art art media media


Research - The Actor's Body

  • Statement
  • MA Thesis
  • Female Body
  • other

The body of actor (or performer) body is their most important tool. As an actor, a photographer, and theorist, I appreciate the body as a sign of humanity, a biological necessity, and as the mode and means of sensory perception and emotional/mental expression. Working with or without media, the body is the primary element of the stage, many art forms, and of human life.

As a youth nudity bothered me. Yet for my MA thesis, I found the actor's unclothed body (their bare shape) to be a powerful transformative sign (the clarified tool of the actor's expression existing both as a physical reality and a mental signifier). Later I explored nude photography and digital collage with the idea of the female nude as the protagonist in imagined and mythical landscapes. In my dissertation, I explored the body shown against digital media--with both the corporal/analogue and the flexible data creating performance through their conversation.

Currently, I am working along with a colleague, on a post-modern feminist art exhibit several pieces about the body that isn't there, the body at risk--an embodied response to potential bodily violence from the ambiguity socioeconomic "value" of the global financial adjustment.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, May 1996

Master’s Thesis, “The Nude Moment:  The Nude Actor on Stage in Marat/Sade, Equus, and The Constant Prince   

Sample from Master's Thesis


A Page of Nadja's Theory
The Nude Moment

(These excerpts are from Nadja Masura's Masters thesis in Theatre, University of Michigan A.A.1996) (Special thanks to Burt Cardullo and Leigh Woods, Diana Marie, Oyamo, and Joe Grigley)

"In a state of undress, the body is able to utilize all of it's surfaces, motion, and emotional aspects as the actor's and as theatre's most effective tool. . . .The naked body represents both positive and negative aspects of humanity, including: sensuality, pathos (pain), ecstasy (spirituality), energy (strength), perfection (beauty, mathematics, reason), sex, sin, and innocence. . .positive and negative aspects of the physical and mental being. . .  

(After a review of the actor's body as viewed in the theory of Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Artaud, Grotowski, and Brook). . .We are ready to proclaim (the nude actor) the ultimate tool in expressing the human state. . . uniting the mental/physical (spiritual/sexual) conflict. . . as seen in Marat/Sade's sensual murder of the idealist Marat in the bath, The Constant Prince's Christ-like death, and Equus's sexual/religious ecstatic night rides..

Since the actor is the medium of theatre and his tool of expression is his body, the most effective and simplest gesture is his nude form. The actor's body acts as a catalyst and a focal point for all the conflicting themes and forces in a play by nature of its (presence as the) primary sign in human memory and its ability to convey interior emotions through the physical exterior. When used centrally on stage, the nude body can bridge the paradox of inside and outside, and create charged theatre.

(In each of the plays) the male protagonist reaches a mental/physical climax. . . the jointure of mind and body occurs in the naked human being. . .(he can) transcend in the image of Christ or the Greek whole man. (However the female characters do not have the same ability for complex meaning and transillumination as the nude male protagonists.). . . In short, a naked man on stage may symbolize everyman i.e. the human being, a naked woman is still a naked woman, primarily viewed in corporal, sexual and reproductive terms.

We have a need for the understanding of humanity in this (age of rapid technology). . .rather than abandoning the audience to their (gadgets and allowing them to remain distanced). . .theatre has the ability to reestablish the human-to human connection through the actor-audience body recognition. We need a reminder that the human body (and life) is not a commodity. . .(It is important to look to performance art and bare essentials theatre) and support these productions as the very live, human recognition needed to help our society re-estimate the value of individual human life."

These ideas lead me. . .
to an exploration of the inherent nature-spirituality of woman, naked in nature. Because of my post MA distrust of written language, photography became my major medium for a period of several years. I met many like-minded young photographers, artists, and models through workshops with Mary Walsh. Concurrent studies in Multimedia touched on my directorial instinct, and strengthened my computer photo-collage ambitions. My developing projects are in a sense, visual-plays, allegories of woman's spirit in nature.

After photographing women with other female photographers in workshops, I shot my first all day shoot with models on the Sonoma Coast with fellow photographer Rachel Crockett MFA. Working at my first full show and studio tours, I became both pleased with the general response (good reviews, having a collector, getting some gigs) and somewhat unsettled by some interested (male) parties that wanted us to create more explicitly sexual material. The whole thing seemed to loose it's charm, a woman can sexualize the female nude (perhaps without intention).

Graduate school take two, at Maryland I again worked with the female subject (her body, her form, the symbol of the female in nature in culture). Projects like Rusalka (where I used myself and other actors as subjects for collage), a performance piece called White Witch/Black Pearl (cross racial male gaze contrasting my body and filmic images of Josephine Baker ), Thaw (female dancers layered against images of themselves and a winter storm), Outside/In (an original technology performance where a female protagonist based on the mythological icon Emily Dickinson meets with her selves in three different geographical states), a performance piece in which a female colleague and I ritualistically enacted a female wedding/baptism, of course the many ages of woman that I played in Loose Minds in A Box and the other Interplay performances which I lent my form, and the female shape filled with water in Elements was the living/real-time realization of my collages filling the female body with flowing water.

Recently, in creating media and performance for the new musical Morning Star, I again lent my form and my skill at approximating body and nudity through visual collage.