Theatre and Performance Studies Research Seminar – School of Literature, Art and Media Theatre and Performance Studies Research Seminar – School of Literature, Art and Media

Theatre and Performance Studies Research Seminar

Daniel Johnston

Antigone, Phenomenology, Festival

This paper presents an outline for a workshop** of Sophocles’ Antigone drawing on phenomenology, the study of the way that the world shows itself to conscious experience. The proposal builds upon recent workshops and articles investigating ‘theatre phenomenology’ in modern and classic texts and how it might be useful in the craft of acting (Johnston 2018a; 2018b). Sophocles wrote his plays for the Festival of Dionysus, of course, which was held on a public holiday when citizens would watch a series of plays presented in competition, led by coryphaei representing the various demes of the city. Through these performances, Athens actively debated the relative priority of public obligation and private interests of its citizens. And in Antigone, we see the time-play-space central to the festival, especially in its presentation of political ideas and embodied being-together of the polis. At the heart of the play is a questioning of civic duty itself. What happens when there is an irreconcilable conflict between social, familial, and divine duty? Picking out such phenomenological themes as ‘thrownness’, ‘falling’, ‘moods’, and ‘destiny’, I suggest a pathway into the text for an ensemble to explore through fundamental existential horizons of experience. Dunbar and Harrop (2018) suggest that a psychological-Stanislavskian approach to performance in Greek Tragedy and its logocentric attitude to text is misguided and limiting. But these philosophical themes can extend and inform an embodied approach. Because we lack a commonly held belief system around the ritual aspects of festival today, perhaps a phenomenological lens can open up a different liminoid space for viewing contemporary society through this ancient play.

** Note that, prior to the paper ‘proper’, Daniel will be offering a very brief ‘taster’ of some of these workshop exercises

Daniel Johnston is an Honorary Associate at the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, The University of Sydney and currently also lectures at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney. He is the author of Theatre and Phenomenology: Manual Philosophy (London: Palgrave). He has been a Principal Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, and lecturer at The University of Sydney, National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), and Macquarie University. He holds a PhD in Performance Studies (University of Sydney) and MA (Cantab) in Philosophy (University of Cambridge). Daniel is now preparing a book manuscript entitled, Phenomenology for Actors: Theatre and the Question of Being for Intellect Books.



Matt Tyne

Lajja baya and the social constraints or possibilities within which a gay identity might be negotiated in contemporary Sri Lanka

In his book, The Cult of the Goddess Pattini, anthropologist Gananath Obeyesekere, uses the expression lajja baya (shame-fear; shame and the fear of being shamed) to describe a common Sinhalese socialization practice that commences in early childhood and which, in some respects, conditions the way that a gay Sri Lankan man might construct a sense of their sexual identity. However, rather than taking lajja-baya as simply a local variation on familiar Western tropes to do with gays who are living ‘in the closet’ and who need to ‘come out’ to society, this chapter of my thesis will focus on the intersections of lajja-baya and other frameworks such as religion, caste, class, family/kinship and the general militarization of Sri Lankan society. While sexual identity (like gender identity, in Judith Butler’s theorization) may be understood as a performative accomplishment carried out under the aegis of social norms, the particular norms within which the participants/co-researchers in my project have been working out how to ‘do gay in a Sri Lankan way’ do not map very well at all onto a conventional Western ‘coming out’ narrative.

Matt Tyne is a doctoral candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Sydney and is also working with the university’s National Centre for Cultural Competence. He trained professionally as an actor at the Victorian College of the Arts. He has extensive experience as a researcher and project manager for international aid, development and human rights organisations, with a particular focus on Sri Lanka, South East Asia and the Pacific.

AV Room (S113), Woolley Building, Manning Road


Oct 11 2019


3:00 pm - 5:00 pm




John Woolley Building (A20)
University of Sydney NSW 2006

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