A Psychophysical Approach
The embodied cognition theory, interprets the human thought process as one that occurs not only within the brain, but also as an interactive process between the mind, body and environment. This project approaches the artistic form of Shakespearean Performance as an example of ‘traditional embodied practice,’ Psychophysical Acting Coach and Theatre Practitioner Phillip Zarrilli’s term for Eastern psychophysical practices such as acupressure, martial arts, Japanese noh, and the Indian dance-drama kathakali. The Embodied approach conceptualizes the body and mind as holistically integrated as opposed to the prevalent influence of Cartesian Dualism in the West. Embodied practices operate from an assumption of the interconnection of mind and body, but not a presumption of harmonious balance between them ‘as a metaphysical fact’ but instead as an achievement.
At the Blackfriar’s Playhouse in Staunton, VA, the headquarters of the American Shakespeare Center, the unity of thought, word and action is known as Living Thought and is an official component of the house style and acting philosophy of the company. This project works under the hypothesis that a psychophysical approach to acting might be utilized to best achieve Living Thought in Shakespearean Performance. Using methodology derived primarily from the psychophysical practices and theories of Stanislavski, Michael Chekhov, and Zarrilli, this approach is explored and tested in a series of classes. Each class focuses on the performance a different Shakespearean play as the central task guiding the practice.