"Emotional Dramaturgy: Incorporating Care of Performers in Investigating roles of Trauma and Emotional Vulnerability"

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How do we create a space for performers to explore uncomfortable emotions but not carry those feelings into their personal lives?


In her work as an intimacy and violence director, a constant mantra when she is working with actors in difficult roles is that “uncomfortable is different from unsafe.” We must dramaturgically structure an environment wherein performers can safely explore these dark places, elicit emotions of characters facing difficult and/or dangerous situations, and just as importantly, dispose of these emotions and find a safe way to return to their own psychologically healthy spaces; leaving the trauma of the character in the room and not taking it home to their personal spaces.  

This lecture explores the necessity of creating what she has termed “emotional dramaturgy”, constructing pedagogical boundaries and psychological separation of performers and performance. Traditionally we have been told as performers to “just do it” whether it is a scene that requires violent language or physicality to another actor; an intense scene of physical intimacy; or one of rage, pain, or hurt. There are many writings of how to “put on” or create or elicit emotions for the stage as well as how performed emotions affect an audience. What is missing from much of the narrative is how to “take-off” the emotions and the affect of these performances on the actors. Drawing from concepts developed in directing intimacy or violence as well as theory grounded in trauma informed care and psychology we will explore ways to insure the safety of our performers.

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