Saturday, November 22, 2014

Modern Theatre – Reigniting Theatre Styles from Naturalism to Post-Modernism

Modern Theatre – Reigniting Theatre Styles from Naturalism to Post-Modernism

(Workshop given at the Ignite 2014 Drama Victoria State Conference, University of Melbourne, November 28, 2014)
By Mark Eckersley

This workshop is one that I often do as an introduction or a revision for Undergraduate Drama students, IB Theatre students or VCE and HSC Theatre Studies (or Drama) students. It covers the Six of the Best of Modern Theatre – Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Artaud, Brecht, Growtowski and Schechner. In 90 minutes, this workshop will go through exercises in all the styles stimulated by the styles and work of these theatre practitioners.

Stanislavsky (1863-1938) and the Art of the Actor

Stanislavsky helps to light the first flame of Realism. Stanislavsky started his theatrical life as an actor in Moscow in the late 1880's. In the early 1890's, he set out to create a system to help achieve and develop a realistic style of performance. He combined this with his use of naturalistic sets and costumes. In the busy Slavic Bazaar restaurant in Moscow, the director and the dramaturg, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko, met at 2pm for lunch to forge the ideas for a new theatre. They finished 18 hours later at 8am after breakfast at Stanislavsky's family estate, having discussed all the elements of a theatre ensemble and system which would change the face of theatre. They mapped out everything from specific actor training to directing and dramaturgy to artistic ideals, rehearsal structures, compilation of plays and seasons. They emerged with a system, approach and doctrine for a theatrical revolution.


The workshop will explore some of the aspects of the Stanislavsky System. Stanislavsky believed in creating the internal and external life of the character. Some of the elements of this are:
•       Imagination and the ‘Magic If’
•       Belief
•       Concentration
•       Relaxation
•       Units and Objectives
•       Physical Control
•       Speech Versatility & Control
•       Communication
•       Vocal Communication
•       Subtext – Emotional Memory
•       Tempo-Rhythm

Here are some exercises to develop different aspects of realistic acting in the Stanislavsky System:

Units and Objectives
  1.  Take a scene and read it through and divide it into the Units of Action. Use the following scene from Chekov's 'The Three Sisters':
"MASHA [sits down]. Did you love my mother?

CHEBUTYKIN. Very much.

MASHA. And did she love you?

CHEBUTYKIN [after a pause]. That I don't remember.

MASHA. When you get happiness by snatches, by little bits, and then lose it, as I'm losing it, by degrees one grows coarse and spiteful…"

Label or title each unit with the name of the character driving the action first and then the major action and then the name of characters or characters or object most affected by the action. The verb or action word used should be a verb or action that is not too intellectual or one that can be acted. i.e. A unit in 'Macbeth' Act 1 Scene 3 could be "The Third Witch tempts Macbeth".
  1. Find what the objective or want is for the character driving the unit. The objective can be phrased as a 'want' of the character. i.e. In the same sequence of 'Macbeth' Act 1 Scene 3 could be "The Third Witch wants Macbeth to be drawn into the Witches' plan". Alternatively, the objective can be changed into a 'verb' so that the character driving the unit decides what he or she is doing to the other character. The character can say the line and 'do' the action and then try to keep the objective or intention and just reflect it in the way he or she says the line. i.e. With the line "Though shalt get kings though though be none..." the actor playing the Third Witch could decide that she wants to caress or stroke Macbeth with this line. The actor does the action to the actor playing Macbeth and then attempts to get the sense of this action through the way she says the line.
  2. To intensify the sense of 'wanting' the objective, the teacher places a coin or key or enticement on the floor about 6 metres from the actor and the teacher asks the actor to close his or her eyes and walk forward and grab the enticement. The actor should prepare and really 'want' to 'gain' the object before actually trying to 'gain' the object with his or her eyes closed. The actor then realises the intensity needed to desire or want an objective on stage.

1.    The teacher could begin the work on Belief with an exercise in which the students do not even realise they are participating. Come into the studio in a real flap and tell the students you've lost your wallet, car keys, glasses, register, notes on Stanislavski, whatever you like. Make sure it is something really important - without the lost item, you, or they, will be in real trouble - so that they are really looking everywhere.  It's up to you to keep the urgency going in any way you can. Keep it going as long as you can, constantly whipping up their concern and commitment to the task. Eventually you disclose that this is all an exercise and that you want them to repeat their search from the beginning, trying to remember how they felt, behaved, etc. Observe them carefully. How convincing are they? Do they believe in what they are doing? How can you tell? Comment on their 'performance' as fully as you can. The discussion will help to realise how difficult it is to re-create something as 'real' in performance. Another way of doing this is to let one or two students in on the secret at the beginning, giving them instructions to observe closely the differences in feeling, commitment and sincerity between the two searches. 
Central to Stanislavski's System is believing in what you are doing. Only if the actor believes will the audience believe. They are drawn in by the sincerity of what the actor is doing. Basically the whole System is the set of aids by which the actor is helped to believe he is the role he is creating. 
Despite the fact the whole System is working towards belief, I find it helpful to do some 'belief exercises with students early on, which can prove a number of important things, starting with the realisation that belief 'in limbo' is well-nigh impossible.

2.    Sit in a circle. Teacher leads by passing a scrumpled up piece of paper around the circle and telling them it is a bird that has fallen out of its nest, fully feathered but not yet able to fly. The students must be very gentle. Keep talking about the bird, its colour, size, the brightness of its eyes, ' Look at its beak opening, perhaps it's hungry'; 'How its claws grip, don't they?' - you are trying to build up belief by building up visual facts to hang onto. 
When the bird returns to you, you can do a number of things. 
You can mash it in your hands - this cruelly tests belief - those who have begun to believe will be horrified. You could gently place it in a box, or take it outside. It is up to you. The seriousness with which you, the teacher, approach this gives the students a clue as to how seriously these actors' exercises should be taken.
3.    Acting is also about Belief and Intention. Still in the circle, pass round an envelope containing a blank piece of paper. If the intention is different or what we project upon other people or objects changes, then this changes the way we treat the person or object. Acting is re-acting.
Use the paper as:
·      a love letter
·      a coded message containing escape plans
·      exam results
·      a letter calling off the engagement
·      the offer of a job
·      news that your son has been killed in the war
·      the letter has been given to you by mistake

4.    Pass an object around and each person must use it in a different way convincingly. The object could just be a stick, or the biro you have in your pocket. It could be used as a comb, a dagger, a mobile phone, etc. 
Variation: scatter and use any object in the room as something it is not; retain the same object and change what you use it as at least twice more.

After this series of exercises discuss the difficulties. Some will have the quality of 'naivety' that allows them to lose themselves in the imagination quickly and easily. Whether they could sustain that quality with a number of distractions is another matter. Others will have found it difficult to do these exercises. These students may well be those who are most honest about 'feeling' and 'believing' themselves. Encourage this honesty. Encourage them to see the difference between 'pretending' and 'believing'. 

This is the same relationship that 'magic if and 'given circumstances' have to one another. 'If is the plunge that the imagination is taking - 'if this piece of paper were a bird that had fallen from its nest ' - the imagination then asks questions - what? why? how? etc., it needs more detail, more facts, more 'given circumstances' - beak, bright eyes, colour, etc. Each new fact acts as an aid, a kind of fixative, to the imagination.

5.    Use a stick, a strip of stiff cardboard or similar. The stick is a knife. It is used in an exercise that in some way involves life and death: you are contemplating killing a rival, or freeing a condemned captive, or performing an operation under difficult circumstances in which the patient may die.

You will need to build up a whole scenario answering the questions who? why? when? where? how? etc. Each one of these invented facts, or circumstances, will help the process of belief and make it easier. It will be helpful to build up belief in the 'knife' by starting with a kind of meditation on the object. Concentrate totally on it till you see its shape, size, feel its weight, test its sharpness and so on. Only when you really believe in the knife should you complete the exercise and perform the scene.
After the exercise is finished, jot down how many elements of the System are used and interrelated here. Magic if, given circumstances, concentration, imagination. All the elements feed into one another.

6.    Test the inter-relationship of imagination/magic if with given circumstances to aid belief in another series of exercises:
Find your own space. You are cooking. There is your stove in front of you, saucepans and so on. Now begin.

Now start the exercise again, but give it a specific scenario:
·      You are preparing a supper for a boy/ girl friend, wanting very much to impress with your capability; your parents are out for the evening, your special visitor is due to arrive in half an hour.
·      You are a busy chef in a popular restaurant at half past ten on a Saturday night. Orders are coming from all directions, it is hot, the noise level is terrific...

Extensions: Try some enter/exit exercises. Treat it as a game with volunteers performing from the following categories in turn. Others must guess, for instance, where they are coming from.

References and Resources - Stanislavsky

Meyerhold (1874-1940) – Constructivism and Biomechanics

Vsevolod (Karl) Emilevich Meyerhold was born Penza in central Russia (800km from Moscow) in 1874. The son of the owner of a vodka distillery, he was an inspirational Russian and Soviet actor, theatre director and producer. He started off working with Konstantin Stanislavsky as an actor in the Moscow Art Theatre then moved on to working in Constructivism and inventing a system called Biomechanics.

Biomechanics brought physical acting and acrobatics skills back into serious theatre because he saw these as the key to a true proletariat theatre of the people. Footage of the rehearsals is evident at:

On June 20, 1939, Meyerhold was arrested in Leningrad (formerly St Petersburg). On July 15, 1939, his actress wife Zinaida Reich was found dead in their Moscow apartment with almost a dozen stab wounds. Soon after Meyerhold was violently tortured and forced to admit he was a spy working for the British and Japanese jointly. He later withdrew this confession. There was a sham trial, where Meyerhold was accused of leading anti-Soviet Trotsky supported groups. Meyerhold was on February 1st 1940, at 8am in the morning, killed by firing squad.

Exercises in Meyerhold’s System and Biomechanics

The bio-mechanical system of Vsevolod Emilevich Meyerhold can be defined not only as a system for the basic grounding of actors but for staging productions. Exercises tried to train actors and use every part of the body and practice every movement an actor might do. Meyerhold’s system brought revolution in the four elements of:

·      stage area

·      audience relationship

·      actor training and performance

·      dramatic subject matter or dramaturgy

Some of the elements of the style of Meyerhold’s theatre could be seen as:

1.    anti-illusionistic and non-naturalistic theatre

2.    stylisation

3.    use of rhythm and music

4.    use of mask or the body as a mask

5.    the grotesque

6.    biomechanics

7.    Robotic and/or hieroglyphic-like gestures or movements

8.    Use of cinematic montage scenic techniques & Chaplin-like cinematic acting

Exercises - Meyerhold

Explore the words and actions in the following extract from Chekhov’s The Three Sisters script realistically and then explore them using Meyerhold's ideas and discuss the difference. Discuss how you would create each of the eight ideas presented above.


Act I

(In the house of the PROZOROVS. A drawing-room with columns beyond which a large room is visible. Mid-day; it is bright and sunny. The table in the farther room is being laid for lunch.)

(OLGA, in the dark blue uniform of a high-school teacher, is correcting exercise books, at times standing still and then walking up and down; MASHA, in a black dress, with her hat on her knee, is reading a book; IRINA, in a white dress, is standing plunged in thought.)

OLGA: Father died just a year ago, on this very day -- the fifth of May, your name-day, Irina. It was very cold, snow was falling. I felt as though I should not live through it; you lay fainting as though you were dead. But now a year has passed and we can think of it calmly; you are already in a white dress, your face is radiant. [The clock strikes twelve.] The clock was striking then too [a pause]. I remember the band playing and the firing at the cemetery as they carried the coffin. Though he was a general in command of a brigade, yet there weren't many people there. It was raining, though. Heavy rain and snow.

IRINA: Why recall it!

[BARON TUZENBAKH, CHEBUTYKIN and SOLYONY appear near the table in the dining-room, beyond the columns.]

OLGA: It is warm today, we can have the windows open, but the birches are not in leaf yet. Father was given his brigade and came here with us from Moscow eleven years ago and I remember distinctly that in Moscow at this time, at the beginning of May, everything was already in flower; it was warm, and everything was bathed in sunshine. It's eleven years ago, and yet I remember it all as though we had left it yesterday. Oh, dear! I woke up this morning, I saw a blaze of sunshine. I saw the spring, and joy stirred in my heart. I had a passionate longing to be back at home again!

CHEBUTYKIN. The devil it is!

TUZENBAKH. Of course, it's nonsense.

Stylisation draws on the physical expressivity of the actor's movements and dialogue and Meyerhold often experimented with this through the use of tableaux.


Explore the same scene through the use of only tableaux.

Meyerhold also believed in creating strong physical stage images. Meyerhold believed that the creativity of the actor is shown in his movements which is enhanced and extended by the use of masks. Meyerhold's mask training was explored through make-up, hair, hats, scarves, eye glasses as well as Commedia dell ‘arte masks. Masks therefore enabled the paradoxical nature of theatre to be explored in rehearsals and performance.


The following exercise can be done with any sort of mask. Get the actors to put on a mask and to slowly do the following actions:

                inspect yourself completely from all angles

                explore your gestures and movements

                observe what other characters are doing but do not approach them

                extend your inspecting to look at the room you are in

                examine and explore all the windows and their functions

                examine and explore all the chairs and their functions

                go in and out of the doors

                find a place in the room and make yourself at home.


Much of Meyerhold’s work involved circus and acrobatics techniques. Take the following dramatic scene from 'The Three Sisters' and perform it using some of the text and actions using circus techniques like juggling, acrobatics and clowning techniques.

IRINA [shudders]. Everything frightens me somehow today [a pause]. All my things are ready, after dinner I'll send off my luggage. The baron and I are to be married tomorrow, tomorrow we go to the brick factory and the day after that I'll be in the school. A new life is beginning…

KULYGIN. Well, today the officers will be gone and everything will go on in the old way. Whatever people may say, Masha is a true, good woman. I love her dearly and am thankful for my lot! People have different lots in life…

MASHA [sits down]. Did you love my mother?

CHEBUTYKIN. Very much.

MASHA. And did she love you?

CHEBUTYKIN [after a pause]. That I don't remember.

MASHA. When you get happiness by snatches, by little bits, and then lose it, as I'm losing it, by degrees one grows coarse and spiteful…

ANDREY. When will they be quiet in the house? There's such a noise.


Meyerhold was committed to The Grotesque. This is the style of contrasts which allows the actors to switch the audience from an emotion or understanding of what s/he has just seen to another which is totally unforeseen emotion or action. Meyerhold used the contradictions in surprise to help disturb his audience by creating shifts and changes in the reactions to the performance. He called this changing The Pitch of a scene. Elements of The Grotesque isolated by Meyerhold were:

·      The Grotesque mixes opposites: tragedy and comedy, life and death, beauty and ugliness

·      it celebrates incongruities

·      it challenges our perceptions

·      it is naturally mischievous, even satirical

·      it borrows from different (and unlikely) sources

·      it always has a touch of the diabolical, the devil's influence

·      it stretches the natural to the extent that it becomes unnatural or stylized

·      it revels in fantasy and mystery

·      it is constantly transforming things: objects, figures, landscapes and atmospheres

Explore one of the scenes from The Three Sisters using contradictory or Grotesque elements.

Biomechanics Exercises

Biomechamics was a system of training which tries to uses every movement which an actor might encounter. Meyerhold primarily developed this for his proletariat actor who would be a worker who would work all day and only have a short time to prepare in training for performance. This system sees the human body as a machine and the actor as a machinist. Biomechanics attempts to use exercises to train actors in the most efficient and least time consuming set of exercises and movements. This is seen by many to be an outside-in approach to acting whereby the actor does the action first and then develops the intention or emotion second.

The Dactyl is an exercise which is important to most Biomechanics training.

1.    Stand with your feet shoulder width part and your arms by your side

2.    Slowly lean forward so you can feel your toes taking the weight and strain

3.    Bend your knees and bring your arms back (like a swimmer about to dive into a swimming pool)

4.    Then raise your hands above your head, straighten your legs and come onto your toes all in one swift action

5.    Let your arms now bend and your elbows travel towards your hips

6.    Make your arms parallel to the floor and your back bowed

7.    Clap downwards and as quickly and sharply as you can twice (the body should bounce in rhythm with this double clap)

8.    Return to neutral with your arms by your sides.

References and Resources - Meyerhold

Artaud (1896-1948) and Theatre of Cruelty

Antonin Artaud was a French actor, playwright, theatre director and theorist. His best known work is The Theatre and Its Double and he invented the notion of Theatre of Cruelty. Artaud wanted theatre to return to magic and ritual and create a new theatrical language of totem and gesture where the theatrical space would be devoid of spoken dialogue and appeal to the senses. In 1931, Artaud saw a Balinese dance performed at the Paris Colonial Exposition and he saw that the body could express story, character and extreme emotion without words.

Artaud’s 1935 adaptation of Shelley’s The Cenci involved the first use of electronic sounds and sound effects on stage. Balthus also designed a sensual and erotic set for this piece. Artaud was influenced by psychology and Surrealism and was addicted to opiates and heroin. He spent most of his life in and out of mental institutions. He once visited Ireland with what he thought was St Patrick’s walking stick. He was deported back to France and ended up in a straightjacket in a mental asylum.

Artaud said: "Words say little to the mind, compared to space thundering with images and crammed with sounds… where the spectator is seized by the theatre as by a whirlwind of higher forces." 

Text from Artaud play and poem 'Jardin Noir':

"Spin the eddies of the sky inside these black petals.
Shadows have covered the earth that bears us.
Open a pathway to the plough amongst your stars.
Enlighten us, escort us with your host,
Silver legions, on the mortal course
Which we strive towards at the core of night."


·      Timed Breathing & Circular Nose Breathing
·      Walking – Balancing the space as a plate, as a magnet, fluid circular movement, straight lines, angles, combinations
·      Transitioning from one to other, transferring and transitioning states
·      Use the body as the voice. Try the following emotions using the parts of the body to express the emotion or action – crying foot, grieving hand, laughing knee, kissing elbow. Now try to express these emotions and actions with your whole body.
·      Try to have your whole body embody a complex emotional state such as Isolation, Revolt, Cruelty, Assimilation and Disgust. Now see if two people interacting can transfer their complex state to one another.
·      Artaud believed that spoken language destroys theatre. Take a script and using only the vowels of the dialogue as the text and the bodies of the actors create a piece which assaults the senses.

Resources and References - Artaud

Brecht and Epic Theatre (1898-1956)

Brecht was a German playwright and director who fought against Nazism and using his own plays and the work of Piscator to create Epic Theatre. This form of theatre is “non-Aristotelian” rejecting catharsis, empathy and imitation in Aristotle's terms, in favor of "alienation effect.”

Russian Formalists used the term ostranenie (making strange) and Piscator in fact developed the first epic theatre model. Brecht viewed theatre as part of an enlightenment project, not mere entertainment. He saw that Epic Theatre includes:
            Socioeconomic basis for theatre as spectacle, subject matter, and audience involvement
            Plays/production style as commentary on society; goal is to instigate social change.
            Author as producer, as maker as of any other product
            Destroy the theatrical illusion
            Dialectical theatre: discordant, jarring elements (music v. text or commentary by actors, for example)
            In theory, Brecht's plays are “anti-illusionistic.” Can be seen as a reaction to theatre of the late nineteenth century, with its emphasis on spectacle
       Brecht developed the Verfremdungseffekt or "Alienation-effect"

Brecht’s techniques and practices include:
·      Signs, placards or projections which tell us what's going to happen before each scene, to disrupt the illusion, give us a context or message on which to base our observations.
·      Masks and puppetry
·      Visible stage machinery (expose the technology of theatre)
·      Use of music to interrupt and comment on action
·      Acting exercises to induce the “alienation effect.”
·      Acting in the third person
·      Having actors describe their moves and gestures outside the written dialogue
·      Exploring the “gest” of character. Gest meaning both gesture and gist.
·      Students pair up and move around a grid at a fast pace. When the instructor claps his hands, each pair tries to make instant statues of the following: Romeo and Juliet; summer and winter; cat and mouse; hero and coward; song and dance; rich and poor; war and peace. Such poses represents "gest," the conveying of attitude or point of view through gesture.

Exercises - Brecht

·      Sometimes using Bertolt Brecht's poems is a good starting place to do work on Brecht before working on the plays. Here is a poem which workes well as a text for Brecht work:
‘The Burning of Books’
By Bertolt Brecht

When the Regime commanded that books with harmful knowledge
Should be publicly burned and on all sides
Oxen were forced to drag cartloads of books
To the bonfires, a banished
Writer, one of the best, scanning the list of the Burned, was shocked to find that his
Books had been passed over. He rushed to his desk
On wings of wrath, and wrote a letter to those in power ,
Burn me! he wrote with flying pen, burn me! Haven’t my books
Always reported the truth ? And here you are
Treating me like a liar! I command you!
Burn me!

  • Students pair up and move around a grid at a fast pace. When the instructor claps his hands, each pair tries to make instant statues of the following: Romeo and Juliet; summer and winter; cat and mouse; hero and coward; song and dance; rich and poor; war and peace. Such poses represents "gest," the conveying of attitude or point of view through gesture. 
  • The director gets a list of songs in four or five different styles that the actor or actors know well. The actor or actors is told to select a potentially climatic or emotional speech from a play and just at the moment of greatest tension or emotion, the director yells out the name of the song known to the actors or actors (the director should chose a song which does not capture the emotion, mood or atmosphere being portrayed). The actor or actors must break into the song and after they have finished return to the speech or scne or return to the end of the speech or scene. 
  • The director selects for the actor/actors a potentially climatic or emotional speech from a play. It should be a moment where the actor reveals something and/or primarily speaks in the first person. The actor is asked to act out the gestures and actions as he would normally do them. The actor is instructed by the director to convert all the vocal aspects, speech and individual utterances into the past tense and the third person (i.e. “So I ask you to turn back and to bring me home” becomes “So HE asked you to turn back and brought HIM home.”). 
  • Choose a scene where there are many directions, emotions and actions written in the script. The director instructs the actor/actors to read all their lines and the stage directions as well. The actor can sometimes act out the stage directions but only as “past tense”, in other words only after they have spoken the directions out aloud without emotion. "...the epic poet presents the event as totally past, while the dramatic poet presents it as totally present." 
  • “The epic invites calm, detached contemplation and judgement; the dramatic overwhelms reason with passion and emotion, the spectator sharing the actor's experiences.”

References and Resources - Brecht

Growtowski (1933-1999) and Poor Theatre

Jerzy Growtowski is a Polish theatre practitioner who developed the notion of Poor Theatre and Para-Theatre at his Laboratory Theatre in Opole in Poland during the 1960’s and 70’s. He experimented with his actors on creating a physical, spiritual and ritualistic theatre dependant on the relationship with the space and audience, not the artifices of theatre like set and costume. This is where he gets the concept of ‘poor’ theatre since his theatre centres on the skill of the actors to create everything. Growtowski experimented with using non-theatre spaces for performance and often had the audience situated on many sides or actually situated amongst the action depicted by the actors.

Acting in the style of Poor Theatre places emphasis on the physical skill of the performer and uses props for transformation into other objects, sometimes of great significance. His style often involved:

·      physical movement done to the extreme or point of exhaustion
·      using the space to inform and help determine the way a performance will take shape
·      intense exploration of the relationship between participant and spectator to the point of eliminating the division
·      putting the audience all around and sometimes making the actors fluctuate between sometimes being performer and sometimes being spectator

      Begin by doing nothing. Avoid the ‘beautiful lie’ by not feeling compelled to do anything. Choose an object in the room that you can see and take one aspect of its shape and let your body transform into that shape. Then come back to a neutral. Do the same with another shape.
      Roll the head. Use the open “ah” sound as you roll the head. Increase the intensity of the voice. Bring in the arms. Raise them when the head is up and the sound most open.
      Now choose a sound that you can hear and replicate that sound. Come back to neutral. Choose another sound and do the same. Now move around the room and when you see an object, transform into that object. Then choose a sound and replicate that. Eventually try to transform into the shape of one abject while creating the sound of something else.

You can use the following text from Growtoeski's production of 'Acropolis':
Acropolis Scene 1

"Come here on this day of the Sacrifice
to the cemetery of the tribes [(our Acropolis)]
only once a year.
They come only once a year
to the cemetery of the tribes [(our Acropolis)].
The Words of the verdict are read
at the cemetery of the tribes [(our Acropolis)].
They have gone - and rings of smoke unreel."
"He says that wherever he steps there's a grave."
Am I alone? O, where are my brothers?
They are bent over, and the stones tremble at my feet.
Someone's tears? Someone weeps. - Is someone standing there?
Brother, is it you? - It's you!"

References and Resources - Growtowski

Schechner (1934-Now) and Environmental Theatre

Schechner is a American director, writer, theorist and academic who founded the Performance Group in 1968 and invented a form of theatre called Environmental Theatre and also helped to invented the theory of Performance Studies that advocates that all research (even outside the Performing Arts) has a performative aspect. 

Schechner shaped the space or theatre to conform to each play and its themes and the internal space or environment of the text. Sometimes sets were constructed in front of the audience. Sets often used multilevel platforms, balconies, ramps, and scaffolds surrounding a stage that encroached on the audience’s territory, providing a wider range of space for the actors and a greater flexibility of interaction between the audience and performers. The audience of the environmental theatre was invited, even expected, to participate. The Commune, one of Schechner’s first theatre companies, asked the audience’s removal to remove their shoes before entering the space. 

To enhance the immediacy of experience the multiple-focus theatre replaced the traditional single focus, allowing more than one scene to be staged at the same time. The concept of environmental theatre was taken to greater extremes by radical artistic groups as the Bread and Puppet Theatre (U.S based) and Welfare State International (U.K. then internationally-based). Both took art to the streets, often working in derelict urban neighborhoods in the latter half of the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st.

    This first exercise is about “letting the space have its say”. Students find a space in the room which they want to explore. Students start with a ball of their own energy and they establish this and then throw their imaginary ball around and off the surfaces of the space. Let the space and sense of the space control the movement of the imaginary ball. This response is ‘haptic’ (meaning to touch or influence). Schechner advocates through the senses to create a feeling for space.
    As an extension to this, students can ‘narrate’ the space. This is where a person or person acts as the ‘voice’ of the space and tells the students who come into the space what to do in the space. The ‘voice of the space’ can also react to what is being done to him or her by the other students moving in the space i.e. each step can be like a hurt or each touch of a surface can be like a caress.
    Another exercise is the use of Rasaboxes or Sanskrit ‘Emotion Boxes’. Nine areas are drawn on the floor in the space. Workshop participants move within the boxes, jumping from one emotional state to the other and at times engaging interactively.

Any of these exercises can be used with text. Schechner had a fondness for the text of Edward Albee. Use the following text from 'Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'
Fix me a drink.
Haven't you had enough?
I said fix me a drink!
Well, I don't suppose a nightcap
would kill either of us.
A nightcap? Are you kidding? We've got guests.
Got what?
Yeah, guests. People.
We've got guests coming over.
Good Lord, Martha, do you know what time it is?
Who's coming over?

References and Resources - Schechner

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