No Strings: Contemporary Theatre Technology Realizes Edward Gordon Craig's Über-Marionette

Date of Graduation

Spring 2002


Master of Arts in Theatre


Theatre and Dance

Committee Chair

Michael Mauldin


In the conteporary Broadway musical spectacular, the performer shares the stage with elements that are programmed to perform fixed motions in a set amount of time. Consequently, the contemporary actor must become programmed in order to conform to the nonpliant demands of the technical surroundings. Aided by the use of computerization which commands and integrates lights, sets and performer into a whole, today's theatre is the work of the auteur: one voice executing, one vision, in control of everything. This combination of a single theatrical interpreter with the technological means to literally dictate every moment of the stage presentation has radically altered both the intent and perception of the contemporary actor. The history and progress of theatrical technology, as explicated by George C. Izenour, indicates a profound shift away from the performer as the dominant interpretive sign. Correlatively, the artistic theories surrounding the creation of the "uber-marionette" by Edward Gordon Craig have effected a new method of acting performance and training, which shifts the traditional definition of performance defined by Bernard Beckerman as one which "must appear to be self-generative [...] and free of restrictions and limitations." Explorations of contemporary Broadway spectacles reveal a diminishment of spontaneity and increase of limitations. Performers share the stage with animated scenery that performs in precise and repeated movements. Performers have to duplicate this process or risk injury. With the rise of the auteur director as exclusive textual interpreter and the incorporation of theatrical technology as a means to increase audience attendance to tourist productions, the contemporary performer has been transformed into Craig's uber-marionette. For the purpose of commercial production, design and direction, performers are puppets with "no strings."

Subject Categories

Theatre and Performance Studies


© David Kilpatrick