The Five Continents of Theatre

Facts and Legends about the Material Culture of the Actor


The Five Continents of Theatre undertakes the exploration of the material culture of the actor, which involves the actors’ pragmatic relations and technical functionality, their behaviour, the norms and conventions that interact with those of the audience and the society in which actors and spectators equally take part.

The material culture of the actor is organised around body-mind techniques (see A Dictionary of Theatre Anthropology by the same authors) and auxiliary techniques whose variety concern:

■ the diverse circumstances that generate theatre performances: festive or civil occasions, celebrations of power, popular feasts such as carnival, calendar recurrences such as New Year, spring and summer festivals;
■ the financial and organisational aspects: costs, contracts, salaries, impresarios, tickets, subscriptions, tours;
■ the information to be provided to the public: announcements, posters, advertising, parades;
■ the spaces for the performance and those for the spectators: performing spaces in every possible sense of the term;
■ sets, lighting, sound, makeup, costumes, props;
■ the relations established between actor and spectator;
■ the means of transport adopted by actors and even by spectators.

Auxiliary techniques repeat themselves not only throughout different historical periods, but also across all theatrical traditions. Interacting dialectically in the stratification of practices, they respond to basic needs that are common to all traditions when a performance has to be created and staged. A comparative overview of auxiliary techniques shows that the material culture of the actor, with its diverse processes, forms and styles, stems from the way in which actors respond to those same practical needs. The authors’ research for this aspect of theatre anthropology was based on examination of practices, texts and of 1400 images, chosen as exemplars.

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Eugenio Barba created Odin Teatret in 1964 in Oslo, Norway, and in 1966 moved with it as a laboratory to Holstebro, Denmark. He founded the International School of Theatre Anthropology (ISTA) in 1979. Author of a dozen books, and recipient of honorary doctorates from thirteen universities, he has directed 76 productions with Odin Teatret and the intercultural ensemble Theatrum Mundi.
Nicola Savarese has taught history of theatre at the universities of Bologna, Rome, Kyoto, Montreal, Paris. He is on the editorial board of the journal Teatro e Storia. Among his many publications are Eurasian Theatre: Drama and Performance Between East and West from Classical Antiquity to the Present (2010) and A Dictionary of Theatre Anthropology (in collaboration with Eugenio Barba, 2017).
"A history of theatre and of the ways in which it is presented and done; a book of actors and artists, but also of theatre technique and philosophy." - Anna Bandettini, in: La Repubblica
"An epic book to be read with a thirst for knowledge and as an explosion of analysis and self-determination." - Alfonso Amendola, in: Alfabeta 2
"A guerrilla handbook – useful not so much to those who want to remake yesterday’s theatre (what we believe to be theatre). It will be much more useful to those who are inventing the theatre of tomorrow." - Oliviero Ponte di Pino, in: Ateatro
"This book is truly marvelous, an inspiration." - Frank Camilleri, University of Malta
"The Five Continents of Theatre passes from the secrets and tools of the trade to the description of situations and socio-cultural frameworks in which the actors’ community enters into relation with the community of spectators." - Raimondo Guarino, in: L’indice
"A book to navigate in time and space through what surrounds, justifies, makes possible the actor’s art – and accelerates it. A journey through the real state of theatres. The theatre as building as machine as business as dream as vocation as need to know and transform." - Massimo Marino, Brambilla Principessa
"[T]his an extraodinary tool of knowledge about theatre and actor's material culture for anyone." - Ilaria Salonna-Rogozinska, in: Culture and Society
"It is very rare, if ever, that we witness such a surprising quantity of valuable and astonishing illustrations accumulated in one publication. In their own sense, these illustrations represent a particular way of looking and researching in the theatre, and they reveal an engaging comprehension of the imaginative as a cognitive and sensorial skill in the actor’s craft…[w]hilst drawing attention to the physical materiality of the actor’s culture, the reader becomes aware furthermore of what, conventionally, is not seen as a material for the actor. This making of the invisible visible contains its own magical logic." - Annelis Kuhlmann, in: Nordic Theatre Studies
All interested in theatre anthropology, acting, performance, embodied knowledge, and cultural heritage.
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