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Exploring the Transformative Potential of Sign Language Gestures in Theatre:

An Investigation into the Application of

Michael Chekhov's Concept of Psychological Gesture

by Francesca Mintowt-Czyz



My research is deeply rooted in the visionary work of Michael Chekhov, particularly his groundbreaking concept of psychological gesture. This concept emphasizes the power of physical movements and gestures to evoke profound emotional responses in both actors and audiences. Building upon this foundation, my research aims to extend the boundaries of theatrical expression by investigating the utilization of sign language gestures as a potent tool to enhance emotional engagement and authenticity in the world of theatre.


Research Objectives:

  •     To examine the transformative potential of sign language gestures in conveying emotions within the context of theatrical performances.

  •     To explore how the principles of Michael Chekhov's psychological gesture can be adapted to facilitate emotional depth and authenticity in actors' performances through sign language.

  •     To understand the psychological stressors that actors encounter during the creative process and develop techniques that guide them away from analytical thinking and into a more experiential, embodied state.

  •     To advocate for the importance of visceral, emotionally-driven acting, where emotions are genuinely experienced rather than merely intellectualized.


  •     Literature Review: Conduct an extensive review of existing literature on the works of Michael Chekhov, psychological gesture, and the application of sign language gestures in theatre.

  •     Observational Studies: Observe and analyze live theatrical performances that incorporate sign language gestures, focusing on the emotional impact and authenticity of the actors' portrayals.

  •     Workshops and Training: Collaborate with theatre professionals, actors, and sign language experts to develop and test techniques that enable actors to connect with their emotions more deeply.

  •     Surveys and Interviews: Gather insights from actors, directors, and audience members to understand the effectiveness and impact of incorporating sign language gestures in theatrical productions.

  •     Case Studies: Analyze the experiences of actors who have successfully transitioned from analytical acting to an embodied, emotionally-driven approach, drawing upon Michael Chekhov's principles and sign language.

Expected Outcomes:

  •     A deeper understanding of how sign language gestures can be integrated into theatrical performances to enhance emotional expression.

  •     Innovative techniques and exercises for actors to overcome psychological stressors and access a more authentic emotional state.

  •     Insights into the impact of these techniques on audience engagement and emotional resonance in theatrical productions.

  •     The promotion of a broader perspective on acting, emphasizing the importance of visceral, experiential emotions over intellectualization.


Application and Significance:

This research has the potential to revolutionize the way actors approach their craft and how directors and playwrights conceive of theatrical productions. By bridging the worlds of Michael Chekhov's psychological gesture and sign language, this research can contribute to the evolution of theatre, making it a more emotionally resonant and authentic art form. Additionally, it can pave the way for greater inclusivity by promoting the use of sign language gestures in mainstream theatre, enriching the experiences of both Deaf and hearing audiences.

Through this research, I aspire to foster a deeper connection between actors and their emotions, between performers and their audience, and between different linguistic and cultural communities.

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