The creativity of acting

Helen Trenos

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] 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. '...' 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 perceived. Addressing the current gaps in Western mainstream actor training, Chapter Eight establishes the theoretical framework for a performance-oriented training ("Towards a performance-oriented actor training"). It argues that performance requires different skills, strategies and techniques. These are then outlined: approaches designed to, firstly, enhance the actor's full-situation awareness through an increased capacity for divided consciousness and, secondly, to equip actors with the ability to engage an audience through timing and presence. The thesis concludes ("Performing Creativity") that the creativity of stage acting is much broader than character creation and the collaboration of actors and directors in rehearsals. Actors create in performances and, more radically, create performances. Such an expanded conception of the actor's creativity has not only the potential to enrich acting practice and its training, but also to inform creativity research in general.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008

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