Anthropological Theatre Studies

This is a current vogue in academic theatre departments, whereby the study of theatre is approached from the aspect of ancient cultural traditions that have shaped the origins of dance and drama. There is much that is contradictory to the findings of theatre anthropologists and significant divergences of opinion between them. Over a hundred years ago, Emile Durkheim first posited the theory that rituals are performances. Following Arnold van Gennep's theories about the theatrical dynamics of ritual, Victor Turner, in conjunction with Colin Turnbull, produced fascinating studies of ethnic ritual and theatre by exploring the daily lives of small African tribes, which had not been exposed to outside influence. Richard Shechner has spent much of his time experimenting with such ideas in performance and in promoting them through his critical writings. In the professional theatre, Peter Brook and Jerzy Grotowski have engaged in the exploration of such ideas and put them into practice. An International School of Theatre Anthropology has been established by Eugenio Barba (with Nicola Savarese) where performers can study anthropological theatre through physical technique. This approach studies the physical and mental difference in human behaviour while in performance as opposed to in everyday life. It engages in the study of the universality of specific characteristics which determine artistic expression, which are defined as pre-expressivity principles.

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