Happiness as a Quality of Dramatic Performance - the Chubbuck Technique: Struggle, Conflict, and Stasis

Nicholas Hope


This article uses an investigation of the Chubbuck Technique of actor training as a springboard to argue that happiness in performance is in fact an article of performance. It is not an end product, a static image; it is an ongoing action. I begin with an introduction to Chubbuck’s Technique that proposes the notion of struggle and conflict as areas of audience and performer interest and fulfillment. This is followed by a consideration of the idea that happiness is a by-product of the process of action-toward-goal. I argue that the concept of action-toward-goal relates to Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s ontology, specifically in his discussion of the role of embodiment in creating meaning, and in the way his Fundiering model posits communication in a linear temporal sense as both sedimenting and expanding meaning within a community. I draw parallels between Merleau-Ponty’s ontology and Stanislavsky’s System, and link these to Chubbuck’s use of Stanislavsky’s linear narrative model, where scene breakdowns create a narrative structure for the character in a piece. Whilst defining Chubbuck’s Technique in terms of its contextual particularity, I then argue that the through-line of contemporary performance involves the sense of happiness as an ongoing action; happiness occurs in the struggle to avoid unhappiness, rather than in the ecstatic release of attained goal. Happiness is an active state in performance, for both audience and performer. It is not static.


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