Acting (Re)considered: A Theoretical and Practical Guide

By Phillip B. Zarrilli | Go to book overview

24

TASK AND VISION

Willem Dafoe in LSD

Philip Auslander

I'm this particular guy who has to go through these particular paces. It's not so much that I'm putting forward my personality, but because of the various actions I have to do, I'm presenting my personality in how I field those actions. That is the acting in it. I'm a guy given a character, a performing persona, and I'm going through these little structures and how I field them is how I live in this piece.

(Willem Dafoe)

Task and vision, vision in the form of a task.

(John Ashbery, “Years of Indiscretion”)

A discussion of Willem Dafoe is inevitably a discussion of the Wooster Group, the performance collective of which he is a member and which has been the most important formative influence on his approach to acting/performing. Dafoe draws a distinction between these activities; his hesitation to make it categorical reflects the Group's multi-tracked, polysemic production style. The essential structural principle of its work is juxtaposition, often of extremely dissimilar elements (e.g., a reading of Our Town and a comedy routine in blackface in Routes 1 & 9). The performers refer to and practice a variety of performance modes and styles in each piece, ranging from realistic acting to task-based collage (Point Judith), from work on familiar texts to recreations of the Group's own processes and experiences. The Group's current (at time of writing) production, LSD ( … Just the High Points …), is, amongst other things, a performance compendium which includes all of the interests just mentioned and restates images and concerns explored in previous pieces.

The baseline of the Group's work is a set of performance personae adopted by its members, roughly comparable to the “lines” in a Renaissance theatre troupe. These personae, while not fixed, recur from piece to piece and reflect to some extent the personalities and interactions of the collective's members.

-305-

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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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