W is a research collective that studies action in a performance setting. What does it mean to act as others watch? What characterizes the relation we call theater?
To answer these questions, W simultaneously develops three complementary approaches: a practice, which builds tools and techniques for the actor; a critical method, which suggests reception guidelines for the spectator; and a theory, which works to define notions useful to the first two approaches.
In particular, W produces games, a lexicon of operational notions, a critical seminar, a theoretical apparatus, articles, conferences, research sessions, as well as school visits.
W-Practice designs and tests tools for action in a performance setting.
The first tool, called an operational lexicon, deals with naming the different aspects of a performed action. When the lexicon is shared by all of a project's actors, it allows them to better express its terms, to more accurately share and define its issues, and to adapt and adjust them accordingly.
The second tool, a notation system, allows us to write and articulate action in the form of "scores." A score is a group of either simultaneous or successive actions organized according to rigorous formal criteria. Scores not only allow an actor to literally record his or her own line of action and combine it with other actors' lines, it also allows him or her to modify it on paper. When shared, this system of notation allows a score to be transferred to an actor for interpretation or expansion.
The third tool, the W-method, consists of an assortment of techniques for performing action as concretely as possible, thus relieving the actor of the responsibility of representing something. To this end, it provides a whole array of imminent criteria and syntactic rules that equip the actor to make choices that guarantee multiple outcomes, to articulate an action dramaturgically, and to priviledge autonomy and openness to the event.
These tools are developed at research sessions bringing together performers of all kinds. They are also practiced as games in which the activity of an actor, writer, or director is formalized so it can become the object of study. (objet spécifique du travail)
W Sessions are periods of research that are devoted to W Practice. They are run by Joris Lacoste and Jeanne Revel and bring together actors, dancers, performers, students and researchers.
W research pivots on three inseparable parts: practice, criticism, and theory. It shifts constantly between these dimensions, alternately theorizing practice, theoretically practicing criticism, or practically criticizing theory.
W Sessions explore these three dimensions while resolutely emphasizing the first, namely the point of view of action and the actor. Each part draws on different practical tools (W Handbook, W Notation, W Method) as developed during previous research and takes great pains to question, perfect and add to them. This happens essentially through developing and experimenting with a certain number of games (W Games) that formalize the question of improvisation and interpretation, notating action and executing scores.