In reference to work of historical precursors, the Ritual Theatre of Thomas Zollinger has evolved since 1991. The term "Ritual Theatre" was introduced by Antonin Artaud and further developed by Jerzy Grotowski. With the paratheatric phase and the subsequent retreat into laboratory work, Grotowski lead the theatre to the limit of the artistically possible. Coming from the theatre, Norbert Klassen worked out his Performance Theatre in Berne by the end of the eigthies. In various 12 hours slow motion performances, he demonstrated with unbelievable precision how to perform in an open field without the division between stage and auditorium.
In the performance concepts of Ritual Theatre proposed by Thomas Zollinger, the divisions between stage and auditorium, actors/performers and audience, are disappearing. An empty room, which is conceptually connected to other rooms, is all it takes (public space, city area, flats). There are no objects, no materials anymore, only the human body as a medium is left. The body is in motion or pure standstill within the limits of precisely defined time structures and within, outside or between precisely defined rooms. Thus arises a situation, which leaves open where exactly "theatre" and "art" happen.
From 1994 to 1998 four performance concepts of Ritual Theatre came into being. Each tried to react to a specific question.
First of all, coming from the theatre, the elimination of materials and objects and the discussion of separating stage and auditorium were of prior importance. Movement and the interactive presence took the centre of attention.
(5-day Ritual Theatre 1994)
Eventually, an empty room with the people in it would do. The publicly accessible empty room where the performers and participants were moving or standing was connected with the exterior by ritual water carrying.
(6 x 6-hour Ritual Theatre 1995)
In another project, a non-stop open, empty gallery with vigilant people was connected with the city space and an empty flat by the mere walking to and from of one person.
(24-hour Ritual Theatre 1995)
In the fourth and broadest concept, it was a deserted warehouse which was presented as the empty space. It remained open for 168 hours non-stop. An uninterrupted, hourly repeated ritual of water carrying brought the particular situation into the public subconsciousness. The presence in the deserted warehouse required of the 27 directly participating people a detailed reference between "art" acts and "life" acts.
(7-day Ritual Theatre, 05/07 to 11/07/1998).
In the context of the 7-day Ritual Theatre four Ritual Theatre demo plays evolved:
40 minutes sitting (performance 08/07/1998)
40 minutes slow motion walking (performance 02/07/2000)
40 minutes standing (performance 03/09/2001)
40 minutes lying
In terms of a reference to historical precursors of theatre and art, the theoretical basis of Ritual Theatre was undertaken with the "Endspiel-Theater" text (1997, endgame theatre). A further text brought up open questions in the field of Performance Art and Performance Theatre, in which setting the artistic research took its beginnings. Additionally, connections to the Ritual Theatre were developed (Performance and Ritual Theatre 1999).