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Differences Between Naturalistic and Epic Approaches to Performance

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Theatre
Wordcount: 2009 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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What are the differences between naturalistic and Epic approach to performance? Both share a deterministic outlook but were focused on different material and most, importantly, strive for a very different impact on their audiences. Compare both the theory and techniques of the two styles being sure to reference the political context in which each developed.

A well-known practitioner that was born in Russia , Konstantin Stanislavski considered performances that were as realistic as possible. ’’Remember: there are no small parts, only small actors’’(BBC 2019) Naturalistic plays are used within theatrical performances to simulate real life.This means that stage time reflects real time by making the set as realistic as possible by using props that are relevant to that time of the performance. Naturalistic writers were influenced by the new discoveries made in sciences, steaming from the Darwin’s theory of evolution, they believed that the heredity and social environments determine characters. Natualstic techniques are important when doing a naturalist performance, the practioner Stanislavski has influenced theatre due the techniques and theories he created. His main technique is’ The System’ it refers to the methods used by Stanislavski to raise a worthy performance for his audience and actors are able to portray emotion when on stage. This method is made up of eight techniques which helped actors develop their skills as much as possible.

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On the other hand, Erwin Piscator influenced Epic theatre, he aimed to encourage playwrights to address issues related to modern situations in the world and epic theatre. This incorporates modes of acting that uses Brecht that is Gestus one of the main techniques. A Gestus brings the sense of a mixture of physical gesture and social gist or attitude; this was one of Brecht techniques he used in his performances. To do this he used a variety of theatrical techniques so that the audience were recapped during his pieces that they were watching theatre not real life itself. He needed them to appreciate his message and understand his performances ‘’Gest is not supposed to mean gesticulation is it not a matter of explanatory or empathic movements of hands but overall attitudes’’( J.Jones 2014) Brechts was known for epic theatre; he wanted the audience emotionally involved the verfremdungesffekt. This means ‘’ defamiliarization effect’’, a technique that prevents the audience from losing itself completely in the narrative. Brecht used socio-political theatre in his performances to comment on social and political issues happening at the time. ’’Brecht believed that theatre had a duty not only to reflect society but to change it’’.( A. Dickson 2017) Therefore, this essay will be discussing the key differences and similarities between Naturalistic and Epic performances and how these theories and techniques are used in performances.

Naturalism is often used to refer to realism but there are big differences between them. Emile Zola was a French novelist that was more of an extreme form of realism to naturalism. She took the name and developed the impulse to be base around characters, events on natural and super natural situations. Stanislavski was influenced by this, bearing in mind that he was committed to realism throughout out his career and that’s when he stood out for his scientific perspective on naturalism. Konstantin Stanislavsky was born in Russia, he was an actor, director and founder of the Moscow art theatre. He was well known for developing the system of theory of acting called the Stanislavsky method. The techniques that made up this method brought developing actors’ success. ‘’ Stanislavski believed that it is the actor’s responsibility to truthfully act the role by creating the links between the actors own personality and the characters he was playing’’ ( C. Journal 2011) Stanislavski met the playwright Nemirovich- Danchenko and they started writing a manifesto and forming the Moscow theatre. In 1898 that is when the Moscow theatre was founded, the theatre was arts sharing similar theatrical experiences. Overall the policy and the organisation were to be determined by the needs of the play texts and the actors. This means that it had to be naturalistic as possible, the production has specially designed settings, properties and customers. He wanted the performance to be treated as an artistic experience, this is because he wanted the audience to connect more with what is happening on stage and know what he is portraying to the audience. How he did this was developed ‘The system’ , there was eight different techniques that made the system they were given circumstances, emotion memory, method of physical action , subtext, IF, objective, super objective and throughline . These techniques helped the performance good and help actors portray emotion when on stage. ‘’ Affective memory is a general term which refers to both emotion and sense memory’’ (Whyman. Rose 2013)Emotion memory was a very strong technique for actors, it helps real past experiences help you borrow that feeling into your character. The Stanislavski method has seven steps to help actors build believable characters.

Brecht was influenced by Piscator, Piscator came from a theatrical background he studied philosophy and history at university, but he was forced to leave and fight in the first world war. Piscator become politicised and when he returned from the war he joined a Marxist arts groups. He wanted to achieve ‘propagandistic effects’’ so he stayed clear of drama and plays so he decided to se agit-prop because its more powerful and direct than drama ‘’ Where the ponderous structure and problems temp you to psychologise and constantly erect barriers between the stage and the auditorium’’ (Braun p146). Piscator main performance technique was the ‘Red Venue’ it was a like a variety show the intention was to keep the audience awake and aware, they used a variety way to keep the audience engage such as political sketches, slide projectors and live cartoons. They both collaborated together because Brecht was influenced by Piscator experiments with marixt theatre and that’s when epic theatre came along. ‘’ Epic theatre is chiefly interested in the attitudes which people adopt towards one another, wherever they are socio-historically significant”. ( J.Jones 2014) Brecht was developing for theatre for the Russian formalist idea of de familiarisation, ‘De-familiarisation’ is the artistic technique offering audiences collective thing in an unfamiliar or strange way in order to enhance perception. Brecht wanted his work to be unique that is why the ‘verfemdungsefkett’ technique worked for his performances. ‘’ Brecht argued should not take nothing for granted’. ( J.Jones 2014) This is why the dialectical method was important , the dialectical method is a tool to understand the way things are and the way things can change. There are three main points: Everything is made of opposing forces, Gradual changes lead to turning points and finally change in moves in spi rals not circles. This method was the most for artists and practioners because it’s an intellectual process not just an emotion one. He wanted to pose problems and engage audiences with dialectics. ‘’Brecht related his dialectical methods to questions of realism in the theatre through his construction of the ‘Great Method’, his term for a politicized inquiry into the nature of reality’’. (D.J. Barnett 2016) He wanted to make sure everything was related to issues in the world.

Stanislavski and Brecht are two successful playwrights however, they both come up with different methods to their individual work that they provided. Though, these methods do benefit actors in every single way and still useful to this day. Stanislavski wanted his actors and plays to be naturalistic as possible, on the other hand Brecht concentrated more on epic and absurd style of acting. Neither of these practitioners wanted to educate the actors but they did both believed that theatre was art. There was previous methods that’s why they established their own methods and systems to challenge the audience or actors. ‘’ How does Brecht system differ from Stanislavski, I have often heard this question, sometimes in these exact words’’ ( H. Bial, C. Martin 2000) As people believe that these practitioners are similar. Brecht was more interested the actors just representing the characters but Stanislavski, was more involved in the actors becoming more like the characters and that’s why the system is important if you want to become a naturalist performer. This is a major difference between them because they had different methods for the actor. As Stanislavski developed the system and that’s when he wanted the actors to have real life human behaviour,

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Bertolt Brecht and Konstantin Stanislavski are considered as two influential practitioners within the drama industry. They do both have strong ideas and opinions within this acting industry and both can help actors be the best as possible. These theories are both considered useful and professionals or people learning about acting do always study about these two practitioners. I believe that they are very similar in there each way, but they do have slightly different techniques to help their actors. I believe they both wanted to make a difference within the acting industry and they did very well as we are still using their techniques and methods now. Stanislavski and Brecht challenged previous methods, regarding Stanislavski he focused more on ‘the system’ this required dedication and hard work from actors to produce naturalistic piece of theatre. ‘’ “Love art in yourself, and not yourself in art.” (Little, Brown Company 1924) On the other hand, Brecht came behind Stanislavski and moved against naturalist theatre and focused more about his own techniques that were centred more about political ideas. This meant that spectators would be more involved within the piece as his performances related to political issues within the era that it was performed.


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