The Changing Face of Screen Performance
CHAPTER TWO: Dislodging the Self: from Authentic Individual to Postmodern Performing Subject 53
53 CHAPTER TWO Dislodging the Self: from Authentic Individual to Postmodern Performing Subject Performing for the Other Usually, we think of the actor as a subject in a performance — an individual who considers options and makes creative choices on be- half of a character being portrayed. However, it is also possible to consider the actor as an object to be variously viewed, investigated, manipulated, judged, desired and/or consumed by others — or by ‘the other’ as this is so often put. All performances are fundamentally structured by the (implicit or actual) presence of the other. This is true even in realism, which pretends (via the imaginary ‘fourth wall’) that the actor is not being scrutinized by any presence outside of the diegetic world of the narrative, and therefore that no such other exists. A vivid example of how this fantasy of self-enclosure can be easily dismantled is when an actor becomes gripped by stage fright. The debilitating condition of stage fright can be described as the actor freezing into a state of inaction through fear of losing control of the self under the harsh and judgmental gaze of the other in the form of the audience. The ever-present sense of otherness that hovers over all performance contributes a significantly paranoid dimension to its phenomenology; and, in our example, the fear of stage fright reminds each actor that performance is never safe and natural, but always car- ries risk, and even has the potential to become pathological. If the presence of the...
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