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In the arts, and particularly in theatre, pure research corresponds to the investigation of basic principles. The method consists of opening a path towards the sources, asking apparently obvious or naïve questions yet again, starting from the beginning as if to verify once more the acquired experience.
Both pure research and applied research imply the creation of an environment in which it is possible to experiment the effectiveness of the tools of theatre craft. This interdisciplinary and international environment, developed by Odin Teatret during its long activity, guarantees the standard of the research and of its results. The union of theory and history, of practice and creative experience is essential for the development of theatre culture and is the part of science's methodological baggage that can be practiced in our field. A concrete consequence is the proximity, mutual acquaintance and collaboration of young theatre artists, experimented masters, scholars and theoreticians.
Eugenio Barba, who directs the research activity at Nordisk Teaterlaboratorium/Odin Teatret, has received honoris causa degrees from the universities of Aarhus, Ayacucho, Bologna, Havana, Warsaw, Plymouth, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Tallin, Cluj and Edinburgh; the Réconnaissance de mérite scientifique from Montreal University; and the Sonning Prize from Copenhagen University. All motivations underline his contribution to theatre research and the creation of Theatre Anthropology as a new scientific field.
ISTA, International School of Theatre Anthropology.
Conceived and directed by Eugenio Barba and based in Holstebro, Denmark, ISTA - The International School of Theatre Anthropology - is a multicultural network of performers and scholars giving life to an itinerant laboratory whose main field of study is Theatre Anthropology.
Theatre Anthropology should not be confused with cultural anthropology. It is a new field of study applied to the human being in an organised performance situation. The objective of this methodological choice, deriving from an empirical approach, is the understanding of the fundamental principles which engender the performer's "presence" or "scenic life".
Theatre Anthropology researches the foundations of the performers' technique from a cross-cultural perspective. ISTA's permanent staff and its network of about fifty collaborators consists of Asian, Euro-American and Afro-Brazilian performers, Odin Teatret's actors, and scholars from various universities.
ISTA holds open sessions periodically on the request of national and international cultural institutions which provide the necessary funding. Each session has a different theme defining a particular field which is investigated through practical classes, work demonstrations and comparative analysis. Each time, a limited number of actors, dancers, directors, choreographers, scholars and critics can apply to participate.
Since its start in 1979, ISTA sessions have been held in the following places: Bonn (Germany, 1980), Volterra and Pontedera (Italy, 1981), Blois and Malakoff (France, 1985), Holstebro (Denmark, 1986), Salento (Italy, 1987), Bologna (Italy, 1990), Brecon and Cardiff (Great Britain, 1992), Londrina (Brazil, 1994), Umeå (Sweden, 1995), Copenhagen (Denmark, 1996), Montemor-o-Novo and Lisbon (Portugal, 1998), Bielefeld (Germany, 2000), Seville (Spain, 2004), Wroclaw (Poland, 2005) and Albino (Italy 2016).
The following themes of research have opened up a new understanding of basic principles for theatrical language: Pre-expressivity and improvisation; The female role; The performer's tradition and the spectator's identity; Form and information; Apprenticeship in a multicultural perspective; Presence as scenic bios; The effect of organicity from the actor's point of view and from the spectator's point of view; The performer's dramaturgy; Relationship between rhythm, flow and organicity in the actor's and director's work; Memory, repetition and discontinuity in the practice of improvisation; The performer's know-how: personal paths, techniques and visions.
UET, The University of Eurasian Theatre, established in 1990, addresses a wider spectrum of participants and holds practical/theoretical meetings in Italy and other countries. In the period 1996-2010 yearly sessions were organised by Teatro Proskenion and Teatro Potlach in Italy. Other institutions which have hosted the UET are Teatro Continuo and Festival di Ravenna/Teatro delle Albe, all in Italy.
Alongside ISTA, the sessions of the University of Eurasian Theatre confront questions central to theatre practice. Themes include: The relationship between performance and text; Music and theatre; Research and Theatre Laboratories; Acting techniques and directing techniques; Perspectives of theatre history writing.