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Breaking Virginia's Waves (1931): from page to stage

Abstract : Dance space and theatre space can be used as critical thinking spaces in the language and literature class, with substantial gains in student motivation and engagement. This claim was put to the test with a group of 38 graduate students who co-designed a stage adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s experimental novel The Waves (1931) using acting and dance-composition techniques. Woolf’s 77 480-word piece (225 pages) was reduced to 3,4% of its original length (2684 words, 7 pages). The experience was creative (reprocessing and essentializing rich textual input, designing scenes, tableaux and movement sequences); heuristic (investigating narrative technique, discovering elements of patterning and consistency below the surface of a complex and confusing narrative); socially cohesive (fostering mutual-support, developing collective forms of understanding, stage directing and acting); and immersive (stimulating all the senses, involving body and mind with few pauses and no opt out). Conditions were thus created for subjects to engage in verbal, visual and kinaesthetic acts of interpretation in all three senses of the word: cognitive (“understanding”), artistic (“performing”) and intersemiotic (“translating” into a different sign system). As this happened, students found themselves cast in the role of moving and speaking cognizers, staging bodily displays of meaning, and reframing Woolf’s written narrative as a series of “acts” and “scenes” to be performed - not just read. A form of semiotic appropriation took place that resulted in a performative reassignment of meaning which not only “made sense” to movers and viewers alike, but struck everyone as being plastic, aesthetic, and compelling. This article provides textual and visual illustrations of the remarkable result achieved by the graduate students involved, under the professional guidance of Oliver Borowski (theatre) and Melissa Blanc (dance). It includes the script and visuals from the workshops held at Université Bordeaux Montaigne (France), and an evocation of the final public performance given at Teatro Civico (Vercelli, Italy) at the international student theatre festival organized by Università del Piemonte Orientale (TILLIT 2019, dir. Marco Pustianaz).
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Contributor : Jean-Rémi Lapaire <>
Submitted on : Saturday, December 14, 2019 - 10:17:34 AM
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Jean-Rémi Lapaire. Breaking Virginia's Waves (1931): from page to stage. Miranda : Revue pluridisciplinaire sur le monde anglophone. Multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal on the English-speaking world , Laboratoire CAS (Cultures anglo-saxonnes), 2018, Rethinking Laughter in Contemporary Anglophone Theatre. ⟨halshs-02410925⟩



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