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Physical theatre is a genre of theatrical performance that encompasses storytelling primarily through physical movement. Although several performance theatre disciplines are often described as "physical theatre," the genre's characteristic aspect is a reliance on the performers' physical motion rather than, or combined with, text to convey storytelling. Performers can communicate through various body gestures (including using the body to portray emotions).
Certain institutions suggest that all physical theatre genres share common characteristics, although individual performances do not need to exhibit all such characteristics to be defined as physical theatre. Research into the training or "work" of physical theatre artists cites an amalgamation of numerous elements adopted as a means to further inform the theatrical research/production. These elements include:|Devised]] origins, rather than originated from
Some practitioners, such as Lloyd Newson,despite being the first company to incorporate the term Physical Theater into his company's title (DV8 Physical Theater), has expressed concern that the expression is now being used as a "miscellaneous" category, which includes anything that does not fall neatly into literary dramatic theater or contemporary dance. He is also frustrated that many companies and performers who describe what they do as physical theatre lack physical skills, training and/or expertise in movement. As such, contemporary theatre approaches (including post-modern performance, devised performance, visual performance, post-dramatic performance, etc.), while having their own distinct definitions, are often simply labelled "physical theatre" for no other reason than they are unusual in some way.
Dance that is of a theatrical nature can also be problematic. A dance piece may be called "physical theatre" simply because it includes elements of spoken word, character, or narrative. However, although it is theatrical and physical, it may not necessarily share anything in common with the physical theatre tradition.
A modern physical theatre has grown from a variety of origins. Mime and theatrical clowning schools, such as L'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, have had a big influence on many modern expressions of physical theatre. Practitioners such as Steven Berkoff and John Wright received their initial training at such institutions. Contemporary dance has also had a strong influence on what we regard as physical theatre, partly because most physical theatre requires actors to have a certain level of physical control and flexibility. These qualities are rarely found in those who do not have some sort of movement background. Modern physical theatre also has strong roots in more ancient traditions such as Commedia dell'arte , and some suggest links to the ancient greek theatre, particularly the theatre of Aristophanes.
Another physical theatre tradition started with the French master Etienne Decroux (father of corporeal mime). Decroux's aim was to create a theatre based on the physicality of the actor, allowing the creation of a more metaphorical theatre. This tradition has grown, and corporeal mime is now taught in many major theatrical schools.
Daniel Stein, a teacher out of the lineage of Etienne Decroux, has this to say about physical theatre:
'I think physical theatre is much more visceral and audiences are affected much more viscerally than intellectually. The foundation of theatre is a live, human experience, which is different from any other form of art that I know of. Live theatre, where real human beings are standing in front of real human beings, is about the fact that we have all set aside this hour; the sharing goes in both directions. The fact that it is a very physical, visceral form makes it a very different experience from almost anything else that we partake of in our lives. I don’t think we could do it the same way if we were doing literary-based theatre.'
Arguably, the point at which physical theatre became distinct from pure mime is when Jean-Louis Barrault (a student of Decroux) rejected his teacher's notion that the mime should be silent.[ when? ][ citation needed ] If a mime uses their voice then they would have a whole range of possibilities open to them that previously would not have existed. This idea became known as "Total Theatre" and Barrault advocated that no theatrical element should assume primacy over another: movement, music, visual image, text etc. He viewed each element as equally important, and believed that each should be explored for their possibilities.
Barrault was a member of Michel Saint-Denis's company, alongside Antonin Artaud.Artaud has also been highly influential in shaping what has become known as physical theatre. Artaud rejected the primacy of the text and suggested a theatre in which the proscenium arch is disposed of to have a more direct relationship with the audience.
Eastern theatre traditions have influenced some practitioners who have then influenced physical theatre. A number of Oriental traditions have a high level of physical training, and are visual masterpieces. The Japanese Noh tradition, in particular, has often been often upon. The energy and visual nature of Balinese theatre fascinated Antonin Artaud and he wrote extensively on it. Noh has been important for many practitioners including Lecoq, who based his neutral mask on the calm mask of Noh. Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook, Jacques Copeau and Joan Littlewood have all been consciously influenced by Noh. Alongside contemporary western practitioners, certain Japanese theatre practitioners were influenced by their own traditions. Tadashi Suzuki drew partly on Noh and his students and collaborators have disseminated his highly physical training into the west. This has particularly happened through Anne Bogart's collaboration with him, and the simultaneous training of her actors in both the Viewpoints method and Suzuki training. As well as Suzuki, the Butoh Movement, which originated from Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno contained elements of Noh imagery and physicality. Butoh, again, has been influencing Western practitioners in recent years, and has certain similarities with Lecoq's mime training in terms of ideas (impression and consequential embodiment of imagery, use of mask, etc.)
Besides a gradual infusion of ideas from outside the Western theatre tradition, influences have arisen from within in theatre as well starting with Konstantin Stanislavski. Later in life, Stanislavski began to reject his own ideas of naturalism,and started to pursue ideas relating to the physical body in performance. Meyerhold and Grotowski developed these ideas and began to develop actor training that included a very high level of physical training. Peter Brook influenced and developed this work.
Contemporary dance has added significantly to this mix, starting particularly with Rudolf von Laban. Laban developed a way of looking at movement outside codified dance, and was instrumental in envisioning and creating movement not just for dancers but for actors as well. Later on, the Tanzteater of Pina Bausch and others looked at the relationship between dance and theatre. In America, the postmodern dance movement of the Judson Church Dance also began to influence theatre practitioners, as their suggestions for movement and somatic training are equally accessible for those with dance training as those with theatre training. Indeed, Steve Paxton taught theatre students at Dartington College of Arts and other institutions.
Physical theatre companies and practitioners include:
Acting is an activity in which a story is told by means of its enactment by an actor or actress who adopts a character—in theatre, television, film, radio, or any other medium that makes use of the mimetic mode.
Jerzy Marian Grotowski was a Polish theatre director and theorist whose innovative approaches to acting, training and theatrical production have significantly influenced theatre today. He was born in Rzeszów, in South-eastern Poland in 1933 and studied acting and directing at the Ludwik Solski Academy of Dramatic Arts in Kraków and Russian Academy of Theatre Arts in Moscow. He debuted as a director in 1957 in Kraków with Eugène Ionesco's play Chairs and shortly afterwards founded a small Laboratory Theatre in 1959 in the town of Opole in Poland. During the 1960s, the company began to tour internationally and his work attracted increasing interest. As his work gained wider acclaim and recognition, Grotowski was invited to work in the United States and he left Poland in 1982. Although the company he founded in Poland closed a few years later in 1984, he continued to teach and direct productions in Europe and America. However, Grotowski became increasingly uncomfortable with the adoption and adaptation of his ideas and practices, particularly in the US. So, at what seemed to be the height of his public profile, he left America and moved to Italy where he established the Grotowski Workcenter in 1985 in Pontedera, near Pisa. At this centre he continued his theatre experimentation and practice and it was here that he continued to direct training and private theatrical events almost in secret for the last twenty years of his life. Suffering from leukemia and a heart condition, he died in 1999 at his home in Pontedera.
A mask is an object normally worn on the face, typically for protection, disguise, performance, or entertainment. Masks have been used since antiquity for both ceremonial and practical purposes, as well as in the performing arts and for entertainment. They are usually worn on the face, although they may also be positioned for effect elsewhere on the wearer's body.
Noh is a major form of classical Japanese dance-drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Developed by Kan'ami and his son Zeami, it is the oldest major theatre art that is still regularly performed today. Although the terms Noh and nōgaku are sometimes used interchangeably, nōgaku encompasses both Noh and kyōgen. Traditionally, a full nōgaku program includes five Noh plays with comedic kyōgen plays in between; an abbreviated program of two Noh plays with one kyōgen piece has become common today. Optionally, an okina play may be presented in the very beginning of nōgaku presentation.
Experimental theatre began in Western theatre in the late 19th century with Alfred Jarry and his Ubu plays as a rejection of both the age in particular and, in general, the dominant ways of writing and producing plays. The term has shifted over time as the mainstream theatre world has adopted many forms that were once considered radical.
Jean-Louis Barrault was a French actor, director and mime artist who worked on both screen and stage.
Jacques Lecoq, was a French stage actor and acting movement coach. He was best known for his teaching methods in physical theatre, movement, and mime which he taught at the school he founded in Paris known as École internationale de théâtre Jacques Lecoq. He taught there from 1956 until his death from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1999.
The Theatre of Cruelty is a form of theatre generally associated with Antonin Artaud. Artaud, who was briefly a member of the surrealist movement, outlined his theories in The Theatre and its Double. The Theatre of Cruelty can be seen as a break from traditional Western theatre and a means by which artists assault the senses of the audience. Artaud's works have been highly influential on artists including Jean Genet, Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook, and Romeo Castellucci.
École internationale de théâtre Jacques Lecoq is a school of physical theatre located on Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. Founded in 1956 by Jacques Lecoq, the school offers a professional and intensive two-year course emphasizing the body, movement and space as entry point in theatrical performance and prepares its students to create collaboratively. This method is called mimodynamics. The school’s graduate list includes renowned figures of stage such as Ariane Mnouchkine of Théâtre du Soleil, Steven Berkoff and Simon McBurney of Théâtre de Complicité among others.
Étienne Decroux was a French actor who studied at Jacques Copeau's École du Vieux-Colombier, where he saw the beginnings of what was to become his life's obsession–corporeal mime. During his long career as a film and theatre actor, he created many pieces, using the human body as the primary means of expression.
A mime artist or just mime is a person who uses mime as a theatrical medium or as a performance art. Miming involves acting out a story through body motions, without the use of speech. In earlier times, in English, such a performer would typically be referred to as a mummer. Miming is distinguished from silent comedy, in which the artist is a character in a film or skit without sound.
Thomas Leabhart is an American corporeal mime and corporeal mime teacher.
Charles Dullin was a French actor, theater manager and director.
The Russian Institute of Theatre Arts – GITIS is the largest and oldest independent theatrical arts school in Russia. Located in Moscow, the school was founded on 22 September 1878 as the Shostakovsky Music School. It became the School of Music and Drama of the Moscow Philharmonic Society in 1883, was elevated to the status of a conservatory in 1886, was renamed the Institute of Music and Drama in 1918, and was known as the Lunacharsky State Institute for Theatre Arts (GITIS) from 1934 to 1991.
Corporeal mime is an aspect of physical theater whose objective is to place drama inside the moving human body, rather than to substitute gesture for speech as in pantomime. In this medium, the mime must apply to physical movement those principles that are at the heart of drama: pause, hesitation, weight, resistance and surprise. Corporeal mime accentuates the vital importance of the body and physical action on stage.
Twentieth-century theatre describes a period of great change within the theatrical culture of the 20th century, mainly in Europe and North America. There was a widespread challenge to long-established rules surrounding theatrical representation; resulting in the development of many new forms of theatre, including modernism, Expressionism, Impressionism, political theatre and other forms of Experimental theatre, as well as the continuing development of already established theatrical forms like naturalism and realism.
A theatre practitioner is someone who creates theatrical performances and/or produces a theoretical discourse that informs of his or her practical work. A theatre practitioner may be a director, dramatist, actor, designer or a combination of these traditionally separate roles. Theatre practice describes the collective work that various theatre practitioners do. Theatre practitioner also refers to one who practices theatre.
Devised theatre - frequently called collective creation - is a method of theatre-making in which the script or performance score originates from collaborative, often improvisatory work by a performing ensemble. The ensemble is typically made up of actors, but other categories of theatre practitioner may also be central to this process of generative collaboration, such as visual artists, composers, and choreographers; indeed, in many instances, the contributions of collaborating artists may transcend professional specialization. This process is similar to that of commedia dell'arte and street theatre. It also shares some common principles with improvisational theatre; however, in devising, improvisation is typically confined to the creation process: by the time a devised piece is presented to the public, it usually has a fixed, or partly fixed form. Historically, devised theatre is also strongly aligned with physical theatre, due at least in part to the fact that training in such physical performance forms as commedia, mime, and clown tends to produce an actor-creator with much to contribute to the creation of original work.
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance: a play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on radio or television. Considered as a genre of poetry in general, the dramatic mode has been contrasted with the epic and the lyrical modes ever since Aristotle's Poetics —the earliest work of dramatic theory.
A movement director arranges actors' movements in a variety of production settings that include theatre, television, film, opera, fashion and animation.
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