Part 1: Pedagogy of Performance Training
The first section of the book used performance pedagogy as a site to analyze cognition and make some pretty strong claims about the cognitive demands placed on actors, such as maintaining "dual consciousness" (Merlin, p. 63) and heightened awareness of the "physical processes" of emotion and thought (Carlin-Metz, p. 39). All of the chapters in this section made strong arguments for a kind of “creative embodied knowing” (Carlin-Metz, p. 39), because according to the neuroscience they drew from, embodied knowing—knowing that can be felt—has more of a physical impact on the brain. This speaks to pedagogical discussions in rhetoric, particularly in digital rhetorics and feminist rhetorics where discussions about embodiment and the place of personal and creative writing in the classroom are found relatively often.
More surprising, perhaps, is that this section also revealed an interesting narrative about the self and the other. These chapters, similar to Zaidel's, described performance as a process that involves being both the self and the other simultaneously, which requires actors to come "to terms with the self in order to come to terms with the performance," a process that involves both going into and out of the self, (Carlin-Metz, p. 31). If nothing else, this section shows that performance studies is a unique and interesting site for studying phenomena like embodiment, cognition, and the concept of the self.
Part 2: Eastern Influences on Western Performance Training Technologies
The second section explored how Eastern cultural and aesthetic ideals have influenced Western performance theories and practices, which revealed one of the strengths of this book—it did not neglect to address other cultures and their contributions to Western thought. This section had a strong focus on the ideas of altered states, spirituality, and the nonphysical, but often still in relationship to the physical body.
Devika Wasson argued that certain breathing techniques have the potential to alter consciousness and even help us achieve "higher consciousness" (p. 99). Barbara Sellers-Young related performance to what is referred to in Zen as the "third-way of knowing" (quoted on p. 77) in which one can engage "ideas without becoming so attached that you lose perspective" (p. 86). Similar to authors in the first section, contributors to this section made compelling arguments for studying embodied knowing. The authors seemed to agree that a change in body position leads to a change in consciousness.
This section also revealed that many Eastern perspectives seem to understand performance as not only a specific skill, but also a specific state of being. R. Andrew White related this state of being to that of other spiritual seekers, such as yogis. Daniel Meyer-Dinkgräfe argued that to achieve this state of being, actors should engage in warm up and cool down activities in order to protect the consciousness of the actor.
Part 3: Reception and Reflection in Contemporary Performance
The third section looked at performance and consciousness with a broader, more social focus than the previous sections, which were mostly focused on individual experiences of performance, cognition, and altered states. These chapters analyzed public performances and how those performances impact us on a collective level. Through their analyses, these authors showed how public theater may have some very important functions, such as helping us to develop collective consciousness and regain a feeling of control over our bodies (Calchi-Novati), helping us to connect with and understand the other (McCutcheon), and helping us to remake society and its symbols (Anderson). All of these processes are also processes that we often study and seek to facilitate through rhetorical study. The lines between theater and rhetoric seem to be getting thinner the further along we go in this book.
Part 4: Theorizing the Consciousness of Postmodern Performance
The fourth and final section engaged with postmodern theory, which would make it easy to put these chapters in conversation with other rhetorical, philosophical, and theoretical perspectives. Doug Rosson engaged Heidegger’s ideas of the authentic and the inauthentic; Eve Katsouraki drew on Baudrillard’s theory of reversibility; and David V. Mason defined the theater in present day as the "metatheater" (p. 209). This section is useful to rhetoric in that it gives new interpretations of postmodern theory and provides an easy bridge between performance studies and rhetoric, but also because it exhibited how performance is an interesting site to study theory. Additionally, this section showed that performance studies may have important things to say regarding theories of consciousness, authenticity, and the aesthetic. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, this section—the section that deals the most with theory—was also the section that mentioned bodies the least, though they are still mentioned.