The Understudy: The Embodiment of a Life on Stage
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This study presents a work of theatre art in the form of an autobiographical monodrama, supported by three exegeses: a review of informing literature, one of the writing process, the third of the critical reactions to the play at different stages of its development by readers and audiences. The thesis considers the two questions, How can theatre depict my autobiography? and How can monodrama be used to express this autobiography? The first question implies an examination of the process of writing and producing an autobiography for the theatre. The second question is answered through the process that developed in this study towards the choice of the form of a monodrama. The methodology emerged as the play was written and a journal recorded. At times the approach, particularly as it affected the writing of the play, was more like action research in which the play was reacted to and then amended in a cyclical manner, the writer also developing new understandings in the process. The reflective process was used to help in understanding the development that was taking place. A survey, and interviews with audience members were conducted as part of the investigation once the artwork was presented. In addition, after the piece had been developed to the point of presentation, it was subjected to critical evaluation, The data from the audience assisted in the development of the artwork as well as developing an understanding of the research question and the possible answers or further questions. The Generic Exegesis arose out of the reading, and developed as an exegesis accompanying the writing of the play once the form of the play had clearly become a monodrama. The Generic Exegesis is designed to show background reading that has informed directly the writing and performing of the play, 'The Changeling'. A principal objective for writing the play developed from a desire to help others to understand something of the conflicts and dilemmas facing adoptees towards the search for self identity and its relationship to acting. Part of the conflict for an adopted person was crystallised in Derridas concept of erasure and the use of the trace to recognise the coexistence of both sides of a binary, which rationalised the splitting of the central character into the two traces, Dominic and Frank. My need for control of the outcome affected the selection from the autobiography, the development of some scenes, and was one of the reasons for the use of fiction. The data for the Process Exegesis came from the journal that was kept during the writing, production, performance and rewrites of the play. The role of the audience had emerged in the interview data and one of the interview questions asked what kind of audience the respondent thought the play suitable for. The Process Exegesis shows that part of the answer to the research question is arrived at through the systematic recording and analysis of the processes that were involved in the writing of the autobiographical play. These have shown that artistic worth was increased as a factor of the distance achieved. The Critical Exegesis showsthat the issues that the play addressed such as adoption and a search for identity were also perceived as important by the readers and the audience. Significant contributions to the development of the play were made by the Dramaturg (Dl) and some cogent points were made by a second dramaturg. The respondents who were interviewed reacted to the content of the play, namely adoption, identity and the issues associated with them, as well as the performance. This study investigates the processes of the development of an autobiographical performance from the generation of the script to the public presentation. It shows that theatre can artistically depict an autobiography and that the perceived appropriate contemporary theatre formis the monodrama. The main issue to be recognised as arising out of the play and the process is that the whole project has been a search for identity. That identity is defined in the range of characters portrayed in the play as well as the process of writing it. The outcome of the investigation was a piece of dramatic performance text that I had written and performed, accompanied by a critical commentary on the creation, production and reception processes.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Vocational, Technology and Arts Education