Jerzy Grotowski staged this innovative interpretation of Adam Mickiewicz's drama in 1961. For the director, Forefathers' Eve was a sketch, an essay, and a research project all at once.
Grotowski was interested in reaching the sources of the ritual customs depicted in part II of the play, and he also aimed at restoring a sense of unity to the theatrical experience. The division between the audience and the actors was blurred, as the performers acted among the spectators. The director decided to do away with the patriotic and nationalist themes of the play, and he only worked with what seemed essential. He threw out Part III, usually regarded as the most important, and left only the Wielka Improwizacja (The Great Improvisation) scene. He decided to underscore the usually overlooked motifs of rebellion and love. The director said,
We concentrate the meaning of the performance in the Improvisation. In a narrowed sense, one could say that a lonesome and all-encompassing rebellion is hopeless. A meaning that is wider and superior would be identical to the constant object of our search, which Władysław Broniewski described as (…) 'feeling' your voice and body into the content of the human fate (Dziady jako model teatru nowoczesnego. Jerzy Falkowski talks with Jerzy Grotowski., "Współczesność" 1961, nr 21 quoted after Dziady. Od Wyspiańskiego do Grzegorzewskiego, edited by Tadeusz Kornaś and Grzegorz Niziołek, Kraków 1999)
Grotowski’s Forefathers' Eve primarily addressed the issue of the contemporary young generation, for whom it was still possible to trace the roots of their attitudes to the generation of Mickiewicz. At the same time youthful rebellion with all its rhetoric and pretending was not only ridiculed on the stage, but brought to the dimensions of the life of an ordinary man.
As we read on Grotowski.net:
Jerzy Grotowski completely gave up the division of the stage and the audience, creating a multi-level space for his performances in which the audience’s chairs were arranged at different angles and at different heights. As a result, spectators, depending on the location, had a different, sometimes very limited, vantage point. What was important was that they also saw each other. Traditionally comfortable and untroubled spectatorship was disturbed by the fact that the actors performed not only on the "central stage" where the most important actions took place, but also among the audience, and sometimes - with them. Especially during the rite in the second part of the drama, spectators could not feel safe: the spirits emerged from among them, the actors teased them, and finally, Pasterka/Goosegirl, who "sat on the grave", was chosen from the audience (before the performance Grotowski had already chosen a pretty, young girl, and asked her to sit in appropriate place).
Source: Culture.pl. grotowski.net, ed. AL, transl.GS