Actors and artisans: The use of objects in the training of actors

Margolies, Eleanor (1999) Actors and artisans: The use of objects in the training of actors. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This study is based on the description and analysis of acting exercises in which actors work with concrete objects. The exercises are drawn from various acting methodologies, including disused and marginal methodologies as well as those in common use in British and American acting schools and studios. It is argued that every theory of acting presents a theory of human relations to the material world, and that the specific possibilities of interaction with the material world which are offered by an acting methodology are demonstrated by its treatment of concrete objects. The introduction places these 'object exercises' in the context of contemporary actor training. It surveys the main trends in actor training in British drama schools, and notes a problematic division (reflected in prospectuses and timetables) between 'acting' and 'movement' studies, and a further division between 'Stanislavski-based' approaches and the various approaches gathered under the heading of 'improvisation'. It is suggested that the concept of 'improvisation' has an importance which goes beyond the conventional taxonomy of theatre practice. 'Improvisation' refers to a particular attitude to the world, a form of 'free play within constraints', which can be found in various acting exercises from different traditions, in musical improvisation, and in the practice of 'bricolage' or 'making do'. The question of how humans interact with matter, which is raised by 'object exercises' for actors, has a bearing on wider questions of material transformation and physical work. The second section of the study places the theories of acting under consideration within the cultural context of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It examines the trope of 'work' - as a theme for drama, a subject of movement analysis and an image of the performer's activity, looking particularly at the work of Decroux and Meyerhold. A distinction is drawn between two approaches to objects in performance: objects may be treated as 'constraints' or as 'texts'. The object treated as a constraint denies the actor access to habitual responses and socialised behaviour and thereby frees the potential for other ways of being; the object treated as a text is seen as a reservoir which both records its own history and proposes actions to the performer. Examples of both approaches are given in five sections which analyse specific acting exercises -- in the exercises described in the first two sections, the object is primarily treated as a constraint, and in those described in the remaining sections, the object is primarily treated as a text. Section One looks at the simple, concrete use of objects such as balls and sticks in exercises to develop physical, mental and interactive skills, and at how these exercises promote a 'dialogue' between human and object. The practitioners discussed include Clive Barker, Meyerhold, Stanislavski, and Lee Strasberg. Section Two looks further at the 'dialogue' between actor and object, and at how various 'ways of being' on stage can be transmitted through specific approaches to concrete objects. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Theater, Performing arts education
Date of Award: 1999
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1999-71817
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 09:31
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 09:31
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71817

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