A Search for 20th Century Mime, Mask & Marionette
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In this series of essays, Thomas Leabhart presents a thorough overview and analysis of Etienne Decroux’s artistic genealogy.
After four years’ apprenticeship with Decroux, Thomas Leabhart began to research and discover how forebears and contemporaries might have influenced Decroux’s project. Decades of digging revealed striking correspondences that often led to adjacent fields—art history, philosophy, and anthropology—forays wherein Leabhart’s appreciation of Decroux and his "kinsfolk," who themselves transgressed traditional frontiers, increased. The following essays, composed over a 30-year period, find a common source in a darkened Prague cinema where people gasped at a wooden doll’s sudden reversal of fortune. These essays: investigate the source of that astonishment; continue Leabhart's examination of Decroux’s "family tree"; consider how Copeau's and Decroux's keen observation of animal movement influenced their actor training; record the challenging and paradoxical improvisations chez Decroux; and recall Decroux’s debt to sculpture, poster art, sport and masks.
These essays will be of great interest to students, scholars and practitioners in theatre and performance studies.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Lessons from Prague
2. Blowing up the Palace and Hanging up on the Opera
3. Monkey Business and Robin Revelations: Animal Observation in Actor Training
4. Friday Night Pearls of Wisdom
5. E. G. Craig's Übermarionette and E. Decroux's "actor made of wood"
7. Everything Weighs: Wrestling with an Invisible Angel
8. The Mask in Actor Training: Copeau to Decroux
9. The Face in Corporeal Mime: From Plaster Death Mask to Living Actor’s Visage
10. L’Homme de Sport: Sport, Statuary, and the Recovery of the Body in Corporeal Mime.
Thomas Leabhart, Professor of Theatre at Pomona College, California, worked with Etienne Decroux from 1968–72. He authored Modern and Post-Modern Mime (Macmillan, 1989), Etienne Decroux (Routledge, 2019) and co-edited (with Franc Chamberlain) The Decroux Sourcebook (Routledge, 2008). Leabhart edits Mime Journal, and for a decade participated as Artistic Staff at Eugenio Barba's ISTA meetings.