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A Formalist Theatre by Michael Kirby

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By Michael Kirby

Michael Kirby offers a penetrating glance a theater concept and research. His method is analytically complete and versatile, and nonevaluative. Case experiences display this new angle and list performances that in a different way will be lost.

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These characteristics may be visualized as a series of plastic shapes of various sizes oriented on the same axis, sometimes partially or completely overlapping each other. Each action shape is made up of many parts-smaller actions that fit together to make the whole. Some of the shapes (the static mode) are rectangular and do not change as they extend through time. Other shapes (the transitional mode) repeat the same configuration over and over. Others (the mode of memory/expectancy) expand, grow narrow, curve, and twist; they have points of varying sharpness, indicating their momentum.

Even so, if what is put into the work is what is supposed to be taken out, we have the communication mQdel. In a performance built upon this model, as most performances are, every element is intended to convey meaning or to aid in the process of decoding that meaning. If certain formal qualities are present, that is acceptabe, but they, too, are related to, and subservient to, meaning. We could diagram the experience of this kind of theatre as a triangle with meaning at the upper vertex. Figuratively, it rises over all the other elements or aspects of the presentation; all the rest are there only to support the meaning.

T tD ....... ,c:: L't tD o .... ,0' 3 GJ ~ n to 30 DYSART: (shaking hands) Mrs. Strang. DORA: Mr. Strang's still at the Press, I'm afraid. He should be home in a minute. DYSART: He works Sundays as well7 DORA: Oh, yes. He doesn't set much store by Sundays. (Equus by Peter Shaffer [1,7]) If one gets the feeling that this information will be useful, an expectation, which can be represented by an arrow, has been set up. Perhaps, later in the performance, the arrow will reach its target; the syntactic connection will be made.

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