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Phenomenology for Actors

Theatre-Making and the Question of Being

A valuable new touchstone for phenomenology and performance as research.

In this book, Daniel Johnston examines how phenomenology can describe, analyze, and inspire theater-making. Each chapter introduces themes to guide the creative process through objects, bodies, spaces, time, history, freedom, and authenticity. Key examples in the work are drawn from Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, Sophocles’ Antigone, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Practical tasks throughout explore how the theatrical event can offer unique insights into being and existence, as Johnston’s philosophical perspective shines a light on broader existential issues of being. In this way, the book makes a bold contribution to the study of acting as an embodied form of philosophy and reveals how phenomenology can be a rich source of creativity for actors, directors, designers, and collaborators in the performance process.

Brimming with insight into the practice and theory of acting, this original new work stimulates new approaches to rehearsal and sees theater-making as capable of speaking back to philosophical discourse.

174 pages | 7 halftones | 6 3/4 x 9 1/2

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


A Note on the Text

1. Beginnings: Being There

Touching Hands with Being

What Is Phenomenology?

Performance and Phenomenology

Philosophers on Stage

Mapping the Self

2. Phenomenology: Being-in-the-World

Some Background Terms

Space and Bodies

The History of Being

Destruktion and the Text

From Theory to Practice

Observe a Walk

Observe Stillness

Scrutinize an Object

Chart a Place Well Known to You

Unpack a Place Where You Feel At Home

Dissect a Familiar Activity

Describe a Person

Recount a Time When You Struggled to Communicate

Demonstrate a Moment When You Had an Unusual Experience of Time

Stage a Life Choice

Recreate the Instant in Which Your Life Was Threatened


3. Being-with Others: The Cherry Orchard




Being Elsewhere

Other People

  1. Authenticity and Freedom: Antigone



Moods and Faring

Thrownness and Projection

Fate and Destiny

5. Time and Resoluteness: Hamlet


Having a History




6. Possibilities: Aletheia

On the Essence of Truth in Theatre

Poetry, Language, Theatre

Building, Dwelling, Theatre

The Question concerning Theatre Technology




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