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Augusto Boal Feedback

Augusto Boal is amazing. He has produced brilliant techniques for a community to deal with immediate political and social problems/events through reconsidering the role of the spectator. He writes, “the poetics of Aristotle is the poetics of oppression: the world is known, perfect or about to be perfected, and all its values are imposed on the spectators, who passively delegate power to the characters to act and think in their place” . . . “Brecht’s poetics is that of the enlightened vanguard: the world is revealed as subject to change, and the change starts in the theatre itself, for the spectator does not delegate power to the characters to think in his place, although he continues to delegate power to them to act in his place” (p 96-97). In this chapter Boal presents seven exercises for performance, which range from mask work to staging a scene when no one knows it is actually a piece of theatre. Boal aims to engage the spectator as an active participant and thinker in the performance space. He works to reveal class and communal problems not through linear, patriarchal story-telling, but through the use of current events, news articles, familiar class situations, and myths. He developed the “Theatre of the Oppressed,” and constructs the People’s Theatre.

One of his exercises is for a participant to recall a moment of repression in his life and have it acted out by actors. He explains, “It also gives the protagonist the opportunity of trying once more and carrying out, in fiction, what he had not been able to do in reality” (p 92). This reminds me very much of my work with Elizabeth Kemp in New York. We relived and ritualized past experiences in order to live them out differently and find a side of light to the darkness of the experience. This is my kind of theatre. I am not quite sure yet how to apply this to my project, because I feel its purpose lies more in dealing with immediate issues, though perhaps the repression of Aboriginals and Aboriginal myth are two parallels I can draw to my project. As Boal says, “It is necessary to pass from the particular to the general, not vice versa, and to deal with something that has happened to someone in particular, but which at the same time is typical of what happens to others” (p 92). Grappling with specific stories of oppression from Australian Aboriginal cultures may then lead me to the general, expanding the experience of oppression into related experiences in American culture.

Something I am considering using for my project is the first exercise he describes, which is “Newspaper Theatre,” which is different ways of reading a news article aloud. You can use it out of context, use parallel action, rhythmical reading, etc all in order to reveal other perspectives and the POV and truth beneath the words. I feel using real historical stories and articles and messing with the structure of them may be a fun experiment to use for my project. This also makes me think the project may be more of an ensemble piece or written short play rather than a solo performance.

Thanks for staying updated! I have a show opening next week so you may not hear from me for a few weeks, but after that I plan to be posting regularly!

(Quotes on this and previous posts are excerpted from The Twentieth Century Performance Reader, edited by Michael Huxley and Noel Witts.)

Best,

Ariana

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Antonin Artaud and Overcoming “Intellectual Stupor”

2 posts in one night! Here we go..

I just finished a chapter from The Twentieth Century Performance Reader by Antonin Artaud. It is becoming apparent to me that a big handful of theatre artists reject psychological theatre and seek a higher, truer form of expression for the stage. Artaud expresses that we are stuck in an “intellectual stupor” in theatre and wanted theatre “through its immediacy, to embrace the non-verbal elements of consciousness, and to arouse powerful therapeutic emotions in the audience” (p 28). He sought revolution and discomfort in his audiences. He wishes to access the psyche in a larger-than-life and dream-like way and to affect the masses. I love and admire this. Artaud felt this in the first half of the twentieth century, I still feel it today. It also makes me think of the Barba reading. Barba wrote, “After working together many hours a day for many years, it is not my words but perhaps only my presence that can say anything” (p 42).

This is actually something I intuitively sought during a solo performance class I took my junior year of college. My goal of creating that ten-minute piece was to communicate through imagery rather than through explanation. I achieved this by zipping myself up in a suitcase, tying knots around my abdomen, and lighting candles around the stage. Each of these actions was my way of externalizing my emotional, psychological, inward experiences and stories. I felt talking about my story was not enough, it wouldn’t capture it quite right or nearly fully. So, I sought “fiery, magnetic imagery” and “unforgettable soul therapy” as an alternative and actually more effective mode of expression (p 25). Again, I am excited to find my intuitive desires in the works of other artists. These thoughts and ambitions exist in many minds! What a joy to find like-minded people.

Artaud says, “Our sensibility has reached the point where we surely need theatre that wakes us up heart and nerves” (p 25). I definitely agree and need to remember this for my project. I do not want to stand on stage and talk about my experience. Why would anyone care? I know I have a lot to say, but I am still sort of figuring out exactly what those things are and how I want to share them. I am really drawn to the idea of people/land relationship, ancestors, and how knowledge lives in places as well as people. Perhaps I could use the mode of Aboriginal story telling in order to tell my story.

Now, to keep reading and dreaming… Please feel free to email me if you have any input or response!

Ariana