Richard Schechner (b. 1934) had a deep and revolutionary impact on theatrical and academic philosophy. Schechner has questioned traditional theatrical, performance, and ritual traditions for almost half a century. His main point is that drama is a cross-cultural phenomenon that transcends the theatre. Performance studies must be intercultural, inter-generic, and inter-disciplinary to achieve these goals. (Schechner)
In performance theory, phrases like 'presentation of self', 'restored behaviour', and 'expressive culture' are used to describe social drama, ritual, etc. In contrast to previous, mostly modernist approaches to the arts, he emphasises the relevance of multiple 'systems of transformations' that vary greatly throughout cultures, historical times, and movements.
Theatre, performance, and popular culture are interwoven into the cross-disciplinary mix of performance theory, demonstrating its radical character. For theatrical practitioners, it is crucial to understand the theory's major techniques, especially the idea of "performativity."
Postmodernism asserts that culture has become a commodity rather than a criticism of capitalism. After WWII, new commodities and technologies and related cultural innovations arose from the ashes of post-war austerity. Abstract expressionism, modernist poetry, and existentialism in literature and philosophy were all high points of the modernist impetus in the 1950s. Postmodernism, which began in the 1960s, blurred the lines between high art and popular, mass-produced media, dubbed 'low art'.
Many assumptions in the western creative heritage, from Plato and Aristotle on, such as the concept that theatre reflects, imitates, or portrays reality in both individual and societal life, have been torn away in the Schechner world. 'All representational work assumes that 'art' and 'life' are not just distinct but also of different orders of reality. Art is secondary to life. Schmidt (2002, P.116)
Schechner believes in Performance Studies that 'performing onstage, in unique social contexts (such as public ceremonies), and everyday life is a continuity. (Schechner, 2002) It's hard to deny that we are all performers in some way. In today's "surveillance societies" of Western society, with CCTV cameras appearing everywhere, the possibility for performance as an extension of simply existing has never been larger. The omnipresent 'reality TV programme, as well as the do-it-yourself camera and personal webpages on the internet, have all added to 'the manner of being'. 2
Andy Warhol would have loved the new media's exhibitionism potential and smirked at his pioneering role in the movement. "15 minutes of fame" was a guiding principle in his films of the 1960s and 1970s, and it still rings true today.
According to Schechner, the world is a stage, and all men and women are players. To show a self-contained 'thing in itself, an abstract presentation of a text or concept is the primary focus of the drama theatre practitioner. (Ex: ed-theatre)
Not only actors offer self-contained performances with a beginning, middle, and conclusion. According to Schechner, politicians, religious leaders, businessmen and women all crave attention, admiration, re-election, and money. (Schechner, 2002) Like those of the theatre/performing arts practitioners, their performances are based on self-consciousness.
Role-playing is used in various situations, from psychotherapy to teacher training, and has similar goals to theatre improvisation programmes. That which is implanted from birth and learned through childhood is reflected in it. Jungian archetypes and collective unconscious ideas imply that an individual's mind is not a blank slate at birth, which has powerful consequences for the practitioner/performer.
Performativity, according to Schechner, includes 'performing in everyday life. 'Performativity is ubiquitous — in everyday life, professions, media, arts, and language'. (Schechner, 2002) It's the mother of role-playing and improvisation. The term 'showing off' is often used in childhood, but it also applies to adult behaviour. Certain industries and professions have developed conventional rules of conduct, including character traits, behaviour patterns, and vocal tones. These have been stereotyped as dignified priests, zealous reporters, serious court judges, etc. The customs have grown into performance modes.
The inference is that many people going about their daily lives are not being themselves. They are playing roles, some of which are pre-set. 'Performance in everyday life includes anything from solo or personal performances to small group activities to mass participation.' (Schechner, 2002)
Schechner observed that we all adapt our standard social conventions to varying degrees. Artists might be unusual or rebellious, but only revolutionaries attempt to break the rules to create permanent change. Stereotypes and archetypes have long been used in the arts, frequently parodying or undermining them. As role-play exercises indicate, those who strive for authentic performances can relate to these usual representations, but the underlying personality lurks a layer or two beneath.
A-Gender, directed by Joey Hately of Transaction Theatre Company, was a postmodern production that used many elements of contemporary theatre and performance theory. A-Gender, a profoundly dramatic exposition of transsexuals, deployed performance tactics outside the constraints of conventional theatre.
A one-person (or one-woman) show format and stand-up routine, interwoven with visual media (video sequences) and other performance modes, allowed the artist/performer to convey the confusion, pain and anger of someone whose gender identity makes them believe they were born in the wrong body, wrong gender.
Street theatre incorporates aspects from Happenings, as described by Allan Kaprow in The Seven Qualities of Happenings. (Kaprow)
There are key distinctions. There is an audience for street theatre, but it is not the same as in Happenings when everyone performs, and there is no audience. They share the importance of 'found space' in 'environmental theatre'. 'It doesn't matter how big the area is,' said Kaprow. It's early days, (Kaprow, Schechner,1977) According to Schechner, the theatrical event might take place in a wholly changed setting or found space. (Schechner)
Performance theory and new theatre are viable alternatives to traditional theatre in several ways. Other (visual) mediums, such as A-Gender, have been used. 'I recommend alternative tools, different techniques,' says Schechner. It will be helpful to compare theatre and associated performance activities using mathematical and transactional game analysis.' (Schechner, 1988) In Schechner's view, theatre is living, experiential, and organic rather than a simple replication or reconstruction of reality. His theory provides numerous practical tools for students and practitioners to think about and practise.
These are inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural and encourage exploration of the performer's inner existence. And this theory is mostly recalled in assignments and students take assignment help for the best assistance.
As the theory shows, this dynamic and multi-faceted technique may be used by all performing arts. It opens up new options for performers and directors, especially in experimental and fringe theatre.