Alright. Inspired by the Norwegian drama pedagogue Marit Sæbø classification of educational techniques, I’d like to propose a theory of my own. Or rather only a frame of a theory, but this is still something I have spent a lot of time thinking about lately. I hope my lay attempt of classification might be inspiring to others and that new concepts and ideas might pop up because of them. Use this for organizing your own confused thoughts or as a how-to-make-your-own-theatre-genre-FAQ.
To make it simple, I have chosen three different variables in which to define and describe certain genres and forms of theatre. Those variables are:
1. Motivation Why bother with theatre at all, this is the reasons and means behind that certain theatre genre. The types of theatre I will review here will either say something about us humans - and is therefore psychologically motivated, or it will mainly say something about society - and is therefore politically motivated, or it will be a tool of teaching and thus is pedagogically motivated theatre.
2. Ways of expression How does this certain kind of theatre express itself? The two variables are either through bound acting (script based, rehearsed theatre) or unbound acting (improvisation).
3. Relationship between actor and spectator Is there any difference between the actors and spectators? Separated or integrated?
Now then. Let’s begin with the familiar.
Traditional theatre as it is the most common form of theatre, played both by amateurs and professionals is mainly psychologically motivated. The means of expression is utterly bound by the script since the same performance is played time and again. Besides, the separation between actor and spectator is certainly there. In short traditional theatre is PS(ychologically motivated) B(ound) and S(eparated) - (PSBS)
Improvisational theatre is just like traditional theatre in all but one way. The expression of the performance is unbound as it is just that - improvised. Improvisational theatre is thus PS(ychologically motivated) U(nbound) and S(eparated) - (PSUS).
Still psychologically motivated is LARP or Live Action Role-playing games. Improvisation is the form of expression here and LARP is thus unbound. The role of the spectator and actor is fully integrated and everyone present is participating in upholding the dramatic illusion. LARP or in Norwegian Laiv is thus PS (ychologically motivated) U(nbound) and I(ntegrated) - (PSUI).
Brecht’s Epic theatre represents a new direction in western theatre and is a manifesto of the political revolutionary theatre. But it’s rather bound and really ends up with separating the actor and spectator, in spite of the distancing effects. Epic theatre is thus PO(litically motivated) U(nbound) and S(eparated) - (POUS).
Inspired by Brecht, invented Augusto Boal the theatre of the oppressed which may only be described as political improvisational theatre which actively integrates the spectators in the performance either in forum theatre or invisible theatre. PO(litically motivated), U(nbound), I(ntegrated). (POUI)
Some theatre-forms are mainly tools of teaching; this includes first and foremost Theatre-in-education (TiE). The form combines different elements from traditional and epic theatre and then utilizes them in classroom tutoring. It also contains some improvisation although it is mainly planned and rehearsed on beforehand. However, TiE eradicates the difference between actor and spectator as the learning of the spectators is the most important aspect of the performance. In order to learn spectators must actively participate in process of the performance. TiE I there fore describe as PE(dagocically motivated) B(ound) and I(ntegrated) - (PEBI).
Now, using these variables we can make wholly improvised TiE (PEUI) and many more forms of theatre. With the introductions of multiple levels of reality and metafictionality only our imaginations will limit us. Be creative, mix the elements you like the best and have fun.