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The Wooster Group performing BRACE UP! is a radical restructuring of theatrical experience and referentiality. Video unhinges the proscenium's discourse. Pictured left to right: Beatrice Roth and Kate Valk. Photo credit: Bob Van Dantzig.


1. You must never watch TV without thinking of something else at the same time. If you lose the simultaneous thought/image you must change the channel immediately and start again.

2. Flip through the channels and pick something that interests you to watch. When your interest is at its peak, change the channel and begin again.

3. Pick a channel and watch it until you are convinced the program is speaking directly to you.

4. Try to have a real conversation with the TV pretending that the people are ignoring you and so don’t respond.

5. Turn to a program that interests you. Try to watch the program and not hear what is being said and not see what is being done.

6. Turn off the sound on the TV and make up the conversations by dubbing in your own agenda on the spot. Do this alone.

7. Watch a "nature program" and project a classic play onto the animals/insects/birds.



These directions/descriptions are written down mostly after the fact. They were developed during the rehearsal process of the Wooster Group’s BRACE UP!* and they are subject to constant exception and reversal.

To forge for oneself iron laws if only to obey or disobey them with difficulty

All quotes are from Robert Bresson, Notes on The Cinematographer.


This is indispensable if one does not want to fall into REPRESENTATION. See beings and things in separate parts. Render them independent in order to give them a new dependence.

Fragmentation in "blocking:"

Performers can’t see each other.

Performers can’t hear each other.

Each performer has his/her own space, her own set of actions, her own "frame."

Performers on TV develop relationships with stage performer through the aural sense.

Performers on TV develop all relationships through a language of vocal and spatial displacements, i.e., the Baron speaks to a specific point on the up stage left wall to indicate that he is "speaking to" the Doctor.

Performers on TV are also seen on stage from the back and in profile -- and simultaneously on TV in close up. When the performers on the TV engage the lens directly, they are referring to the stage performers who spoke before them or after them.

*BRACE UP! is a theater piece based on Anton Chekov’s Three Sisters. It was completed by The Wooster Group under the direction of Elizabeth LeCompte in 1991.



Stage performers do not look at each other when they speak to each other (except in rare moments of convergence.)

Stage performers don’t say their lines to other perfomers, but to points outside the stage space (they can imagine the other performers in their heads) or to the stage narrator.

Stage performers are occasionally seen on the TV in long shots.

"Naive barbarity of dubbing. Voices without reality, not conforming to the movement of the lips. They ‘have mistaken their mouth.’"

Stage performers occasionally "live dub" lines onto random "dead" TV images, (i.e., Masha "dubbing over the Monster Zero film.)


The stage is divided into "zones" which employ different performance modes, and different formal devices for both the TV and the stage performers.

Zone 1: The stage performers speak to the audience or to a "false audience" beyond the real audience. The TV performers are framed in extreme close up with at least one major feature out of frame. The TVs are occasionally placed on diagonals on the stage.

Zone 2: Stage performers orient themselves on diagonals and parallels according to different floor pasterns and in relationship to different props and objects (not according to where the audience is). The props, TV wires, and performers are periodically reorganized. The performers on TV "follow" the actions on stage with their eyes.

Displaying everything condemns CINEMA to cliche, obliges it to display things as everyone is in the habit of seeing them. Failing which, they would appear false or sham.

Zone 3: Employs the conceits of "Naturalism." Small gestures. Performers speak "to" each other. Much of their dialogue is "overheard" or "partially obscured." Performers are far away (the microphones have a different sound, and the sound comes from a different place.) The performers on TV are framed "full face."

Zone 4: Upstage "live TV" corners, stage right and stage left. TVs move on tracks upstage and downstage. They swivel from side to side.



Performers on TV "talk to themselves" (on the monitor), or to the camera person, the wall, their own image, or to someone in their head.

The actor must make himself as in a mirror.

The TV monitor is visible to the TV performers and is used as a mirror of themselves. The mirror/monitor is used as a means of transformation from self to "more self."

The real is not dramatic. Drama will be born of a certain march of non-dramatic elements.

All "stage business" is equal; the re-plugging of a mic cord, the moving of a TV from zone to zone, and the delivery of a cup of tea -- all have the same weight -- the same stage attention, an accumulation of "real" work detail and "indicated" work detail makes up the stage life.

On stage a horse or dog that is not plaster or cardboard causes uneasiness. Unlike cinematography, looking for a truth in the real is fatal in the theatre.

The TVs are used as "masks," they emphasize the stillness of the performers. They are also used as background noise and as contradictory information (information that disturbs the linear narrative), and as confirming information (images that enhance the stage mood.)

The performers on TV are shown on "strobe" in order to flatten TV space, and to make TV space easier to comprehend at a quick glance.

The performer on TV uses "eye focus" with aural focus." For intimacy she focuses on something close (her own hand held up out of frame, small eye movements.)

If dominant stage action is at stage left, then the TV performers’ "gaze" must be towards stage right -- always pulling the center away from itself as soon as it forms.

In his film X displays things having no appropriateness to each other, and so without bonds and so dead.

TVs, when not used as a "mask" are used as "filler." Random images from our library of material, collected in tandem with the rehearsal process, are used but they have no literal relationship to the form and content of the Chekhov text, (i.e., the Godzilla imagery substitutes for the missing Solyony character.)

No conversation -- only monologue and space.

Actors are searching for masks of themselves -- not for character. Who they are on the stages is who they are on the stage -- period. They must be more "themselves" than in life.

Approach the play as a monologue of the playwright’s, not a dialogue among the "characters."

A director drives his actors to simulate fictitious human beings in the midst of objects that are not so. The false which he prefers will not change into true.

FORBIDDEN: "But, Masha wouldn’t do this" (i.e., speak to a lamp). There is no "Masha" on the stage. There is only the actor/performer. The audience makes "Masha" from the actors’ actions and the images which simultaneously occur in the stage world. The character is an accumulation of fragments of which the performer is the initiator. The character is a "moment in stage time" -- not an actors’ "interpretation."

Stage performers: make me believe the words are your words and that you are saying them for the first time.

Performers on TV: make me believe the words are your words and that you said them exactly the same a thousand times before.

The things we bring off by chance -- what power they have!

TV as random interruption/punctuation. A series of interruptions, both "signed" and actual interruptions, i.e., the loops of the fork falling to the floor with and without sound.

Video operator (who cannot see or hear all of stage action) intercepts his own series of images with "fork" loop inserts. These appear at random in the stage action but they are not random to the video operator, they are part of his improvised score.

Be as ignorant of what you are going to catch as is a fisherman of what is at the end of his fishing rod. (The fish that arrives from nowhere).

The stage narrator has the power to move and rearrange the space at will, hunting for the "performance" each night. Each night the performance is new.

Many people are needed in order to make a film, but only one who makes, unmakes, remakes his images and sounds, returning at every second to the initial impression or sensation which brought these to birth and is incomprehensible to the other people.

The director must be in the theater every night as though each performance is a new round of dailies.