“No experience is in itself a cause of success or failure,” he wrote in his 1931 book, What Life Could Mean to You. “We are not determined by our experiences, but are self-determined by the meaning we give to them; and when we take particular experiences as the basis for our future life, we are almost certain to be misguided to some degree. Meanings are not determined by situations. We determine ourselves by the meanings we ascribe to situations.”
On one occasion, I tried an exercise that Grotowski had invented. It seemed quite innocent: each person is invited to imitate the type of person he detests the most. “But there’s a catch,” said Grotowski. “You will see. The actor will reveal his own deepest nature without knowing it.” Andreas Katsulas, half American, half Greek, claimed to have a horror of religion, and he played an invaluable role in the group, for he would puncture any solemnity or pretentiousness with irresistible ridicule. For this exercise, he chose to imitate a pious young monk and walked up and down, pulling his face into a parody of a holy look. Gradually, though, the reality of the image he was illustrating outran his intention, and a deeply hidden contemplative quality in himself transformed his expression, giving to his body a luminous tranquillity that was truly his own. Actors often fear that if they lose the personality that they know, they will become bland and anonymous. This is never the case. Through the grit of hard work, it is the true individuality that appears.
Threads of Time, Peter Brook