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Topic- A Phenomenology of Acting

Embodied consciousness:
‘inner movement’ & the actor’s consciousness 
where phenomenology, cognitive science, and performance meet

Phillip Zarrilli

Based on my recently published book, (toward) a phenomenology of acting, in this lecture, I explore ‘the studio’ as a site for philosophical exploration–a site where the training/practices of the actor offer the possibility of “doing” philosophy “in the flesh”. Citing the reflexive practices of key historical figures who have focused on the actor’s embodied consciousnesss–Zeami (the founder of Japanese noh), Stanislavsky, Grotowski, and a South Asian understanding of acting–I explore “the studio” as a meeting place—a location where phenomenology and cognitive science can inform the actor’s embodied process as a form of “embodied enquiry”, and (vice-versa) where reflecting on the actor’s complex modes of embodying consciousness can inform developments in phenomenology and cognitive science. Defining the actor’s work as a mode of ‘embodied enquiry’ is an invitation to further re-consider the complexities of the actor/performer’s embodied experience, awareness, attention, and consciousness from ‘inside’ the act of performing–a location marked by bodily/sensory/experiential depth.This lecture will focus on a specific dimension of embodied consciousness in the lived experience of acting: the pre-articulate present, before words or thought. I will briefly reflect on how the perspective I have developed on acting as “embodied consciousness” is a result of my long-term engagement with and practice of kalarippayattu, yoga, and taiqiquan. My discussion will include first person accounts of the actor’s work in the pre-articulate present when performing Ota Shogo’s The Water Station.My analysis of acting in the pre-articulate present will elaborate Heidegger’s key concept of Befindlichkeit, and on Mark Rowlands’s notion of ‘Rilkean memory’.

About Phillip B. Zarrilli

Phillip Zarrilli is the founding Artistic Director of The Llanarth Group. Recent Llanarth Group productions include richard III redux (2018) with performances on invitation of the Simiotica Festival (Catalan National Theatre, Barcelona, 30 November/01 December 2019), playing ‘the maids’. Co-authored by Kaite O’Reilly & Phillip Zarrilli, richard III redux was one of three finalist scripts for the 2019 James Tait Black Prize in Drama (Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Festival). Zarrilli regularly works internationally as a director, actor, teacher, and author, and has a long-term relationship with TTRP/ITI, and maintains a private studio in West Wales. He directed O’Reilly’s  Lie With Me with the Intercultural Theatre Institute graduating professional actors at Esplanade Theatres Studio November 7-9, 2019, and O’Reilly’s Cosy with Gaitkrash Theatre for the Cork Midsummer Festival (June, 2019). His sole authored books include his award-winning Psychophysical Acting: an intercultural approach after Stanislavski, Kathakali Dance-Drama: Where gods and demons come to play, andWhen the body becomes all eyes.  He has also edited or co-edited Acting Re-Considered, and with T. Sasitharan and Anuradha Kapur, Intercultural Acting and Performer Training. He is Emeritus Professor of Performance Practice at Exeter University. He has a private studio in West Wales. He is co-directing with Kaite O’Reilly her latest commission–The Beauty Parade–scheduled to premiere at Wales Millennium Centre in early March, 2020.

Available from 9th October, 2019; 320pp. 51 illustrations


(toward) a phenomenology of acting
Phillip Zarrilli

In (toward) a phenomenology of acting, Phillip Zarrilli considers acting as a ‘question’ to be explored in the studio, and then reflected upon. Phenomenology invites us to listen to “the things themselves”, to be attentive to how we sensorially, kinaesthetically, and affectively engage with acting as a phenomenon and process. Using detailed first-person accounts of acting across a variety of dramaturgies and performances from Beckett to newly co-created performances to realism, this book provides an account of how we ‘do’ or practice phenomenology when training, performing, directing, or teaching.


Foreword by Evan Thompson
Statements by Bella Merlin and Ian Morgan
Introduction: Acting as a process of phenomenological enquiry in the studio
1. First person accounts of embodied practice: sensing as “living communication”
2. The lived/living bodymind
3. Attention and perception in action
4. Subjectivity, self, character, and figure in performance
5. The voicing body and sonorous speech
6. Imagining
7. Toward an intersubjective ethics of acting
Afterword: Coda to no end

Appendix: An historical note on phenomenology, and suggested further reading.

Hb: 978-1-138-77767-5 full cost: £110.00
Pb: 978-1-138-7768-2   full cost: £  32.99
eBook: 978-0-429-32252-5

For more information visit: www.routledge.com/9781138777682

Time Schedule

21st January 2020 @ 5:30 pm


Alternative Space 1

Lecturer : Philli Zarilli

…takes us back to the things themselves—our living, breathing, speaking, attention, and imagining bodies. It is not just about phenomenology; it does phenomenology
Evan Thompson, Professor of Philosophy, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada

…transports us to experiences that Stanislavsky and Grotowski could only imagine…destined to become a twenty-first century classic
Bella Merlin, Actor, Professor of Acting at University of California at Riverside

…a far reaching and thrilling journey into the embodied processes of acting which will liberate the actor
Ian Morgan, Performer and Course Leader MA Theatre LAB (RADA)