University of Tasmania

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The Creativity of Acting

posted on 2023-05-26, 14:23 authored by Trenos, HR
In the last sixty years, ‘creativity’ has emerged as a buzzword, ‘hot’ topic, and scholarly subject. In light of this unprecedented interest, this thesis aims to address the paucity of rigorous academic and professional enquiry in the West into what constitutes the creativity of stage acting. The argument is made that there are two distinct contexts in which actors are called upon to be creative: rehearsal and performance. This distinction is seldom made. Post-Stanislavsky there is an overwhelming focus on the creative processes of actors in rehearsal where (in the hegemonic Western acting style of psychological realism) they collaborate with directors to create characters. The assumption is made that being creative in this arena will automatically translate into successful performances. However, in performance, actors are primarily responsible for creating much more than characters, and this expanded creativity requires techniques, strategies and skills which differ from those practised in rehearsals. The enterprise of this dissertation is to establish the theoretical framework for an actor training which maximises the actor’s creativity for and in theatrical performance. It is in three parts. Part One (“Creativity”) provides the necessary background and identifies the issues. Chapter One (“The emergence of the concept”) traces the history of creativity as a concept and perceived value. Chapter Two (“The psychology of creativity”) investigates how psychology has dominated creativity research, setting the parameters for how creativity is defined. It argues that psychology has been overwhelmingly preoccupied with establishing the locus of creativity in either the creative individual (his/her personality traits or mental processes) or in the creative product. Chapter Three (“Entr’acte”) attempts to fill this perceived gap in psychology’s research and theories, focussing on its obvious omission of the creative act. Having established provisional definitional criteria for a theory of creativity based on the creative act, Part Two (“Acting and Creativity”) addresses the question of what actually constitutes the creativity of stage acting. Chapter Four (“Acting: towards a (re)definition”) examines the assumptions which underpin the Western hegemonic definition of acting. Key concepts in Diderot’s Paradoxe sur le Comédien (caractère, personnage, rôle and modèle idéal) provide foils against which the contemporary Western definition of acting and its creativity are (re)viewed. Chapter Five (“The emergence and rise of character”) investigates the major trends occurring toward the end of the nineteenth century which contributed to the rise of ‘character’ and a new character-centric acting. The implications of how these radical changes re-defined the creativity of acting are examined. Chapter Six (“Stanislavsky: creativity and acting”) analyzes Stanislavsky’s ideas on the creativity of acting, the West’s most influential theories and practices on the subject. It is argued that while unequivocally championing the creative status of actors, Stanislavsky inadvertently diminished the actor’s creative scope. Stanislavsky’s legacy is one where the ‘real’ creativity of acting occurs in rehearsal spaces with directors. In the process, both audience and performance are marginalized. Part Three (“Creativity and Actor Training”) shifts to the contemporary context, examining how inherited conceptions of the actor’s creativity inform actor training in the West and proposing a revision of both the theory and the practice. Chapter Seven (“Creativity and contemporary mainstream actor training”) surveys mainstream conservatory schools in the West (Australia, England, the United States) and identifies a major shortcoming: while all the schools in question are production-oriented in their training, they are not performance-oriented. This is a crucial distinction, and one that has significant implications for how the creativity of acting is perce





School of Creative Arts and Media


University of Western Australia

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