Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] Theatre and Drama Program, Department of Arts and Critical Enquiry, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.
This thesis examines an actor’s bodymind experience in contemporary Sri Lankan theatre. It investigates how an actor learns to act through cultivating a bodymind consciousness. The thesis adapts Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s key concept of the body-subject to flesh out the actor’s lived experience of knowledge acquisition. Through this filtration, the thesis argues that the actor’s bodymind is an undivided and interdependent phenomenon, operating as a knowing agent in acting. The thesis therefore further argues that bodymind consciousness fulfils an embodied, epistemic and aesthetic function in an actor’s learning process. The first half of the thesis is a theoretical analysis of bodymind practice. The phenomenal body is theorized in order to understand how bodymind is embodied, spatiotemporal, and dependent upon inter-subjective communion with others. These arguments are then refined via exploration of three major acting pedagogies. Specifically, the acting theories and practices of Konstantin Stanislavski, Jerzy Grotowski and Eugenio Barba are analyzed for their exploration of psychophysical theatre practice and how they explain bodymind experience in their theories. The second half of the thesis is a practical exploration of bodymind theories. I offer a phenomenological and first-person description of my early acting practice and apply a retrospective analysis of the way my actor learning functioned and progressed. After this, I discuss how my assumptions about bodymind actor-learning are either consolidated or contradicted by interview material gathered from several Sri Lankan acting practitioners. The thesis offers conclusions about the way the bodymind sediments acting knowledge through pre-reflective, habituated processes and speculates about the implications of these conclusions for actor training in the contemporary Sri Lankan theatre academy and industry.
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