slow learning is deep learning with fools who play mass

Back in September, we moved into our new studio at 7 Fraser in Toronto and a week later 9 members of the experimental theatre troupe, Dzieci, drove in from Brooklyn and stayed with us. For two days Dzieci put up with our construction dust, shared meals, and woke us with the music of their voices.

Here is the video of the Fools Mass (created by our studio mate Dexter Ico) which they performed on Sunday morning. [youtube=]

Thanks to Dzieci and to all who made this slow-learning-dream-come-true possible.

Coming to a Laneway Near You: Gypsies Perform Shakespeare, Lunatics Enact Mass

I found them on the internet when I was looking for Grotowski-inspired paratheatre workshops. I hunted them down in Philadelphia so I could partake in their Fool’s Mass. I’m rearranging my life so that I might participate in their 24 hour Maraton paratheatrical workshop in New York.

And now they’re coming to my favorite multidisciplinary arts garden. I’m so excited!  Dzieci is coming to town. They’re borrowing a bus from a correctional facility and Dzieci is coming to Toronto. (Did I tell you? Dzieci is coming to Toronto!)

Here’s some info from our press release, so you don’t miss any facts.

Dzieci, an experimental theatre ensemble from New York City appears at Majlis, 163 Walnut Street, for two special performances: Makbet, a gypsy-style chamber version of the Shakespearean classic, on Saturday, September 18 at 8 pm and their popular classic Fools Mass, Sunday, September 19 at 11 am. $20 advance ( / $25 at the door.

As presented by a traveling family of gypsies, the hour-long performance of Makbet explores (and explodes) the very essence of storytelling. Through a process of oral transmission, each member of the ensemble has learned all of the lines of every part. In rehearsals and in production, the actors do not know who will be playing any given role at any given time. Haunting folk songs and chants from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe weave through the piece, creating the impression of a sacred ceremony. The result: a high-stakes performance that keeps both the ensemble and audience on edge.

In Fools Mass, a group of medieval village idiots are forced to enact their own Mass, due to the untimely death of their beloved pastor. Bursting with buffoonery and comic audience participation, Fools Mass is balanced with lovely hymns and chants from the 8th to the 14th centuries, creating a seminal work that has been Dzieci’s signature piece for over ten years. As the Encyclopedia of Religion describes, “the work resists being categorized as either theater or religion, becoming both at once in an event experienced by many as transformative.” Fools Mass has appeared in venues ranging from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City to the 2004 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Barcelona.

Dzeici will also offer a paratheatrical workshop for actors and non-actors at Dovercourt House, 805 Dovercourt Road, on Saturday, September 18 from 12 – 3 pm. Dzieci workshops are non-verbal and improvisational experiences, with guidance gently provided by the ensemble through sound and gesture. Employing elements of ensemble theatre, meditation, psychotherapy, and ritual, the event flows in accordance with the nature of the participants and leads towards a heightening of consciousness and deepening of community. Reservations at 416.799.7950, $75-$125 pay what you can.

About Theatre Group Dzieci

Founded by Matt Mitler in 1997, Dzieci (djyeh-chee) uses techniques garnered from Jerzy Grotowski and the Polish Theatre Laboratory, Peter Brook, humanistic psychology, and ritual forms derived from Native American and Eastern spiritual disciplines in its search for the “sacred” through the medium of theatre.

About Majlis Multidisciplinary Arts

Nestled between two factory buildings in Toronto’s Queen West neighbourhood, Majlis Multidisciplinary Arts provides a unique, intimate laneway-garden venue for artistic collaborations throughout the summer.

For tickets for workshop and performances go to

grotowski on art

“Why do we sacrifice so much energy to our art? Not in order to teach others but to learn with them what our existence, our organism, our personal and unrepeatable experience have to give us; to learn to break down the barriers which surround us and to free ourselves from the breaks which hold us back, from the lies about ourselves which we manufacture daily for ourselves and for others; to destroy the limitations caused by our ignorance and lack of courage; in short, to fill the emptiness in us: to fulfill ourselves. Art is neither a state of the soul (in the sense of some extraordinary, unpredictable moment of inspiration) nor a state of man (in the sense of a profession or social function). Art is a ripening, an evolution, an uplifting which enables us to emerge from darkness into a blaze of light.

We fight then to discover, to experience the truth about ourselves; to tear away the masks behind which we hide daily. We see theatre – especially in its palpable, carnal aspect – as a place of provocation, a challenge the actor sets himself and also, indirectly, other people. Theatre only has a meaning if it allows us to transcend our stereotyped vision, our conventional feelings and customs, our standards of judgment – not just for the sake of doing so, but so that we may experience what is real and, having already given up all daily escapes and pretenses, in a state of complete defenselessness unveil, give, discover ourselves. In this way – through shock, through the shudder which causes us to drop our dally masks and mannerisms – we are able, without hiding anything, to entrust ourselves to something we cannot name but in which live Eros and Charitas.”