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Response to 'The Empty Space' by Peter Brook

Class: Designing for Live Performance

Instructor: Andrew Lazarow

Not having any background in theater, yet having a love for it, I was excited about being exposed to more to this field through this reading. The opportunity to read 2 of the chapters from The Empty Space by the renown Peter Brook was eye-opening.

The two chapters I read talked about Peter's points of view and his definitions for two types of theaters: The Deadly Theater (chapter 1) and The Immediate Theater (chapter 4).

Chapter 1: The Deadly Theater

According to the author, Deadly Theater means "bad theater". One that is boring, dull and "as a whole, the theater not only fails to elevate or instruct, it hardly even entertains." One of the problems at the heart is "deadly acting" as a result of "inadequate rehearsal time", lacking guidance in sharpening their skills and talent development. It is when an actor "begins to turn work that gets more and more similar". The author mainly criticizes deadly theater in case of commercial theaters. I do think it is important to inspire the audience and to allow them to be challenged. Having said that, how a theater production is considered boring and uninspiring, can be very subjective. Performances and acting styles that gets old over time may only be noticed by regular audience. In addition, certain groups of audience come theater purely to be wowed by visual effects and stage designs instead of the actual acting and/or the stories on stage. I think there may be an opportunity to break down even further types of Deadly Theaters to address wants and needs of different types of audience as well as types of productions.

Chapter 4: The Immediate Theater

According to Peter, "the theater narrows life down". Immediate Theater is one that "asserts itself in the present", one that he would recommend. The importance of training actors in improvisation to get away from Deadly Theater is emphasized. I can't comment on the technical viewpoints and explanations by the author; however I can agree that a theater that makes stories feel real and allows the audience to relate emotionally because of how close it it to ordinary life is indeed valuable. Having said that, what about any benefits of theater productions that are a little far from real life and the present? Would they somehow offer a new, experimental viewpoints?

Peter emphasized the serious intentions in every staged item, every movement on stage, every . arrangement - a "working system" to create that "reflection of life". This also requires a relationship among actor, subject, audience, director, designer. If any component in this relationship goes wrong, it can spoil the performance. This speaks to me in terms of collaboration in designing for live performance. No one is supposed to be working alone and completely independent from the others. I like the idea that a good performance occurs in an overall supportive environment.

In terms of the "developing process" of a performance, great moments will change as one goes through several rehearsals. A word, a body movement may speak to the director differently as time passes. This makes me think of the flexibility of one who is able to adapt to new opportunities, new moments of good performance throughout the designing process. However, there is a limit to adapting and adopting new ideas without constantly changing one's mind and focus.