Impossible Bodies in Motion: The Representation of Martial Arts on the American Stage.
Abstract: This dissertation explores and interprets the representation of
martial arts on the American stage as a specific manifestation of stylized stage violence.
These appearances of simulated physical conflict relate to the larger embodied practices of
both stage combat and martial arts, as well as how this phenomenon reflects societal
understanding of the potentialities of the human body ... read morein motion. Chapter One is an analysis
of the semiotics of simulated violence. Chapter Two is a series of case studies of
mainstream plays and musicals that involve martial arts, and concerns both dramaturgical
and production issues of staging simulations of advanced physical agency. Chapter Three
concerns contemporary adaptations of Macbeth set in feudal Japan and the production and
dramaturgical concerns of having samurai characters on the stage. Chapter Four discusses
the Vampire Cowboys Theater Company, an award winning troupe based in New York City that is
famous in part for their martial arts based action sequences. The term "Impossible Body" is
used throughout this study to describe those movements that represent events that are in
violation of Newtonian mechanics. The Impossible Body is often one with exaggerated agency
and physical prowess, and is a phenomenon that often appears in various forms of
entertainment when a character is written as a martial artist. These elements are placed in
context by contemporary writings on violence and self-defense, existing scholarship on
stage combat, martial arts history, humor, and critical theory.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2011.
Submitted to the Dept. of Drama.
Advisor: Downing Cless.
Committee: Laurence Senelick, Barbara Grossman, and Kevin Wetmore.
Keywords: Theater, Theater history, and Performing arts.read less