top of page

“Losing The Stage (The Seeing Place)”

The word theater is derived from the ancient Greek theatron (θέατρον). “Thea” means eyes and “tron” refers to a place.


The theater is in literal terms, “a place of seeing”. 

I have long understood the ancient Greek notion of theater as a location, and as a binding ingredient that showcases the Aristotelian six elements of drama--Spectacle, Character, Fable (Plot), Diction, Melody, and Thought.

But what if we took away the seeing place we have always known? What if the Aristotelian model simply did not play towards or allow the effective articulation of the Brechtian ethos?

At our moment, given the COVID-19 theatre shut down, our regular seeing place is no longer available as a medium. I had a palpable and energetic creative impulse to “lose the stage” intentionally--turning the classic scene of Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle into three distinct virtual performances. Similar to how live theatre was outdone by the new medium of film at Brecht’s time, the pandemic encouraged my use of the virtual theatrical space, and these three models of performance served as a new invitation to a theatrical inquiry into the Brechtian notion of relationship and intimacy—or lack thereof— between the actor and the new seeing place; the actor and material; the actor and spectator.  

I would first like to further elaborate on to provide a clearer account of why “losing the stage” is a key element in my directorial concept, especially as to liberate ourselves from the trap of assuming that virtual theatre is a compromised experience stripped of the requisite spectacle and aesthetic delight in comparison to a “real” theatre.

To begin with, Brechtian theatre calls for a mode of disruption. “Alienation” is one of the key concepts in Bertolt Brecht's dramaturgical lexicon. It is deeply interwoven and in part overlaps with other Brechtian categories such as the epic, gestus, anti-Aristotelianism, dialectics, and the didactic play. From the mid-twenties, Brecht's reflections on acting as a technique of alienation can be taken as a point of departure for considering the structural, technical, political, and philosophical principles involved in his aesthetic theory at large.  They coincide with his new alliance with Marxism and its theoretical concern with social alienation.  But Brecht’s Marxism was always his own.  He assimilated it but translated it into the appropriate aesthetic response to an alienated world. creating a correspondingly alienating drama.  

However, what we see on a regular “real” stage is the challenge for actors to comprehend and perform distanciation effectively and accurately, so the audience feels estranged to a point of arousal and surprise. There are often many barriers to achieve Brecht’s alienation. There is, to begin with, the setting of the “real theatre,” the act of falling into the trap of using bourgeois designs of theatre.  Even the overly close relations of an in-person cast poses obvious threats towards the final product for audiences to find their way out of the vacuum of emotional catharsis.

I turn to one solution--performing on Zoom. My performance consists of three layers of the distancing effect. In the sections below, I outline how I made use of, and worked within, the constraints of the virtual medium to formulate the production’s first layer of alienation through the external environment. 

A virtual performance is valuable, because it is a collective experiment in the search for the same theatrical substance Brecht sought for in Epic Theatre--he refers it to “radically different from theatre as expression or as experience.” 


bottom of page