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Bodies on Stage : Acting Confronted by Technology [Take 2]

International conference 2015, PARIS, JUNE 3-4-5
Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3 / Université du Québec à Montréal

Over the last twenty years, new technologies have had a profound influence on the theatrical stage, and on acting. Today, the flesh-and-blood body often rubs shoulders with synthetic or hybrid bodies, creating mixed corporalities – “half flesh, half calculus” (Couchot), whose balance varies according to aesthetic choices made by the artists – producers, directors, actors. What happens to the actor in this confrontation with a transformed stage? What acting techniques are imposed upon the performers by these new staging modalities? How do the new aesthetics that derive from these mutations combine the juxtaposition of the flesh and the virtual? In this context, how is the presence of the performer deployed? How can he direct his energy? His relationship with voice? With space? With time? With movement?

This event will focus exclusively on these questions, and, more particularly, on forms of interaction between the actor and technologies on the stage, in all the forms that the latter may take (projection screens, cameras, amplification of image and sound, sensors) in order to show how these interventions overturn the theories of acting formerly privileged.

Faced with these new staging mechanisms, the actor is obliged to develop new strategies of working, which must lead to a fluid acting style that can navigate between real presence and technologically mediated presence. The stage director himself, in developing videographic or even cinematic talents, is positioned at the heart of this creative work (names that come to mind are FC Bergman, Bud Blumenthal, Guy Cassiers, Romeo Castellucci, Pippo Delbono, Heiner Goebbels, Ivo van Hove, John Jesurun, William Kentridge, Elizabeth Lecompte du Wooster Group, Robert Lepage, Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson from the Big Art Group, Simon McBurney from Complicite, Denis Marleau, Katie Mitchell, Fabrice Murgia, Markus Öhrn, Jean-François Peyret, Alain Platel, Jay Scheib, Cyril Teste, Wim Vandekeybus, Marianne Weems, Kris Verdonck as well as companies such as Berlin, CREW, Forced Entertainment, Gob Squad, Motus, Ontroerend Goed, Rimini Protokoll, Station House Opera… among others). With the help of all his collaborators, and of the actor who remains at the heart of the stage, the director translates the dialogue of the bodies (real and virtual) into forms of modified staged presence, into a new art of speaking. Do these forms really affect the fundamentals of acting as conveyed by more traditional approaches?

Confronted with these changes that affect the contemporary stage, how do acting schools respond? Do they remain faithful to a more traditional conception of embodied acting and textual interpretation? How do they negotiate the mutation in the forms of acting? If an entire artistic movement modifies the integration of the actor’s presence on stage – and hence his implication in the creative process – mustn’t the actor’s training be re-thought?

The proposed discussions can center around 4 axes:

1. The rapport actor/performer and the way certain specific practices negotiate the duality of physical body/digital body (projection, immersion, fragmentation, virtualization, augmented body, mechanized body, avatars, etc.) This axis could invoke some emblematic practices that lend themselves to tracking these mutations.

2. The working modes of directors and actors, as well as those who help conceive the performance (direction of the actors, rehearsals, acting techniques) in order to establish the dialogue between bodies, between virtual and real.

3. The effect on the spectator of these practices, which call out to him directly since he is invited to experience these mutations, profoundly affecting the way he visually and cognitively grasps what is taking place on stage.

4. The means privileged by certain acting schools in order to adapt to these new staging modalities.

Procedures for submission

  • Abstracts of proposed papers (300 words / 2000 signs with spaces) and a brief biobibliography should be sent to acteurecrans@gmail.com before November 30, 2014.
  • Please include your email address, your status, and the name of your university or affiliated institution.

Organization: Josette Féral and Louise Poissant
Organizer’s assistant: Audrey-Anne Cyr
Registration: 130$ before March 15, 2015 / 150$ after this date / 175$ on the spot / 30$ students / free for partner universities (UQAM, Paris 3, Paris 8, Paris 10)