Keynotes for the 2010 ADSA Conference
Professor Sharon M. Carnicke
Professor of Theatre and Slavic Languages; Associate Dean of Theatre, University of Southern California
“The Bare Bones of Stanislavsky’s Active Analysis”
During the last four years of his life (1934-1938), Stanislavsky and a small band of actors developed an innovative rehearsal technique known as Active Analysis in Russia. They worked behind the closed doors of his home, where he was confined by Stalin who deemed the elderly director’s experimental work subversive of Socialist Realism. Drawing upon traditional archival research, I will trace the technique’s history of suppression and its re-emergence. I will also examine its key theatrical assumptions: that plays are scores for performance, akin to operatic scores; and that the inherent music of acting emerges from the actor’ interactive dynamics.
I will then describe my current experimental work with Active Analysis. For the last two years, I have been the theatre consultant for a team of scientists and engineers who are investigating the physical expression of emotion. In this capacity, I have organized a small company of eighteen student actors to rehearse scenes from Shakespeare and Chekhov using Active Analysis. Our rehearsals are recorded using motion capture photography. Like x-rays that expose bones under skin, motion capture exposes the bones of the actors’ interactions with each other as they embody texts. The resulting screen images, like dancing skeletons, make possible an intensely close analysis of what happens from moment to moment in the rehearsal hall. While the scientists and engineers concern themselves with measurable physical movements, I have been asking a different question. How does Active Analysis, developed for stage in the first half of the twentieth century, adapt to twenty-first century cinematic technologies, like motion capture, which now, more often than not, frame the actor’s art?
In my talk, I hope to do more than dissect Active Analysis, however. By exploring how archival research and practice-based experimentation come together in my project, I also intend to raise a broader issue for the members of ASDSA: How can we, as a field, better research and understand the histories and practices of those arts, like acting, that depend upon ephemeral and embodied knowledge?
Sharon Marie Carnicke is an internationally known expert on the Stanislavsky System for actor training and on film acting. Her works have been translated into five languages. Her books include Stanislavsky In Focus: An Acting Master for the Twenty-First Century (Second Edition), The Theatrical Instinct: Nikolai Evreinov and the Russian Theatre of the Early Twentieth Century, and the co-authored Reframing Screen Performance. Her translations of Anton Chekhov’s plays have been produced nationally, with her Seagull winning an American College Theatre Festival Award at the Kennedy Center. These translations are published as Chekhov: 4 Plays and 3 Jokes.
Because Dr. Carnicke began her career as an actor (first at the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Stratford Connecticut and then in New York) and because she has directed theatrical productions in New York, Los Angeles, and Moscow, she is dedicated to bringing theatrical practice and scholarship together in every area of her work. For example, with funding from the National Science Foundation, she has created a company of USC undergraduate actors who are investigating how actors create roles in the cinematic technology of motion capture. She also conducts a private laboratory in Los Angeles for professional actors on Stanislavsky’s last major technique--Active Analysis. She has given master classes at such notable institutions as the Moscow Art Theatre School, the Russian Academy for Theatre Art (formerly GITIS), at the Sorbonne in France, and Australia’s National Institute for Dramatic Art.
At USC, Dr. Carnicke holds a joint appointment in Theatre and Slavic Languages and Literature. She is a founding member of the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching and received the USC Associates Award for Excellence in Teaching. She teaches both practice-based and academic courses such as Greek and Roman drama, Shakespeare, the performing arts, and acting theory for both stage and screen.
Dr Jacqueline Lo
Head of the School of Cultural Inquiries, The Australian National University; Chair, Asian Australian Studies Research Network
“B(e)aring Memory: Invoking the Dead”
There is a long history of cross-cultural relations between Asians and indigenous peoples that have resulted in polyethnic or mixed-race indigenous communities located in the northern parts of Australia. Despite some important scholarly work in this field, these stories remain largely absent from dominant accounts of the nation. The non-British histories of Australia have, according to Regina Gantner, "never been unknown, but they have also never been privileged into the master narrative of domestic historie". The histories are "not remembered very hard" because they do not extend British history, and yet they continue to surface and trouble settler Australia. The making of memory has been controversial in this country, as evidenced by the so-called "history wars" centering on the representation of settler occupation of indigenous land. As Gay McCauley points out in Unsettled Ground, "At stake, it seems...are not only questions concerning the moral (and financial) responsibility of the present generation for the political and social consequences of wrongs committed in the past but also a profound anxiety about the moral legitimacy of the modern nation state". Within this context, memory-work, and especially the making of monuments to commemorate the past, cannot be disengaged from larger issues about the politics of reproach and culpability. This presentation will focus on In Repose, a site-specific collaborative multi-art form project developed by Mayu Kanamori, Wakako Asano, Vic McEwan and Satsuki Odamura. The artists describe the work which began in 2008 as a kuyo, an act of ceremonial prayer to respect and calm the spirits of the first-generation Japanese migrants who landed on our shores in the late 19th century, and whose remains are interred in marked and unmarked graves in the North. By approaching In Repose as a study in hauntology, I will explore the ethics of invoking the dead through performance. How do we dance for the dead to create a new future for the living?
Associate Professor Jacqueline Lo is Head of the School of Cultural Inquiry at the Australian National University and Adjunct Research Fellow at the Centre for Interweaving Performance Cultures at Freie Universitat Berlin. Her research interests are strongly cross-cultural and interdisciplinary, drawing on performance, critical race, postcolonial and diaspora studies. She is the author of Staging Nation: Postcolonial English Language Theatre in Malaysia and Singapore (2004), Performance and Cosmopolitics (2007, 2009 with Helen Gilbert) and editor of 8 volumes of essays including a forthcoming special issue of Amerasia. Jacquie is Chair of the Asian Australian Studies Research Network and editor of the Diasporic Asia section of Asian Studies Review.
Dr. Julian Meyrick
Research Fellow, Theatre and Drama Program, La Trobe University
“Flesh or Bones? Qualitative and Quantitative Descriptions of Theatre Practice”
I’m looking at you with something in mind. Can you stand it? Some people can’t. Some people run for the hills. When I say hills, I don’t think of whatever hills you think of. We can try to overcome that. The fact that we use the same words for things but don’t have the same things for words. Lady Grey by Will Eno (2005).
If we try to grasp a concept as such, it is fatally transformed into an object, and the price we pay is no longer being able to distinguish it from the conceived thing. Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community (1990 trans. 1991).
This paper is a response to concerns at the ADSA 2009 Conference with the application of academic methods of description to performance-as-research projects. What is the role of description in accounts of theatre works and practices? How do ‘outside’ critical descriptions rank against ‘inside’ self-descriptions? Can different types of account be compared in terms of their absolute value or are all such judgements necessarily partial and perspectival? There are functional, epistemological and ethical issues with how techniques of literary analysis, history and the social sciences frame and describe different aspects of theatre practice. From creative development to financial management, technical production to strategic planning, theatre as an object is complex and multifaceted, yet also holistic. I will argue it is unacceptable to cede to methodological relativism, not to subject descriptive techniques to fundamental questions about their nature, scope and domain assumptions.
The paper will then compare two different descriptive approaches, that of Clifford Geertz’s in Notes on a Balinese Cockfight (1973), a famous example of qualitative description, and Ouellet, Savard and Colbert’s in The Personality of Performing Arts Venues (2008), a contemporary example of quantitative analysis. The different traits and values of these methods will be examined, and comment made on their utility for describing theatre practice. Using the work of Giorgio Agamben and Alain Badiou, I will then further argue that the Real of theatre presents as a figure lying outside the means used to capture it (outside language), so potentially committing different descriptive methods to a common focus. I will end with a reflection on Agamben’s notion of ‘example’ (drawn from The Coming Community) and Badiou’s conception of ‘event’ and ‘truth’ (drawn from Being and Event, 1988 trans. 2005.)
Julian Meyrick: A Research Fellow at La Trobe University, and until recently Associate Director and Literary Advisor at Melbourne Theatre Company, Julian has directed many award-winning theatre productions including for MTC: The Birthday Party, Thom Pain, Enlightenment, The Ghost Writer, A Single Act, Cruel and Tender, Dinner, The Memory of Water, Blue/Orange and Frozen; for STC: The Vertical Hour, Doubt and The Snow Queen; for the Griffin: October. Other credits include many new Australian works such as Luke Devenish’s Grace Among the Christians, St. Rose of Lima and Fun and Games with the Oresteia. He directed Fever and the inaugural production of Who’s Afraid of the Working Class? for the Melbourne Workers Theatre and won the 1998 Green Room Award for Best Director on the Fringe. He was responsible for expanding the Affiliate Writers Scheme at MTC and for initiating the Hard Lines new play program. He is Deputy Chair of Play Writing Australia and an Honorary Fellow at Deakin University. As a theatre historian he has published an account of Nimrod Theatre, See How It Runs (2003), a history of MTC, The Drama Continues, a Currency House Platform Paper, Trapped By the Past, and academic articles on post-War Australian theatre, the theory-practice nexus, and contemporary dramaturgy. He is currently researching a series of case studies from Australian theatre in the post-Whitlam era, focusing on the relationship between cultural policy and creative practice. He is a member of the federal government’s Creative Australia Advisory Group.