The Power of Point of View

Perspective in Live Performance: To Embody or Not to Embody?

George 054by LEON SEAMAN   The post entitled How might ‘Live Performances’ of Biblical Passages be influenced by Awareness of Point-of-View Dynamics?  raises an intriguing question, and one that could (and should) be addressed at length. I’ll offer just a couple of brief observations from my own experience in performing Mark.

First, the observation that not every character should be embodied is quite right. In fact, your 2009 SBL paper entitled Performance Criticism Meets Perspective Criticism: Critiquing the Use of Point of View in David Rhoads’ Performance of Mark  in which you questioned Rhoads’ ‘embodiment’ of God in his performance of Mark 9:7 caused me to rethink the way I perform both scenes where God, or at least God’s voice, are a significant character in the action: the baptism (1.9-11) and the transfiguration (9.2-8). In both scenes, of course, although God is an implicit character (as throughout the Gospel), it is God’s voice that is heard. God is–obviously, but crucially–not seen.

In the baptism, the ‘view’ is through Jesus’ eyes and ears: the Spirit and the Voice are objective. As commentators frequently notice, the audience is invited to look over Jesus’ shoulders and to see and hear what Jesus sees and hears. That is exactly the way I perform it. I begin the motion of baptism as John bending down to immerse Jesus, then as I rise I swivel to become Jesus rising out of the water (with my back to the audience) to see the Spirit descending into him (my fluttering hand), and hear God’s affirming Voice. When I speak God’s words, my back is to the audience. I am embodying Jesus, not God at that point.

In the transfiguration on the other hand, once they arrive at the mountaintop, the ‘view’ is through the three disciples’ eyes, with Peter as spokesperson: Jesus, Elijah and Moses, and the Voice are objective, and should not be embodied. I perform the witnessing of the transfiguration, the appearance of Elijah and Moses, and the overshadowing and Voice as the Three or their spokesperson, Peter. When the cloud comes over, I am Peter cowering down, and I speak God’s words with my face covered. God is not embodied.

Your critique from the viewpoint of Perspective Criticism was very helpful to me in blocking and performing these scenes. Having said that, and this is my second observation, ‘live performance’ is a different breed of cat from either ‘reading literature’ or ‘watching film’, and those differences should be explored at more length.

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Categorised in: featured posts, point of view & PERFORMANCE CRITICISM

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