Interactional Contingencies in Rehearsing a Theater Scene: The Consequentiality of Body Arrangements as Action Unfolds

Human Studies 46 (2):303-335 (2023)
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Based on video-recordings of several weeks of rehearsals of a Japanese theater piece played by French actors, and adopting an ethnomethodological and conversation analytic perspective, this paper focuses on how the same few lines of a scene are subsequently enacted. In particular, it explores how the scene is played, not only in relation to the script but also to the situated moment-by-moment unfolding of embodied movements constituting the actions and achieving their detailed formatting and meaning. Whereas the dialogue refers to the scripted text, we argue that the multimodal details of each scene constitute a unique situated course of action achieved for ‘another first time,’ whose multimodal configuration depends on the temporality and the shape of each step, gesture, and body posture, as they are embodied and responded to in the vivid present and its contingencies. We demonstrate this by revealing how variations of the scene are performed, explored, and serendipitously found by the actors. We focus in particular on embodied details like walking, sitting, hugging and kissing, and the sequential and temporal positions at which they co-occur with the lines of the script. The analysis demonstrates both the indexicality of the script interpretations and the creative contingencies of the embodied work of the actors. In this way, it aims at contributing to current growing literature revisiting theater rehearsal as a situated activity and an interactional multimodal achievement.



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Lorenza Mondada
University of Basel

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