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Emotional Geographies of Method Acting in Asian American Theater

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Method acting, in both theory and practice, is a technique that actively creates emotionally embodied performances. Yet the theory of method acting views emotions as experiences generated by an individual, independent of his or her social or geographical context. This article offers a spatialized rereading of method acting, highlighting the relational spatialities involved in the bodily performance of emotion, thereby developing literatures in theater on space, emotion, and meaning. A focus on Asian American theater enables an examination of the racial politics of this acting technique and its emotional performances. By drawing on four months of ethnographic research working as an assistant stage manager on an Asian American theater production, my analysis demonstrates how relational spaces of emotion enabled fluid performances of racial identity. The performance of emotion was marked by an ambivalent tension between seeing emotional experience as universal and also being marked by racial difference. Examining the theatrical practice of method acting therefore opens up geographical discussions surrounding race and emotion beyond a critique of universality or a focus on difference by attempting to reconcile these contradictory perspectives of emotions in performance. Dramatic forms of theater can be considered sites through which to demonstrate the complexity of creating, experiencing, expressing, and reading emotional bodies.
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Keywords: Asian American theater; emotional geographies; geografías emocionales; interpretación; method acting; método de actuación; performance; race; raza; teatro Asiático-Americano

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography,Royal Holloway University of London,

Publication date: 01 March 2012

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