Extended deadline for TaPRA Performer Training WG Event

Dear all,

We’ve extended the deadline to Friday 7 April for proposals for the TaPRA Performer Training Working Group Interim Event. Please send your abstract through if this area is of interest to your research. You are also very welcome to attend, without presenting a paper. The event is free, but you need to be a TaPRA member.

TaPRA Performer Training Working Group

Interim Event

Monday 22 May 2017, 11am – 6pm

University of York

Performer Training and Media Ecologies

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Tools and Material(itie)s Research Seminar, University of Leeds, March 7th 5-7pm

You are warmly invited to the next School of Performance and Cultural Industries research seminar –

Tools and Material(itie)s      
Dr Scott McLaughlin (School of Music), Dr Maria Kapsali (School of PCI), Dr Joslin Mckinney (School of PCI)

Tuesday 7th March 5pm-7pm
Lecture Theatre 2, School of Music, University of Leeds
Please book a place with Linda Watson l.m.watson@leeds.ac.uk – All Welcome

The three papers in this seminar aim at highlighting the way in which theories and discourses on tools and material(itie)s inform practice and thinking in music, somatic work and scenography. Apart from positioning the overall enquiry in relation to specific disciplines, this research seminar also aims to put forward a set of questions that deal with wider, cross-disciplinary themes: In what ways do theories of materiality shed light on artistic processes?  What is the relationship between tool and tool user? How does a non-anthropocentric view inform understanding of experience and perception?

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Yoga as/in Performance: A Research Lab hosted by the Centre for Psychophysical Performance Research at the University of Huddersfield

With Dr Deborah Middleton (Huddersfield), Dr Maria Kapsali (Leeds) and Dr Bernadette Cronin (Cork)

Saturday 22nd October 2016, 0915 — 1715

 There are a few places still available for this one-day event in which Bernadette Cronin, Maria Kapsali, and Deborah Middleton will each share their research into Yoga and its relationship with performance. The day will involve short positions statements, a workshop led by each practitioner, and time for sharing and discussion (and resting).

Contact: f.chamberlain@hud.ac.uk for further details

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Theatre and Performance Research Association 2016 Performer Training Working Group: Some Personal Reflections

Just back from the annual three day meeting of the TaPRA Performer Training Group and would like to capture some thoughts and reflections before they evaporate in the maze of the semester that lies ahead.

Before I do so, one note on the very activity of writing a blog post. This year’s executive curated panel was entitled ‘Digital Media and the Future of Theatre and Performance Research’ and set out to examine, amongst other things, whether ‘academic research [is] a rival to these [digital] forms of dissemination – [whether it is] a gold standard to maintain against wikiknowledge’ or whether academic research ‘will and should change to make use of these new technologies’ (TaPRA, Conference Programme 2016, np).

Undoubtedly there is a lot to be said about the different forms of knowledge that different forms of dissemination may produce, in terms of economy, pedagogy, cognition, cultural habits and power relations to say the least, but during the panel I started thinking, or perhaps paused to think, about labour. It is work, I thought to myself, to produce and disseminate research in the standard formats of journal articles and books. For a lot of theatre practitioners and researchers, this work can be understood both in terms of contractual employment (or as a move towards it) as well as in terms of the effort that goes in it (which does not exclude the pleasures of writing). It is also work to write a blog post. But here is an important difference: to write a blog post is work in terms of the effort exerted but not, at least not yet or not explicitly, in terms of contractual obligations.

Granted, this distinction is not clear cut (after all blogging does look good on a CV), but to me it feels important. Perhaps, because of the cultural tropes of playground and play with which the internet is often associated, perhaps because I hope that practices of peer-to-peer production and user-led creation will bring us closer to different paradigms of economic transaction and social relations, on the afternoon of the 6th of September 2016, I discovered, and very inarticulately tried to argue, that it is paramount that within the academy blogging remains a choice and that we actively make sure that it does so. That it remains an activity, a space, a zone that allows me to step out of the imperatives to produce research, and envisage first and foremost you, the readers, with me, around a table drinking wine, in a studio rolling on the floor, in a playground swinging from monkey bars.

For these reasons, I want to start by saying this: I chose to write this blog post.

The theme of the Working Group’s CfP for this year was Speech and Text in Performer Training, whereby ‘“text” is not meant to refer only to words in a printed play-text, but rather to the expansive range of sources in our work’. In particular, we invited delegates ‘to consider the link between the different notions of text and speech. What are the key interventions that are being made in these areas? How do we, from our different and overlapping disciplines, teach, train, and theoretically engage with text and speech in our work?’. Four intersecting areas were proposed as subthemes: The actor and the text; Dance and movement: the physical and verbal body; Text and Aurality; Intersections between text, speech, and technology.

The final programme consisted of a diverse set of papers, provocations, workshops and lecture demonstrations. Its actualisation over three days of panels, formal discussions and informal exchanges foregrounded a set of additional themes/observations, some of which I will try to capture here. In no particular order:

Interdisciplinarity and, after Pauliina Hulkko, multimodality

A lot of the trainings we experienced, heard and talked about this year had a pronounced interdisciplinary character, both in the combination of different performing arts disciplines, as well as in a very conscious, strategic choice of employing other art forms. David Wiles talked about and showed pictures of historical and idiosyncratic practices of scoring text dating from 17th and 18th c European theatre and oratic practice. Bryan Brown and Olya Petrakova examined the development of two frameworks they developed with ARTEL (American Russian Theatre Ensemble Laboratory). ‘Playstorming’ is a framework for working with playtexts through improvisation, whereas ‘Bodystorming’ seeks a way to develop on-the-spot responses to discursive text through movement and sound.  Hannu Tuisku demonstrated an exercise on facial relaxation as an entry point to voice production, and Marie Hay demonstrated the simultaneous production and scoring of movement and speech/text. Debi Wong talked about the creation of operatic-dance-music productions and her aim to develop methods that enable the artists involved to penetrate and allow to be permeated by each other’s practice rather than working alongside one another. Christina Kapadocha shared through a practical workshop her own way of employing Body Mind Centering in movement and voice training/practice.

In the second category of working with practices beyond the performing arts, one could position Petronilla Whitfield’s sharing of her evolving method of working with dyslexic actor-students on Shakespeare’s text through movement, drawing and mark making as well as Goze Saner and Scott Robinson’s interactive installation on an ongoing research project towards the creation of a DIY toolkit that centres around the aural and oral transmission of different versions of an exercise  – for want of better term – through acoustic technologies.

The conscious and strategic combination of art forms as training tools led to a recognition not only of the way other arts forms may deal with pedagogical problems, but also the emergence of new kinds of performers/artists that such trainings may render possible. It also raises questions about the role of the sensory modalities and hierarchies training pedagogies attempt to engage and pointed to a possible re-thinking of such hierarchies, in the light of the cultural, cognitive and embodied experience of individual students (as well as trainers).

It further allows performer trainers to think beyond their expertise and specialism and as Debi Wong remarked employ and ‘curate’ different aspects of their self, rather than remain within the limitations of a specific professional artistic identity.

Diversity

There was no way of escaping the strong connections between voice and notions of being heard and having the right to speak. Diversity emerged as a theme in various ways and was considered from a number of lenses. I have already mentioned Whitfield’s conscious decision to explore ways of training that are better suited to the needs of dyslexic students. In a performative presentation that framed the working group as a new cohort of actor-students that have English as a Second Language, Evi Stamatiou communicated the sense of inadequacy that foreign speakers might be experiencing. By utilising her Greek accent in order to create the persona of a native speaker of imaginary, but canonical. Chesire-cat English, Stamatiou raised questions about who is in fact this ideal speaker and how he/she/the cat exercises power. Carol Fairlamb took us through her own personal journey of becoming aware of traits of ‘dysconscious racism’ in her teaching and received pedagogy as well as the active steps she took towards developing an approach that utilises the heritage of BAME actors in voice and speech training.

Pauliina Hulkko and Tiina Syrja talked about the merits of training actors to work in a language they do not speak and shared a recent project where Hulkko and Syrja travelled with Finnish students to Udmurtia, a Russian Federation, in order to stage a play in Udmurt, an Ungro-Finn endangered language. Their point about the possibility of a foreign language to defamiliarise the actor from her own phonetic and vocal habits was aptly communicated by allowing the group to taste the vowels and consonants of the Udmurt language in a short sentence.  Withholding the meaning of the sentence until the very end of the exercise, also showed how sound and voice can set one free from – or indeed make one anxious about the loss of – meaning.

Breath

By being an inextricable physiological component of voicing, speaking, and generally staying alive, the training of breath offers immense possibilities not only towards the development of voice and speech, but also towards the actor’s relationship to text and character/dramatic situation. Dennis Lennon and Eric Hetzler in their respective ways looked at breath as a way of such training. Lennon brought attention to the position that breath holds within voice and speech training practices of acting and speaking Shakespeare and left us with the tantalising possibility that breath could become a catalyst towards apprehending rather than comprehending the Shakespearean text. Equally, Hetzler complemented a formal paper on the use of Alba Technique in theatre practice with instruction in two exercises that allowed the group to try out two of the breathing patterns.

Logocentrism and Au/Orality

By taking the work of Greek speech trainer Dimitris Vayas as a case in point, Konstantinos Thomaidis brought attention to the danger of treating voice in a logocentric manner, whereby the aim of training is to clear the voice of the cultural manifestations and biological imperfections of dialect, accent and tonality, in order to communicate text in a presumambly pristine way. Thomaidis, however, further problematized the way in which logo-centrism can be detected within a training practice and cautioned against a tendency to regard uncritically and at face value old-school approaches to voice training as logocentric. Complementing Thomaidis’s paper, Jane Boston offered an alternative to subjecting the voice to the service of idealist textual clarity by exploring the work of Alice Oswald, a poet who writes with the intention that her poems are read or recited aloud. Duly, Boston read and briefly cock-a-dooddle-dooed an extract from Oswald’s recent collection of poems.

Resistance to Training?

A resistance to training, a need and an urgency to re-think what training is and what it is for, underpinned a number of papers, but was most emphatically present in Mark Smith’s presentation on the work of Frantic Assembly. Smith reflected on the company’s founding members’ assertion that are ‘untrained’ as well as their conscious exclusion of vocal and speech training from their educational activities. Is it is because work with text could possibly alienate the teenage audience Frantic are trying to reach? Is it because, despite the interconnection of voice and movement, expertise is by definition a careful demarcation of a specific area of knowledge and needs to have identifiable boundaries? Is the exclusion of voice a manifestation of a historical moment during which, arguably, British theatre had enough with the word and concentrated on performance making through movement? And if this is the case, do we witness a new era, whereby word finds its place, as Marie Hay demonstrated, within movement practice?

Post-script: The Group is Open and Training is Ongoing

Delegates of all walks of lives, institutions, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, cultural affiliations, disciplinary expertise, and religious practice are welcome. But a toddler? Two-year old Mercan patiently sat through presentations and discussions, experienced the intermittent dislocation of her mum and dad’s attention away from her and towards the conference, even put up with her occasional removal from the room, and looked at the group and its individual members with eyes wide open. What do they know about training? I would wager that Mercan goes through intensive training the whole day every day. Imagine that she turns eighteen and following her parents’ steps decides to study theatre. She begins to train, whereby discovers that all the training she has been doing all these years not only is left untapped, but in some cases is considered to be out rightly wrong. If anything from the presentations stays with her, Mercan could potentially reply to anyone that tries to ‘correct’ her that yes, she would not mind trying out new ways (of sitting, standing, talking, looking, thinking) but training is also about honouring what she so painstakingly acquired through daily practice for the most part of her life. That her training, past and present, to borrow a metaphor that Carol Fairlamb used, is her home.

 

 

 

Training to Give Evidence: Space to Leave Comments

Link

Training to give evidence: Performer training for verbatim, documentary, biographical and autobiographical performance practices

An interim TaPRA event of the Performer Training Working Group, hosted by Northumbria University, 11th May 2016, 11am – 6pm

Verbatim, documentary, biographical and autobiographical performance practices are prolific forms of theatre in the 21st Century. Hosted by Northumbria Performing Arts, ‘Training to Give Evidence’ is a one day event that seeks to explore the specific performer training processes that these various forms might require, and to map out commonalities and differences in diverse approaches. The event brings together practitioners with researchers and combines scholarly papers, with provocations, performances and demonstrations of practice.

Participants at the symposium are invited to use this blog throughout the day as a virtual ‘post it’ space in which to raise questions and offer responses to the presentations and conversations that they are engaging in. The idea behind this is to share the discussions taking place with a wider audience, extending and opening up the potential for dialogue. Delegates are also invited to tweet responses throughout the day, using the hashtag #trainingtogiveevidence

Please feel free to use this as a space to add to comments on the day as well as to keep conversations going beyond the day itself.

See Jonathan Pitches summary of the day here:

Call for Proposals for TaPRA 2016: Performer Training Working Group

The 12th Annual TaPRA Conference will be co-hosted by University of Bristol, UK from 5th to 7th September 2016 (see: http://www.tapra.org/ )

The Performer Training Working Group has been meeting for eleven years and has produced several collaborative outputs, including a variety of contributions to the thrice-yearly journal, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, dedicated to training in all its manifestations, and the associated bloghttp://theatredanceperformancetraining.org.

Konstantinos, Maria and Tom, the working group co-convenors, are delighted to issue a call for contributions for the forthcoming 2016 TaPRA conference on the theme Speech and Text in Performer Training.

We are interested in a range of presentation formats including the following:

  • formal papers (max 20 minutes)
  • provocations or position statements (max 10 minutes)
  • instances of practice as research or short workshops/demonstrations (1 hour)

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Yoga and Actor Training: Imagining and writing a character, by Dorinda Hulton from the DVD/Booklet ‘Yoga and Actor Training’ by Dorinda Hulton and Maria Kapsali (Routledge 2016), DVD filmed and edited by Arts Archives.

This series of video clips offer glimpses of the six Workshop Approaches documented in Dorinda Hulton and Maria Kapsali’s Yoga and Actor Training (Routledge 2016) DVD/booklet that focusses on ways in which the practice of yoga may be applied towards actor training purposes. Six Workshop Approaches are proposed, and contextualised with a historical overview of the use of yoga in the work of Konstantin Stanislavski, Jerzy Grotowski and Joseph Chaikin. Within the six videos, as well as the publication as a whole, two key perspectives are proposed as being directly, or indirectly, helpful to actor training: the first is an understanding of yoga in relation to actor training that does not prioritise, or pit, ‘interior’ against ‘exterior’, ‘mind’ against ‘body’, ‘mental’ against ‘physical’, but recognises their interdependence and interconnections. The second is an understanding that the ‘internalization’ of attention, which may be perceived in aspects of yoga, is not inimical to the creative processes of a contemporary actor, but can contribute to the cultivation of an attitude of ‘alert receptivity’ that is particularly relevant to processes within actor training.

The third video clip derives from Workshop Approach 3 which focuses on an application of the lying down yoga posture Savasana as a pathway towards tapping into the student actor’s imagination. It proposes that the channels within the posture between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ offer effective psychophysical tools that can help student actors to engage with writing, and creating, their own performance imagery. A glimpse of this process may be seen in the clip selected here. In it the student actors are guided in the practice of Savasana, during which there is a shift in attention from placing the body very precisely in ‘exterior’ space towards awareness of the breath and the ‘interior’ body-mind, as well as the sources of energy inside the self (Iyengar 1978).

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TaPRA Interim Event Training to give evidence: Performer training for verbatim, documentary, biographical and autobiographical performance practices

TaPRA Interim Event, Wednesday 11th May 2016, Northumbria University Newcastle, 11am  – 6pm

20th/21st Century Performer Training Working Group

Training to give evidence: Performer training for verbatim, documentary, biographical and autobiographical performance practices

Verbatim, documentary, biographical and autobiographical performance practices are prolific forms of theatre in the 21st Century. Hosted by Northumbria Performing Arts, Training to give evidence is a one day event that seeks to explore the specific performer training processes that these various forms might require, and to map out commonalities and differences in diverse approaches. The event will bring together practitioners with researchers and will combine scholarly papers with workshops, provocations, performances and demonstrations of practice.

Confirmed contributors include Alexander Kelly (Leeds Beckett University and Third Angel), Alison Forsyth (University of Aberystwyth), Lazlo Pearlman (Northumbria University) Tom Cantrell (University of York), Richard Gregory (Quarantine), and Steve Gilroy (Northumbria University) as well as panels of performers, directors and writers working in these forms.

Some of the questions we will be exploring on the day include:

– Is there a specific training methodology for verbatim, documentary, biographical or autobiographical theatre? If so, what does it/do they look like? What are the characteristics of these forms that call for a specific performer training?

– What are the ethical implications/considerations for a performer in training for one of these forms?

– What role does the ‘document’ play in training the performer? How much does the process of making, (e.g. archival research, interviewing, the interviewee themselves) influence a performer in training for verbatim, biographical or documentary theatre?

– In verbatim theatre, where does the interviewee end and the performer begin?

– What is the role of technology in the process of performer training for these forms?

Registration

If you would like to attend the event, please send an email off list directly to Kate Craddock by Friday 18th March at kate.craddock@northumbria.ac.uk

This event is open to TaPRA members only, and has a limited number of places available. If you would like to attend and are not a TaPRA member you can renew or buy a new membership here: http://tapra.org/membership/

Call for Bloggers

This event is being planned to work closely in conjunction with the blog.

We are keen to hear from delegates who are interested in contributing to the event by creating a series of short blog posts throughout the day, helping to give the event an immediate online presence, by taking on the role of ‘live blogger’.

Likewise, we are interested in hearing expressions of interest from delegates interested in producing writing for the blog that responds to the questions and ideas raised as a follow up to the event.

If you are interested in taking on the role of live blogger for the event, or would like to pitch an idea for a subsequent blog contribution, please send a short expression of interest off list directly to Kate Craddock by Friday 18th March at kate.craddock@northumbria.ac.uk

Postgraduate Support:

There are funds available for Postgraduate Working Group Members to apply for support towards the cost of travel in order to attend this event. If you are interested in applying for this support, please contact Kate Craddock at kate.craddock@northumbria.ac.uk

Many thanks, and look forward to welcoming you to Northumbria in May,

Kate (as host) and Working Group Convenors: Maria Kapsali, Tom Cantrell and Konstantinos Thomaidis

About

The Studio is the area of the TDPT blog dedicated to the audio-visual documentation of training practices. We hope that over time the studio will act as a repository of performance training materials, making them available for research and for use in studios and classrooms across the world. Some materials will also provide models of how to document training, possibly with short examples of reflective writing to complement the documentation.
Audio-visual materials should clearly demonstrate a particular aspect of the research/practice. They can be a recording of a training exercise, a series of comments/interviews on a particular approach, or a provocation to adopt, rethink or transform a training example – and an invitation to share these transformations on the blog.

Welcome

Featured

There is great mystery surrounding what really goes on in our acting workshops. Almost a mystique. We hear of particular uses that teachers are making of Alexander [Technique], Tai Chi Chuan, yoga, the work of Slater, Horney, Berne, Laing, May, Lowen, Rogers, Reich, Levi-Strauss; of the exciting things being done with actor training methods with disturbed children, of the extension of theatre games into new areas of gestalt, of new thoughts on Stanislavski System. But little of this work and the ideas, experiences, goals and philosophy which lie behind it, is open to use for sharing. Mostly, there is silence.
Richard Brown (ed), Actor Training I, The Institute for Research in Acting, 1972: xiii.

When I began to think about an introductory statement to the Studio Space, I was reminded of this quote by Richard Brown in a volume, now out of print, that aimed to capture the actor training practices that were developing in the States at the time. What has changed and what has remained the same since then? Which of the observations in the quote above strike a chord today and which ones feel outdated?
To be sure the eclectic mix captured in Brown’s long list is still a feature of contemporary training landscape; some of the names no longer ring a bell, but virtually all of the named disciplines have survived and developed into valid training methods for performance. Partially as a result to this, Brown’s reference to ‘acting workshops’ feels quite outdated, since our instinct today is to speak of ‘performers’ and thus designate the breadth of both training regimes and subsequent work performing artists might be engaged in.
Brown also refers to a perceived silence that is disproportionate to the wealth of experimentation he recognises. This too might be considered outdated; training has since enjoyed numerous publications, conferences, professional bodies and of course a dedicated journal, this blog is part of. And yet a sense of Brown’s ‘mystique’ lingers. The practical and embodied nature of the discipline, its practice in small groups, its potential to effect change over a long period of time often leaves one with the sense that, no matter the number of demonstrations, conferences and publications, there is still a great deal of sharing to be done.
The TDPT Blog then is a step in this direction. The Studio Space, in particular, by testing and harnessing the potential of recording technologies to capture and transmit the tacit, kinesthetic, and practical dimensions that characterise training experiences aims to push the doors of studios around the world further ajar, so that when we are inside them we can look out and when we are outside we can look in. Welcome.

“Yoga and Actor Training: Movement Improvisation”, by Maria Kapsali from the DVD/Booklet “Yoga and Actor Training” by Dorinda Hulton and Maria Kapsali (Routledge 2016), DVD filmed and edited by Arts Archives.

This series of video clips offer glimpses of the six Workshop Approaches documented in Dorinda Hulton and Maria Kapsali’s Yoga and Actor Training (Routledge 2015) DVD/booklet that focusses on ways in which the practice of yoga may be applied towards actor training purposes. Six Workshop Approaches are proposed, and contextualised with a historical overview of the use of yoga in the work of Konstantin Stanislavski, Jerzy Grotowski and Joseph Chaikin.
Within the six videos, as well as the publication as a whole, two key perspectives are proposed as being directly, or indirectly, helpful to actor training: the first is an understanding of yoga in relation to actor training that does not prioritise, or pit, ‘interior’ against ‘exterior’, ‘mind’ against ‘body’, ‘mental’ against ‘physical’, but recognises their interdependence and interconnections. The second is an understanding that the ‘internalization’ of attention, which may be perceived in aspects of yoga, is not inimical to the creative processes of a contemporary actor, but can contribute to the cultivation of an attitude of ‘alert receptivity’ that is particularly relevant to processes within actor training.

The second video clip derives from Workshop Approach 2 which explores ways in which yoga can be combined with movement improvisation activities in order to train the student actor’s kinetic and spatial sensibility, and proposes that such combinations can facilitate both areas. The approach views possible combinations of yoga postures and movement improvisation as part of a continuum consisting of three frameworks.

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“Yoga and Actor Training: Four Body Mind Dialogues”, by Dorinda Hulton from the DVD/Booklet “Yoga and Actor Training” by Dorinda Hulton and Maria Kapsali (Routledge 2016), DVD filmed and edited by Arts Archives.

This series of video clips offer glimpses of the six Workshop Approaches documented in Dorinda Hulton and Maria Kapsali’s Yoga and Actor Training (Routledge 2015) DVD/booklet that focusses on ways in which the practice of yoga may be applied towards actor training purposes. Six Workshop Approaches are proposed, and contextualised with a historical overview of the use of yoga in the work of Konstantin Stanislavski, Jerzy Grotowski and Joseph Chaikin.
Within the six videos, as well as the publication as a whole, two key perspectives are proposed as being directly, or indirectly, helpful to actor training: the first is an understanding of yoga in relation to actor training that does not prioritise, or pit, ‘interior’ against ‘exterior’, ‘mind’ against ‘body’, ‘mental’ against ‘physical’, but recognises their interdependence and interconnections. The second is an understanding that the ‘internalization’ of attention, which may be perceived in aspects of yoga, is not inimical to the creative processes of a contemporary actor, but can contribute to the cultivation of an attitude of ‘alert receptivity’ that is particularly relevant to processes within actor training.

The first video clip derives from Workshop Approach 1, led by Dorinda Hulton and filmed by Arts Archives, and  focuses on four body-mind dialogues inherent in the safe practice of the yoga postures and proposes correspondences between these and processes relevant to first steps in actor training. Continue reading