Acting (Re)considered: A Theoretical and Practical Guide

By Phillip B. Zarrilli | Go to book overview

2

INTRODUCTION

Phillip B. Zarrilli

During the 1980s numerous scholarly studies of acting began to make use of a wide variety of critical methodologies including phenomenology (States Chapter 3 [this volume], 1985; Wilshire 1982), Derridean deconstruction (Auslander Chapter 5 [this volume]), cultural, contextual, and intellectual histories (Roach 1980, 1985; Worthen 1984; Burns 1990; Schmitt 1990; Riley 1997, Zarrilli 2000a), semiotics (Elam 1980; Aston and Savona 1991; Fischer-Lichte 1992), feminist reconsiderations of acting process, theory, and history (Jenkins and Ogden-Malouf 1985; Diamond 1988; Davis 1991), among others. 1

The essays in Part I invite readers to take a step back from considering any specific theory or practice of acting and to reflect more generally. The essays by States and Auslander are metatheoretical in that they help us to (re)consider the performances of particular actresses such as Sarah Bernhardt and the work of Stanislavsky, Brecht, Grotowski, etc.; Kirby prompts us to reflect on how we differentiate between “acting” and “not-acting, and Konijn provokes us to (re)consider the relationship between acting and emotion. 2

Bert O. States' “The Actor's Presence: Three Phenomenal Modes, along with his longer book-length phenomenology of acting (1985), approaches theatre as a “speech act” in order to explore how the actor's relationship to the audience may shift “keys” during a performance or within a culture over time. States explores three “pronominal modes”: the self-expressive in which the virtuosity of the actor predominates, the collaborative in which the actor's direct interaction/ communication with the audience predominates, and the representational in which the actor's function as the vehicle of signification predominates.

Michael Kirby's “On Acting and Not-Acting” describes a continuum from non-matrixed activities, such as those in Happenings (“not-acting”), to character acting (“complex acting).” Kirby considers “not-acting” to include a wide range of “non-matrixed” performances in which what the performers do onstage has no representational function within a dramatic narrative. Kabuki stage attendants (koken) are onstage, but assumed to be “invisible” as they assist the performers or move properties. Performers in Happenings do simple “tasks.” Both types of

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