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An Acrobat of the Heart: A Physical Approach to Acting Inspired by the Work of Jerzy Grotowski

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  106 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
A Vintage Original

"The actor will do, in public, what is considered impossible." When the renowned Polish director Jerzy Grotowski began his 1967 American workshop with these words, his students were stunned. But within four weeks they themselves had experienced the "impossible."

In An Acrobat of the Heart, teacher-director-playwright Stephen Wangh reveals how Jerzy Grotows
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 19th 2000 by Vintage
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I've always really disliked when something has so many rules that there ends up being no rules at all because they are constantly contradicting each other. Either have them or don't but don't do both. Maybe it's harder to understand this technique when you're reading about it instead of participating in it but I felt like throwing up my hands and yelling STEPHEN WANGH WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME? I just feel like he's always answering his students' questions by telling them to do things that he alr ...more
Jun 24, 2007 Huling rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Actors who wish to expnd their hearts and minds
This is one of the best acting books I have ever read. Steven Wangh shows actors how to approach practical material in a most impractical way. He uses the non-traditional physical work of Jerzy Grotowski as a way to enliven and awken the actor's instrument in approaching contemporary works. Some of the exercises were familiar to me and some were totally new and very different than what I have been exposed to in my training. I found Wangh's book very insightful as it offered such a fresh and exci ...more
Christine Bissonnette
Aug 21, 2015 Christine Bissonnette rated it it was amazing
Shelves: acting
One of my favourite books on acting. This book was on the recommended reading list from the National Voice Intensive with David Smukler (, and it reminded me of a lot of the work we did during those 4 weeks. Here's a quote from the beginning of the book: "His lessons, he insisted, were never meant to be a universal map for all travelers to follow, but simply a starting point from which an actor might begin to explore his or her personal unknown territory."

One of my
Apr 29, 2015 Bookwormgrrl rated it it was amazing
Wangh balances pedagogy, practical exercises, and interesting stories from his own experience as an acting instructor. One cannot simply teach themselves this kind of work through a book alone. However, it would serve as a fantastic guide for someone entrenched in this or another type of acting training as supplemental material or another way of approaching actor training. Also the book can be employed a useful resource for those actor instructors and/or directors looking to expand their underst ...more
Brian Astbury
Aug 06, 2013 Brian Astbury rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is, in my opinion, the best practical introduction to the work of Jerzy Grotowski. Written fluently and with love, it sets out the basic exercises in a way that demystifies this major figure in theatre and actor training. For young actors setting out on the road, those already practising, those who might have started losing faith - this is essential reading. These techniques should be at the heart of all actor training. Sadly they aren't.
Jan 17, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it
Like a lot of physical acting books, it's really hard to just read the thing. It's like a class that you can only audit from a distance. But it's a really cool class. And Wangh sets this book up prettily cleverly in actually recounting this work as if it were a class, thereby addressing a lot of the back and forth that arises in response to the work as well as the work itself. I'm going to steal like a bandit from this one!
Jul 03, 2008 Malvolio rated it it was amazing
There's really not a more accessible book on the training methods of Grotowski. I highly recommend it for any dance, movement, theater teacher, as well as any performer.
Frank Hartley
Sep 22, 2015 Frank Hartley rated it it was amazing
One of the best and thought provoking acting books I've read out there. Challenges and incorporates all of the major styles and builds on your current technique.
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