Acting techniques of Theatre Gardzienice

workshop on musicality, mutuality, and cheironomy led by the members of Gardzienice Centre for Theatre Practices

The Gardzienice’s Centre for Theatre Practices

Theatre Gardzienice was founded in 1977 by Włodzimierz Staniewski, polish theatre and film director. Since then the company has gained the status of one of the most important experimental theatres in the world, staging an “anthropological” approach to theatre at numerous festivals across the globe. Gardzienice’s performances have been described as “musical theatre”, “ethno-oratorios”, and “allegorical theatre of song”.

About the method – Musicality, mutuality, and cheironomy

Gardzienice’s practice is based on the studies and methods of work concentrated on Ancient Greek theatre. The training is drawn from realistic inspiration, “I select the moves, turns, curves, and dynamics which have the most impact” says Staniewski. “Later on, working with the tempo, rhythm and changes in the dynamics, I make use of the same gesture, but try to transform it into an allegorical language that breaks through the realism”.

The source of their creativity is music, which reflects founder Włodzimierz Staniewski’s ingrained belief that musicality is the key “which opens hearts and souls”, creating a deep relationship with the performer. Preconceptual techniques (“making the voice sound”) are taught by polyphonic and solo Eastern and South European archaic songs learned directly from people living in forgotten settlements. These songs are pure example of links between Ancient Greek and Near Eastern cultures, which indigenous ceremonies practiced until today.

The so called “mutuality” is one of the main concepts and working methods are practiced by one-to-one physical exercises creating a perfect sensation of the partner’s dynamics, helping to understand the crescendo and the diminuendo of the common journey in the performance process.
“Cheironomy” is a technique that applies physical gestures derived from the traditions of Greek theater. These gestures are composed into dynamic and physically challenging stage compositions. It developed during work on “Gardzienice’s” performances based on Ancient Greek literature, iconography and music.

About the workshop

The aim of the workshop session is to introduce the participants to the basic acting techniques practiced and taught in the Center for Theater Practices “Gardzienice”.
The members of Gardzienice Centre will methodically demonstrate the possible links and analogies between ancient and contemporary techniques of acting with the usage of the body and the voice, introducing connections between theatre making and indigenous (traditional) ceremonies and rituals that are still alive today.
The workshop session includes practical exercises with the body and voice referring to ancient sources such as the music and iconography of Ancient Greece, as well as touching upon fragments of Ancient Greek tragedies and comedies.

The training will involve the following:

  • Warm-up exercises. Introduction to Ancient Greek techniques of acting and singing as explored and developed during the process of making performances by the company;
  • Learning elements of dance referring to images from Ancient Greek vases and iconography;
  • Introducing preconceptual techniques by learning polyphonic and solo Eastern and South European archaic songs;
  • Partner-to-partner exercises called mutuality: using voice, texts and synchronized body movement;
  • Introducing the particular acting technique called “cheironomia” – using gestures derived from traditional Greek theatre as means of expression. The work will include chosen fragments of Euripides’ Electra, Iphigenia in Aulis, Iphigenia in Tauris;
  • Solo expressions associated with group expression, related to “dithyramb” (a wild choral hymn of ancient Greece) – work with the notion of protagonist vs. the chorus;
  • Collective scenes – the contradictions and synchronization between the individual means of expression and common body expression referring to ancient choirs;
  • Work on ancient dramatics texts and literature with the use of fine art and music;
  • Theatrical compositions and group scenes built on fragments of monologues, dialogues, vocal parts, group formations in accordance with Ancient Greek drama;

On the last day (July 4th) afternoon, the workshop-leaders will hold an online presentation and sharing of work with the attendance of the workshop participants. This presentation will be based on the materials devised and the practices used during the workshop and it will be open and free for online audiences.
The language of the workshop is English without translation.


16h-20h, July 1-4 (including open online workshop presentation and discussion on the 4th of July)


News of Włodzimierz Staniewski’s previous work relations, published in the Polish media in October 2020, contains accusations that are incompatible with the spirit of Ladder Art Company and the International Theater Workshop Forum. Until the current formal proceedings are concluded and the allegations against Włodzimierz Staniewski are clarified, Włodzimierz Staniewski will not be received in person by the International Theater Workshop Forum. The decades-long professional work of the OPT Gardzienice creative group is the merit of the whole company, represented by Mariusz Gołaj, Joanna Holcgreber and Tetiana Oreshko at the International Theater Workshop Forum.

Workshop Leaders