Bringing the Body to the Stage and Screen: Expressive Movement for Performers
“Nothing about Bringing the Body to the Stage and Screen is hasty or superficial. Author Lust offers the essences of the work in every page. She shows herself to be a teacher in the best sense of the word, a scholar who has the ability to turn her research into practical advice, and a writer whose clear, concise descriptions add significantly to the overall value of her book.”
Author Annette Lust has created a volume that may come to be considered a bible of physical theater. The book could take its place in any library of the classics of theater instruction. Information is sorted carefully and folded neatly to fit into a compact tome of under 400 pages—and all of it is packed with gems.
The author has laid out a valuable course in the physical theater art form. She presents a history of acting styles that are the precursors to the modern methodologies of the theater of the body. Mime, theatrical pantomime, sign language theater, dance theater, and even stage combat fall within her gaze. All of these stylized forms and more are the underpinnings of Dr. Lust’s explorations.
Yet Bringing the Body to the Stage and Screen: Expressive Movement for Performers is far from a purely academic or theoretical book of observations about a way of acting. The author provides the opportunity for a total immersion experience of the craft. There are warm-up routines and a wide range of exercises to engage the actors’ bodies and minds. The exercises are aimed at each part of the performer’s physical instrument with the goal of finding paths to expanded expressiveness.
The book never loses sight of the bigger picture. The body is only one element of that picture. There are clear and useful suggestions for improvisational story lines along with the guidance towards better use of the body in those improvisations. The story suggestions include important variations based on emotions and moods.
Dr. Lust’s approach does not focus on one particular style of physical theater. Her knowledge of the craft and her passion for it have made it possible for her to offer a full buffet from which the performer can mix and match new stylistic elements and new, more exciting, combinations. The basic training information she sets forth can be used as a complete curriculum or can be a source for potential solutions to specific training or performing problems.
In addition to usable improvisation themes, the author provides specific scenes from classical and contemporary theater pieces that can be used as the skeletons for studies or for performance demonstrations.
Bringing the Body to the Stage and Screen also contains lists of resources such as mime and body theater schools and classes, organizations, and performance opportunities such as festivals and theater centers that specialize in the physical theater craft.
Of equal interest and value are the interviews and essays the author includes. They range from observations from seasoned physical performers such as Bill Irwin, Geoff Hoyle, and Joe Goode, to essays about such giants of the craft as Charlie Chaplin and Etienne Decroux. Irwin, for example, points out that “If your storytelling is visual, you have to make sure the audience-eye is receiving what you want it to receive.”
An essay called “How Charlie Chaplin Spun Stagecraft into Cinematic Gold” by Dan Kamin describes Chaplin’s struggle to transition his silent, physical comedy into the world of sound cinema or “talkies.”
Nothing about Bringing the Body to the Stage and Screen is hasty or superficial. Author Lust offers the essences of the work in every page. She shows herself to be a teacher in the best sense of the word, a scholar who has the ability to turn her research into practical advice, and a writer whose clear, concise descriptions add significantly to the overall value of her book.