Contemporary Historical Contexts


Pitch a short (3-5 minute presentation) in which you must propose a performance idea which foregrounds the act of ‘ghosting’.

Using the information outlined in Carlson’s piece. I have deducted the factor of the haunted body of the actor to be not only of high significance to the premise of ‘ghosting’ but is of interest to almost anyone who becomes a spectator to theatre or indeed any performance.

I therefore would be inclined to propose a postmodern performance with the use of well-known, current British actors from a range of performance disciplines to create a piece of theatre which negates the stereotype their ‘ghosting’ from the audience would deduce. I would hide the faces and change the voices, remove names from the programme and marketing material to better test this theory and allow an audience to decide upon the text and actors, removing the option to base this current interaction on previous experiences with the actors. This performance would also include a range of other material, recycled from other structures and previous characteristics and textual sources from the actors previous roles.

The basic structure of the performance would interweave the premise of a dream. Many elements would become fragmented and visceral. The narrative or thrust of narrative would be loosely based around the story and concept of Noah and the Arc, in very broad terms. I picked this as a well known narrative in Western culture, especially in the UK. And when I receive arts council funding to internationally tour the world, I would adjust the religious and social construct to better suit and adapt to the political and social climate of the generic spectator of that region.

Committing the spectator to a story with which they have had previous experiences with will set up the audience for their own expectations of role fulfillment and story structure etc. Actors would be given role which further removes themselves from their ‘ghosted’ stereotype to better highlight the gap between the assumption of an original performance, and the experience of realisation and the very current, very real ‘ghosting’ which happens during the performance, when the actors are revealed as the well known actor they are.

I would be very interested to see how this shift from new experience to previous fulfillment affects the performance and experience for the spectator.

The Duchess of Malfi

Andrew Marr’s commentary framing the context of the performance at the beginning of the performance. How does what he say and show frame the premise of the performance. Religion as a dark force within the play. How what Andrew Marr said colors the performance and the story. A perceived need to explain to the audience and almost apologize for the language and barrier between the two time periods.

All performances are historical events. All set in the past. Consigned to a period of time. Something ephemeral. Theatre is always vanishing. It is constrained by time. Theatre differs from a painting, a constant. Performance constantly disappears and changes. Theatrical performances are constrained by time. We are attempting to distill and make theatre live again through recording live material. Matthew Reason, Archive and Theatre…Look it up. Difficulties and rewards of recording live theatre. ‘Live Casting’ Martin Barker, Live Casting. Two books worth looking up on live casting. Is there a perceived sanctity of being in a theatre, in the same space?

Trailers also colour our choices of live performances. Looking into how we frame the theatrical event. Possible essay brief?? Treating the theatrical event as a film event. Use cross medium interdisciplinary context to sell theatrical devises.

Historiography – Why do we do it? Safe way of documenting historical events. The age of the original seems less and less likely to exist, is it necessary?

We talked on the concept of truth. What is truth? Why is truth and understanding of the text so important? Does it make a difference? Why? All performances are historical events no performances are in a vacuum. All are set in context. Theatre and the experience we have of it is shaped by our social, historical, political context. Foccoault: Taught language as infants. We are limited and liberated by it. History is forged by discourse. We have no control over it. Racceur feels the opposite.

The great hole of history. Shakespeare’s globe is a simulation like Disneyland.

Historical context from Andy Marr, trailers equates to the historiographical context to allow the audience to feel the location in time and place that the play is set? Watch the commentary from Marr to get a start.

Reflection & Essay

Post workshop I went to the library and took out two books related to the concept of Ghosting, or the haunting of theatre: Marvin Carlson’s The Haunted Stage and Alice Rayner’s Ghosts. I’m more interested in exploring the concept of the haunted body of the actor. Its effect and predetermined impact it has on a spectator and how, subconsciously sometimes, this can impact on the reading of a performance or narrative. This is rather ‘bare bones’ at the moment, but the scope for research seems relatively niche but still interesting and underdeveloped. I’m possibly discussing this as a starting point for a essay…

Upon opening the book, there is a chapter dedicated to the haunted body within Carlson’s The Haunted Stage p52 as well as an interesting chapter 6 on postmodern recycling which seems like an interesting concept to develop into its inter medial impact on the actor. Alice Rayner’s book is more akin to the physical embodiment and use of ghosts on stage as opposed to using the term as a concept to the haunted nature of performance and theatre and so this book has little use for my current train of thought. (N.B. After deeper reading later in the module, I recant this statement as Rayner proved invaluable on other ghosting elements)

Upon reading the first few pages of Carlson’s chapter on the haunted body, I started to feel the ability to elaborate on what he was stating. Possibly under the context of a playwright or play(s) as case study, I could hone in this large topic to a particular example, its effect and outcome.

Playing with the essay title of:

“Lungs haunt our past transgressions and act as a social, economical and environmental ‘black box’ to life. How does the haunted body affect a spectator when posed with a multiplicity of previous experiences from a performer?”

I would also use The Human Ear by Alexandra Wood and Lungs by Duncan Macmillan as there was a shared space, time and performers, a theoretical ‘clean room’. I will also touch on Macmillan’s Every Brilliant Thing due to the creative colouring from the performer in the creative process.

If this is a path I choose to go down, I would have to first define a few terms:

  • ‘Haunted Body’ – Whose body? Is this primarily the actors or could/should it include the haunted body of the spectator as well? Would that fit into the theory or is that an unnecessary stretch…
  • ‘Multiplicity of previous experiences’ – What defines the experience? Time constraint? is there a minimum number of experiences before ‘ghosting’ can commit? How vivid must the experience be? Must it be positive or could it be negative?
  • ‘Affect’ in a positive or negative? Does it matter as long as the experience takes place? This may depend on the route I chose to take with my argument.
  • Through looking at the spectator I would like to touch on the haunted nature of genre and the space of the theatre. We are ghosted by opinions as well as our own experiences. How did the Roundabout/Riverhead theatre space give way to this?

I would like to pose an argument within the structure of the essay to allow for a more formal and linear process:

  • The ghosting experience is a negative and derives a poor final experience for the spectator, marred by previous performances.
  • The ghosting is a positive experience, it allows for a more layered and detailed relationship between actor and spectator which can only serve to better connect audience to actor. This also generates a more personal experience for each individual as they bring their personal previous experiences to the performance.

I’ll most likely sit on this for a few days to tweak wording or syntax of the essay question before posting it to Daniel on Monday.


Contemporary Historical Contexts

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