The Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski was founded in 1986 in Pontedera, Italy at the invitation of the Centro per la Sperimentazione e la Ricerca Teatrale of Pontedera, Italy (now: Fondazione Pontedera Teatro). It is here that for the last thirteen years of his life Grotowski developed a line of performance research known as Art as vehicle, which he continued until his death in 1999. Within this creative investigation, he worked very closely with Thomas Richards whom he called his “essential collaborator,” eventually changing the name of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski to include that of Richards. During these thirteen years of intense practical work, Grotowski transmitted to Richards the fruit of his lifetime research, what he referred to as “the inner aspect of the work.” Grotowski entrusted Richards and Mario Biagini, a key member of the Workcenter team since its beginnings, as the sole legatees of his Estate, which includes his entire body of written work. Grotowski specified that this designation constituted a confirmation of his “family of work.” Since 1999, acting as the Workcenter’s Artistic Director and Associate Director, respectively, Richards and Biagini continue to develop the Workcenter’s line of performance research. Today, the Workcenter is comprised of 18 artists from 9 countries.
Jerzy Grotowski, considered one of the most influential theatre practitioners of the 20th century, passed through several phases in his lifetime research. As a young director he immersed himself in Constantin Stanislavski’s pioneering investigations, and often said that his own theatre work began where Stanislavski’s left off. In the first stages of his work, starting in 1959 in Opole and continuing with his Laboratory Theatre in Wroclaw, Grotowski revolutionized and changed conceptions of the audience/actor relationship, theatre staging, and the craft of acting in contemporary Western theatre. Later Grotowski left the “theatre of productions,” pushing the boundaries of theatre, first with his paratheatrical work, and later with his Theatre of Sources research, which took him to India, Mexico, Haiti, and elsewhere, in search of traditional practices of various cultures (1976-82). Following this research, Grotowski began a work of identifying particular abiding elements of ritual traditions (Objective Drama, 1983-86). Finally, at the Workcenter, he carried out the last phase of his life’s research, which has come to be known as Art as vehicle, in which, as in certain old traditions, the attention for art goes together with the approach of the interiority of the human being.
Presently the Workcenter carries forward Art as vehicle research while exploring how the essential aspects of this research can unfold within creations that are destined for a variety of settings and contacts with observers, spectators and witnesses. Workcenter performing events today take place in theatres, industrial buildings, churches, concert halls, pubs, bars, cafes, as well as houses and apartments. Over its 25 years of existence many artists from all over the world have joined the team for varying durations, some for shorter periods, and others for periods spanning close to ten years. The Workcenter dedicates itself to the professional growth of its artists, and concentrated efforts are made in order that the team members uncover and develop their unique creative potentialities. Grotowski never wished to make of his research a dogmatized practice, rather he emphasised the need for development. At the Workcenter new discoveries arise from continuous practice, and the investigation is enriched by a living link between generations, which is sustained by growth and distillation of practical knowledge. The Workcenter, driven forward today by Richards and Biagini, strives for a solid continuity while dedicating itself to living and meaningful innovation.