Objects and performance
Spencer Hazel (2015)
This line of investigation concerns the enactment of objects within theatrical performance, including their transformation from material resource to prop to socially situated object within a staged scene.
The study adopts an interaction analytic approach to investigate how theatre practitioners e.g. explore, discover, negotiate, learn and reproduce such representations of interaction. Producing recognisably realistic representations of social practices is part of what Burns (1972) has described as “authenticating conventions”, affording staged scenes credibility, as they draw on common-sense understandings of the social world that are shared by their audiences, including those members of the public who have more intimate knowledge of the settings being depicted.
In naturalistic performance, the appropriate use of objects (props) is one area that actors are required to get to grips with, as they work the objects into the course of the dramatic action, exploring how best to represent the authentic handling of objects relevant to the proceedings.
The data instances where the actors work on enacting particular objects. By enactment, I mean here the bringing to life of a prop as a recognisable, situated object within a naturalistic representation of a particular activity. The way in which these members organize their engagement frameworks around an object transforms it from one class of object to another. For example, a generic plastic tube becomes appropriated first as a theatre prop, then subsequently enacted as a catheter, with members drawing on diverse pools of professional knowledge. These transformations are occasioned through changes in how the members handle the tube, and how they jointly organize themselves around the enacted object. By presenting such handling as an informed approximation of (medical) professional competence, the performers enact objects as recognisably authentic artefacts for the setting being portrayed, and consequently display to a viewer how such objects are implicated in the procedures at hand.