Between Technology and Technique: Diderot's Paradox and the Mechanisation of Actor Training

Orchard Learning Resource Centre (OLRC)
Wednesday 29 May 2019 (17:00-18:30)
  • Critical and creative encounters

Speaker: Dr Maria Kapsali (University of Leeds)

The Paradox of Acting (1784) needs little introduction as it is one of the most influential and discussed texts in theatre and performance studies. In the celebrated dialogue Diderot lays the foundation of the contradiction that underpins dramatic art: the actor may not - indeed she must not - experience the emotions she expresses. Complementing existing scholarship on the Paradox (Mersch 2014; Konijn 2000; Ley 1995; Roach 1985), the current paper aims to offer an alternative perspective by concentrating on the relation between Diderot’s conceptualisation of acting and eighteenth century advancements in technology, specifically Diderot's role as the chief editor of the Encyclopedia, on the one hand, and the development of automata, on the other. It will be argued that when the Paradox is viewed in relation to technological, as opposed to scientific developments, we become able to appreciate a key moment in theatre history and praxis, whereby technique is turning into technology. Following this line of thought within Diderot’s text, I will then trace how an understanding of technique-as-technology shaped understandings of and approaches to actor training in the first half of the twentieth century. Diderot’s text will also serve then as a way to better understand the ambivalence towards technique that still underpins performer training practice.   

Dr Maria Kapsali is a Lecturer in Physical Performance in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds.  She has published the co-authored DVD/Booklet Yoga and Actor Training (Routledge, 2015) and edited a special issue of Theatre Dance and Performance Training Journal entitled ‘Training, Politics and Ideology’ (July 2014). She is a convenor of the TaPRA Performer Training Working Group and co-editor of the Theatre Dance and Performance Training Blog . She is currently working on a monograph on Technology and Performer Training, to be published by Routledge as part of the Perspectives on Performer Training series, which she co-edits with Rebecca Loukes.

Venue: Orchard Learning Resource Centre, Selly Oak

All welcome, no booking required.