SUNY University at Buffalo 2018

Spatial Persuasion: Performative Freedom in Theatre Spaces

By: Emily Powrie

Theatre artists contemplate, create, and alter performance spaces as part of their storytelling practice. For this thesis project, I asked how different spaces affect the emotions, choices, and interactions of actors, as well as how space can be manipulated for the performers’ benefit. To explore these questions, I have engaged a group of artists who experimented with text and movement in three specific locations. In these spaces, participants worked with two different texts. 

The first was an “open scene,” or an unstructured text that gives few instructions concerning how the actors should move or occupy the space. The second was a segment from the play Line by Israel Horowitz, which explicitly designates where the actors’ bodies are placed within space. Third, all work will be documented by a film crew. My goal is to discover how the participants’ behaviors and identities inform and alter social exchanges within the performance spaces. 

After each exploration, I interviewed each participant using predetermined questions influenced by the work of Marina Truffnell and Chris Crickmay. The footage was compiled into a documentary that evaluated the effects of spatial manipulation and observes how each space enhances or inhibits the participants movement. My premise is that larger spaces allow for more freedom to move, but undefined, empty spaces encourage over performance. In contrast, small spaces impel actors to connect with one another rather than with the space itself. This project takes inspiration from the theoretical work of Iain Mackintosh, Gay McAuley, and Richard Schechner.

The Team

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