From Acting to Performance: Essays in Modernism and Postmodernism

From Acting to Performance: Essays in Modernism and Postmodernism

From Acting to Performance: Essays in Modernism and Postmodernism

From Acting to Performance: Essays in Modernism and Postmodernism

Synopsis

From Acting to Performance collects for the first time major essays by performance theorist and critic Philip Auslander. Together these essays provide a survey of the changes in acting and performance during the crucial transition from the ecstatic theatre of the 1960s to the ironic postmodernism of the 1980s.Auslander examines performance genres ranging from theatre and dance to performance art and stand-up comedy. In doing so he discusses an impressive line-up of practitioners including Antonin Artaud, Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook, Willem Dafoe, the Wooster Group, Augusto Boal, Kate Bornstein, and Orlan. From Acting to Performance is a must for all students and scholars interested in contemporary theatre and performance.

Excerpt

The title of this collection, for which I have my editor, Talia Rodgers, to thank, is evocative for me on several levels. On a personal level, From Acting to Performance suggests the course the development of my own interests has followed, from an original commitment to theatre toward a broader conception of performance and its genres. (I hope it is not presumptuous to suggest that many theatre scholars of my generation share this intellectual history with me.) The same phrase suggests the direction of developments in my original area of interest, experimental theatre, over the last twenty-five years or so. Whereas the modernist and avant-gardist theatres of the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries conceived of their work in terms of innovations in acting, subsequent postmodernist innovations have resulted from a recon-sideration of the very nature of the activity that takes place on the stage, and the development of performance art, in which artists from non-theatrical backgrounds have brought divergent sensibili-ties to bear on the act of performance. Finally, the title phrase evokes developments and debates within the American academy surrounding the evolution of Peformance Studies as a discipline apart from Theatre Studies. It is with these debates that I shall begin my discussion here. Despite the antagonisms expressed on both sides, the title of this book expresses my perception of the relationship between Theatre Studies and Performance Studies as one of continuity rather than rupture.

Detecting within me a histrionic impulse, my mother sent me off to acting classes beginning around age nine. Thus began my life-long involvement with an art form and an academic field in which I eventually earned two graduate degrees. Throughout high school, I worked intensively in the theatre, primarily as an actor, taking a relatively uncritical view of the enterprise. It was only as an

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