The Sacrifice, the Copy and the Critical Gaze: The Actor's Authenticity and the Commodity Value of Emotions

Orchard Learning Resource Centre (OLRC)
Wednesday 24 February 2016 (17:00-18:30)

Eleftheria Ioannidou:

  • Critical and creative encounters

Speaker: Kent Sjöström (Reader, Malmö Theatre Academy, Sweden)

With the theories of Bertolt Brecht as a starting point, I will juxtapose the copying and imitating aspect of the actor’s work with the self expressive aspect, in order to elucidate how emotions presented on the stage could be seen as the actor’s "commodity value". My presentation is aiming at contextualizing this discussion with references also to Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, the Greek actor Polus, Richard Boleslavskij – and Jonathan Peachum. The actor’s work could from these different perspectives be labelled as ludic or as sacrificial, and this dichotomy I will shortly connect to a contemporary debate about authenticity and representation in the theatre.

Kent Sjöström has worked as an instructor at the Malmö Theatre Academy, Sweden, since 1984, but has also been teaching regularly at theatre academies in the Nordic countries, as well as at the Shanghai Theatre Academy.  In 2007 he completed the first Swedish PhD in Theatre in the field of artistic research. He is the head of artistic research at the Malmö Theatre Academy. He is author of the monograph The Actor in Action – Strategies for Body and Mind, ”Reflection, Lore and Acting – The Practitioner’s Approach” (Nordic Theatre Studies, 20, 2008) and ”Bodily Education in Modernist Culture – Freedom and Commodification” (Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, vol. 3, 2015). In 2015 he has been giving workshops in Prague, CR and in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Since 2010 he has also been running The Theory and Practice of Theatre, a new educational programme combining approaches from Theatre Studies with artistic work. Kent Sjöström is a member of the International Brecht Society, the International Platform for Performer Training and the network Performance Philosophy. His current research concerns the field of how the working actor conveys ideology and theory, mainly with tools taken from Brecht's theories.

Stanislavski and ‘Emotional Truth’ in Acting

Speaker: Rose Whyman

This paper will consider Stanislavski’s view of ‘truth’ informed by ‘authentic’ emotion in acting. This was contested in his own period and so was Stanislavski’s assertion of himself as discerner of the truth and bearer of the authoritative gaze in this respect. Objections were raised by many, including Nemirovich-Danchenko, Olga Knipper-Chekhova, Bulgakov and others and modifications or alternatives to Stanislavski’s methods of generating truthful acting proposed Vakhtangov, Michael Chekhov, Meyerhold (whose ideas of estrangement deriving from the Russian formalists make interesting comparison with Brecht’s), and others. These ideas inform contemporary perspectives.

Stanislavski’s views were founded in the science and perception of the purpose of art of his time, and the suggestion is that further scientific understanding could clarify how some of the range of views comes from the problem of conceptualising emotional expression in isolation from psychophysiological responses as whole.

Rose Whyman is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham. She researches the science of actor-training and is the author of The Stanislavsky System of Acting (Cambridge 2008) and Stanislavski: the Basics, (Routledge 2013).

Venue: SR1, Orchard Learning Resource Centre, Selly Oak

All welcome, no booking required.