours."  His rehearsal process required that the players create business and character traits; then, after their resources seemed to be exhausted, "he produced his own ideas, never losing his temper, his eagerness, or his capacity for work."  Brook's rehearsal method produced results by incorporating "several different methods, all aimed" at encouraging the "actor to contribute more and more:  every rehearsal became a living process." [135]

In conference with the playwright, he told him that "he approached the play from the Artaudian and Brechtian angles."  For instance, "Herald, speaking in octasyllabics, was announcer and satirical commentator; there were signs and placards, and an expository singing chorus of four grotesques."  Available for the interested student of Artaudian theory "were a frightening variety of Artaudian shocks, including hallucinations, paroxysms, executions, and whippings," but also "cries and moans, an infinity of sound variations," and a grotesque use of costume and make-up.  Brook wrote in a preface to the text printed in America:

Weiss . . . uses total theatre, that time-honoured notion of getting all the elements of the stage to serve the play.  His force is not only in the quantity of instruments he uses; it is above all in the jangle produced by the clash of styles.  Everything is put in place by its neighbor--the serious by the comic, the noble by the popular, the literary by the crude, the intellectual by the physical:  the abstraction is vivified by the stage image, the violence illuminated by the cool flow of thought.  The strands of meaning of the play pass to and from through its structure and the result is a very complex form: as in Genet, it is a hall of mirrors or a corridor of echoes--and one must keep looking front and back all the time to reach the author's sense. [136]

The show opened on August 20, 1964, with Geoffrey Skelton's English version adapted to free verse by Adrian Mitchell and, as mentioned earlier, original music by Richard Peaslee.  The audience simultaneously represented an early nineteenth century audience and also their twentieth century selves.  The setting was described by Alan Brien in the Sunday Telegraph (23 August) as:

A towering windowless silo walled with tiny bricks and booby trapped with sunken pits.  Among the inmates with their padded clothes and sunken faces, the devil-worshipping priests and burned-out whores, the lecherous ex-aristos and the lethargic ex-rebels, the childish voluptuaries and the aged virgins, move the black-eyed nuns and the muscle-bound warders. [137]

On the same day Bamber Gascoigne wrote in the Observer:

The lunatics in their shapeless white tunics and strait-jackets make a bustle and swirl somewhere between Breughel and Daumier.  Probably the most stunning scene of all is a guillotine sequence, complete with metallic raspings, buckets of paint (red and blue), and other techniques which seemed self-conscious and false in the Theatre of Cruelty isolation at LAMDA. [138]

The action of the play was a "debate between the paranoid Marat, prophet of the totalitarian state, and Sade, the cold voluptuary, the anarchist, apostle of unbridled individual liberty.  If Marat represented the future, Sade represented the fantasy."  But what most of the audience came away from the production with, "shuddering, was the visual impact," which was like the debris of souls from Artaud's private hell:

. . . chalky clothing, the writhing limbs, the hysteria, the grimacing, the lolling heads, the whir and thud of the guillotine, the buckets of blood, the schizoids and cretins, eroto-maniacs and manic-depressives, the faces peering from the hidden baths, and Charlotte Corday's use of her hair to whip the naked Sade . . . . [139]

Then the end ". . . crowned all when the entire company advancing towards the edge of the stage, fell to fighting, and to smashing up the bath-house.  On a signal all went quiet and as the audience applauded . . . the cast replied with the sudden irony of a slow hand-clap." [140]   "If we had conventional curtain-calls," said Brook, "the audience would emerge relieved, and that's the last thing we want."  If this seems Brechtian, and not Artaudian, it is, somewhat.  Brook didn't believe a choice between Artaud, Brecht and Stanislavsky was necessary, expecially for the audiences of the RSC at the Aldwych Theater, West End or Broadway. [141]   And the Aldwych audience, shocked and battered, never did applaud in the traditional way.

Performed within the conventional framework of a proscenium arch stage, the production still managed to embody the fundamental tension Artaud sought in the work of the Théâtre Alfred Jarry--"the tension between chaos and order, disintegration and control." [142]   As staged by Brook, "the play fluctuated between the 'direction' given to the story of Marat from within the play by the notorious Marquis, and the nearly uncontrollable madness of the asylum inmates . . . ."  At the end of the play the menace directed toward the audience described by Trewin erupts into a frightening rage as related by Zinder:

The wife and daughter of the asylum director, who, up until that moment had been watching the performance as did the aristocracy of those days, were brutally attacked by the patients as both inmates and staff lost control over the events.  Bars were then lowered between the stage and the audience, ostensibly to prevent the patients from continuing their rampage into the hall.

. . . Brook's aim was--to awaken the need for just such a conscious dismissal [it's only a dream] of a terrifying eventuality through the destruction, however momentary, of the security that attends the function of a spectator in the theatre.  Brook attempted to demonstrate . . .  that "the spectator's passive role in the theatre is no guarantee of safety where dream and reality cannot be kept apart." (Mathews, Theatre, p. 127)  A few moments later, after the inmates/actors had been bludgeoned into a quivering silence by the orderlies, the bars were lifted, signifying--or so it seemed--the end of the play.  The audience immediately responded with a resounding ovation, but once again Brook, using well-known Dada and Surrealist techniques, short-circuited the communication:  the assembled cast did not take the expected bow.  Instead, from the very depths of the bare, grey-tiled stage, they began advancing, en bloc, toward the front of the stage, all still in character and rhythmically clapping their hands.  No longer protected by the bars, and very uncertain as to what it was expected to do, the audience nervously stopped applauding.  Those who did not actually leave the theatre in fright at that moment stood their ground silently, but with real trepidation, as the massed inmates and staff, some still slobbering, slowly approached the edge of the stage.   The tension was only partially relieved when it became clear that the actors were not going to jump into the hall.  Partially, because the terrorizing effect was not abandoned:  the actors remained in character and kept up the ritualistic rhythmic clapping until the very last spectator had left the hall. [143]

The staged violence threatens to become part of the life of the spectators, but in a staging so ambiguous as to heighten rather than diminish the menace.

So Artaud was one of the first to move theatre out from under the heavy cloak of literature.  He was the first to tell the world that theatre could appeal to the barbaric in us, and by doing so would liberate the soul of us from the cruelty of our civilized behavior.  Wellwarth writes in The Theatre of Protest and Paradox that Artaud:

perceived that men are, as they always have been, basically barbaric, that the thick protective wall of urbane, civilized behavior they have acquired through centuries of hiding from psychological self-realization is easily crumbled by a forceful appeal to irrational emotion. [144]

When the idea of rational verbal communication is removed from theatre, and its connection to literature, there is the possibility of a direct visceral communication between the actor and the spectator.  Wellwarth concludes his thoughts on Artaud in the same essay with:

He was the catalytic agent for an entirely new drama that used the complex resources of the modern theater to express the age-old cry of fear and protest, the most elemental human impulse from the most primitive man to the present. [145]

With his artistic roots firmly embedded in the satirical protest of Jarry, the unrelenting didacticism of the Dadas and the subjective obsessions of the Surrealists, the bourgeois life-style of a depression era Europe must have felt a little threatened by the avant-garde theatre of the artist and prophet, Antonin Artaud.  But it wasn't until the rebellious sixties that his theories gained wide critical support and exploded, ignited by the politics of the time, into armies of committed theatre artists who revolutionized the actor/audience relationship by creating theatre from practically nothing in cafés, storefronts, gymnasia, churches, and even living rooms all over the world.

Back to Table of Contents


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alexander, Bobby C. Victor Turner Revisited, Ed. Susan Thistlethwaite, American Academy of Religion Academy Series, No. 74, Atlanta:  Scholars Press, 1991.

Alland, Alexander, Jr. "The Roots of Art," Ritual, Play and Performance, Ed. Richard Schechner and Mady Schuman, New York:  The Seabury Press, 1976.

Artaud, Antonin. The Artaud Anthology, ed. Jack Hirschman, San Francisco:  City Lights Press, 1965.

Artaud, Antonin. Collected Works, Vol. IV, Translated by Victor Corti, London:  Calder & Boyars, 1974.

Artaud, Antonin. The Theater and Its Double, Translated from the French by Mary Caroline Richards, New York:  Grove Press Inc., 1958.

Belo, Jane. "Trance Experience in Bali," Ritual, Play and Performance, Ed. Richard Schechner and Mady Schuman, New York:  The Seabury Press, 1976.

Bermel, Albert. Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty, New York:  Taplinger, 1977.

Brockett, Oscar, and Robert Findlay. Century of Innovation, 2nd ed., Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1991.

Brook, Peter. The Empty Space, New York:  Atheneum, 1968.

Brook, Peter. The Shifting Point, New York:  Harper & Row, 1987.

Cole, Toby, and Helen Krich Chinoy, Eds. Directors on Directing, New York:  Macmillan Publishing Company, 1976.

Costich, Julia F. Antonin Artaud, Boston:  Twayne Publishers, 1978.

Czerwinski, E.J. Contemporary Polish Theatre and Drama (1956-1984), New York:  Greenwood Press, 1988.

Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd, Garden City, New York:  Anchor Books, 1969.

Esslin, Martin. Antonin Artaud, New York:  Penguin Books, 1976

Grodzicki, August. Polish Theatre Directors, Warsaw:  Interpress Publishers, 1979.

Grotowski, Jerzy. Towards a Poor Theatre, Eugenio Barba, Editor, Preface by Peter Brook, New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1968.

Hayman, Ronald. Artaud and After, London:  Oxford University Press, 1977.

Jones, David Richard. Great Directors at Work, Berkeley, Los Angeles, New York:  University of California Press, 1986.

Kirby, E.T. "The Shamanistic Origins of Popular Entertainment," Ritual, Play and Performance, Ed. Richard Schechner and Mady Schuman, New York:  The Seabury Press, 1976.

Knapp, Bettina L. Antonin Artaud:  Man of Vision, New York:  David Lewis, 1969.

Kumiega, Jennifer. The Theatre of Grotowski, London and New York: Methuen, 1985.

Osinski, Zbigniew. Grotowski and His Laboratory, Translated and Abridged by Lillian Vallee and Robert Findlay, New York:  PAJ Publications (A Division of Performing Arts Journal, Inc.), 1986.

Ray, Benjamin C. African Religions, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:  Prentice Hall, 1976.

Rose, Mark V.. The Actor and his Double, Chicago:  Actor Training and Research Inst., 1986.

Sellin, Eric. The Dramatic Concepts of Antonin Artaud, Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1975.

Schechner, Richard. "From Ritual to Theatre and Back," Ritual, Play and Performance, Ed. Richard Schechner and Mady Schuman, New York:  The Seabury Press, 1976.

Szondi, Peter. Theory of Modern Drama, Ed. and Trans. Michael Hays, Vol. 29 of the Theory and History of Literature, Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Temkine, Raymonde. Grotowski, Translated by Alex Szogyi New York: Avon Books, 1972.

Turner, Victor. "Dramas and Ritual Metaphors," Ritual, Play and Performance, Ed. Richard Schechner and Mady Schuman, New York:  The Seabury Press, 1976.

Wellwarth, George E. Modern Drama and the Death of God, Madison:  University of Wisconsin Press, 1986.

Wellwarth, George E. The Theatre of Protest and Paradox, New York:  New York University Press, 1964.

Wiles, Timothy J. The Theatre Event, Modern Theories of Performance, Chicago & London:  The University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Willett, John, Editor and Translator. Brecht on Theatre, The Development of an Aesthetic, New York:  Hill and Wang, 1964.

Williams, David, Ed.,. Peter Brook/ a Theatrical Casebook, Foreword by Irving Wardle, London:  Methuen, 1988.

Zinder, David G. The Surrealist Connection, An Approach to a Surrealist Aesthetic of Theatre, Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1976, 1980.


[1] Peter Brook, "The Holy Theatre," The Empty Space, (New York:  Atheneum, 1968), p. 54.

[2] Antonin Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, Trans. Mary Caroline Richards (New York: Grove Press, 1958), pp. 7-8.

[3] Oscar G. Brockett and Robert Findlay, "A New Drama and a New Theatre," Century of Innovation, 2nd Edition, (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1991), p. 31.

[4] David Zinder, "Introduction," The Surrealist Connection, An Approach to a Surrealist Aesthetic of Theatre, (Ann Arbor:  UMI Research Press, 1976, 1980), p.1.

[5] Zinder, p. 2.

[6] Antonin Artaud, "Correspondence with Jacques Rivière," Antonin Artaud Anthology, 2nd Edition Revised, Edited by Jack Hirschman, Translated by Bernard Frechtman, (San Francisco:  City Lights Books, 1965), pp. 7-8.

[7] Zinder, pp. 86-87.

[8] Artaud, Anthology, pp. 16-17.

[9] Artaud, Anthology, pp. 21-22.

[10] Zinder, p. 3.

[11] Zinder, p. 10.

[12] Artaud, Anthology, Correspondence with Jacques Rivière, June 5, 1923, p. 8.

[13] Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, p. 32.

[14] Zinder, p. 14.

[15] As quoted and noted by Zinder, p. 18.

[16] Zinder, p. 19.

[17] Brockett, pp. 73-74.

[18] Zinder, p. 22.

[19] Zinder, p. 33.

[20] Zinder, p. 52.

[21] Zinder, p. 87.  See also Ronald Hayman, Artaud and After, Chapter 2, re: Poe and Nerval.

[22] Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, p. 31.

[23] Zinder, pp. 87-88

[24] David Williams, Ed., Peter Brook/ a Theatrical Casebook, Foreword by Irving Wardle, (London:  Methuen, 1988), pp. 29-30.

[25] Peter Brook, Space, p. 54.

[26] Martin Esslin, Antonin Artaud, (Garden City:  Anchor Books, 1969), p. 12.

[27] Eric Sellin, The Dramatic Concepts of Antonin Artaud, (Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1975), p. 1.

[28] Sellin, p. 1-2.

[29] Esslin, Artaud, pp. 13-14.

[30] As quoted and noted by Esslin, Artaud, p. 15.

[31] Sellin, p. 52-53.

[32] Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, p. 60-61.

[33] Albert Bermel, Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty, (New York: Taplinger, 1977), p. 24.

[34] Sellin, p. 3.

[35] Sellin, p. 4.

[36] Bermel, pp. 58.

[37] Esslin, Artaud, p. 27.

[38] Sellin, p. 3-4.

[39] Esslin, Artaud, p. 28.

[40] Esslin, Artaud, p. 29.

[41] Esslin, Artaud, p. 29.

[42] Zinder, p. 107.

[43] Zinder, p. 108.

[44] Noted and quoted by Zinder, p. 109, as: Artaud, Collected Works, Vol. [sic.], p. 63.

[45] Zinder, p. 108.

[46] Zinder, p. 109.

[47] As noted and quoted by Esslin, Artaud, p. 71.

[48] Esslin, Artaud, p. 71.

[49] The plays of James Baldwin, Imamu Amiri Baraka, Paul Carter Harrison, Langston Hughes, William Wellington Mackey, Loften Mitchell, John Osborne and many others vented their anger and frustration polemically at all classes and colors of capitalistic society on both sides of the Atlantic since Ubu, pardon the translation, spat "Shit-e" at Jarry's audience in 1896.

[50] Ronald Hayman, Artaud and After, (London:  Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 25.

[51] Maurice Saillet, "In Memorium:  Antonin Artaud,"  The Theater and Its Double, p. 147.

[52] Brook, Space, p. 54.

[53] Esslin, Artaud, pp. 33-34.

[54] Esslin, Artaud, p. 34.

[55] Edward Albee, Zoo Story, Famous American Plays of the 1950s, selected by Lee Strasberg, (New York:  Dell Publishing Co., Inc, 1962), p. 405.

[56] Antonin Artaud, Collected Works, Volume IV, Translated by Victor Corti, (London:  Calder & Boyars, 1974), p. 78.

[57] Bettina L. Knapp, Antonin Artaud: Man of Vision, (New York:  David Lewis, 1969), p. 89.

[58] Artaud, Collected Works, P. 79.

[59] Knapp, p. 88.

[60] Knapp, p. 92.

[61] Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, p. 85.

[62] Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, p. 85-86.

[63] Albert Bermel, Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty, (New York:  Tapplinger, 1977), p. 22.

[64] Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, p. 102.

[65] Artaud, Collected Works, p. 39.

[66] Artaud, Collected Works, p. 38-39.

[67] Artaud, Collected Works, p. 40.

[68] Artaud, Collected Works, p. 40.

[69] Artaud, Additional paragraph to "On the Balinese Theatre," Collected Works, p. 203.

[70] Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, p. 96-97.

[71] Sellin, p. 129.

[72] Artaud, Collected Works, p. 123.

[73] Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, p. 46.

[74] Knapp, p. 99.

[75] Esslin, Artaud, p. 86.

[76] As quoted and noted by Esslin, Artaud, p. 41.

[77] Sellin, p. 112-113.

[78] Brook, Space, pp. 64.

[79] Sellin, p. 6.

[80] Bermel, p. 17.

[81] Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, p. 23.

[82] Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, p. 17.

[83] Artaud, Collected Works, p. 14.

[84] Artaud, Collected Works, p. 13-15.

[85] Artaud, Collected Works, p. 17.

[86] Artaud, Collected Works, p. 16.

[87] Artaud, Collected Works, p. 16.

[88] Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, p. 31.

[89] Artaud, Collected Works, p. 20.

[90] Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, p. 31.

[91] Bermel, p. 18-19.

[92] This is what many of the audience experienced in my production of Requiem for Brother X, by William Wellington Mackey, subsequently published by the Columbia University Press with my staging.  The one-act play depicts the changing relationships in an African-American middle-class family after the death of Malcolm X.  As the Chicago audience re-entered during intermission after the one-act curtain raiser, the sound of African drums and voices from "Missa Luba," an African-Catholic Mass, segued to a heart-beat emanating from the coffin, which was hung vertically upstage right from the ceiling with a white lily at the head.  The set that I designed for this new one-act in 1966 used raised playing areas that each of the characters occupied in isolation, except the Grand-daddy whose body was locked in his wheelchair, but wheeled himself freely about at stage level, screaming his frustration at all who were present.  The entire 3/4 stage configuration was surrounded by vertical bars which at first shielded the audience from the Brother's pointed rhetoric, then allowed a voyeuristic involvement in the story of his love for a white boy, while his white girlfriend gave birth to their baby upstage.  Every night as I watched, I could feel my heart "pounding" in my chest as I realized the character's feeling of impotent anger, not so much because of what he said, but because of the urgency that was expressed by all the actors through their characters.  Tears came to the eyes of many of the audience members, and they were noticeably moved by the shared experience of the death of Malcolm X, and the effect it had on the actors playing individuals of one black ghetto family.  I realized the infectious impact of this production as it taught me first-hand how theatre-triggered emotions could move a community to action.

[93] The trance state of the Balinese dancers in the video that Professor Donald Boros showed his graduate course of Directing Theory at Binghamton University was also contagious as the infected dancers appeared to move the spectators into a similar state of suspended consciousness.  The line between performer and audience disappeared, not because they intermingled physically, although there appeared to be little separation, but because their individual emotional states were combined, or joined.  The contagion had spread, the disease had infected the audience.  Artaud would have said that the performer had gone into the flames and while in a sort of trance, signaled a visceral urgency.  The spectators who responded were cleansed, their spirit purged.

[94] Bermel, p. 19.

[95] Sellin, p. 93.

[96] As noted and quoted by Sellin, p. 93.

[97] Zinder, pp. 88-89.

[98] From Sellin's discussion with Adamov in Paris, June 18, 1963.

[99] Sellin quotes Brook from "Marat / Sade Forum," Tulane Drama Review 10, no. 4 (Summer 1966), p. 226.

[100] Artaud, Collected Works, p. 21.

[101] Artaud, Anthology, p. 14.

[102] Zinder p. 125.

[103] Brockett, pp. 386-388.

[104] Brockett, p. 389.

[105] Brockett, pp. 389-390.

[106] Zinder, p. 127.

[107] George E. Wellwarth. "Antonin Artaud, The Prophet of the Avant-Garde Theater," The Theater of Protest and Paradox, (New York:  New York University Press, 1965), p. 16.

[108] Esslin, Absurd, p. 336.

[109] Esslin, Absurd, p. 278.

[110] Esslin, Antonin Artaud, p. 3.

[111] Jerzi Grotowski, Towards a Poor Theater, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968), p. 117.

[112] Grotowski, pp. 117-125.

[113] Temkine, Raymonde. Grotowski, Translated by Alex Szogyi (New York: Avon Books, 1972), p. 144.

[114] Temkine, p. 145.

[115] "Wagner was also to influence those who sought to make of art a substitute for religion."  Brockett, p. 31.

[116] Jerry Crawford and Joan Snyder, Acting: In Person and in Style, (Dubuque: William C. Brown, Inc., 1976), pp. 285-286, 307.

[117] Hardie Albright, Stage Direction in Transition, (Encino: Dickenson Publishing Co.), 1972, p. 176.

[118] Mark V. Rose. The Actor and His Double, (Chicago:  Actor Training and Research Institute, 1986), p. VII.

[119] Artaud, The Theatre and Its Double, pp. 133-141.

[120] Rose, pp. 1-5.

[121] Artaud, The Theatre and Its Double, p. 134.

[122] When I worked with the inmates of the Federal Correctional Facility at Otisville, New York, I used special breathing techniques which relaxed areas of the body one at a time by directing the inhale and exhale of breath toward a particular area by concentrating on that particular muscle.

[123] Rose, p. 5.

[124] David Williams, Ed., "Notes on the Theatre of Cruelty," by Charles Marowitz, Peter Brook/ A Theatrical Casebook, Forward by Irving Wardle, (London: Methuen, 1988), pp. 42-43.

[125] Williams, "Notes on Theatre of Cruelty" by Charles Marowitz, p. 47.

[126] Williams, "Notes on Theatre of Cruelty" by Charles Marowitz, p. 47.

[127] Peter Brook, "The Holy Theatre," Space, p. 49.

[128] For a complete description of this exercise see Williams, pp. 43-44.

[129] Williams, "Notes on Theatre of Cruelty" by Charles Marowitz, p. 47.

[130] Williams, "Private Experiment--In Public" by Simon Trussler, p. 32.

[131] Williams, "The Marat/Sade:  An Account" by J.C. Trewin, p. 63.

[132] Heard by the author in Chicago, late 1967.

[133] Williams, "The Marat/Sade:  An Account" by J.C. Trewin, p. 63.

[134] Produced by Premiere Recordings (PRCD 1022)

[135] Williams, "The Marat/Sade:  An Account" by J.C. Trewin, p. 64.

[136] Williams, "The Marat/Sade:  An Account" by J.C. Trewin," pp. 64-65.

[137] Williams, "The Marat/Sade:  An Account" by J.C. Trewin," p. 65.

[138] Williams, "The Marat/Sade:  An Account" by J.C. Trewin," p. 65.

[139] Williams, "The Marat/Sade:  An Account" by J.C. Trewin," p. 65-66.

[140] Williams, "The Marat/Sade:  An Account" by J.C. Trewin," p. 66.

[141] Peter Brook. Part I, "A Sense of Direction," How Many Trees Make a Forest?" The Shifting Point 1946-47, (New York: Harper and Row, 1987), p. 43.

[142] Zinder, p. 128.

[143] Zinder, pp. 128-129.

[144] Wellwarth, TPP, p. 16.

[145] Wellwarth, TPP, pp. 25-26.