Academic journal article Theatre Research in Canada

Speaking in a Visceral Language: From Performer Preparation to Performance Composition

Academic journal article Theatre Research in Canada

Speaking in a Visceral Language: From Performer Preparation to Performance Composition

Article excerpt

This article presents the hypothesis that sophisticated psychophysical training is vital for the development of the creative relationship between the performer and the director. Using a fragment of original performance and with reference to training practices drawn from the Chinese martial arts this presentation explains how the author and his collaborator use psychophysical training to facilitate the creation "theatrical opposition." Originally a live lecture/demonstration, the article is supplemented by numerous illustrations of practical examples of original performance and Chinese martial arts training.

Cet article, qui etait a l'origine une conference/demonstration en direct, montre en quoi l'entrainement psychologique et physique de haut niveau est d'une importance vitale pour le developpement de la relation de creation entre comedien et metteur en scene. A l'aide d'un extrait tire de la representation originale et d'exemples puises des pratiques d'entrainement d'arts martiaux chinois, cette presentation explique comment l'auteur et son collaborateur se sont servis de l'entrainement physique et psychologique pour faciliter l'<< opposition theatrale >> creative.

Introduction and Performance

Good evening everyone. Tonight's presentation is a piece of research/creation. In other words, Laura and I will be presenting a short performance and then I will be explaining the artistic research that has fueled our creative process. The hypothesis I will share is that sophisticated psychophysical training is the bedrock upon which performances should be built. This training is vital for the development of the creative relationship between the performer and the director and, more importantly, facilitates the director's creation of what I will be referring to as theatrical opposition.

We'll begin with the performance itself. I wrote the text of this piece some years ago, and Laura and I created the performance together over the last few weeks. It's far from finished, but it is useful for our purposes here today:

Demonstration of Laura Astwood's Performance:

A man has washed up in the lagoon. Mud covered and tangled in weeds, he lies in a fever. The wild boars have trampled him but leave him alone now, smelling the malaria. She must drag him, raving, upland, to her home. There is a spring there and the air on the lower slopes of the mountain is clean.

She has never nursed a stranger. People from the nearby village come to her for remedies. She sets broken bones, binds cuts and scrapes. Once she had to amputate an infected forearm. She is more comfortable with wounds than diseases.

As she carries him, he raves, saying that his men have been turned into pigs by some strange sorcery. She assumes that he has been shipwrecked. She knows that no one else has washed up in the marshes along the shore.

She makes him a bed after cleaning him of the sea mud, and goes to make tea. He tries to attack her. He says he will kill her unless she restores his companions to human shape. He is too weak to stand, and collapses into fevered sleep.

As the fevers flow through him, she sees him change. One moment he is withered, the next he burns with youth. When the fever peaks it is as though he contains too much life, his skin is insufficient to contain the heat. When his temperature drops, his glow fades--he is dry and beige without its upward surge. She watches the sickness carve two beings from one body.

She soon discovers that he wanders in his sleep. She finds him at the window, in the vegetable garden, once even as far as the rocky pool of the spring. She cannot be with him all the time, and the fear is always with her that he will wander into the swamp, or chill and drown in the spring.

She is strangely indifferent to that first violence from him. It was the disease, not the man that cursed and scratched at her. She will not hold this against him. …

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