Acting (Re)considered: A Theoretical and Practical Guide

By Phillip B. Zarrilli | Go to book overview

22

RESISTING THE “ORGANIC”

A feminist actor's approach

Lauren Love

For an actor working in conventional theatre, committing to feminist performance strategies may seem contradictory, if not outright impossible. My own experiences in conventional Western theatre productions became increasingly frustrating, because my corporeal presence within its representational frames demanded my complicity with an ideology I seek to resist. The very fact of my female-gendered biology on a conventional stage, not only commodifies my presence - where I become an object to be traded between the male characters and the male spectators - but has also been complicated by feminist theorists like Judith Butler who discuss materiality itself as a reiteration of restrictive codes relating to gender and sexuality. Butler and others ask whether the female-gendered body can appear as a body that matters (Butler in Goodman 1998:286) within discourses that privilege male bodies as active social agents. Are recognizably female bodies only visible as the passive/receptive opposites of male bodies? If the female body can as Butler proposes, only be intelligible through regulatory schemas (ibid: 284), how is it possible to perform female subjectivity without reinforcing patriarchal discourses that deny that subjectivity?

In The Feminist Spectator as Critic, Jill Dolan asserts that: placing women in a representation always connotes an underlying ideology and presents a narrative driven by male desire that effectively denies women's subjectivity (1988:57). Given that the terms of women's objectification are not questioned and are in fact reified in conventional representational modes, how might I reconcile my politics with my work as an actor in conventional theatre? What is my potential to resist objectification and/or material devaluation from a position within conventional representation?

Materialist feminist theories, which borrow from the discourses of Marxism, semiotics, post-modern philosophies, and other discourses that seek to destabilize naturalized dominant ideology, seem to offer the most viable possibilities for the feminist performer to conceptualize resistant tactics.

Materialist feminists point to the construction of gender, class and race through normalizing cultural strategies that reinforce the hegemony of a male,

-277-

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Acting (Re)considered: A Theoretical and Practical Guide
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations ix
  • Preface xvi
  • Acknowledgements xviii
  • 1 - General Introduction 1
  • Part I - Theories of and Meditations on Acting 5
  • 2 - Introduction 7
  • 3 - The Actor's Presence 23
  • 4 - On Acting and Not-Acting 40
  • 5 - “just Be Your Self” 53
  • 6 - The Actor's Emotions Reconsidered: 62
  • Part II - (Re)Considering the Body and Training 83
  • 7 - Introduction 85
  • 8 - An Amulet Made of Memory: 99
  • 9 - Meyerhold's Biomechanics 106
  • 10 - Etienne Decroux's Promethean Mime 129
  • 11 - Actor Training in the Neutral Mask 140
  • 12 - Bali and Grotowski 148
  • 13 - Culture is the Body 163
  • 14 - My Bodies 168
  • 15 - “on the Edge of a Breath, Looking” 181
  • 16 - The Gardzienice Theatre Association of Poland 200
  • 17 - Effector Patterns of Basic Emotions 219
  • Part III - (Re)Considering the Actor in Performance 239
  • 18 - Introduction 241
  • 19 - Brecht and the Contradictory Actor 248
  • 20 - Dario Fo 260
  • 21 - Forum Theatre 268
  • 22 - Resisting the “organic” 277
  • 23 - Rachel Rosenthal Creating Her Selves 291
  • 24 - Task and Vision 305
  • 25 - David Warrilow 311
  • 26 - Robert Wilson and the Actor 319
  • 27 - Anna Deavere Smith 334
  • Notes 345
  • Bibliography and References Cited 363
  • Bibliographical Note 388
  • Index 389
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