In a recent interview, renowned fight director B.H. Barry said of his work, and of the nature of violence, "I’m not frightened of violence. It’s a way of expressing something that you can’t do with words" (Kennedy). Staged violence has been common in performance from its origins, often necessitated by a text, and has evolved into its own discipline of theatre practice with regulations and credentialing processes to ensure the safety of actors and audiences. As such, we have come to know staged violence as a practical problem to be solved, a cog in the machine of a production process. But it is the moments in which violence is the narrative, where histories or lived experiences of violence are restaged before the audience as a means of exposition or catharsis, which still emerge as the most challenging for artists and audiences. Moreover, though performance for social and political change is far from a novel concept, we continue to see more graphic instances of staged violence isolated from their narrative purpose and dismissed as gratuitous, or existing for the sole purpose of "shock" - a tactic which, however effective, audiences have become averted to. The experience of spectatorship often contains an element of safety, a degree of separation which protects the audience from the action and upholds the theatre's status as a place of "escape." Apoliticism, and the desire not to be confronted with "real" issues in the theatre, perseverate among popular audiences, but it is these willfully ignorant audiences that political theatre often seeks to affect action from. When examining the theatre of political imprisonment and state torture, an ongoing global issue, an important question is raised - how might the recreation of real violence before our audiences active in them a more heightened awareness and inclination to act on this issue?
Prof. Miranda Giurleo, Thesis Advisor
Prof. Sarah Bedard, Committee Member
Prof. Emmett Buhmann, Committee Member
Prof. Jim Quinn, Committee Member
Imbeau, Kyle. (2023). Witnessing Torture: Staged Violence, Spectatorship and the Theatre of Political Imprisonment. In BSU Honors Program Theses and Projects. Item 616. Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/honors_proj/616
Copyright © 2023 Kyle Imbeau