Sweat, Tears, Shame: Exploiting Vulnerabilities through Chekhov’s Acting Techniques Imaginary Body and Atmosphere

Field: Gender Studies, Critical Theory
Project leader: Maria Lönn
Starting year: 2021
Project type: Postdoctoral project
Total funding: SEK 2,114,000

In the wake of #metoo and the reports of female actresses being more exposed to sexual harassment than their male co-workers, the aim of my research is to examine what embodied methods Russian and Swedish actresses based in Sweden use in order to perform with and through vulnerability by means of the Russian- American actor and theater pedagogue Michael Chekhov’s (1891–1955) acting techniques. The ethnographic project investigates embodiments of Chekhov’s techniques through the theory of feminist phenomenology: inter-corporality (Weiss) and body- scheme (Merleau-Ponty). My core research questions are: How do female actresses trained in or inspired by the Chekhov tradition apply, negotiate and embody Chekhov’s techniques Imaginary body and Atmosphere for performing with and through vulnerability?

Experiences of sexual violence and vulnerability are not limited to the performing arts, but actresses are often called to represent contemporary realities through performance. Thus focusing of female vulnerability in the theatre yields wider social significance of socio- political realities when it comes to women’s strategies of coping with sexual harassment. Understanding techniques of vulnerability through Chekhov is relevant since he explored the psychophysical dimensions of theatre and created one of the most inspiring acting theories of the 20th century. By placing Chekhov at the center, this project highlights the heritage of the Russian theatre tradition in Swedish performing art.