Teatr ZAR has been developing its Gospels of Childhood triptych since 2003, when the company was founded after several years of research in Armenia, Iran, and Georgia. It was in Georgia that ZAR learned polyphonic songs from the Svan oral tradition, which it developed in its unique song theatre. In this article Maria Shevtsova maps the first of a series of expeditions, the latter notably including Greece, Corsica, and Sardinia. She describes how the ancient hymns and chants gathered through direct oral transmission (ZAR's choice of material reflects its interest in the songs of early Christianity) provide the subject matter and the spiritual dimension of the group's performance pieces. The idea of the ‘spiritual’ is here distinguished from the strictly religious/denominational as well as the ritualistic or cultic framings of the word. Details from the triptych show how breath, vibration and energy are the forces of ZAR's sonic compositions in which singing, instrumental music, sound making, and movement are vehicles for experience other than immediate material sensation. Reference is made to ZAR's link to the Grotowski legacy in the song theatre of Poland today. Maria Shevtsova, Chair Professor of Drama and Theatre Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London, wishes to thank the International Research Centre of the Freie Universität Berlin for hosting her research, of which this article is an integral part.
Teatr ZAR’s Journeys of the Spirit
New Theatre Quarterly 2013