Real Physical Action as Storytelling

Real physical action is our answer to the search for truth in a story.  It is the result of a feeling leading to an impulse, and that impulse having a need for communication.  In Peter Brook’s book, The Empty Space, he describes the actor’s need for action in the way that, “It was not enough to feel passionately—a creative leap was required to mint a new form which would be a container and a reflector for his impulses.”

  When action springs from need, it is the most direct way to express the initial feeling or “invisible meaning” beneath the text or direction of a certain story.

  In directness, we find truth.

    Truth is not to be taken as action based in realism, but as the most effective way of interpreting the story we are trying to tell.  The theatre gives the opportunity for expression that is not bound by the limited possibilities in the everyday world.  We are inspired, to a certain extent, by the theatre of the Absurd in how we allow our physical vocabulary to evolve.  This is not to say that we abstract every physical movement, but we are also not interested in mimicking exactly what occurs regularly in the world around us.  Peter Brook describes the value of the theatre of the Absurd by stating, “The theatre of the Absurd did not seek the unreal for its own sake.  It used the unreal to make certain explorations, because it sensed the absence of truth in our everyday exchanges, and the presence of truth in the seemingly far-fetched.”

  A story sometimes requires more than realistic physical action in order to be told truthfully.

    Setting the limitations of physical action in realism increases the chance for predictability in a performance.  When an audience feels that they already know what is going to occur during a performance, it is likely for them to allow their perceived knowledge to cloud the message of the play.  This can make the play rather boring or irrelevant for them in the way that they do not learn or feel anything out of the ordinary.  As theatre artists, it is our duty to bring something extraordinary to the audience, to help them think and feel things in a new way.  Antonin Artaud, in his book The Theatre and Its Double, tells of the unique relationship between life and theatre by calling us to, “believe in life’s meaning renewed by theatre, where man fearlessly makes himself master of the unborn, gives birth to it.  And everything unborn can still be brought to life, provided we are not satisfied with remaining simple recording instruments.”

   By taking advantage of the creative possibilities for physical storytelling that exist in the theatre, and not limiting our audience or ourselves by what we already know, we open ourselves to dynamic communication between performer and spectator and share the discovery of a physical vocabulary as we establish the context of a world created on stage.

-Cait Chiou