Songs – an open work session – allows us to witness Thomas Richards’ work on ancient song with artists who have been involved in daily practice long-term, as well as artists who have limited experience in this approach. Such work on song – initiated at the Workcenter in 1986 and carried forward in continual development by Richards over the last 35 years – serves those at work to widen their knowledge of a “work on oneself” that can be carried out through a specific approach to song and action. In this sense, Songs is not a theatre performance, per se, but rather a kind of “theatre non theatre” wherein, as in certain old traditions, work on song and action goes together with an approach to the interiority of the human being and its potentialities. These sessions become a means of awakening subtle aspects of inner experiencing, and can serve as a tool for the transformation of the artist’s perception and presence.
Working with Grotowski on ancient songs awakened something inside of me; gave me the sensation that I was hearing someone from my ancestry sing. This was a very deep experience. I'm half black and half white. My father’s line comes from the Caribbean, and I grew up in New York City completely disconnected from any kind of African tradition. I went to a school that was almost all Jewish in fact. I wanted desperately to be Black, to understand my Blackness, but without finding any real means to do so. When I met this Polish man, with a white beard, who kind of looked like Santa Claus, who had worked in the Caribbean so deeply, it was bizarre. It may seem strange, but I encountered something of my African conditions through him.