University of Tasmania
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Michael Chekhov's embodied imagination and the haptic sense

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posted on 2023-05-28, 01:10 authored by Christensen, JA
In the 21st Century, the affectivity of performance, its ability to arouse sensations and emotional responses in spectators, has been the subject of much enquiry. This study adds to this debate by investigating the impact of the haptic sense on the affectivity of theatre performance. The haptic sense is a three-fold construct combining, touch (tactile and metaphoric), proprioception and kinesthesia. A significant gap in the current research is how the actor uses kinesthesia in creative process. This study addresses this gap by examining the correlations between the haptic sense and the embodied imagination across three domains, namely, pre-performative training, rehearsal and performance. During the first phase, pre-performative training, I deliver a pedagogical sequence of instruction in the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique to a small ensemble of undergraduate student actors. Data is collected to evidence a strengthening of the haptic sense, concentration and imagination. In the second phase, I use the Michael Chekhov Technique to create a haptic rehearsal process for the embodiment of the dramaturgy Fishskin Trousers. Alongside the traditional canon of Chekhov exercises and tools, I create movement etudes by combining aspects of the Chekhov Technique with the moment work of Tectonic Theatre Project. Data evidences the ensembles increasing capacity to be touched by the inner impressions of the haptic sense and allow this to shape their impulses and outer expression. The third phase of the research presents data relating to the use of the Chekhov's embodied imagination in performance and the actor's ability to affect and be affected by the audience. This research project has been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. In each phase of the project, federal and regional social distancing measures have radically altered the traditional theatre practice environment of co-presence in a shared physical space. Throughout this exegesis I reflect as actor trainer and theatre director on the shift in our creative spaces, from the co-presence of the studio to the sharing of virtual and hybrid spaces. Specifically, I address the nature of delivering an embodied practice online, the problem of inter-affectivity in hybrid environments and its impact on the power structure of a co-creative and co-collaborative process. Finally, I comment on the digital reception of the live theatre event and its capacity to touch or move its audience.


Publication status

  • Unpublished

Rights statement

Copyright 2021 the author The accompanying portfolio consists of 2 digital video files of the final night performance of Fishskin trousers by Elizabeth Kuti, and a digital slide show taken from the performance. They are not available for download.

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