A Note on the Process

“I’ve known Matt for 30 years. The company he founded, Dzieci, is spiritual, inspiring and riotously funny
all at the same time…some of the most vulnerable, talented and skilled performers I have ever met.
They will touch your heart and soul.”

Louise Jensen

In Dzieci, we believe the creative act must, primarily, have a transformative effect on the artist himself. We make no pretensions of altruism. If others are involved in our efforts – as students, audiences, patients, (or even fellow company members) – it is because a relationship with them is a natural extension for us to make in the context of our own development. Ultimately, the only gauge each of us has for measuring the effects of our work is our own individual evolution, as artists and as human beings.

What we have found helpful, and in fact a necessity, for our growth, is to follow a process of inquiry. The teachers who have had the most profound influence on Dzieci have also been explorers, venturing forth into the great unknown. They embraced questions. They tackled mysteries: “Who am I? Why am I here? What do I serve?” Their work was to work on themselves. A work of personal transformation.

Theatre serves us as a vehicle for this transformation, but theatre is not our aim. Our aim is simply to work on ourselves. Such a process is fraught with pitfalls for any single individual. With Dzieci it has only been possible through the cumulative efforts of each member of our community. This collective endeavor does not preclude conflict and struggle – vital work is hard work – but we have found a few guidelines to help keep us in balance.

If there is a way to do something more humanely, more organically, or more adventurously, we make every effort to do so. We utilize oral transmission for learning music and text. We begin and end performances, workshops, hospital visits, and rehearsals in silence. We return to silence often. We do not seek applause. We share meals. We join in work and prayer with sacred communities. We lead non-verbally through action and gesture. We commit to not knowing. We destroy what we create. We wear funny teeth.

For Dzieci, performance ultimately becomes an act of purification. We establish seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and we traverse them. We work on strengthening our attention. We expose our fears. The hymns and chants we sing in our shows are also an integral part of our service work. As we sing at the bedsides of people who may be in pain or dying, the songs become “coated” by the experience, and our relationship to them is forever altered.

Through creative therapeutic encounters, we learn how to relate to others in a more human way. We see a deep contact is possible if we can be more essential, so we strive to strip away layers of personality and habit. Individually, this leaves us vulnerable, so we begin to value, even more, the strength we feel as a group. This strength demands to be tested, so we take our work out to the public. We are all at risk before an audience, where a complex bond can be made that, if we follow our aim, leads us even further towards self-discovery.

Dzieci came into being a dozen years ago, fueled by the energy of a small group of unique individuals, drawn together to pursue an organic process toward creativity and personal growth. We have made a commitment to each other, and to this vocation, which unfolds endless mysteries. We can tell we are headed on the right path when our work brings us closer to an appreciation of life in all its forms. When this happens, we feel accountable for the work we do. It becomes more than us and we feel responsible to it. When we feel responsible, we sense how much we’ve yet to learn. And we burn to continue.

Matt Mitler

April 2010

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