The silence of attentive and respectful listening — his theatre was certainly a spectacle in listening
When somebody passes-on, they don’t solely go away you bereaved but in addition burdened to discover a approach to keep in mind and comprise them in your ideas. That is my try to carry on to my expensive good friend and trainer Phillip Zarrilli — 1947-2020.
There are only a few individuals who can traverse two worlds with the love, care, and respect that Phillip did. And I don’t say this out of fondness for the person however out of awe on the delicacy with which he inhabited the 2 realms: Western/Japanese, fashionable/conventional, somatic/cerebral. And he did that with easy ease, with a matter-of-factness that will exemplify his work, coaching, instructing, and perspective to life and loss of life.
Phillip first got here to India to coach in Kathakali in 1976, after being influenced by the work of theatre-innovators/anthropologists like Jerzy Grotowski and Eugenio Barba, who have been turning Eastward within the search of somatic strategies to construct wholeness, presence and power within the performer. However in doing so, they have been maybe additionally risking rendering Japanese efficiency traditions as treasured, as is obvious in Barba’s view of Kathakali, which he calls, “a distant glittering star serving to me discover my approach to another galaxy.”
Phillip’s said intention on the very begin of his coaching at Kerala Kalamandalam was to not turn out to be a Kathakali performer however to grasp its pre-performative coaching strategies that may very well be used within the coaching of modern-day actors. His rigorous coaching within the dance-theatre kind quickly led him to kalaripayattu, the martial artwork that served as preliminary coaching to the dance-theatre kind, which had made a powerful impression on Grotowski, and through which Phillip would see the promise of the pre-performative methodology that he was looking for, unfold. Over the subsequent twenty years, he made repeated journeys to Kerala to dedicate himself to coaching in kalaripayattu underneath the skilled steerage of Govindankutty Nair on the CVN Kalari, Thiruvananthapuram; not solely to study and use it for actor-training however to internalise it and turn out to be a master-practitioner.
Deeply entrenched within the kind, he continued to stay an enquiring observer-participant. I believe one of the perceptive insights that Phillip gives to theatre-anthropology is that these cultural kinds aren’t solely wealthy repositories of tradition but in addition commonplace throughout the native tradition. By doing so, he deflates the insider/outsider, topic/object divide just about in a single stroke.
One can say that by positioning himself so delicately and should I add, casually, between this inside and the surface, Phillip introduced self-consciousness not solely into the shape (as is obvious from his extremely reflective writing on Kathakali, Kalaripayattu, and actor-training) but in addition to the sphere of intercultural theatre, forcing an appraisal of the Western mental traditions of illustration, particularly, of the Asian Different.
Phillip stands each tall and clear in his deeply immersive but unfussy and un-embellishing engagement with the Indian kinds. If he critiques the Western perspective, he’s equally critically-alert of and doesn’t purchase into the various socio-cultural and political narratives which appear to have turn out to be half and parcel of pedagogy of Indian embodied practices (and I say that from first-hand expertise as a scholar and practitioner of Bharatanatyam).
The psychophysical coaching methodology that he devised and taught concerned three necessary practices — yoga, kalaripayattu and tai-qi-quan. If I can recall two issues that stood out for me in Phillip’s actor-training, it was breath and listening. As he led the coaching, you could possibly truly see him positioned in that station of listening throughout the breathing-moment of the here-and-now.
I’d say that each he, and his work, embodied silence — the silence of attentive and respectful listening. His theatre was certainly a spectacle in listening: sluggish, absorbed, aware, attuned, and gripping!
With Phillip’s passing, the world of worldwide theatre has misplaced a trainer, theorist, and director who was capable of efficiently garner and foster the pre-performative impulse; somebody who reinstated course of into performance-making versus ideas, phrases, and semiology.
Other than a wealthy corpus of books, A Phenomenology of Performing; When the Physique Turns into all Eyes; Kathakali Dance Drama: The place Gods and Demons Come to Play, to call just a few, he leaves behind a legacy of a finely delineated psychophysical coaching that has resulted from a deeply-felt and sensorially-experienced principle alongside a finely analysed, noticed and attuned observe for performers of all colors.
He shall be remembered as a mild warrior-weaver, who quietly however firmly battled ethnocentric stereotypes and interwove efficiency cultures from throughout the globe making them our personal.
On April 28, 2020, Phillip Zarrilli handed away peacefully, “using on his breath”, as described by his spouse and accomplice Kaite (Caitlin) O’Reilly. A portion of his ashes shall be immersed within the Karamana river that flows proximate to the CVN Kalari, by Thiruvananthapuram.