This paper, from the Introduzione to the Storia della recitazione teatrale dal mondo antico alla scena digitale, Venezia, 2023 (courtesy of Marsilio Editori), initially describes the birth and development of the perspective adopted over the centuries by theatre scholars who have consistently regarded dramatic acting as the only form of acting worthy of study. The theatrical experiments produced from the end of the nineteenth century until the 1980s destroyed this perspective and the need arose to adopt a broader view of acting as “the employment of the human body and all its resources – movements, gestures, sounds, words – to capture live the attention of an audience, kindle its imagination, shape its feelings and thoughts” without singling out in the use of these resources, ‘high’ or ‘low’ forms of acting.
There arises the task of rewriting the entire history of acting by tracing the interweaving of the different techniques elaborated over the centuries, in acrobatics and contortionism, in athletic competitions as well as in singing, dancing, declamation and eventually the representation, through the actor's physical activity, of comic and tragic characters immersed in imaginary situations. A picture then emerges of a true acting civilization extending across the countries of East and West, while the schools and great figures of dramatic acting are placed in a more articulated context where the importance of forms of acting wrongly considered minor emerges, from the gladiatorial fights, the contests of the charioteers, the pantomime shows of ancient Rome to the art of tournament champions and court jesters, conjurers, horsemen, fencers, wrestlers, clowns, singers and castrati in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe, circus performers and fairground shanties, to the unique new forms of acting that today see the actor's body engaged with the resources of the digital world, the effects of motion capture, and the presence of the ciborg on the theatrical stage.
Claudio Vicentini è Professore Emerito di Storia del Teatro moderno e contemporaneo presso l’Università di Napoli ‘L’Orientale’. Ha scritto L’estetica di Pirandello (Milano, Mursia, 1970), Studio su Dilthey (Milano, Mursia, 1974), La teoria del teatro politico (Firenze, Sansoni, 1981), Pirandello. Il disagio del teatro (Venezia, Marsilio, 1993), L’arte di guardare gli attori (Venezia, Marsilio, 2007), La teoria della recitazione dall’antichità al Settecento (Venezia, Marsilio, 2012).