Interweaving Performance Cultures
Nicola Savarese, born in Rome in 1945, is a member of the scientific staff of the International School of Theatre Anthropology (ISTA) directed by Eugenio Barba. He was professor at the University of Roma La Sapienza, in Kyoto (Kyodai), Montreal (UQAM), Paris (IV Sorbonne), Bologna, Lecce and at Roma Tre University, where he taught History of Theatre and Performance. He is a scholar who combines research with direct participation in performance practice. His field of expertise is classical Roman theatre, the theatre of the Italian Renaissance and the complex dynamic of the meetings between Asian and Western theatre forms. He has travelled widely in Asia, particularly Japan, where he lived for two years. A former guest scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, he is also on the editorial staff of the journals Teatro e Storia and Dionysus ex machina (on line).Among his many writings on the relationship between Oriental and Occidental theatres are Eurasian Theatre (Wroclaw 2010) and, in collaboration with Eugenio Barba, The Secret Art of the Performer. A Dictionary of Theatre Anthropology (London-New York 1991). His present research focuses on the origins of performance techniques in the various traditions of East and West (The techniques of Eurasian theatre) and on the material culture of theatre (The actor’s auxiliary techniques).
The Actor’s Auxiliary Techniques
The techniques of the actor's body constitute a fundamental pillar in the relationship with the viewer, the principles of which are laid out wonderfully in Eugenio Barba’s book, The Secret Art of the Performer, which was based on his theatre anthropology and had the good fortune of being translated into many languages. Barba and I realized that the relationship with the viewer is founded on another pillar in addition to acting techniques, one that is equally effective and which we have defined as the auxiliary techniques of the actor.
In their variety these auxiliary techniques relate to a universe of methods and procedures that are as essential to the actor as the techniques of the body. I list here only a few: make-up, costumes, accessories, props, lighting, set design, spaces for acting and spaces for the spectators, information such as announcements, parades, posters, economic and organizational aspects (marketing techniques, wages, tickets, subscriptions, tours, etc.), relationships with the audience and the different circumstances and times that generate theatre. All of these elements are based on techniques that enhance the work of the actor’s body and foster the affirmation of his art.
The purpose of this research is to write a theatre history via the unusual perspective of its material culture and from the point of view of the actors, which concerns the means, methods, solutions, superstitions and ideas used in the production, consumption and purpose of the theatre craft.
The approach to the project is simple: give a number of historical and regional examples to illustrate diverse auxiliary techniques with different solutions adopted by the major theatrical cultures.
The research will make use of a substantial body of illustrations as an "additional text". The results of the research will be collected in the author’s texts and an anthology consisting of a series of texts and notes by theatre practitioners, modern and from the past, offering their testimony.
My research, which began many years ago, is already well advanced, although I now require a retreat for its conclusion. Eugenio Barba has declared his willingness to cooperate fully in the implementation of this book and we have already started working on it.
- Barba, E. – N. Savarese, The Secret Art of the Performer. A Dictionary of Theatre Anthropology, London & New York: Routledge, 2005 (first: 1991).
- Savarese, N., Eurasian Theatre. Drama and Performance Between East and West from Classical Antiquity to the Present, Wroclaw: Icarus. 2010 (first: 1993).
- Savarese, N., In Scaena. Il teatro di Roma antica, Milano: Electa, 2007.
- Savarese, N., “1931: Antonin Artaud Sees Balinese Theatre at the Paris Colonial Exposition”, TDR – The Drama Review, vol. 45, n. 3 (T 171), Fall, pp. 51-77.