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Stage violence, power and the director: an examination of the theory and practice of cruelty from Antonin Artaud to Sarah Kane

Walsh, Jordan M (2012) Stage violence, power and the director: an examination of the theory and practice of cruelty from Antonin Artaud to Sarah Kane. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This exploration of stage violence is aimed at grappling with the moral, theoretical and practical difficulties of staging acts of extreme violence on stage and, consequently, with the impact that these representations have on actors and audience. My hypothesis is as follows: an act of violence enacted on stage and viewed by an audience can act as a catalyst for the coming together of that audience in defense of humanity, a togetherness in the act of defying the truth mimicked by the theatrical violence represented on stage, which has the potential to stir the latent power of the theatre communion. I have used the theoretical work of Antonin Artaud, especially his “Theatre of Cruelty,” and the works of Peter Brook, Jerzy Grotowski, and Sarah Kane in conversation with Artaud’s theories as a prism through which to investigate my hypothesis. Through these production and script analysis, I have attempted to justify violence as a tool for empowering an audience, and, also, I have highlighted a few of the pitfalls in this work with brutality. This written examination acts as the first half of sharpening my personal understanding of theatrical violence as a stage director. This will lead into the second half of my research, my direction of a production of Sarah Kane’s 1998 play Cleansed as praxis: a practical testing of these theories of violence and cruelty. This production, which will take place from April 11-15, 2012 in the Studio Theatre of the Cathedral of Learning, will act as the final part of my thesis project, which will include and apply much of the theoretical work throughout this paper. Through this analytical work (notably a new understanding of Brook’s insertion of Brechtian meta-theatricality into the Theatre of Cruelty) in conjunction with my direction of Cleansed, I argue that a respect for the contract of mimesis is of the utmost importance in maximizing the potential of violence to empower and in minimizing its potential to paralyze. That is: by setting aside the ostensible goal of fooling an audience with the “reality” of an act of violence, the visceral impact of this representation becomes more honest and, paradoxically, more effective.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Walsh, Jordan Mjmw162@pitt.eduJMW162
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJackson-Schebetta, Lisalisajsch@pitt.eduLISAJSCH
Committee MemberBerger,
Committee MemberDuggan, Annmarieduggan@pitt.eduDUGGAN
Committee MemberCroot, Cynthiaccroot@pitt.eduCCROOT
Date: 25 May 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 13 April 2012
Approval Date: 25 May 2012
Submission Date: 20 April 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 115
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Theater Arts
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: in-yer-face, PittRep
Date Deposited: 25 May 2012 19:36
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:57


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