Down the SoTL Rabbit Hole: Using a Phenomenological Approach to Parse the Development of Student Actors

Kathleen M. Perkins


Theatre is a multi-dimensional discipline encompassing aspects of several domains in the arts and humanities. Therefore, an array of scholarly practices, pedagogies, and methods might be available to a SoTL researcher from the close reading of texts in script analysis to portfolio critiques in set, costume, and lighting design—approaches shared with the humanities and the visual arts. For those studying the learning processes involved in developing actors, however, this article argues that it is necessary to go beyond the cognitive elements of the process and turn to the very experiential nature of performance to capture kinetic and affective learning. While basic voice, movement, and acting skills can be built on repetition and evaluated with critical rubrics, in order to capture the learning processes involved in the integration of cognition, voice, body, and emotion (affect), we have to use the reflective habits of mind present in theatrical culture. One approach to gathering reflective data for such studies is phenomenology. This article describes several SoTL inquiries into the experiential nature of performance. It argues that, depending on the research question at hand, phenomenological reports on developing acting skills intersecting with demonstrations of cognitive analysis and external performance critiques not only provide a rich data stew for analysis but deeper insight into the learning processes of the developing performer.


Acting Theory; Embodied Experience; Phenomenology; Actor Training

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Teaching & Learning Inquiry is the official journal of the
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