Keeping It Active: A Practical Guide to Rhetoric in Performance


ISBN: 9781848429369
Author: By Jeannette Nelson
Publication Date: 8/12/2022
Publisher: Nick Hern Books
Extent: 192pp.
Availability: Available


Every time you open your mouth on stage you are trying to persuade somebody of something.

Sometimes referred to as ‘the art of persuasion’, rhetoric means using language to communicate your ideas and intentions to other people – and to make sure you are heard, understood and believed. This clear and concise guide explains how it works in plays, and how actors can use it to bring their performances to life on stage.

Drawing on her decades of experience working with actors on major productions, including as Head of Voice at the National Theatre, Jeannette Nelson introduces all the major rhetorical techniques and devices that playwrights use. She offers fascinating breakdowns of dialogue and speeches from across the theatrical canon – from Shakespeare and Ibsen, to Tennessee Williams, Lorraine Hansberry and Arthur Miller, right up to contemporary playwrights such as Helen Edmundson and Tanika Gupta. Each chapter also includes a series of practical exercises which combine spoken word with physical action to help you explore and understand these techniques, and harness their power in performance.

Whether you’re an actor, a director or a drama teacher, Keeping It Active will empower you with a greater understanding of the ways that language underpins all dramatic works, and will give you the tools you need to unlock the text, understand characters, connect with the audience, and perform with greater confidence, focus and authenticity.

‘As this excellent book outlines, rhetoric is everywhere. It’s not simply in the parliament, the press conference and the court; it’s in the workplace, the home and the family. There’s no argument, classical or modern, in a play that isn’t informed and helped by Jeannette’s work’ Josie Rourke, from her Foreword

‘A great resource for actors and directors’ Ralph Fiennes

‘Jeannette Nelson’s revelatory relationship to language is, quite simply, life-changing’ Simon Godwin

‘Jeannette taught me so much… I felt like I could persuade anybody to do anything’ Sophie Okonedo

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