An extract on #acting
In the sense of actor-character relationship, the type of theatre that uses presentational acting in the actor-audience relationship, is often associated with a performer using representational acting in their actor-character methodology. Conversely, the type of theatre that uses representational acting in the first sense is often associated with a performer using presentational acting methodology.
In every theatrical performance the manner in which each individual actor treats the audience establishes, sustains or varies a particular kind of actor-audience relationship between them.
In some plays all of the actors may adopt the same attitude towards the audience (for example, the entire cast of a production of a Chekhovian drama will usually ignore the audience until the curtain call); in other plays the performers create a range of different relationships towards the audience (for example, most Shakespearean dramas have certain characters who frequently adopt a downstage platea playing position that is in direct contact with the audience, while other characters behave as if unaware of the audiences presence).
Presentational acting, in this sense, refers to a relationship that acknowledges the audience, whether directly by addressing them, or indirectly through a general attitude or specific use of language, looks, gestures or other signs that indicate that the character or actor is aware of the audience's presence. (Shakespeare's use of punning and wordplay, for example, often has this function of indirect contact.)
Representational acting, in this sense, refers to a relationship in which the audience is studiously ignored and treated as 'peeping tom' voyeurs by an actor who remains in-character and absorbed in the dramatic action. The actor behaves as if a fourth wall was present, which maintains an absolute autonomy of the dramatic fiction from the reality of the theatre.
Robert Weimann argues that:
Each of these theatrical practices draws upon a different register of imaginary appeal and "puissance" and each serves a different purpose of playing. While the former derives its primary strength from the immediacy of the physical act of histrionic delivery, the latter is vitally connected with the imaginary product and effect of rendering absent meanings, ideas, and images of artificial persons' thoughts and actions. But the distinction is more than epistemological and not simply a matter of poetics; rather it relates to the issue of function.
The use of these critical terms (in an almost directly opposed sense from the critical mainstream usage detailed above) to describe two different forms of the actorcharacter relationship within an actor's methodology originates from the American actor and teacher Uta Hagen. She developed this use from a far more ambiguous formulation offered by the seminal Russian theatre practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski in chapter two of his acting manual An Actor's Work (1938).