Athlete of Emotion - Examining the Perdekamp Emotional Method
The Perdekamp Emotional Method (PEM) is an emerging psychophysiological acting system that claims to allow actors ‘safe, reliable and repeatable access’ to emotion, with no recourse to their own psychology, imagination or personal experience. Developed in Germany over the last thirty years, the process regards the emotions as innate, biological movement patterns, hard-coded in human beings, that can be invoked consciously through a specific combination of physiological triggers. In light of recent international studies that point to significant psychological unwellness throughout the acting profession, there is an ethical imperative for drama schools to investigate such techniques, and evaluate their legitimacy against more commonly utilised approaches to achieving believable emotion, such as the Emotion Memory techniques of Konstantin Stanislavski and Lee Strasberg, which have courted criticism for being both inefficient and, at worst, harmful. While Austrian research has been carried out to establish the scientific legitimacy of PEM, nothing has been written about it in English, and it is only just beginning to be introduced to performance training institutions around the world. This thesis investigates PEM's claims in order to contribute critically to the depth and understanding of this system, and to evaluate the potential value of introducing PEM into the conservatoire model of a tertiary Drama School, using practical experiments and teaching observations at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School as a case study. Its research results are evaluated through a combination of a historical review of acting approaches to producing emotion, interviews with PEM creator Stephen Perdekamp and Master Instructor Sarah Victoria about the pedagogy of PEM and its theoretical underpinnings (and evaluating this against current neuroscience theories concerning emotion), observations of and interviews with students learning PEM through workshop instruction, and practical experiments of applying PEM to screen work with student performers through a period from March 2017 to November 2018.