Discussion Questions

  • Plasticity is a key concept in Stanislavski’s understandings of the actor’s work on character. Take a scene in a play from Chekhov or Ibsen, and try to understand how certain poses or frames might depict the inner life of a character. In pairs, try and insert a stop-motion approach to the analysis of a scene, and explore or describe the kind of plasticity, or transitional moves that need to be made between one set of poses or ‘attitudes’ and another. This requires observation of the tiniest shift in facial expression, comportment or inclination to move. Repeat with as many variations as necessary to find the inner plasticity of a small section in the scene. 
  • A detailed anthropology of ‘gestic’ movements can be analysed in the frame by frame still images of the Modell-buchs for Mother Courage and Antigone created by Brecht with photographs, notes and annotations. Some libraries have copies of these or there are reproduction photos on line. These powerful ‘assemblages’ progress the dynamics of Brecht’s theatre. Take a few scenes and discuss what each grouping represents. In terms of Brecht’s theatre, such movement assemblages are iconic, and it becomes difficult to construct alternatives, how might you open up Mother Courage to other dynamics?
  • Examine the documentary photos of Grotowski’s production of The Constant Prince and consider the exercises described in his book, Towards a Poor Theatre, as well as more current Grotowski manuals. Utilise some of the exercises to understand the extreme ways in which he tested the limits of the body. His notion of the inner truth of the corporeal actor draws heavily upon Yoga traditions and may be less alien now than it was during the 1960s and 1970s. What advantages and disadvantages does unfamiliar movement techniques have for the actor? 
  • The intensification of the actor’s physical experience of movement witnessed by the audience – evidenced by endurance, sweat, extraordinary bodily feats, self-flagellation, risk-taking – is a feature of much contemporary performance, what is the appeal of such ecstatic experience at the theatre?
  • Watch the footage of Oentroerend Goed’s Audience slowly and in sections of about 20 minutes each, and try to participate along with the live audience. What are the tactics they are using to manipulate the audience’s responses? Are they convincing or too obvious? And how do you feel about the shift in dynamics between the stage and the audience? And the use of the film footage? Debate the ethics and politics of crowd movement exemplified in this avant-garde production.