Workshops with Roman Siwulak

Primary factors
1 – 14 August 2015, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. 


Facilitator: Roman Siwulak
Capacity limit: 12 participants

14.08.2015, 6.30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Work-in-progress show. 


Download the application form and send it to writing the name of workshop facilitator in the e-mail subject line. Deadline for the applications: 12th July 2015


I have drawn several significant conclusions and remarks from my previous experience conducting workshops.

Should a workshop end in a production?

In my opinion it should not and the reasons are fundamental. Workshops should be a tool for their participants to be able to get to know theatrical methods and mechanisms used to construct a greater whole (a production) and to serve a purely educational purpose. If a workshop is to end in a performance, the entire effort of its participants and facilitator is focused on the manufacturing of the ‘final product’. In such a case work is divided into two stages. The first one involves the creating of elements of the performance, the other one being revision and connecting of the elements to create a whole. The first stage is interesting, we do new things (we reach the realm of pure creativity), whereas the second stage becomes ‘technical’ and from the point of view of the participant does not introduce anything new; it is an arduous (although necessary) phase in the creation of a theatrical production. To us the final result is not as important as the process of achieving it, therefore, from this point of view, the second stage becomes redundant.

There is also one more important reason to doubt the sensibility of creating a final performance as a ‘result of several days’ or weeks’ work’: the mental pressure put on participants and evoked by the fear of making a mistake. It limits actors’ freedom and spontaneity and becomes a hindering (sometimes even paralyzing) factor, especially for the beginners in the art of acting. The main task for the facilitator – in my opinion – is to set the participants’ imagination in motion and direct them using various means in order to trigger their imagination and spontaneity and not to force them to fulfil the facilitator’s own artistic objectives. Specific tasks (even the difficult ones) certainly need to be set and their execution monitored.

Since in my case we are dealing with Tadeusz Kantor and his art as a whole – painting, theatre, and writing – naturally, our actions will stem more or less directly from his work. These actions will not be unbiased – if only because Kantor did not create a standard of actor’s activity. In other words: he did not create a school. He was against the notion of school in general, since he did not wish to subject his creative work to any restrictions. He wished for everything to still be possible.

I would much rather like to create an artistic situation, with some elements of working with actors typical for Kantor; of working within a space, i.e. on a relationship between actors as well as between actors and objects and sound.

For all of the above reasons, I would like to suggest a slightly different approach to the problem of a workshop and to emphasize the process of being an actor rather than construct situations and bring them to an end. The problem is not limited to acting as a defined profession. It also refers to finding oneself in a broader concept of art, not limited to acting and theatre as clearly defined categories. We will be interested in practically anything related to the so-called ‘spectacularity’ of behaviour in the relationship between an audience and an actor. Beginning with the elementary, primary and basic definition of theatre, wherein theatre is a meeting of a living person (audience) with another living person (actor) and assuming that the rest is a consequence of this basic fact, I suggest that we start with the simple, elementary points, such as:

1. Entering the stage
2. Moving on the stage
3. The way of walking
4. The manner of being present on the stage
5. The difference between ‘private’ life and life on the stage
6. Sitting
7. Doing nothing
8. The caesura (full  stops)
9. Exercises in intention
10.  Repetitions (mechanical recurrence) of the same actions
11.  Spurts and stops
12.  Inner tensions
13.  Accelerations and slowdowns
14.  Mimics – facial expressions
15.  Vocal exercises – abstract sounds and texts
16.  Exercises in pantomime (enigmatic)
17.  Object vs. person (actor)
18.  An element of chance (happening)
19.  The notions of reality and illusion
20.  The notions of time and space
21.  Endurance
22.  Emotional amplitude
23.  Reality of the lowest rank

Each of the above exercises would be broken down into PRIMARY FACTORS, i.e. we would meticulously divide obvious actions, e.g. ‘sitting’ into mini-actions which compose the (seemingly) simple act of sitting. In this approach the simplest things we do without thinking (as something obvious) stop being obvious and become spectacular. As a result, we extract a great variety of behaviour from simple actions. This approach can be applied to each of the situations mentioned. At a later stage of our work we will be complicating the situations by connecting and mixing them in an illogical manner. For instance, by connecting sitting and walking in such a way as to deprive these actions of their vital functions. This sounds a little absurd but by depriving simple actions of their logic we cause them to become spectacular and therefore visible.

This was one of the primary principles of Kantor’s work with actors –downright obsessive attention to small, banal actions and reducing them to absurdity (pedantry, excessive precision, drawing highest, out of proportion,  attention to problems). This caused the most obvious things to become interesting, even fascinating.

At later stages of our work – by gradually complicating things – we will reach an unexpected situation which even I cannot predict.

I would like to connect all of this with a classical theatrical text in such a way that it does not fit the situation on the stage at all; it would be an element of the unusual and not movement illustrated on stage. It will most likely a text by von Kleist. These texts sound obsolete today but it is my intention to have the effect of confronting an old, Romantic fragment of text with a mundane activity in a way that is inconsistent with the action described in the text.

I do not want to describe these situations in too much detail here. There will be time for that when we do specific work. I would only like to set out a general framework within which we will be operating.

I imagine the final meeting to be one more day of work after 10-12 days. The work would include the audience in such a way that we retain a working character of the show and at the same time acknowledge the presence of people in the audience by involving them in conversations, remarks, questions, and even in physical participation in the workshop. This requires the facilitator’s involvement as he would both run the rehearsals and connect actors with the audience.

It would be difficult to describe such a situation conceptually but we can imagine it as a form of a lecture, stage activity, explanation and discussion with workshop participants as well as the audience. Events may develop in an unexpected direction but this is exactly what could be interesting. The role of the facilitator would be to make sure the direction is not an unwelcome, chaotic one. We could also venture a type of discussion with the audience regarding the events on stage, exchange opinions and experience. I am not sure to what extent this could be possible, I have never realized such actions before. The ones I have done so far were practical theatrical workshops which indeed ended in shows, quasi productions. Their positive aspects aside, they were always burdened with the participants’, the audience’s and my own excessive expectations and evoked a certain unfulfillment resulting from time, technical and organisational restrictions. Naturally, it was not always possible to achieve the set objective. The way of conducting workshops I suggest this time will perhaps make it possible for us to achieve a more vivid contact with participants and audiences (even if at the cost of not achieving some artistic objectives).

To recapitulate, the workshops would at the same time be lessons, a lecture and theatrical actions, not connected by a logical course of events. Theatrical actions would be interrupted by comments, remarks and discussions with participants (perhaps with the audience as well). The subject of discussions would be specific events happening on the stage in real time. As a whole, it should be a vivid, spontaneous meeting, with a working, open  atmosphere rather than some form of a constructed whole.


The workshop will take place as well in the  Theatre Institute in Warsaw (1 – 10 July 2015). For more information visit



born in 1952 in Krakow, painter, actor, educator, graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, active in a variety of creative disciplines. From 1970 he was a member of Tadeusz Kantor’s Cricot 2 Theatre, taking part in all the Cricot 2 productions until 1992.

From 1994 to 2001 he cooperated with French theatres. He took part in performances: En passant based on Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and Barbe Bleue by  Georg Trakl in Compagnie Singuliér (1994-98). In 1999 he ran workshops and directed a performance entitled Magellan in Théâtre du Radeau in Le Mans. In 2000, he participated in preparations for the production Mine of the Adequate Theatre in Le Mans and in 2001 he co-directed the play Les Clowns in the  Circus Klotz theatre.

He was a lecturer at:

– Milano Scuola Dramatica di Paolo Grassi, producing a diploma performance based on Witkiewicz’s play They (Milan, 1993);

– Scuola Internazionale di Musicisti per il Teatro in Centro teatrale La Corte Ospitale, where he facilitated workshops (Rubiera, 2008);

–  Conservatorio Vivaldi Instituto di Alta Formazione Musicale, where he also facilitated workshops (Alessandria, 2009);

– Centro Aggregativo Apollo 11 – Esquilino Young Orchestra. As part of an art/social programme aiming at cultural integration of immigrants, he organised workshops and a performance with children (Rome, 2010).

Since 2000, a member of the Italian group Orchestra Teatro di Moni Ovadia:
Il banchiere errante (2001), Il Violinista sul tetto, (2002), L’Armata la Cavallo (2005), Le storie del Signor Keuner (2006), Shylock Il Mercante Di Venezia
In Prova (2011). Linked to Italy though his work as a director and participation
in the performance Omaggio a Kantor at Mittelfest Festival in Cividale in 2005 and in the production for the Festival della Mente in Sarzana in 2008.

His paintings were displayed in solo shows in the Krzysztofory Gallery, Otwarta Pracownia in Krakow, Foksal Gallery in Warsaw as well as in collective exhibitions including: Polish Avant-Garde from 1910 to 1978 in Palazzo delle Esposizioni (Rome, 1979), Fifth Exhibition of the Collection of the Małopolska Foundation for the Contemporary Art Museum in Cricoteka (Krakow, 2008) and the exhibition in the Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow (2012).