Filled nothingness : hearing silence onstage

Wiggill, Caitlin Alice (2020-03)

Thesis (MDram)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The aim of this study is to address the question of how silence can be defined and applied as a communicative device in theatre. The study consists of a theoretical and a practical component. The theoretical component relies primarily on a literature study. I firstly provide a theoretical framework by discussing the role and place of silence within verbal and nonverbal communication, with specific reference to the theatre. As a result silence is framed as relational to space and is defined as the absence of words/language, rather than the absence of sound, acknowledging the impossibility of pure silence. The performance of John Cage’s composition 4’33” is discussed as an example of silence in performance, highlighting the role of environmental sound within silence. The literature study, secondly, focusses on an investigation of Samuel Beckett and Robert Wilson’s approaches to theatre, with specific reference to their respective use of silence, and identifying possible methods employed within their praxis. Within my analysis of Beckett’s plays Breath and Not I, I identified the methods of textual scoring and formalized periodicity. In my analysis of Wilson’s Deafman Glance and Einstein on the Beach, I identified the methods of reiteration and Wilsonian Time. The practical component employs an exploratory research methodology within a practice-led approach to implement the identified methods within my own work as director. Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis was selected as text for my practical exploration. I provide background on the work of Kane, and 4.48 Psychosis, discussing the ways in which silence features in the text. An account of the practical exploration is given, detailing my two phase rehearsal process with a cast consisting of four female performers. This included the development of exploratory exercises and the application of Beckett and Wilson’s methods. During the rehearsal process is became clear that a combination of methods is possible, with the definition of silence extending to multiple levels, including visual, auditory, and psychological/emotional. In understanding silence in a contextual sense, the relationship between different aspects of theatre (particularly that of silence and space) was explored in the production. The communicative value of silence was found to be similar to that of spoken language in terms of conveying emotion and relationship. I also found that silence may be indirectly curated through the active handling of another aspect of performance such as rhythm, movement or sound itself.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die doel van hierdie studie is om vas te stel hoe stilte gedefinieer en toegepas kan word as 'n kommunikasiemiddel in die teater. Die studie behels beide 'n teoretiese en praktiese komponent. Die teoretiese komponent bestaan hoofsaaklik uit ʼn literatuurstudie. Ek verskaf eerstens 'n teoretiese raamwerk en bespreek die rol en plek van stilte in verbale en nieverbale kommunikasie, met spesifieke verwysing na die teater. Stilte word gevolglik in verhouding tot ruimte beskou en word gedefinieer as die afwesigheid van woorde/taal, eerder as die afwesigheid van klank, deur erkenning te gee aan die onmoontlikheid van suiwer stilte. Die uitvoering van John Cage se komposisie 4’33” word gebruik as 'n voorbeeld van stilte in uitvoering en belig die rol van omgewingsklank in stilte. Tweedens fokus die literatuurstudie op ʼn verkenning van Samuel Beckett en Robert Wilson se benaderings tot teater, met spesifieke verwysing na hul onderskeie aanwendings van stilte, en op die identifisering van moontlike metodes wat binne hul praktyk gebruik word. My ontleding van Beckett se toneelstukke Breath en Not I, het die metodes van tekstuele notering en geformaliseerde periodisiteit uitgelig. My ontleding van Wilson se toneelstukke, Deafman Glance en Einstein on the Beach, het die metodes van reïterasie en Wilsoniaanse tyd uitgelig. Die praktiese komponent maak gebruik van verkennende navorsingsmetodologie en ʼn praktykgeleide benadering om die geïdentifiseerde metodes in my regie toe te pas. Sarah Kane se 4.48 Psychosis is gekies as teks vir my praktiese verkenning. Ek verskaf agtergrond oor die werk van Kane, spesifiek 4.48 Psychosis, en bespreek hoe stilte in die teks voorkom. Verslag word gelewer oor die praktiese verkenning en ve rskaf besonderhede oor my tweeledige repetisieproses met ʼn geselskap bestaande uit vier vroulike spelers. Die proses het die ontwikkeling van verkenningsoefeninge ingesluit en die toepassing van Beckett en Wilson se metodes. Tydens die repetisieproses het dit duidelik geword dat dit moontlik is om metodes te kombineer en dat die definisie van stilte verbreed kan word tot verskeie vlakke, insluitende die visuele, ouditiewe en sielkundige/emosionele. ʼn Begrip van stilte binne ʼn kontekstuele sin, het dit moontlik gemaak om die verhouding tussen verskillende teateraspekte (spesifiek stilte en ruimte) in die produksie te verken. Die kommunikatiewe waarde van stilte is bevind om soortgelyk te wees aan gesproke taal ten einde emosie en verhouding oor te dra. Ek het ook bevind dat stilte indirek hanteer kan word deur die aktiewe hantering van ander uitvoeringsaspekte soos ritme, beweging, of klank.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/108213
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