Benjamin Van Tourhout
Benjamin has acted for many years in both the theatre and television but since 2010 his focus lies mainly on writing and directing as he’d rather creates a world than lives in it. He loves creating plays on illustrious historical figures as Rodrigo Borgia, Gilles de Rais or Evariste Galois and searches for their contemporary impact. He highly estimates the individuality and physicality of performers and keeps on searching on how the artistic team can speak out in an inspiring and bittersweet way.
Over the years reflecting on theatre and its impact became increasingly important, this lead to his work as doctoral researcher at the University of Leuven and Luca-School of Arts where he also works as teacher and as Head of Research. His field of interest lies with the status and impact of the fictional Hero in today’s theatre. Benjamin works as Fellow at the University of Freiburg as he believes that international collaboration and interdisciplinary research holds the future of both academic and artistic practice.
He hopes to continue this exciting but unique way of working both in the theatre and in the university; the process of both researching and rehearsing keeps him alive and passionate.
In recent times Benjamin worked in Belgium, France, U.K., Germany and Italy as author/director/reseracher and contributed in conferences in Belgium, Germany, U.K., Italy and the U.S.
The Hybrid Hero: an ambiguous counterexample in theatre.
Fictional heroes and their narratives have been considered as exemplary, entertaining and/or soothing characters. Their creators however do not work in a vacuum and are seeking impact; therefore, the emergence of heroic narratives is closely connected to a specific space and time context. Fiction still is answering the actual context, be it by escapist or reflecting the worlds events.
In recent times two opposing heroic types surfaced: which I have labelled as the hybrid and the franchised hero. Both try, with a specific set of characteristics and moral frameworks, to provide a jouissance and by doing so sooth, entertain or challenge their audiences. It should not surprise us that exactly these two types are growing popular, even though they are each other’s opposites. Both heroic types focus on the reception by audiences although their means and behaviour differ on many levels.
Within this research the hybrid hero stands central: a character that challenges both audience and creators on empathic, moral and narrative levels. This hybrid hero, or counter-example, is a symbiosis of heroic and villainous features and is therefore a contemporary interpretation of both character types and their classic concepts (hence, the hybrid nature of this heroic model). This hybrid hero however differs from anti-hero or Byronic hero because audiences do develop empathy with these villainous heroes or admirable villains.
I deduct a correlation between the current crises (with 9/11 as the symbolic starting point) as the main reason such hybrid heroes see light, they are - in their own way – answering a world in crisis but choose other ways of doing that. The hybrid hero challenges commonly accepted concepts on heroism, fiction and morality. They are children of their time and their counter-exemplary behaviour and actions makes them equipped to act, reflect and be heroic in today’s fictional world.
Keywords: Hybrid Hero, Fiction, Empathy, Performing Arts.