Theatre and Performance Studies: Shakespeare’s Phenomenology of Time in ‘Macbeth’ / Shakespeare in the modern acting school – School of Art Communication and English Theatre and Performance Studies: Shakespeare’s Phenomenology of Time in ‘Macbeth’ / Shakespeare in the modern acting school – School of Art Communication and English

Theatre and Performance Studies: Shakespeare’s Phenomenology of Time in ‘Macbeth’ / Shakespeare in the modern acting school

Dr Daniel Johnston

Shakespeare’s Phenomenology of Time in Macbeth

There is an essential “doubleness” of time in Macbeth. The witches equivocate in their prophecies of the future while the fictional world of the play has a temporal double on the early modern English stage in performance. Drawing on phenomenology, this article investigates Shakespeare’s phenomenology of time. As an approach, phenomenology rejects the idea of time as a series of “nows” and instead examines the rich, lived experience of time. As Matthew Wagner suggests, Shakespeare places the internal subjective experience of time on stage with “temporal dissonance”, “thickness”, and “materiality”. Shakespeare was living through an historical age emerging from a medieval world view into the modern epoch – including a specific understanding of history and time. Macbeth is presented with possibilities for action within time affecting his relationship to others as he encounters a crisis of authenticity. He resolutely chooses his course of action by seizing power, but he fails to take into account the temporal structure of existence, or rather has it handed over to him, thus making his present a kind of past. He believes that he no longer has a choice and that all choices ultimately have no meaning with the result that this doomed soldier’s rise to the throne presents a challenging question to the audience about authentic resoluteness. This article sets out a phenomenological interpretation of temporality in Macbeth and the nature of “shared time” weaving the fictional world of the play into the reality of performance.

Bio: Dr Daniel Johnston is the author of Phenomenology for Actors: Theatre-Making and the Question of Being Intellect / University of Chicago Press, 2021 and Theatre and Phenomenology: Manual Philosophy, Palgrave, 2017. He is an Honorary Associate at the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at The University of Sydney. Previously, he was a Principal Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, UK., lectured at The University of Notre Dame, Australia, a Lecturer at The University of Sydney, an Associate Lecturer at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), and Lecturer at Macquarie University. He holds a PhD in Performance Studies (University of Sydney) and MA (Cantab) in Philosophy (University of Cambridge).


Shakespeare in the modern acting school

Why is Shakespeare still used as a learning tool in actor training? With so much of the work opportunities available for contemporary actors being in television, film or on cable channels why do western orientated actor training colleges still give their students extensive experience through working on Shakespeare theatre productions? My research for my Master of Philosophy is predicated on these questions. Is it Shakespeare’s strong brand name that still attracts interest from the heads of drama schools in using his texts to train students? The performance of the play? Or the many technical skills that the students must master in order to perform the play effectively that keeps it on the acting school curriculum?  For the performance of Shakespeare acting students use a combination of acting technique, verse speaking, rhetorical devices and vocal and speech approaches to Shakespeare’s language and imagery. My introductory paper gives an overview of what I have discovered so far about these Shakespeare performance approaches.

Bio: Sean O’Riordan worked as a journalist then retrained as an actor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff, Wales. On graduation he performed on the London stand-up comedy circuit before touring with a number of UK theatre companies for seven years. In Sydney he toured Shakespeare to schools, performed stand up at the Comedy Hotel and the Comedy Store, began teaching and directing at drama schools and in 1996 formed Barestage Theatre writing, directing, producing, and performing in 12 plays. Film and television work includes: Candy with Heath Ledger, The Man Who Sued God with Billy Connolly, The Kangaroo Gang, Hard Nut and Crime Investigations Australia The Butchered Boys. Most of his directing work is now focussed on directing Shakespeare at drama schools and Sydney independent theatre companies. As well as freelance directing he also teaches/directs for the Academy of Film, Theatre and Television, NIDA, Darlo Drama and Sydney Theatre School. He recently directed and produced through a Sydney Council community grant a theatre/film production – Macbeth: the installation, which played live over three nights directly to You Tube.

Event Venue:
AV Room
John Woolley Building A20


Apr 30 2021


3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


AV Room (S113)
John Woolley Building (A20), Manning Road entrance

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