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Week 1

1. Basics, Rules, Rituals

In this short course, you will be guided to an understanding of the importance of ensemble building. You will be given tasks to independently research a particular topic and complete the assignment.


In 2004, The Director’s Guild of Great Britain and Equity organized a conference to discuss ensemble theatre. Their definition of the term was:

Ensemble theatre occurs when a group of theatre artists ( performers, artistic directors, stage management and the key administrative staff) work together over many years to create theatre. Other artists (such as writers, performers, directors, designers, composers, choreographers, etc) will be brought in on an occasional basis to refresh and develop the work of the ensemble –although the focus will remain on its permanent personnel.

It’s interesting to note that the Collins English Dictionary traces the word ensemble to the Latin origin meaning “at the same time.” The intent of the word was not to merely say collection, group, or team with something in common, but to include a sense of deep connection between the members that enables them to think and act “at the same time.” So whether you call it “being in sync,” “the group mind,” or “being on the same page,” you’re talking about the ensemble.

As leaders forming an ensemble, we try to say the right things on the first day: something inspiring, something to build confidence, something to instill a strong work ethic, and then we hope for the best as the work begins.

As a theatre director whose responsibility is to create an ensemble, there should be certain rules taken into place. First and foremost, to make the rehearsals space a safe environment for all participant and be able to control the atmosphere at the rehearsals. Keeping an atmosphere positive and supportive is the task of the director.

The first lesson is to be a responsible leader, with a balance of sweetness and strictness.

Read: Encountering Ensemble by John Britton (page 5-11 in Paper book, 23-28 in pdf file)

Ensembles need leadership

Being a teacher or director is synonymous with being a leader; yet in real life, we know this isn’t always the case. Leadership may be the most underestimated and overlooked ingredient in teaching and directing

Read: Ensemble Theatre Making: A Practical Guide (page 41-46).

  • Activity 1:

Complete the task “What Kind of Leader are You?” on page 44 of "Ensemble Theatre Making: A Practical Guide".

Describe your directing and rehearsing style. Think if there is anything you would like to change? What exactly? Why?

While writing, answer these questions:

• Am I too controlling? • Do I talk too much? • Am I imposing my own discoveries at the expense of being open to the discoveries of others? • Am I providing clear guidelines? • Am I offering inspiration?



Grotowski and his collaborators worked on source techniques from different cultural backgrounds to test by means of experiment whether these techniques function only on the cultural or symbolic level or whether they are also effective on a purely physiological level. He aimed at finding means “that bring us back to the organic primary experience of life.”

"Grotowski is showing us something which existed in the past but has been forgotten over the centuries. That is, that one of the vehicles which allows man to have access to another level of perception is to be found in the art of performance." (Peter Brook)

Other sources:

- Back to the Origins of Greek Theatre - The Cult of Dionysos

The early Dionysian rituals tried to give active expression to the chaotic forces which are always activated in any transitional phase of life (temenos). Participants reached an altered state known as ekstasis which enabled the release of powerful emotions (catharsis). That had a purging effect and brings about transformation.

„Dionysos filled their souls with physical and spiritual pleasures and at the same time their souls were purified and exalted to the perfection of a supernatural life”.

The „praxis“:

„The Performer is a man of action. He is not somebody who plays another. He is a doer, a priest, a warrior. He is outside aesthetic genres. Ritual is performance, an accomplished action, an act. Performer is a state of being. To the performer, knowledge stands as duty and knowledge is a matter of doing (Jerzy Grotowski, 1990)

All training is unlearning and discovering again. Barefoot - On the back - Beginning again for the first time. Energy is generated through the dynamic movement of the body, natural breathing, moving out, knowing the floor and exploring the room and everything in it.

The overall purpose of ritual is transformation.

In each theatre group, there are some rituals, and we can say that it is a “must-have”. It is not necessary to force people to join meditation, it can be simply starting the day sitting in a circle, doing a couple of breathing exercises.

We can find many examples of rituals or etiquette in almost every practice. For example, many of us know about Dojo etiquette: when students enter or leave the training space “Dojo” they bow, standing at the entrance, facing the dojo or towards the front of the dojo. And it is a norm, it is a rule, it is respect to space and people in this space.

  • Activity 2:

Write a short reflection essay on this part, thinking of the following questions:

•  Think if you perform any “rituals” on your daily basis?  •    What “rituals” you do before, during, after rehearsal or training?  •    Do you think it is necessary to perform such rituals on the daily basis? Why?   •    How it may contribute to ensemble building?


Complete the above-mentioned activities and write a brief essay as a conclusion of completed activities, sharing your thoughts and discoveries in free form.

Deadline: April 16.

Format: pdf/docx.


The Director’s Creative Journal

Developing more awareness and understanding is a key to successful directing. One tool that can be very helpful in this process is a creative journal. You can write notes for classes and rehearsals, creative observations, discoveries and other details in it. If you write in enough detail, you can go back and draw on these resources later for various characters and plays. Throughout this course, we will suggest reflection journals on specific topics.

Studying Materials

1. Ensemble Theatre Making: A Practical Guide by Rose Burnett Bonczek, David Storck

2. Encountering Ensemble by John Britton

3. Video "Theatre and Leadership Connection" by R. Edward Freeman

2.  Routines: The Unexpected Power of Habits, Practices, and Rituals | Jan Stanley | TEDxBeloit

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