Psyche on Stage:
Enrique Pardo's work is revolutionary
by Cliff Bostock
(Originally published in the "Paradigms" column of Creative
I didn't know exactly what to expect when I attended
the Seventh Biennial Myth and Theatre Festival in New Orleans last week.
This festival, heretofore held in Provence, has become popular among people
interested in the way psychology, myth and art can interact.
The festival is under the direction of Enrique Pardo, a 53-year-old Peruvian-born,
European-educated painter who discovered the stage in the late '60s. At
that time he began working with the legendary Roy Hart Theatre, an avant-garde
group that explored the range of the human voice and continues to exert
an enormous influence on theater.
In the '70s, after teaching voice for some years, Pardo says he became
disenchanted with certain aspects of teaching that duplicate the interactions
in psychotherapy. Indeed, he began to question the way art is "psychologized"
by therapists and he quit teaching for a while.
He entered a dialogue with James Hillman and others engaged in archetypal
psychology, which attempts to restore aesthetic concepts like soul and
beauty to psychology and draws heavily on myth. The eventual outcome was
Pardo's Pantheatre, based on a performance piece, "Calling for Pan,"
a ritualistic evocation of Pan, the god who is half-human, half-animal.
This in turn gave rise to the Myth and Theatre Festival and workshop collaboration
with people like Hillman and Kristin Linklater, chair of theater at Columbia
University (and a presenter at this year's festival).
Although, I went to the festival expecting to hear the most interesting
material from lecturers in archetypal psychology (like authors Ginette
Paris, Nor Hall and Charles Boer), it was Pardo's work that was most stimulating.
While people in archetypal psychology urge therapists to explore new aesthetic-based
forms of psychology, Pardo actually pushes dramatic aesthetics - through
the use of movement, voice and mythological fantasy - into what looked
to me like an entirely new psychological practice as much as radical theater.
In other words, his work goes much farther and much deeper than psychotherapy.
Although I cannot pretend to understand all of Pardo's theories - much
of his work is clearly intuitive - it seems to me that a lot of it bears
much in common with a notion in poetics that one <I>must <P>
do battle with whatever is needing expression. Federico Garcia Lorca,
in his essay "Play and Theory of the Duende," speaks of how
the poet must fight the "duende," the dark source of inspiration.
The poet Rilke likewise said that every angel is "terrible"
and must, like Jacob's, be battled. Out of this battle, they maintain,
meaning and beauty arise in the poem, in life.
Thus Pardo tells participants in his workshops, as they are about to
enact a scene or improvise, that they must take "a homeopathic dose
of hate." Then, the participants engage in a battle of sorts. For
example, one person presents a text. Pardo may play music at a keyboard
(or even have street performers come in, as he did in New Orleans) in
order to force the person to expand the range of voice. Others on stage
are in movement. One person is the movement leader and the others follow.
As the text is recited, the others move - not in a classic interpretive
way, but just the opposite. They fight the text with their bodies, moving
in front of the person reciting, their gestures a counterpoint to the
spoken word. Moreover, they do not mirror one another in their movement.
They "follow" the leader, but, as the scene develops, their
movements become more idiosyncratic too.
What emerges out of this is astonishing images, often by synchronicity.
For no apparent reason, you suddenly see eight people with no familiarity
with the text simulating eating and the next words of the text are about
eating. Seven people are crawling across the floor while "the voice,"
which has moved off-stage, recites a monologue on death and, for no reason
at all, a "rebellious" follower is left behind on stage, just
as the voice begins talking about the notion of resurrection. In other
words, meaning arises in the form of beauty. Images convey, without interpretation,
significances prior to language or in battle with it.
People working inside these exercises often report feeling deep in the
unconscious, totally in the body. But this is not an anti-intellectual
experience. Indeed, Pardo is giving body and voice a place to confront
the most profound questions of existence - not just personal ones, but
those questions that address our lives as part of large communities (just
as the Greeks did in their own theater). And this is done without therapy's
endless ruminations of a question's origins and without the fantasy of
a cure. Instead it offers beauty and appreciation
after the engagement
in battle. (And in that it departs from psychodrama.)
In short, Pardo's work represents, I believe, a completely new way of
approaching psychological growth - an entirely aesthetic one -- in which
patients become "actors" in present-time dramas. In columns
during the next few months I will report other developments out of the
Myth and Theatre Festival.
Visit Enrique Pardo's web site at www.pantheatre.com.
Copyright 1999 by Creative Loafing
Archetypal Advice |