…By means of Song

My dissertation, entitled Metaphora: Research and Practice, Performance and Prayer, Encounters with the Open Program (Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards), pertains to the work of the Open Program of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, a performing arts research center founded by the groundbreaking Polish director and theatre researcher, Jerzy Grotowski, in 1986 in Italy. The Open Program, an internationally-composed team of actors engaged in research and creation in the performing arts, work with a dynamically-conceived approach to song and dance as basic elements of theatre practice. After nearly eight years of intermittent embodied research with the Open Program, I place an auto/ethnographic study of their work in an interdisciplinary conversation with diverse theoretical perspectives to elucidate an emergent practice-informed conceptualization of performance processes as a kind of prayer. My perspective and insights are inflected, over and over again, by the insistent question: can performance be a prayer? My critical-creative approach to this question, inspired by recent transnational feminist and postsecular discourses, brings me to further inquire: prayer in what way? to what end? by whom? for and/or on behalf of whom? In the short excerpts presented in this talk, I introduce my overall research project and focus more specifically on the use of song (song-dance!) in this practice.



Myrto Koumarianos is a doctoral candidate in a collaborative program at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies and the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. Before theatre, she studied psychology, philosophy, languages, and literature gaining two undergraduate degrees from York University. Her doctoral research pertains to the current work of the Open Program, a team of actors working at the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, in Italy. Undertaking embodied research through an apprenticeship with the Open Program in Italy, New York, and Sao Paulo, she came to question whether (and how? when? where? why? on behalf of and with whom?) performance can be (experienced as? offered as? received as?) a prayer. This research has been supported by a number of awards from her home departments, the university, and larger granting bodies, including a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, a SSHRC Connection Grant, and two JHI Program for the Arts Grants. Myrto recently designed and taught a new theory-and-practice course the Centre, entitled, “Grotowski Intersections: Theory and practice of the actor’s craft.” Beyond her scholarly occupations, Myrto experiences world/work through poetry and song-dance and has participated in various performance projects since 2010.