Queen’s CDS: Theatre in the Age of Film and Television

Queen’s CDS: Theatre in the Age of Film and Television


>>My name is Grahame Renyk. I’m an adjunct instructor
in the Department of Drama for Continuing and Distance Studies
I’m the instructor for Drama 205: Theatre in the Age of Film and Television. And I wanted to talk a bit about this idea
that we often encounter when we are talking about how people interact
with fictional story telling, which is the idea of willing
suspension of disbelief. And what I like to point out in Drama
205 is that we sometimes don’t listen to exactly the wording in that phrase and it’s
this idea of disbelief that’s really important. That when we engage with a fiction
we need to on some level realize that it’s a fiction and know that it’s fake. So actually it’s healthier to not believe
in what you’re watching is a fiction. So here’s a little example, just a
thought experiment we go through. Imagine you’ve got an experimental theatre
production where you are taken to a prison camp, a manufactured prison camp and it’s all actors
and it’s all props and you know you are dressed up in a costume and you’re led through and
off in the distance you see you know a guard and a prisoner and something
awful happens off in the distance but because you know it’s just a
show and it’s an experimental show, you may be moved by the whole experience
but you know on some level it’s not real. Now imagine if you will as sort of a
Kafkaesque scenario where instead of it being like that you just went to bed one night and
while you were asleep somebody picked you up without your knowledge, put the costume
on you and you woke up in this performance. But you don’t know it’s a set,
you don’t know those are actors and you don’t know those are prop guns. Then all of a sudden what was
moving and kind of distressing but at least you knew it was fake
becomes a real life experience. So on the one hand we need disbelief
just to preserve ourselves psychological but on the other hand we need it so we
can engage with something poetically. The fact that you know it’s fake removes
the expectation that it has to be real like real life and it opens doors up to a whole
other mode of performance that’s very exciting, which is why I always tell students
that disbelief is the secret weapon that theatre has at its disposal. [ Music ]

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