Visceral design : experiments in creating the uncanny for live performance
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Fear is a powerful, unifying emotional experience. Art that stimulates a fear response in its audience is popular as a cathartic form and a powerful metaphor across a wide selection of media. What is the value of fear, anxiety and/or disquietude in a theatrical setting? How do we cause it? And what kinds of stories does it help tell? This project and paper explore potential answers through research and experimentation in design for live performance. This thesis examines the theory behind, worth of and potential methods for making uncanny theatre. It documents a series of five theatrical experiments developed and performed between the Fall of 2015 and the Spring of 2017 in the Department of Theatre and Dance. These experiments sought to make effective pieces of creepy theatre and to develop methodologies for doing so. This thesis also looks at films and plays that use the horror genre or the uncanny to tell stories about challenging topics like racism, difficult family dynamics, sexual abuse and individual private anxieties. It analyzes some of the ways these works create a sense of dread, what works and doesn’t work for them, and the value of the horror genre to the story. The goals of this project were twofold. First, to make engaging and effective pieces of uncanny theatre. And second, to provide information and insight about what works and doesn’t work to other theatre makers using disquietude and the uncanny in their own projects.