The not-for-profit documentation project ARTS ARCHIVES and THEATRE PAPERS — a millennium compendium of performance practice research 1985–2015 — is closing and going into the British Library where it will sit alongside the International Workshop Festival collection. The material is also in the special collections at Exeter University as part of Exeter Digital Archives of performance research.
However, if anybody is interested in obtaining at cost a private copy of all the material – it has been placed onto one sd card — for their own research and teaching, could they please get in touch. You can see catalogues of the material at www.arts-archives.org
The Laban for Actors and in Acting is an International Conference held under the auspices of The Makings of the Actor, the Michael Cacoyiannis Foundation, the Labanarium and Hellinoekdotiki, organized by Post-doctoral Researcher Dr Kiki Selioni, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.
The Makings of the Actoris organising a series of conferences based on books from international research practitioners discussing in theory and presenting in practice their works. Practitioner’s books are always a difficult task due to the struggle they have transferring practice into the written form of a book. Although there is always the possibility of recorded documentation with regards to practical work however this is unsatisfactory for practitioners to present their work in a complete way. Current practices like webinars offers a better understanding but still there is no immediate communication that can offer debates, questions and finally exchange of knowledge.
To submit a proposal, please visit the conference website:
This event will be hosted by the University of British Columbia Center for Mindful Engagement and Dr. Magnat will be joined by two special guests, Indigenous scholar Dr. Vicki Kelly and French scholar Dr. Nathalie Gauthard, who are members of the “Culture, Creativity, Health and Well-Being” Research Cluster that Dr. Magnat co-leads with Dr. Karen Ragoonaden (https://eminencecluster.weebly.com).
When: Dec 3, 2020 11:00 AM Vancouver – please see digital poster attached.
Conceived as a way of foregrounding the relevance of performance-based artistic practices in response to the current health crisis caused by the global pandemic, as well as a way of challenging neoliberal conceptions of creativity and performance as hallmarks of capitalist productivity, adaptability, and efficacy, this special issue will explore the relationship between performance training and the notion of well-being, broadly conceived, to reignite, reconfigure, revitalize, renew and/or reimagine their inter- and/or intra-action.
We seek contributions by performance and theatre studies scholar-practitioners, artists, educators, and activists committed to critically and reflexively investigating the cultural, social, political, ecological, and spiritual dimensions of performance training modalities that have the potential to promote, enhance, restore, and sustain the well-being of practitioners, audiences, and other/more-than-human participants and collaborators.
We are committed to integrating the perspectives of non-Western and Indigenous scholars and artists, and welcome contributions examining the ethical implications of conducting research on performance and well-being in the neoliberal academy, as well as decolonizing approaches to performance training that take into account the well-being of culturally diverse communities.
This special issue will therefore respond to the urgent need to acknowledge and to include multiple ways of knowing and being within Eurocentric paradigms that still inform dominant knowledge systems.
The contested term “well-being” is intended as a generative provocation. In this light, potential contributors are invited to engage with topics and questions such as:
A webinar brought to you by the Stanislavsky Research Centre, co-hosted by the School of Performance and Cultural Industries of the University of Leeds and the School of Performing Arts of the University of Malta.
Date: 4 November, 17:00 (GMT – London Time)
‘A Slice of Zoom Life: Uta Hagen’s Object Exercises in the COVID Era’
Prof. David Shirley, Executive Director, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia
Following a brief contextual overview of the aims and purpose of Hagen’s training techniques, this presentation will reflect on the advantages and challenges encountered during the delivery of a series of classes to first year actors at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) during April-June 2020. How do notions of authenticity change in this context and how important is the role of the actor’s imagination in this reconfigured approach to practical training.
‘Psychophysical Actor Training for the Small Screen’
Prof. Stephanie Daventry French, Professor of Theatre, East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania, US
French will demonstrate subtle mind-body exercises using the anatomy of thought (WEDGAG). These have the power to create a sculptural story through the body, stimulate inner life and thoughts in the circumstances, and activate emotions.
Session Moderated by Stefan Aquilina, Director, School of Performing Arts, University of Malta
A collaborative document, with contributions from: Mark Evans, Cass Fleming, Rebecca Loukes, Sara Reed and Amy Russell.
This piece of writing aims to offer reflection and provocation on the ways that the TDPT Special Issue ‘Against the Canon’ might be used as part of teaching and learning activities within theatre, dance and performance courses and training programmes. We write this as academics and artists, aware of our position as white and privileged – and we invite critique, challenge and debate.
For work ‘against the canon’ to have continuing impact, it needs to reach out beyond the page of academic journals and start to affect the ways in which pedagogy operates and the ways in which teachers and students engage with canonical forms of training and canonical content. Editing the special issue has brought to the fore for us so many questions about deep assumptions underpinning much practice in Universities and conservatoires. The changes being wrought by #MeToo and by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign also offer profound challenges to the ways in which training for performance is structured, taught, assessed and perceived. The suggestions and provocations outlined below are offered only as a number of possible starting points and are in no way definitive – they should themselves be open to challenge and critique. We suggest that those interested in this work should approach it collaboratively, as befits the subject matter, working in partnership with students, colleagues, industry partners and interested communities.
We post this in the midst of a global pandemic, which will hit hardest those who are traditionally marginalised. We acknowledge that in the context of this unprecedented situation, the start of a new academic year is difficult timing for people to engage with this blog, so we invite continuing debate and discussion when time and work allows.
Consider your own identity, where does it sit in the hierarchies of inclusion/exclusion, and the systems of power, privilege and ownership in the wider world, the cultural and arts sector and educational organisations – and perhaps self-assess and take a moment to dialogue with yourself (Daron Oram) – can you foreground and celebrate aspects of your identity (Kristine Landon-Smith), can you identify gaps in your knowledge about the lives and cultures of others (Kaja Dunn et al.), can you invite yourself to be curious and provocative?
Make an honest inventory of your objectives and motives on the one hand, and your hesitations, fears, and resistances if you experience any. For example, are you afraid of getting it wrong, or of letting something go that is important to you? Imagine having a conversation with one of your ancestors about this project of working against the canon. Are they for or against it? In what ways do you agree or disagree? Can you be curious about your own resistance if you experience any? Can you feel the excitement of change and enthusiasm at being part of it? If there is ambivalence or fear, how can you work with it?
Assess your own practices and the methodologies you draw on for your practice, teaching, scholarship and/or research. What are the implicit assumptions in those methods and whom do they exclude or marginalise? Do you feel empowered or disempowered by the methods you employ – why is this so? What techniques, terms and language do you use that require an element of transformation or critique – neutral, natural, trust, ideal, truth, authentic, cultural assumptions about ‘naturalistic’ acting, for example – and how might you adapt and/or critically situate them in your practice? Do you have aspects of your own cultural heritage and/or identity (in relation to race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, age, disability) that may be marginalised in theatre, dance and performance training – and can these be brought to the fore, celebrated and shared?
Consider the context within which your course(s) takes place: the diversity of those teaching and studying in terms of race, age, gender, sexuality, class and disability. How does this composition reflect the diversity of the wider community? Does it reflect the wider societal need to recognise the achievements of those who have been marginalised, oppressed or ignored in the past? It is important and valuable to name the issues that are in the room – they are not things that anyone should be afraid of dealing with. The starting point however has to be acknowledging that they are there. In order to challenge white, heterosexual, non-disabled male privilege, consider the importance of pushing against the canon even if your students happen to be all white/male/straight!
Do you share any of your students’ fears? If you share some of their concerns and fears, can this compassion provide insight into how to address what students may not be willing to reveal about themselves unless they feel safe?
Take critical note of the texts, workshops and performances that are recommended for reading or identified as essential for students to read to complete your module or course. Make sure that authorship is diverse – that may mean extra work to identify scholarship that is less well known. Can all your students see themselves in enough of the documents that they read, the plays they study or perform, and the performances that they watch? Is disability arts and performance included in your curriculum? Where diverse examples are not available ensure that teachers and students recognise that omission (and at times exclusion) and critique the reasons for it. Where canonical works are used, ensure that they are critiqued through study and through practice. How much do we rely on the legacy of the written word? Whose words remain and for whom do they speak? Remember the value of oral histories – where books and articles don’t exist for contemporary practice, there will be people’s memories and experiences. If you access these, how might they be shared in order to encourage others?
Don’t just decolonise the curriculum, decolonise the pedagogy.
Using the journal in the classroom:
As provocation – how does each contribution represent a provocation to question and challenge existing canons? What is the nature of each provocation? Is the form of each piece significant – why might a postcard, a conversation, diagram or a manifesto be provocative as a contribution to an academic journal? What is the purpose of provocation?
Look at the postcard pieces. Who would you ask to write a postcard and why? How might you curate such postcards? How can an image and a short piece of text work together – one counterpointing the other, one illustrating the other? Can an image work on its own? How might a series of postcards work – as a linear narrative, as a constellation of related ideas?
Create a board game that represents the ways in which privilege operates within the performing arts (historically and/or in the present) – a snakes and ladders or monopoly of opportunities and rejections. Could your students then create an alternative model or structure?
As model – Consider canonical practice not directly addressed in this special issue (Stanislavsky, Duncan, Graham, Brecht, Meyerhold, Cunningham, Brook, Grotowski, somatics etc.) – how might students use the journal contributions to construct challenges to such practice? What would they focus on? What models might they use – postcards and conversations are used in the special issue, are there other models (interviews, hot seating, letters/emails, cartoons, graffiti, vlogs, etc.)? Use images as the starting point for a critique of who is seen doing what – how is power preserved through images? Construct images that challenge this.
As dialogue – take an issue raised in ‘Against the Canon’ through one or more of the contributions, ask the students to formulate questions related to the issue and construct a formal debate around it. Ask students to construct arguments for and against, drawing on evidence they can find. Debate highlights difference and enables a multiplicity of viewpoints; various positions can be set up and defended – no position is established as definitive although it often creates a strong motivation for determining and arguing for what is ‘right’. In Russell et al. different views are expressed on whether there is such a thing as essential femininity and essential masculinity. The neutral mask used in Lecoq teaching is often gender binary. Your students could discuss this essentialism or debate it. If you can obtain even one neutral mask, you might consider using it “against the canon” as a way of eliciting conversation and awareness of gender performance. If this provokes a parodied use of the mask, refining the performance might raise interesting questions about gender fluidity and might serve to destabilize the reification of gender identities.
Encourage students to dialogue with practising artists – who should they contact (whose work is typically marginalised or under-recognised)? What contact might they have with them – perhaps via postcards they construct around themes, issues, questions? Would the artists be willing to construct postcards for the students? Ask students to construct dialogues between canonical figures and those who were marginalised within their practice – Brecht and his female collaborators, Stanislavski and his female students, Brook and theatre-makers from India and Africa – what would they say to each other? Where would they disagree and where might they agree? Consider ways in which conversations can be sexualised encounters – how might you queer a conversation? Use dialogue to question how and why terms such as energy, presence and character can become gendered and/or sexualised.
When using debate, discussion and role-playing consider how to create an open and supported space for students (for example, you can acknowledge that those who are asked to take an unpopular role or defend an unpopular position are doing something valuable for the overall debate). Ask students to play a role they don’t agree with, but are willing to give that role their best effort. If the dialogue or debate seems to veer at some point to students ‘calling each other out’, can you help to instil a culture of ‘calling in’ – where relationships are built rather than sacrificed, helping people to find their compassion for each other? This should not be about allowing people to hold on to prejudiced views, but about creating and sustaining a level of empathy with others that enables change to happen. With colleagues and students discuss how best to deal with problematic attitudes and difficult incidents (your institution may – or in some cases sadly may not – have useful guidance).
Challenge the sanctity of the clean document – take canonical text(s) and allow students to annotate and comment on them, encourage them to use images and illustrations to counterpoint text, making the unseen or unacknowledged visible.
How might a student construct a dialogue with themselves regarding their practice (Daron Oram) – what would they want to address in doing so? How could they record/document or share such a dialogue, and what would be the benefit of doing so?
Also consider this unique historical moment when institutions are moving from live teaching to online learning at lightning speed. What structures of power, inequality and accessibility need to be considered? In what ways might the shift to online pedagogies offer new opportunities in themselves to democratize or radically question existing methods?
Using the journal with online learning:
The web resources available are not neutral, and search engine algorithms prioritise what is established and popular. Task students with searching around key words, figures, training regimes and topics and ask them to review what comes up, what doesn’t and how difficult or easy it is to find alternatives. They might take one of the articles from the special issue and examine what results internet searches produce for different key people, practices and approaches within the article – how easy is it to find out about marginalised practitioners and practices? What does this tell students about internet resources and about the marginalisation of artists?
How might students create their own online resource for training? What materials and resources would they pull together? How would they operate together to realise collaboration as a way of working? What training exercises might they design and how might they present and share them?
Using the journal in the studio:
How might a student or group of students construct a series of postcards to represent their practice? How might image and text in this format work together? Who would the postcards be for – who would they be designed to be sent to (either living or dead)?
Use one of the contributions to provoke changes in how the students learn or how teachers teach. Make one issue a focus for a lesson and consider how teacher and student might reflect on a session (or sessions) in the light of these issues. Points of focus might include: the experience of disabled students, the experience of students from global majority backgrounds, the experience of privileged students, the experience of working-class students, the experience of older students, the experience of female students, the experience of transgendered students, the expectations teachers have of students, the possibility of meaningful failure. What assumptions are made within studio work: around acceptable forms of behaviour, around the limits and assumptions of touch and the direction of gaze, around the use of language, accent, body language, gesture and dialect? Who feels that they are allowed to ‘be themselves’ within the studio space – and what does that mean? What assumptions about wealth and privilege underpin most of our training intuitions and how do we make space for working class realities (Cornford).
How can students dialogue about their practice – talking to themselves (Oram), talking with others (Russell, Dunn), creating fictional dialogue (Cornford)? How about tasking students to construct a proposal for a blog entry for the TDPT blog – what would they write about? It could be a response to one of the articles in the special issue, or a proposal for a new contribution? What skills would they learn in doing this? Then encourage the students to post their blog on TDPT – their voices need to be heard!
Journal issues only ever include an edited selection of contributions. Ask students to consider what other issues might have been good to include in this special issue and how they might have tackled such issues. What might be hard about writing such pieces and why – where might obstacles, resistances or difficulties come from and how be overcome?
How might students create new representations of historical practice that deconstructs and challenges the narrative of the genius, the white male guru?
How might some of the content of the special issue work as provocations in relation to students practice? Who is their work for – who is able to engage with it? What do they want to say in their work? What training conventions are they taking for granted? Who takes responsibility for what within their group work – how is work apportioned, who leads, what voices are heard (or not)? What are the politics and ethics of these structures and relationships?
How might the practices of Bing, Boal, Brecht, Candoco, Gindler, Graeae, Henricks, Landon-Smith, Newson, Phoenix Dance, Talawa, Tamasha, WAC or others create models within which canonical practice and performance might be challenged, interrupted, disrupted, deconstructed, commented on and reveal those that the practice has historically marginalised or ignored? How do the practices themselves resist or activate resistance in the participants? What examples of such practices are available for students?
What does touch mean post #MeToo and the killing of George Floyd? Who owns space, how do we negotiate touch, what might touching signify, what can we learn from/through touch? Where are our embodied borders and what do they mean now for us and for others? How do assumptions around touch, weight and space play in to assumptions around gender, sexuality, disability and race/ethnicity?
The Language of the studio/practical class – discuss with students the impact of words and how choice of words can subtly delineated who is or isn’t included. What is implied by references to ‘guys and girls’ or ‘OK guys’? What is the effect of mispronouncing someone’s name? Work with students to be alert to assumptions within language about gender, class, disability and race/ethnicity. When asking students to write about practice, discuss with them the relevance of using alternative pronouns – he/she, s/he, they, she. Consider with all your students how being within the LGBTQI+ community may involve having very different impulses to those recognised by dominant heterosexist cultures and how this may/could/should impact on training performers (Lazlo Pearlman and Deirdre McLaughlin). Reviewing reading and resource lists for their course – encourage them to examine how often the actor is assumed as white, male, straight and/or non-disabled. Ask the students for suggestions and ideas.
Consider Landon-Smith’s article and discuss with students the ways in which they might bring their own cultures into the studio – through games, dances, songs, exercises, storytelling, patois/accent/dialect, postures and ways of sitting/standing, gestures and movements. Recognise that all cultures have these and be sure to reveal how these exist in straight, white, non-disabled culture even when they are ‘invisible’ in their ubiquity and dominance.
How can practical sessions be used to challenge canonical training practice? Change should not just be about making accommodation for difference, but about transformation and radical change. Be clear that inclusion is not just about ‘fitting in’ disabled, global majority or queer students, it is about celebrating their presence – what might that mean in terms of changes to studio practice, your work ideas and strategies?
Reflect on the practice that does not make it into the studio – why is it absent or excluded? Whose responsibility is it to find ways of including it? What ideas and approaches have our students contributed and how can we take this further in the future?
Open up discussions between staff and students around canonical practice and equality issues. This should not be threatening, but should enable multiple perspectives to enrich mutual understanding of the role and purpose of training and the ethical dimensions surrounding training practice.
White colleagues – Reject the assumption that you have to know everything about marginalised artists in order to teach about their practice. There is not time to wait for those books to be written. Invite the artists to be part of constructing the curriculum. Invite students to help create/curate the materials for learning. Don’t be afraid to start from a position of ignorance and learn with the students.
Reject the assumption that students have to learn about the canon in order to ‘really’ know their subject. The subject is the centre of the learning, the canonical figures are only a set of examples.
Reject the assumption that the canonical figures are all individual geniuses. What kind of mythologies, misunderstanding and ideologies are created by this assumption? Each one’s career involves multiple collaborations with forgotten or marginalised others. Recognising these others need not diminish the achievements of all involved, but does given recognition where it is due but not always given. It does no harm at all to recognise the value and success of collaboration and the ways in which artists work together. It does great harm to assume that the work of many can be understood as the achievements of only one.
Reject the assumption that marginalised work is somehow lower in quality, that it therefore deserves to be marginalised. Such an assumption does not recognise the ways in which value systems are socially and politically constructed and managed by those who hold power.
Reject the marginalisation of yourself or others in the field of work, study and practice because of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, age, class or disability. Reject being the token representative. Don’t allow that to happen to students either.
The diversity of your students – allow them to be themselves.
Your own identity, culture, history and experiences – they should inform your teaching without you being seen as exotic or a token member of staff. If that happens, complain.
Your own learning journey as a teacher and a person and those who you collaborated with within that journey.
The wonderful ways in which theatre, dance and performance enable us all to realise and challenge the ways in which our identities are created, policed and presented.
Reading/watching to help reflection and action – this list is not definitive!
An open letter to UK Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies
Look at work within the performing arts as an area of inequality and exclusion.
DV8 The Cost of Living (extracts)
Examine and explore representations of disability.
Calling In: A Quick Guide to When and How by Sian Ferguson
Reflect with students on when to call out and when to call in.
Change comes from action – so what will you do differently?
At Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, UK, the institution has set in motion a project to address issues of institutional racism through institutional review. You can see details at: https://www.cssd.ac.uk/repairing-curriculum. How might such a project relate to your own practice? What might you take from this at an individual level? What might you change, challenge or adapt? Should such a project be replicated in order to make provision for tackling issues around gender, sexuality, disability, age, class, etc.?
And then we have to make our intuitions follow through on agreed changes, actions and re-structures. What institutional support do you need in order to challenge the canon? What allies can help with this change – both from within and outside your institution?
You are not alone – who else can support you, share with you, join in conversations with you? What networks do you have or should you seek to establish that will support change? Who can you engage with as visiting professors, hourly paid lecturers, local/national/global professional contacts, audience/community members, students, campaigners and activists? How can you maintain pressure on your institution to recruit more diverse staff members as permanent members of staff and to remove the powerful glass ceilings to promotion that prevail in our sector?
We are delighted to announce the publication of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 11.3, “Against the Canon”, guest edited by Mark Evans (Coventry University) and Cass Fleming (Goldsmiths University), with Training Grounds section edited by Sara Reed (Coventry University)
This special issue of Theatre, Dance and Performer Training addresses the forgotten and marginalised contributions made by various collaborative artists and practitioners to the development of performer training during the twentieth and twenty first centuries.
Many previous publications on training have tended to focus on canonical figures and the dominant historical performer-training narratives. Less attention has been paid to collaboration as an important characteristic of avant-garde performance training, and to the complex exchanges through which pedagogy and work has been developed and disseminated. This journal issue intentionally centralises these acts of cross-fertilisation and collaborative exchanges, thereby shifting the focus away from canonical individual figures and towards frequently overlooked or under-recognised practitioners and pedagogues. In doing so, we are aware that this special issue is not alone in advocating for such a shift of focus. In many respects we see this issue as one particular marking point in a turn away from a linear, white and patriarchal history of theatre, dance and performance training.
Our contributing authors challenge the manner in which traditional performer training histories often still seek to capture the ‘purity’ of established methods and to identify individual (often white male) owners of successful techniques. This issue will seek to challenge the ways in which practitioners such as Stanislavsky, Craig, Copeau, Laban, Lecoq, Chekhov and Meisner are often uncritically revered as ‘Master Teachers’ and the ways in which this obscures or negates the existence of wider networks of artists who contributed to the development of these training practices, many of whom were women. To this extent our authors are not looking simply to critique existing canonical figures, but to bring forward the work of those who are usually ignored.
Ali was a long term and loyal supporter of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training and, as an innovative and rigorous advocate of the importance of research in performer training, a significant presence on the editorial board. There is little question that Ali’s texts such as Twentieth Century Actor Training (Routledge, 1999) and the second edition Actor Training (Routledge, 2010) were acclaimed when first published and remain valued and important resources for theatre artists and researchers. So too, her work with Wlodzimierz Staniewski, Hidden Territories: The Theatres of Gardzienice (with DVD, Routledge 2003) provide detailed analyses of the Polish company’s training and performance making processes, whilst Core Training for the Relational Actor (with DVD, Routledge, 2013) revealed much about her decades long development of directorial work with her company The Quick and the Dead. However, the following series of reminiscences open up a different kind of space in which to celebrate and reflect on Ali’s lifelong journey in theatre practice, together with the impact she had on those she met. The voices of some of those who worked and lived most closely with Ali, over different periods of her life, speak out in their own manner about what was distinctive and important to each of them in their contact with her. Each emphasises the essential connection between the personal and the professional in her work, her humour, courage, generosity, insight and rigour. The series of recollections, grouped very roughly around the place, company or type of work she undertook, opens with Chris Hurford’s, Ali’s husband, invocation of her passionate drive to ensure that theatre, through its performers, communicated meaningfully and compassionately. And they end with Ruth Way’s memory of Ali’s joy in her ‘incredible vegetable patch’.
Reading through these recollections reminded me of one of the aspects I found most compelling when working with Ali during her time at Royal Holloway This was her capacity to step back from an assessment or directing moment and pause before offering penetrating questions. Her own spaciousness in allowing time for the response process to happen, encouraged those she worked with the same freedom — to take time, to think, to reflect and importantly to gain perspective on even the most challenging, emotionally charged movement and vocal work.
Please feel free to comment below or contact the Blog editors to submit a post if you wish to add your thoughts, this is the beauty of a blog space.
Libby Worth Reader in Contemporary Performance Practices, Royal Holloway and Co-editor with Jonathan Pitches, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training.
Huge congratulations from all at TDPT to Konstantinos Thomaidis who has just won the Honourable Mention for Excellence in Editing at this year’s ATHE Awards, for his special issue for TDPT ‘What is new in voice training?’ 10.3. The award was announced today at the annual (online) conference. The full list of winners and mentions in this category are posted here.
Konstantinos’ success arises from his tremendous hard work and dedication as a guest editor on the journal combined with his extensive knowledge and experience in the field of voice studies. Jonathan and I as co-editors were full of admiration at the way Konstantinos overcame some initial setbacks that were out of his control to ensure the quality and adventurousness of the issue.
In his introduction to the special issue Konstantinos offers a brief survey of the literature and practices of the ‘emergent field of voice studies’ and comments in the following way:
‘These studies have invited us to listen to the voice anew: voice as that which encompasses and exceeds textuality and linguistic meaning-making, voice as embodied and materially intersubjective; voice as both individual and political, affective and ideological, semantically potent and pragmatically interpolated, demandingly present and abjectly haunted – as simultaneously knowable and perpetually undefinable.’ (2019: 295).
And listen he does in his role as guest editor, inviting us to engage with the wide range of authors who address ‘what is new’ through both varied content and in a range of different formats.
To celebrate this achievement, Taylor and Francis Online and the Theatre, Dance and Performance Training journal has made the following three articles from the Special Issue free to view until October:
Beth Osnes, Chelsea Hackett, Jen Walentas Lewon, Norma Baján & Christine Brennan (2019) Vocal Empowerment Curriculum for young Maya Guatemalan women, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 10:3, 313-331, DOI: 10.1080/19443927.2019.1637371
Konstantinos Thomaidis (2019) Between preservation and renewal: reconsidering technology in contemporary pansori training, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 10:3, 418-438, DOI: 10.1080/19443927.2019.1645040
Mel Drake (2019) ‘Next year’s words await another voice’1: British Sign Language and voice work with D/deaf actors at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 10:3, 448-454, DOI: 10.1080/19443927.2019.1677388
At a time when TDPT had to postpone its 10th Birthday celebrations it’s wonderful to have this moment of success, an opportunity to raise a glass to Konstantinos and shout out our congratulations – whilst listening anew, of course, to our voices.
The view that one can only practice and not practice for performance art and live art has persisted since the emergence of time-, body-, and action-based performance artworks in the 1960s. After all, to speak of ‘training’ evokes ideas of technique, mastery or tradition, ideas that the artists engaged in performance art and live art have frequently sought to challenge or altogether abandon. However, many of the artists who have shaped the history of performance art and live art have also been committed teachers; pedagogical approaches to performance practices emerged at the same time as the practices themselves; educational institutions have frequently offered material support for the making of performance works and provided a living for artists; and artist-led, non-institutional training spaces have adopted events and publications as alternative forms of curricula. Acknowledging the importance of training not just in the formation of a performance artist but as part of their continuing practice also means to value experience, expertise and professional standing as part of the work of performance art and live art.
This special issue brings together contributions that address the theme of training for performance art and live art in reference to different histories (covering the 1960s and 1970s as well as the recent present); diverse geographies (examining developments in the UK and in Portugal); institutions and anti-institutions (covering art schools, summer schools, festivals and workshop programmes); and varied approaches to teaching and training as a performative inter-generational transaction.
Gavin Butt’s ‘Without Walls: Performance Art and Pedagogy at the “Bauhaus of the North”’ traces the impact of libertarian teaching in the 1970s at arguably the most influential teaching institutions for the history of performance art in the UK, Leeds Polytechnic. In ‘Lessons from Outside the Classroom: Performance Pedagogies in Portugal, 1970-1980’, Cláudia Madeira and Fernando Matos Oliveira recount approaches to performance training as they developed in Portugal in the wake of the 1974 revolution outside of formal institutions.
Deirdre Heddon’s ‘Professional Development for Live Artists: Doing it Yourself’ explores the history of the DIY professional development scheme as an example for how training practices are being reimagined as live art practices in themselves. In ‘Training for Live Art: Process Pedagogies and New Moves International’s Winter Schools’, Stephen Greer examines the New Moves International (NMI)’s winter school as another key example for an artist-led scheme that made productive live art’s resistant relationship to established forms of performer training.
In ‘“I’ve been as intimate with him as I have been with anybody”: Queer Approaches, Encounters and Exchanges as Live Art Performer Training’, Kieran Sellars identifies in the cross-generational performance collaboration between Sheree Rose and Martin O’Brien a form of queer embodied discipline that draws on BDSM as well as Live Art lineages. And in ‘Curious Methods–Pedagogy Through Performance’, Leslie Hill and Helen Paris document the close ways in which their training methods have reflected on and contributed to their creation of live performance work.
The Training Grounds section (edited by Bryan Brown) supplements this with a collection of shorter essais, postcards, and a book review (edited by Chris Hays). Will Dickie’s expanded essai (accompanied by videos available here on the TDPT blog) investigates the application of psychophysical actor training to live art. In the issue’s second essai, a trio of practitioners (Áine Phillips, Dominic Thorpe and Tara Carroll) offer insight into three generations of Irish live art practice by detailing transformative encounters with their teachers. The two postcards for this special issue (by Sara Zaltash and N. Eda Erçin) wrestle with the entanglements of live art practice, life and communities. And Campbell Edinborough’s review of Marina Abramović’s memoir Walk Through Walls furthers the discussion of how a live artist’s work is their life while querying the ability to turn that life into a method.
Below I have posted a letter from Kaite O’Reilly regarding the recent passing of Phillip Zarrilli. While this may not be news to some of you, I wanted to pay tribute to Phillip on this platform in the most fitting way. In the coming months, we will be posting reflections on Phillip’s work from some of his alumni, and if you would like to contribute, please feel free to comment on this post or contact me at email@example.com if you would like to write a stand-alone post from your own perspective. Rest in peace Phillip.
On 9th March 2020 when Phillip received the news from his oncologist that the cancer he had been living with for fourteen years had begun to ‘seriously party’ (his words) he said to me ‘this is our last adventure together.’
I have been so fortunate, having this great mind, this gentle and generous man as my companion in so many ways – loving, working, living, travelling, thinking, writing and making performance alongside him for twenty one years, with and without The Llanarth Group. The journey may continue, but now it is in parallel, perhaps, not our accustomed hip-to-hip together.
Phillip died on 28th April 2020 at 13.52 UK time. He rode out on a breath – like so many times in his teaching he spoke of riding the breath to that moment of completion at the end of exhalation – the space in-between at the end of one cycle before the impulse of the next inhalation begins. This time came no inhalation.
24 hour streaming on 22 May, 2020 midnight (22) to midnight (23) Pacific Standard Time
I was invited as the Spring 2020 Granada Artist in Residence to the University of California Davis to direct a stage production of the Greek tragedy, Antigone, at the Wyatt theatre, in the Seamus Heaney translation. With lockdown, when it was becoming clear that I wasn’t going to be able to go, my American collaborator Margaret Kemp and I started to imagine what we could do instead. Given that we were in a world pandemic, a global crisis, it felt essential to try still to do something. How could we follow through on our collaboration, creativity and community engagement in this unprecedented moment in history? How could we create a piece that would speak to this crisis? We decided to make a performance film instead, rehearsing online, creating it online and performing it online.
In the middle of last year when we were considering how best to celebrate 10 years of TDPT, we focused in on the idea of 10 free-to-access articles representing the last decade of the journal’s activity: A Desert Island Discs, or Training Top Ten.
That was before the profound changes brought about by the global pandemic, an event which seems to have carved history into two: BEFORE and AFTER. Then, in the blissful period of BEFORE, we had no idea how precious online resources would be, how far the digital space would become home for so many of us, so quickly and involuntarily.
Now in the deeply unsettling and unknown period of AFTER, this selective retrospective of the Journal’s activity since 2010, joins an unprecedented landscape of free digital resources and innovative online endeavour gifted to the world. In our selection, editors, Libby and Jonathan have tried to represent the international and intellectual diversity which has characterised contributions to TDPT from the very beginning. In doing so, we have had to leave out the vast majority of the excellent contributions we have published over the years. What we offer here, then, is a snapshot of TDPT’s sizeable intervention into the field of Performer Training, one produced in what now seems a different world. If you can, please read every one of the free to access articles, and engage with us and the authors, in the comments box on the blog. Why not start, where it all began in 2010, with Marijke Hoogenboom’s, ‘Building with Blocks’ article? Her final words, turning Kafka on its head, are more pertinent than ever: ‘We are here, so there is hope’.
We are delighted to flag up the publication of 11.1 – the open issue of TDPT and the one that marks the completion of 10 years of the journal. It was disappointing to have to postpone TDPT birthday celebrations, due to Covid-19, planned for Leeds earlier in the month. However, the flood of appreciative emails that came in marking the 10th Birthday were heart-warming and inspiration for the next decade.
When you have had a chance to look through the contents do feel free to respond in our Comeback pages of the blog. We’d love to hear reactions to this diverse and lively collection of contributions.
Volume 11 Issue, 1 March 2020
Editorial Libby Worth, Jonathan Pitches and Thomas Wilson
Jonathan Pitches is
Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Leeds in the School
of Performance and Cultural Industries. He specialises in the study of
performer training and has wider interests in intercultural performance,
environmental performance and blended learning. He is founding co-editor of
the TDPT and has published several books in this area: Vsevolod
Meyerhold (2003), Science and the Stanislavsky Tradition of
Acting (2006/9), Russians in Britain (2012) and, Stanislavsky
in the World (with Dr Stefan Aquilina 2017). His most recent
publications are: Great Stage Directors Vol 3: Komisarjevsky, Copeau,
Guthrie (Sole editor, 2018) and the monograph, Performing
Landscapes: Mountains (2019).
Libby Worth is Reader in Contemporary
Performance Practices, Royal Holloway, University of London. She is a movement
practitioner with research interests in the Feldenkrais Method, physical theatres,
site-based performance and in folk/traditional and amateur dance. Performances
include co-devised duets; Step Feather Stitch (2012)and dance film Passing Between Folds (2017).She is co-editor of TDPT and
published texts include Anna
Halprin (2004, co-authored),
Ninette de Valois: Adventurous
Traditionalist (2012, co-edited),
Jasmin Vardimon’s Dance Theatre:
Movement, Memory and Metaphor (2016).
Chapter contributions include on clog and sword dancing for Time and Performer Training (2019, she co-edited) and ‘Improvisation in
Dance and the Movement of Everyday Life’ for the Oxford Handbook of Dance Improvisation (2019).
Training grounds editors
Aiden Condron has been an actor, performance maker and actor trainer for over
twenty-five years working across the UK, Europe and the US. He is a Lecturer in
Acting at The Institute of the Arts Barcelona (IAB). Aiden was founding
artistic director of Nervousystem,
a Dublin-based international performance laboratory from 2002–2012. Recent
theatre work includes performances in a number of works by Samuel Beckett
including Westward Ho, Ohio Impromptu and That Time, performed in Japan and Russia. Aiden’s
current teaching and research activity investigates processes and practices of
actor and performer training within the domain of presence, play and action,
examining the actor’s dramaturgy as a field of autonomous creation.
Chris Hay is Lecturer in Drama in the School of Communication & Arts at the
University of Queensland, Australia. Prior to this position, he held
appointments at the University of New England, the National Institute of
Dramatic Art (NIDA), and the University of Sydney, where he completed his PhD
in Theatre & Performance Studies in 2014. He has published on Australian
theatre history and creative arts pedagogy, including his book Creativity, Knowledge & Failure: a
new pedagogical framework for creative arts (2016). His current research projects examine the origins of Australian
government arts funding, and Australia’s participation in the Eurovision Song
Thomas J. M. Wilson is a Module/Year Coordinator for BA (Hons) European Theatre Arts at
Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, and a Fellow of the Higher
Education Academy. Initially training in Equestrian Vaulting he competed at
European-level in the mid-1990s. Subsequently he has engaged in practices
rooted in the intersection between dance and theatre methodologies, working as
both a performer and director/choreographer in a range of contexts. Thomas
served on Oxford Dance Forum’s Steering Group (2008–10) and has regularly
contributed to Total Theatre Magazine since 2001. He is an Associate of
Gandini Juggling working as their Archivist and Publications Author. He is the
author of Juggling Trajectories:
Gandini Juggling 1991–2015, which
was shortlisted for The Society of Theatre Research Book Prize 2016.
The Contributors for 11.1
Dr Peta Blevins is a sessional academic at the Western Australian Academy of Performing
Arts and works as a freelance dance educator, researcher, and performance
consultant specialising in dance and performance psychology, safe dance
practice, and mindfulness skills for performance. Her research interests
include enhancing psychological recovery in dance, mindfulness and performance,
and health and wellbeing in the performing arts. Peta is a member of the
International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, and is currently a
National Executive Committee Member of the Australian Society of Performing
Frank Camilleri is Associate Professor
in Theatre Studies at the University of Malta where he also directs the School
of Performing Arts’ research group for 21st Century Studies in Performance. He
is Artistic Director and founder of Icarus Performance Project, which serves as
the main platform of his practice as research (www.icarusproject.info). He has
performed and given workshops since 1989, and has published various texts on
performer training, theatre as a laboratory, and practice as research. He is
the author of Performer Training
Reconfigured: Post-psychophysical Perspectives for the Twenty-first Century
(Methuen Drama 2019).
Tine Damborg (DK), graduated
as a Master of Fine Arts in Movement: Teaching & Directing, from Royal Central School
of Speech and Drama (2016-2018). She holds the equivalent to a BA in
Contemporary Dance from The Danish School of Performing Arts (1992-1995) and has worked as a freelance
dancer and performer in dance shows, performances, rock-musicals, touring
children’s theatre, and site specific works. In 2005 she began to
develop her dance, movement and
practice. In 2005 she founded the Danish youth contemporary dance company, “U-kompagniet” and
a movement specialist at
The Danish School of Performing Arts, Acting department in Odense.
(EDITED BY EN)
Dr Shona Erskine is a registered psychologist in
private practice and an Adjunct Lecturer at the Western Australian Academy of
Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University. Dr Erskine has an expertise in
delivering psychology for performing artists through professional companies,
universities, and in private practice. Dr Erskine has developed curriculum in
areas of mental wellbeing and creativity with an interest in disseminating best
practice models to performing artist, teachers, and directors.
Dr Luke Hopper is a lecturer and Director of the Dance Research Group at the Western
Australian Academy of Performing Arts. Dr Hopper has published over 20 papers
in the field of performing arts health in collaboration with major ballet
companies and industry partners. In the interests of disseminating of health
evidence which prevents injury and illness in performing artists, Dr Hopper has
served on the Board of Directors (2014-2016) of the International Association
of Dance Medicine and Science and as President of the Australian Society for
Performing Arts Healthcare.
FRSA is Emeritus Professor of Theatre, University of the Arts London. Trained on the Directors Course at Drama
Centre London, he has directed over 50 productions in the UK as well as
internationally and has taught and directed in most leading drama schools in
the UK. He was Director of the School of
Performance at Rose Bruford College, Vice-Principal and Director of Drama at
the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Principal of Drama Centre London and
Director of Development and Research Leader, Drama and Performance, Central
Saint Martins. He is currently the Chair of the Directors Guild of Great
Britain Trust and of the Directors Charitable Foundation.
Professor Gene Moyle is a graduate from the Australian Ballet School and QUT Dance,
retraining as a sport and exercise psychologist following a brief career as a
professional dancer. Gene has focused upon both the application and research of
performance psychology and performance enhancement, particularly within the
performing arts and has significant experience in working with and leading
multidisciplinary teams within high performance settings (i.e., Olympic
programs). She possesses specific expertise in the area of career development
and transition in both elite sport and the performing arts, and contributes
regularly to the literature on the ethical considerations of sport, exercise
and performance psychology practice.
Edward C. Warburton is Professor of Dance at the
University of California, Santa Cruz. Warburton received early training at the
(U)North Carolina School of the Arts and danced professionally with American
Ballet Theater II, Houston Ballet and Boston Ballet. His interest in cognitive
dance studies began when studying for a doctorate in human development and
psychology at Harvard University. A widely published author, his research
explores the relational practices and cognitive processes that support (or
undermine) the doing, making, and viewing of dance. Warburton is the recipient
of several awards including UCSC’s Excellence
in Research (2012), the U.S. National Dance Education Organization’s Outstanding Dance Researcher (2016), and
Teachers College’s Sachs Distinguished
Lecturer at Columbia University, New York City, NY (2017).
is a postgraduate researcher in the School of Performance and Cultural
Industries at University of Leeds. A practising lighting designer, she is also
a non-executive director of the Association of Lighting Designers and editor of
its bi-monthly magazine, Focus. Her
research interests include theatre lighting education, creative collaboration,
early lighting designers in the UK (1950s to 1960s), trans-languaging and
code-switching, and interactional sociolinguistics.
Given the Covid-19 dramatic changes to life over the last weeks, we have extended the deadline for proposal submissions to the guest editors for the special issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training on ‘Independent dance and movement training to 24th April 2020.
Please would you circulate widely amongst Independent Dance and Movement academics and practitioners?
Special issue on Performer Training in Australia to be published as TDPT Vol 12.3 (September 2021)
Call for contributions, ideas, proposals and dialogue with the editors
Guest editors: Dr Chris Hay, University of Queensland (firstname.lastname@example.org) Professor David Shirley, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University (email@example.com) Dr Sarah Peters, Flinders University (firstname.lastname@example.org) Training Grounds editor: Dr Soseh Yekanians, Charles Sturt University (email@example.com)
Conjoined with blood and tears, the axiomatic price of supreme rigour and achievement. Sweat (water, ammonia, salt, sugar) is deemed a noble and miraculous secretion, yet we habitually strive to disguise it. […] In the unapologetic seclusion of the training space, it becomes the proof of our proud status as grafters, as corporeal, visceral, present, working.
As described in Theatre, Dance and Performance Training’s “A Lexicon of Training Terms” (3.1), sweat is a constituent part of training — a synecdoche for the tension and effort that underpin it. Sweat is also a precondition of living and training in Australia, from our corporeal engagement with a heating continent to the metaphorical ‘she’ll be right, mate’. This no sweat, laissez-faire acceptance of the status quo finds its way into training through “a willingness to ‘have a go’; a refusal to be cowed by received authority […] a characteristically Australian suspicion of influence” (Maxwell 2017, p. 326).
The image of sweat also brings with it metaphors of fear, tension and anxiety, often drawn out or extended. This sense of determination over time pushes back against a conception of Australia as the rushed continent, whose artists seek to take short cuts to success. Hugh Hunt, the inaugural director of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, cautioned as much in a 1959 public lecture:
We sometimes expect theatre to be made too quickly. Australians are impatient people, who would like their theatre to be made as quickly as wool grows on a sheep’s back. It takes many years to make it; it takes time to train and develop actors and producers. (Hunt 1960, p. 4)
What has changed since Hunt’s proclamations? What is the labour of training in Australia, and how do we train an “impatient people”? In a country where sweat comes easily, do we mistake the by-product of hard work for the work itself? Hunt, like many others in Australian performance history, speaks only for white Australians: how do (or might?) the distinctive temporalities, collaborative modalities, and lineages of practice of First Nations training and performance inflect performer training in Australia?
Despite the diversity and range of its performance ecology and the prestige in which its major training institutions are held, Australia’s influence in and contribution to key debates has, until fairly recently, remained surprisingly marginal. While much doctoral-level work has considered training in Australia, there is no authoritative, published history of Australian performer training. The history of training is thus another iteration of what Ian Maxwell terms “Australian theatrical bricolage” (2017, p. 338), its history an assemblage of sometimes contradictory facts, uncertain pathways, and unsubstantiated anecdote. In this special issue of TDPT, we endeavour to provide an update to Meredith Rogers and Elizabeth Schafer’s special issue of Australasian Drama Studies “Lineages, Techniques, Training and Tradition” (vol. 53, 2008). We also seek to curate a companion to the roundtable discussion “Training in a Cold Climate”, published in Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 5.2, by considering training in a hot climate.
Reflections on the 2020 International Platform for Performer Training
For three days in January 2020, the University of Kent’s
drama department hosted the 7th edition of the International
Platform for Performer Training with a focus on how words operate in
performer training. The platform was organised and led by Paul Allain,
Professor of Theatre and Performance, Stacie Lee Bennett-Worth, PhD
candidate at De Montfort University and Honorary Research Associate at Kent,
Alicja Bral, PhD candidate at Kent, and Dr Roanna Mitchell, Lecturer in Drama
and Theatre also at Kent. The event involved some 50 participants, mostly from
across Europe, in a lively mixture of short workshops, presentations, talks and
Sessions focused on community-based applications of
training, voice and text work, languages used in training pedagogies, speaking
dreams and inhabiting avatars, verse-speaking and the breath, ideas drawn from
Russian and Polish theatre and Grotowski especially, using film for training
and how circus tends to ignore the voice. The journal Theatre Dance and Performance Training had a continual presence at
the platform, offering itself and this blog as spaces for continuing our
physical and vocal dialogues. Here we take up this challenge.
Bennett-Worth created this collage to visually and textually though silently activate some of the energy, ideas and words circulating during the platform, also depicting many of the people involved.
Please click the image below to open in a new window which will allow you to zoom in.
Explore the past and future of movement as a maker of meaning in theatre. Join world-leading industry professionals including performers, practitioners, directors, teachers and movement influencers for a series of workshops, presentations, discussions and observations.
This one-day symposium will explore the wide-ranging influences that movement has within today’s leading theatres and institutions and will look in more detail at the variety of practices that are now available. We will instigate conversations about the vital contribution movement practice and movement direction make to the industry. There will be open discussion, professional networking and the chance for emerging and established artists to share their work.
This event interrogates and celebrates how this powerful aspect of storytelling in theatre, film and television continues to shape developments in productions and training.
Tickets £50. Booking is made online, once you have booked your place at the event you will be sent an email requiring your choice of workshops.
Location: RADA Studios, 16 Chenies Street, London WC1E 7EX
Speakers, workshop leaders and panel members include:
Clare Brennan, Mike Alfreds, Vladimir Mirodan, Christina Fulcher, Ruth Anna Phillips, Ita O’Brien, Ingrid McKinnon, Lizzie Ballinger, Paul Christie, Nicola Herd, Hannah Garner, Pascale Lecoq, Jos Houben, Sue Lefton, Jane Gibson, Toby Jones, Nancy Meckler, Annabel Arden, Peta Lily, Vladimir Mirodan, Korina Biggs, Paul Christie, Niamh Dowling, Kate Flatt, Struan Leslie, Tine Damborg, Lizzie Ballinger, and Ayse Tashkiran.
Convenors: Shona Morris (Lead Movement Tutor, RADA), Mark Evans (Professor of Theatre Training, Coventry University)
The Makings of the Actor: The Actor-Dancer is an international conference held under the auspices of the Michael Cacoyiannis Foundation, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama,and the Labanarium, organized by Post-doctoral Researcher Dr Kiki Selioni.
The Actor-Dancer conference will be the first of a series of international events under the aegis of The Makings of the Actor. The mission of The Makings of the Actor project is to gather international practitioners and researchers, from diverse fields of performance practice and scholarship, to develop and disseminate (through conferences and workshops) an evolving performance pedagogy that addresses the needs of present and future actors.
Prof. Vladimir Mirodan FRSA, Emeritus Professor of Theatre
Prof. Rob Roznowski Head of Acting & Directing, Department of Theatre, Michigan State University
Prof.Frank Camilieri Associate Professor of Theatre Studies, School of Performing Arts, University of Malta.
Juliet Chambers-Coe Director of Labanarium; Laban tutor Rose Bruford College (FDS); Drama Studio London (FDS); PhD researcher University of Surrey www.labanarium.com
Katia Savrami Associate Professor of Choreology at the Department of Theatre Studies at the University of Patras, Greece.
Ramunė Balevičiūtė Associate Professor in Theatre Studies, Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre
Dr. Evangelos Koudigelis Med. Orthopadisch-Traumatologische Darstellung in den epen homers, University Essen Germany.
Dr. Kiki Selioni Affiliate Research Fellow Royal Central School of Speech and Drama University of London.
Call for papers, teaching demonstrations and performances
Stanislavsky asserted: “[o]ur kind of theatre is fragile and if those who create it don’t take constant care of it, don’t keep moving it forward, do not develop and perfect it, it will soon die.” (qtd. in Toporkov, 2004:106). The Makings of the Actor project seeks to explore how those who create theatre can continue to move it forward and develop it, with a particular focus on the training of the actor.
This special issue guest edited by Henrietta Hale, Nikki Tomlinson and
Gitta Wigro draws from our roles at Independent Dance, an organisation that
supports and sustains independent dance artists to develop dance as an art
form. The ‘independent dance artists’ that ID engages with can be many things.
They may produce or perform in choreographic works in theatres, galleries,
digital formats or outdoor / informal sites. They may work as facilitators or
teachers with other professionals or in community settings, engaging untrained
people in dance. Or they may be practitioners from other disciplines such as
fine arts, architecture or science who engage in an embodied movement practice
to complement and bring new knowledge to their field.
The aim of this issue is to consider and map how movement practices that
have evolved from specific traditions or situations are used and re-articulated
for other purposes; and show how this plays out in inter-related, international
networks of practitioners.
This is the second of two posts that return to the serialised account of a First Year BA Acting student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS). It is a first-hand account of the experience of a student emerging into the industry from three years of sustained actor training.
We graduated as the BA
Acting Class of 2019 on the 4th of July, alongside alumnus and Honorary Doctor,
Richard Madden. Rubbing shoulders with one of the high-flyers from our course
on the day that we were finally unshackled and let loose upon the world to seek
our fortunes was a most strange feeling. There we were, standing proud, smiling
and chatting to someone who represented the peak we could aspire to, just as we
were now embarking on the odyssey ourselves. Drama school prepares you for
untold challenges as an actor, but there is no etude or vocal warm-up that can
get you ready for the daunting mystery of life after the cosy bubble of higher
education. I spent my graduation day utterly elated in celebration of
everything I and my classmates had achieved, but I was not without fear and
anxiety for the future – while it was a wonderful, freeing feeling to escape
the shallows of RCS, the ocean beyond seemed unfathomable. It was only when
feeling this uncertainty that I was able to reflect on how I felt in the weeks
before I started at the RCS – I left my high school with the same sense of
foreboding for the much larger pool of fish I was about to enter. However,
three (all-too-short) years later, I am a much more natural and confident
performer, very much at home at RCS, and eager to learn more. It stands to
reason then, that the new proving ground of working life will soon feel just as
much like home as my alma mater. Now, as the weeks after graduation become months,
I am slowly but surely finding my feet as a jobbing actor.
While I was in two minds
about leaving drama school and entering the world beyond, I was blessed to have
very little time to think about it, as I was immediately thrust into rehearsals
for a children’s theatre production at the Shakespeare Rose Theatre in York. I
completely appreciated my luck in securing acting work straight away after
leaving RCS, and energetically and enthusiastically buried myself in my first
proper job. I was the new kid on the block for the first time in three years,
and I definitely felt that I had something to prove. My need to validate and
cement myself as a professional in my first job was a very useful impulse – I
conducted myself with utmost care, I was punctual, I was off-book within the
first week, and I was endlessly eager to
demonstrate that my training had made me an efficient and indispensable
utensil. I was the pen through which the director shaped the story, and it made
my rehearsals deep, cerebral, and hard work. Although I have no doubt that I
came off as a little green, and can probably afford to be less of a ‘Yes-Man’
in my next jobs, I think that the feeling of having something to prove brought
enhanced attention to detail, sharpened performative senses, and a tighter
control over my abilities. These are all qualities I would be loath to lose in
any future acting employment, no matter how long I’ve been working or how
comfortable I feel.
With the job itself came
new challenges that were alien to me upon leaving drama school, revolving
around the need to audition for Autumn and Christmas work while in the middle
of performances for my current job. This was something I had never even had to think
about during my time at RCS. For instance, in my third year, which was
essentially theatre in rep, I would finish one performance and glide seamlessly
into rehearsals for the next, having auditioned for parts in these plays many
months prior. Not so in the real world. At its most hectic, we opened the play
in York, I awoke at four o’clock the next morning to get to Norwich by eleven
for a recall for a Christmas job, and then hopped back to York the same day
ready to rouse myself at five o’clock the next morning to start the get-in for
my current job. Needless to say, I was burned-out before I had even really
begun. Although I was a waking ghost, appearing zombified and monosyllabic to
my family in the mornings, I could only be grateful that I was busy enough to
be so tired. This was all part of a learning curve that I was lucky enough to
be following, as I began to navigate the new relationship between actor and
agent. Indeed, in these first few months that I have been signed, I have sought
to strengthen this relationship by taking a firm hold of each and every
opportunity that has come my way. I think this is borne from a similar urge as
my need to cement myself as a professional in the eyes of my director. It is a
relationship that I am becoming ever more comfortable with, and I look
tentatively but determinedly forward to the months to come.
I feel a distinct need,
especially at the end of one of life’s chapter’s, to immediately keep the story
going – to find a home outside the familial house, and to venture to new places
beyond the boundaries of the home county and make them my own, in whatever
small ways I can. Glasgow and Scotland are without question those places for
me, and even while in gainful employment, I grew restless while living at home
over Summer. The decision to move back up was not a difficult one – after all,
I have spent the last three years building a life for myself up here. My
friends, my partner, my agent, and indeed, the ethos that being at the RCS has
imbued my life with are all part of this wonderful corner of the world.
As it stands now, I am
currently ‘resting’ – living the indefinable and purgatorial state between
acting jobs. It is not easy. I am a creature of endless internal disquiet, and
only when I am working is some of my innate turbulence quelled. At school, it
was easy to fight the pangs of jealousy that crept into my consciousness, for
drama school is its own little bubble, and what happens inside it is
inconsequential to life on the outside. It is harder now – the playing field is
levelled, and thus there is little certainty of work in any creative capacity.
I have found myself working as a bartender, more because I am in desperate need
of something to do that will put an end to my ceaseless refreshing of the Spotlight
Castings webpage than for any financial benefit. However, luckily, the
aforementioned early morning dash to Norwich reaped the reward of an exciting
Christmas job for which rehearsals begin in mid-November. So in reality, I have
just over a month to spend in limbo before I tread the boards once more. I
would do well to remember this when I feel the green-eyed monster crawl its way
to my door again. I am sure that this period of uncertainty is not the last I
will ever experience. It is the first of many, many, many more, and tackling it
with gusto and honesty is perhaps the key to dealing with the others that
undoubtedly lie in wait. What will be, will be, and as long as I am doing
everything I can to keep active, engaged, and productive, then these periods
will be fewer and further between.
So. Lots to think about, and lots of time to do it. My
drama school journey was hard; often disappointing and frustrating, but it was
also magnificent and mind-blowing. It was long and full of doubt, both in
myself and in the profession I had chosen, but it also built me up and
strengthened my character and confidence in ways I probably don’t even realise
yet. It was desperately sad, and it was the happiest I have ever been in my
life. If I have learned anything in my time there, it is that you cannot have
one half of things without the other – drama school is a balance; unsteady,
swinging from floundering in confusion to clarity and assuredness in a heartbeat.
It is how you decide to walk this tightrope that defines who you are on the
other side of the chasm. For me, I think I can be proud of the person drama
school, and indeed Scotland, has moulded me into. I arrived here at once a
scared little boy, and at the same time arrogant, spiteful, and honestly, not
very nice. I return here – for good – warm, kind, open, and as my Dad would
say, ‘with a feeling of ease’. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This is the first of two posts that return to the serialised account of a First Year BA Acting student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS). It is a first-hand account of the experience of a student emerging into the industy from three years of sustained actor training.
My final year of training has without question been my favourite. I had a difficult start to the year, battling very poor mental health, which led me to question my worth as an actor and my place in the cohort. Seven months later, I feel like a new man – I know exactly who I am, exactly what I can do, and, while I have not been without disillusionment in my third year, I feel like I am ready to leave The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) as a professional actor in control of their abilities practically and professionally. In this blog entry, I talk about this growth.
This year has been one full
of opportunity to develop and hone my professional skills, from showcase, to
meeting agents, to auditioning in the latter half of the final year. Personally,
I feel that in terms of my professional conduct, I’m pretty good. I feel like I
come across well in auditions and interviews; I’m always very polite and open
without being disingenuous and labouring. I do feel that this want or perhaps
need to be liked comes at the cost of confidence sometimes – I am not naturally
a very confrontational person, and I default too often to subservience. It has
often been reflected in the characters I’ve played at drama school! This will
not serve me well when fighting for jobs or standing out to casting directors,
or even as I develop my working relationship with my agent – I need to be more
pushy and more ready to say what I want rather than to immediately compromise,
or at worst, simply do what others tell me. This is an industry that will take
advantage of me if I continue this sort of behaviour.
However, I do feel that my
having an agent gives me a great opportunity to start to change this. I have
been offered a chance to act with more agency, and will lose out if I don’t
start doing this. My training has well prepared me for the working world;
particularly the discussions with Casting Directors like Simone Perreira Hind
and Laura Donnelley that have made me far more aware of the kind of attitude I
need to have in interviews and castings. I of course don’t mean that I now need
to be self-absorbed and bratty, but that I need to have a better grasp of my
own worth in these situations if I am to be successful. Currently, things are
going well – through auditions I have had I am now fortunate to have work set
up for the whole summer and will graduate and go straight into a two-month long
job in York. I strongly believe that without this ‘go-getting attitude’, I
would not be in this position. I am improving in this aspect of the industry,
but I know there is a way to go.
The job of an actor is not
an easy one, and I feel like I have never been under any illusion as to how
difficult it could be. I know that I will not always have work lined up, and so
have sought to make myself as castable as possible in order to stay in work for
as long as I can. Throughout my training, it has been made abundantly clear to
me that the 21st century performer cannot be simply one thing; one must be
multi-faceted in order to stay in work. Accordingly, I have developed my skills
as a musician in my free time during drama school, and can now play three
instruments; ukulele, guitar, and cajon – the latter two to a high standard.
Where possible, I have used my talents as a musician in my own devised work,
and in productions outside of RCS that I have been in while in training. I feel
confident talking about myself as an actor-musician, and believe that this is
what I need to be in order to be successful.
I have also used my
training to hone my skills as a writer – I wrote a play for On The Verge
Festival of New Writing at the Citizens Theatre in second year, and am
continuing to write and devise new projects that I am eager to produce. From
discussions with graduate actors and through talking with Vanessa Coffey,
Professional Practice Lecturer at the RCS, I understand what to do to get my
work seen in Scotland. I believe that the RCS has fully prepared me for a
portfolio career; I understand that the nature of my work may change, and I may
not always be an ‘actor’ in the traditional sense. However, I find that I do
not particularly want to be – I feel most at home when I am stretching multiple
creative muscles, and think that the challenge of employability will be best
tackled by me while I am doing this. I am already seeing the benefits of this –
over summer, I am first working as a deviser for a festival, and then as an
actor-musician. I am keen to keep developing my skills in these areas, and my
ideal career will allow me to do this.
I do worry that I have been at a disadvantage as an English actor training in Scotland, and that this will translate to my professional career. I want to build my career in Scotland and make use of the myriad of connections that training at RCS has allowed me to make, but fear that the Scottish-centric nature of the industry will not let me do this. For example, I have a strong ability for accents and can do plenty of specific Scottish ones. At my recent audition for the Dundee Rep, I was asked to perform specific Scottish accents, but I do not feel like I have been considered for Scottish parts with the same seriousness as a native Scottish person would be. I do however realise that my casting doesn’t exactly scream ‘Scottish.’ Regardless of this, I feel like Glasgow and Scotland is the place I want to be – the theatre scene is very exciting for new and devised work and there are a myriad of roles for multi-faceted performers like myself. I think I would be foolish to have spent three years making connections with acting role-models such as Dan Cameron and Finn den Hertog and not try to build on them. Ultimately, I just want to be comfortable and creatively fulfilled, and I feel like my training has set me up properly to achieve this. I am ready to take the leap of faith… and see what happens next.
To complement the publication of her book, Michael Chekhov’s Acting Technique: A Practitioner’s Guide (Bloomsbury, 2020), Sinéad Rushe, theatre director and Senior Lecturer in Acting and Movement at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London is now offering individual acting coaching sessions for professionals in north London.
Character development on a specific role
Dramaturgical development on devised ideas
Sessions cost £75/hour and are tailor-made. Skype sessions are also
Sinéad draws on the methodologies of Michael Chekhov, Stanislavsky and
Vsevolod Meyerhold, as well as on her own experience as a director and devisor.
Sinéad studied at Trinity
and the École Normale Supérieure, Paris before
training as an actor at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London. Her directing credits
include Night Just Before the Forests
(Macau Arts Festival, China 2019), Concert
(The Pit, Barbican, London, Baryshnikov Arts Centre, New York &
international tour; Gradam Comharcheoil TG4 2018 Award-Winner), Out of Time (The Pit, Barbican, Baryshnikov Arts Centre, New
York & international tour; nominated for Olivier and Dance Critics’ Circle
Award), Gogol’s Diary of a Madman with Living Pictures
(Sherman Cymru, Cardiff, & international tour) and Something or Nothing with
Guy Dartnell (The Place Theatre & tour), commissioned by Sadler’s Wells.
She has directed four shows with her own company, out of Inc: Loaded (The Old Rep, Birmingham, Jacksons Lane, London), Night-Light (Oval House, London, Bristol Old Vic & tour), Life in the Folds (BAC, London & tour), and An Evening with Sinéad Rushe (BAC, London), all supported by Arts Council England. www.sineadrushe.co.uk
I have found that the histories of trainings are
incredibly important, sometimes more significant than the results that they are
trying to achieve in the performer. From
2002-2004 I trained in the Meisner Technique of acting under Michael Saccente
in Auckland, New Zealand. Michael is a
New Yorker by birth and culture and underwent the full Neighborhood Playhouse
training with Sanford Meisner. When he
found himself in New Zealand, Michael began training professional actors in the
technique. These classes provoked the
spontaneity and impulsive behaviour that I was looking for in my performance
work at the time.
However, just as in the case of Meisner’s
teaching, the personality and behaviour of Michael was vital in the way the
training was transmitted to us. His
small stature was more than compensated for by his loud, machine gun repartee
and his neurotic, wound-up rants at anything that got under his skin. His character wouldn’t have been out of place
in a David Mamet play, and as I began to reflect on the classes, I realized
that our acting was picking up Michael’s particular New York state of mind (and
expression) at the same time as we were learning to read each other’s behaviour
New format for journal features articles on Feldenkrais Method, arts and creative
Feldenkrais Federation is pleased to announce the publication of Volume 6
of the Feldenkrais Research Journal (FRJ).
It is on the theme ofPractices of Freedom: The
Feldenkrais Method and Creativity, and offers a critical forum for
scholarship, articulation and evaluation of creative practices and pedagogies
which are informed by the Feldenkrais Method.
volume features eleven articles. Several explore the challenges of bringing
Feldenkrais-based practices to the context of higher education in music, dance,
theatre and performance generally – how to introduce professional and
performance-oriented students to the potential of somatic learning. Hypothesis
and theory articles explore embodied cognition in dance and math, and include text
of a performed piece on a variety of theoretical constructs linked to
Feldenkrais Method practice. There is also an article linking Feldenkrais
theory to piano technique. Also included are reviews of a recent book on Feldenkrais for Actors, and of theatre
works by choreographer Ohad Naharin. The Research in Progress section previews interactive
research design investigating active sitting.
In the Bible, Words came first. In performance practice, words probably followed movement, dance, art and sounds. Who knows….? Exploring what comes next, this seventh edition of the International Platform for Performer Training will investigate how words function in, of and for Performer Training across three broad areas:
How the denotative or nonsemantic properties of words in performance are explored through training, and how movement, voice and text can be combined to achieve an integrated mise-en-scène (or not)
How trainers use words in training practice, in order to exhort, encourage, clarify or instruct as well as what they do and don’t say, to whom and when;
How words that are written about training, be it our own practices today or that of others past or present, might document or act as inspiration for practice.
Bred In The Bone is a multilingual and culturally diverse company of theatre creators. Musiciality, physical practise and development of the body, ear and voice as an eternal ever-inspired instrument, are at the core of our training.
The idea that there should be a practice of ‘scales’ for the actor is arguably an ancient endeavour, and it remains the best description of what we developing, both in our rehearsal work and in what we implement in our training and our teaching.
The Performer Training Working Group has been meeting for thirteen years and has produced several collaborative outputs, including a variety of contributions to the thrice-yearly journal, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT), dedicated to training in all its manifestations, and this blog.
The Context – ‘Exercise’
Performer training is often conducted through and made up of
‘exercises’. These short activities, put together in a particular structure are
the substance of what the trainee undertakes in the studio. And yet, what is an exercise? The most obvious definition from the Oxford
English Dictionary is ‘a task set to practise or test a skill.’ However, the many meanings of the word imbue
it with a host of connotations including physical training, military drills, or
the use of one’s rights.
Exercises to train performers are documented in the Natya
Sastra (500 BCE – 500CE) and Zeami’s treatise (14th Century CE) and have
proliferated around the world in the wake of Stanislavski’s systemization of
acting at the start of the 20th Century. Exercises are the core of performance
training; books about performance in all its forms commonly contain catalogues
of exercises; workshops and masterclasses are often structured around
engagement with and critique of exercises.
And yet, possibly through the blindness of familiarity, this fundamental
building block of our work usually escapes interrogation.
We are seeking contributions that add to our understanding
of what exercises are, the different ways they have been used in performance
training, what their limits are, and what might be beyond them.
We invite contributions in a variety of formats from
practical demonstrations and workshops (30-60 minutes), traditional academic
papers (20 minutes) and provocations (10 minutes). Practitioners and researchers without
institutional support are encouraged to apply and may contact the convenors to
discuss ways that we might facilitate this.
Contributors may also wish to make use of the TDPT Blog as part of their
For full details please
go to the TaPRA website:
The deadline for the submission of a 300-word proposal, plus additional information, is Monday 8th April 2019.