Dramatic Tension: Towards an Understanding of 'Tension of Intimacy'

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Primary Supervisor
O'Toole, John
Taylor, Philip
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Dunn, Julie
Greenwood, Janinka
Stevenson, Paul
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Date
1999
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Abstract

This thesis documents my attempts (as a playwright, director and process drama worker) to understand 'tension of intimacy'. It focuses on the questions: What is 'tension of intimacy' in drama? How might it be created? Does the experience of 'tension of intimacy' offer the possibility of new knowledge emerging for the participants and spectators of drama? The methodology (articulated in Chapter Two) involves reflective practice. This chapter incorporates discussion of the nature of knowledge claims and the way they might be judged. The need for criteria of openness is asserted. The research plan and the reflective journey are outlined. Problems associated with the approach are discussed. In Chapter Three, the premises informing O'Toole's (1992) naming of different types of dramatic tension are discussed. Ryle's and Koestler's (1975) models of emotional response are briefly outlined. The difference between emotional response to life and art, and claims regarding the roles of conflict and expectation in the creation and experience of dramatic tension are considered. The suggestion that dramatic tension relates to questions of identity, power and control is questioned. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the potential links between the experience of emotional engagement in response to drama and the emergence of changed awareness or understanding. In Chapter Four, I discuss 'the nature of intimacy' drawing in particular on the theory developed by Malone and Malone (1987) who (unlike other theorists discussed) separate the notions of intimacy and closeness and consider the way it might be experienced as people encounter, not just humans, but other aspects of existence including art. The defining characteristics of intimacy are articulated as connection, animation and heightened awareness. The 'qualities of intimacy' are defined as free choice, personal integrity, acceptance, personal surrender, self-responsibility, attentiveness, risk-taking, presence, participation and systemic detachment and playfbl engagement. Chapter Five incorporates reflection on dramatic works and real-life situations. This is followed by Chapter Six where I document several unsuccessfbl attempts to create script driven by a 'tension of intimacy'. I conclude by questioning my earlier assumptions. In Chapter Seven, the labels applied by O'Toole (1992) and Haseman & O'Toole (1986) to a range of different types of dramatic tension are reconsidered. Following this, I conclude that my earlier theoretical assumptions about the creation and naming of tensions: (a) are inadequate to account for the way people respond differently to the same dramatic moment (b) fail to recognise that tension is created through aspects other than narrative and determine that: (a) dramatic tension is not contained in the drama but in the spectators and participants as they experience it (c) every source of contrast is a potential cause of dramatic tension and these can emerge from within and external to the work I conclude that 'tension of intimacy' might be created if the defining characteristics and 'qualities of intimacy' are present in a spectator's or participant's response to the experience of contrast. In Chapter Eight, my focus shifts to consider structural devices which offer the possibility of the 'qualities of intimacy' being experienced in response. Irony; figure- ground contrast; ritual; and devices intended to distance, alienate or prolong perception are discussed. In Chapter Nine my process of working as a writerldirector to group devise the play's action is documented. The resultant play, Umbilical Cords and Metronomes, is included as Chapter Ten. The exegesis contained in Chapter Eleven is informed by participant and spectator interviews as well as my own response to the process and product. In conclusion, I discuss the terms connection, animation and heightened awareness as they apply in the experience of drama. Significant aspects influencing 'tension of intimacy' including playful response, trust, perceptions of integrity and individual 'reading' processes are discussed. The link between risk-taking, heightened awareness and the possible emergence of new knowledge is considered. Chapter Twelve begins with a summary of the study. Constraints and implications are then briefly discussed. The chapter (and thesis) concludes by returning to answer the questions originally posed. In conclusion I claim that 'tension of intimacy' names the experience of spectators or participants when the defining characteristics of intimacy (connection, animation and heightened awareness) characterise their response and is created when they experience: a feeling of invigoration or animation as they respond to a contrast or metaxis between the stage action and their real world existence (and) reduced conscious focus on the stage action and heightened awareness of their response to the juxtaposition (and) challenge, rather than affirmation, of earlier assumptions and beliefs. I conclude that trust, perceptions of integrity in the action (and in personal response to it) and playful engagement are prerequisites for this experience.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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School of Vocational, Technology and Arts Education
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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.
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Dramatic tension
Tension of intimacy
Qualities of intimacy
Dramatic works
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