top of page

The "Self-Spectator"

The “self-spectator” in drama is the participant’s awareness that “as this is happening, I’m actually dealing with it and I’m seeing what I want to deal with”. Dorothy Heathcote stated:

All artists-creators (i.e. processors) of form (i.e. shaping for purpose) must always have part of their mind set upon scrutiny of their processes toward shaping and framing. So as soon as work in progress has the element of shaping and forming, the leader and “actors” in the making are always in this area. Of all the arts drama and theatre have no instruments outside of their own - that of the body working in space - this includes dance and song as the Greeks well understood. So the artist in the head is involved in simultaneously doing and observing the doing. Each time this occurs, ideas can emerge as projection possibilities …

Dorothy referred to the famous “stool pigeon” drama from the film Three Looms Waiting – and the way a young boy decided he should cry when his role as stoolpigeon was revealed to the other “prisoners.” The moment has been seen as an example of “living through” drama, as if it happened spontaneously, but it was actually pre-planned.

… that is what had happened when the stool pigeon spoke quite naturally to me as artist, when he volunteered that I think he (note the reference to “other than myself”) would/should cry because I/he didn't want to be a betrayer.

Screenshot (871).png

[Dorothy noted: “would”=identification; “should”=performance and forming.]


In discussion afterwards if you saw the video when one boy said “he'd have thought we'd all be happy to escape.” The stool pigeon said “But I betrayed you”. You can't either, ignore the fact that all the boys are actually prisoners and it was their own choice to be imprisoned so they would be drawing on what they needed to consider having been given the chance. ...

Two things merge in MoE [Mantle] - the client in the head urges the creative self-spectator (artist) which works in two ways – “I know I sustain my power to preserve the fictional enterprise” at some stages but “I also know that at relevant times I create demonstrations, selective ‘performances’ to trial ideas” and the client in the head then is exchanged for artistic monitor. Joan Littlewood says “good theatre is akin to the marketplace” – i.e. my quote added to hers, the hustle and bustle of ideas banging around, as people explain the world and what it means to be human together. That is also MoE. ...

I don't know if this hasty note makes for more clarity or more “fog” - but it reflects a long journey in my thinking - which continues every time I work in a classroom - whatever the age of the students. It creates the possibility of reflection which roots knowledge into the individuals and then into the groups’ understanding. Pirsig* calls this “innerstanding”. Surely our goal in all learning.  

[* Robert Pirsig - author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.]

Source: Letter to David Allen, dated 10.5.07. 

Screenshot (893).png
bottom of page