Richard Schechner and the Performance Group: A study of acting technique and methodology
Lichti, Esther Sundell
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The social and cultural upheaval of the 1960s spawned a wide range of "alternative" theatre companies concerned with finding a solution to what they perceived as the imminent death of theatre in the United States. The Performance Group, under the direction of Richard Schechner, proved one of the most important. The study is presented in three sections. Section one sets forth the history of TPG, the theory of environmental theatre, and a study of influences upon the company's work. Section two examines the productions Dionysus in 69, Makbeth, and Commune with regard to their development from the initial idea through performance, including descriptions of the physical environments, acting problems, and performance methodology. The concluding section summarizes TPG's actor training and performance methods, the role of the actor in the mise-en-scene, and unique problems arising from the basic theories of environmental theatre. It studies the changing definition of the actor's role in theatre and explores the contribution that TPG's work can make to contemporary developments in actor training. TPG pioneered a style of performance that emphasized the actor as the central figure in the creative theatrical process, working within an environmental design that merged audience and performance spaces. In the course of their productions, the company developed a system of actor training which drew upon numerous antecedents in theatre, social science, music, dance, and visual art. They created a methodology concerned with mastery of the actor's physical and vocal instrument, self-referentiality, and heightened communication among actors and between actors and audience. Their training process provides a means of dealing with many of the problems which face actors working in the contemporary theatre.