University of Tasmania
whole_JobsonNicole_thesis.pdf (5.68 MB)

An impulsive gesture : exploring gesture as embodied imagination in character development

Download (5.68 MB)
posted on 2023-05-26, 17:57 authored by Jobson, NS
Gestures are like thoughts themselves. They belong, not to the outside world, but to the inside one of memory, thought, and mental images (McNeill 1992, 12). Can the insights of sociolinguistic research into gesture be integrated with contemporary actor training methodologies to aid the actor in developing character? This project investigates the use of physical gesture in the creative development of characterization, exploring the symbiotic connection between the outer physical, lived experience of the gesture and the inner emotional responses arising from the embodied imagery. By exploring the text through gesture the actor can develop an embodied knowledge of their character, encouraging discovery rather than assumption. This discovery is an exploration of psychologist Susan Goldin-Meadow's question 'Do new ideas come first in gesture regardless of domain?' (Goldin-Meadow 2005, 244). For the actor, this question suggests that physical exploration of a character provides a vehicle for expressing new ideas that may not be easily articulated verbally. Director Anne Bogart recommends Ludwig Wittgenstein's dictum 'If you can't say it, point to it' (Bogart, 2005). The project uses David McNeill's definition of metaphoric gesture as a framework for the integration of Zeami Motolciyo's concept of Jo Ha Kyu with a simplified structure derived from Stanislavslci's Active Analysis. McNeill defines metaphoric gesture as a triphasic (or three-part) gesture expressing abstract concepts (such as love, or freedom). The narrative form of Zeami's Jo Ha Kyu will be applied to the triphasic structure of metaphoric gesture in order to manipulate what Stanislavski refers to as the 'tempo-rhythm' of the gesture. By applying the changed tempo-rhythm to text the actor can develop the complexities of the character by physically exploring subtext that complements or contradicts the text; creating what Goldin-Meadow refers to as either a 'gesture-speech match' or a 'gesture-speech mismatch' (Goldin-Meadow 2005, 26). Working with gesture will allow the actor to develop embodied knowledge of their character through a physical exploration of abstract imagery derived from the text. The result of this exploration will be the development of a practical tool for actors in the rehearsal process utilizing gesture in character development. The sociolinguistic application of gesture studies to actor training will develop an alternative performance perspective in the traditional creative approach to character development.


Publication status

  • Unpublished

Rights statement

Copyright 2009 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (MFA)--University of Tasmania, 2009. Includes bibliographical references

Repository Status

  • Open

Usage metrics

    Thesis collection


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager