Between Theater and Anthropology
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In performances by Euro-Americans, Afro-Americans, Native Americans, and Asians, Richard Schechner has examined carefully the details of performative behavior and has developed models of the performance process useful not only to persons in the arts but to anthropologists, play theorists, and others fascinated (but perhaps terrified) by the multichannel realities of the postmodern world.
Schechner argues that in failing to see the structure of the whole theatrical process, anthropologists in particular have neglected close analogies between performance behavior and ritual. The way performances are created—in training, workshops, and rehearsals—is the key paradigm for social process.
behavior is always subject to revision. This "secondness" combines negativity and subjunctivity. & Put in personal terms, restored behavior is "me behaving as if I am someone else" or "as if I am 'beside myself,' or 'not myself,' " as when in trance. But this "someone else" may also be "me in another state of feeling/being," as if there were multiple "me's" in each person. The difference between performing myself — acting out a dream, reexperiencing a childhood trauma, showing you what I did
familiar cultural performances from film, telescreen, to stage. In this book he goes into great detail, in inter- and cross-cultural terms, as to how ritual and theatrical traditions become enfleshed in performance and in their dynamic incarnation act as a reflexive metacommentary on the life of their times, feeding on it and assigning meaning to its decisive public and cumulative private events. I hope that anthropologists will not turn away from Schechner's fundamental contribution to the
footage. By contrast, and definitely in costume, the main actors—Nambudiri Brahmans—are "disfigured only by an occasional wristwatch." Scholarship plus media can turn the clock back three thousand years. Naturally enough, given the cinematic conventions of this kind of thing, the film itself shows very little of the struggle to make an "accurate" document of the agnicayana. The account of that struggle is reserved for the book, Agni: The Vedic Ritual of the Fire Altar (Staal 1983; two
translation: We will not stay in India, We will go to England. We will not eat what is here But we will eat cookies and bread. We will not sleep on torn rags But on mattresses and pillows. And when we go to England We won't have to speak Bengali But we will all speak Hindi. The villagers assumed that in England the "national language" was the same as it was in India: Hindi. The question: Is this village's Chhau, so full of contemporary longings, to be condemned for not being "classical"? Or is
Ramlila, the core dramatic conflict, begins. Ravana, by performing all kinds of austerities, earns a boon from Brahma. Ravana asks: "Hear me, Lord of the world. I would die at the hand of none save man or monkey" (Tulasi Das 1952, 82). Such will be Ravana's fate, for he, like Macbeth ("For none of woman born shall harm Macbeth") or Milton's Satan, is too proud. As scholars researching Ramlila, Linda Hess and I felt it was our duty to see and hear everything. But this, we soon discovered, is