Thanks to those of you who have already answered the survey personally – and if you haven’t yet completed the survey, please do!
MICHA, the Michael Chekhov Association, Managing Director
…the unique speech experience of each individual is shaped and developed in continuous and constant interaction with others’ individual utterances. This experience can be characterized to some degree as the process of assimilation–more or less creative–of others’ words (and not the words of a language). Our speech, that is, all our utterances (including our creative works), is filled with others’ words, varying degrees of otherness or varying degrees of “our-own-ness” ….These words of others carry with them their own expression, their own evaluative tone, which we assimilate, rework, and re-accentuate.
I love this quote.
It comes from an essay by the Russian philosopher, Mikhail Bakhtin whose ideas and concepts formed the foundation for Julia Kristeva’s intertextual theory. At the 2016 annual TaPRA conference, I was addressing Kristeva and Bakhtin’s ideas concerning intertextuality and endeavouring to demonstrate how the theory can be used to deepen our understanding of the ways in which artists intersect with each other, with audiences, with the world, with the past.
I am particularly interested in artistic domains and performance territories. In my research I am exploring how performances act as sites that enable intersections of audience and artists asking: what do these intersections yield? I am looking at the performing artist as a kind of curator who, in creating or participating in a performance, chooses to reveal certain aspects of her individual history, experience, skills, and knowledge to enable dynamic and engaging intersections with audiences. Continue reading
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: email@example.com for further details
I am an actress (Diploma GNT Drama School, MA East 15 Acting School) 
I am an actress, somatic movement educator (Cert IBMT, RSME)
I am an actress, somatic acting-movement educator and researcher (PaR PhD, RCSSD)
I am an actress, somatic acting-movement educator and researcher currently working within three major London-based actor-training institutions (East 15, Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, RCSSD)
Praxical research in conservatoire actor training
The above schematic identification of my professional background and identity reflects the underlying structure of my short introduction to the brief workshop I gave for the TaPRA Performer Training Working Group on the seventh of September 2016 at University of Bristol. The development of the aforementioned phrases does not aim only at summarizing a personal ongoing journey but also a contemporary phenomenon within modern UK actor-training conservatoire institutions. This phenomenon is the current increasing interest in the dynamic dialogue between academia and practice-based critical engagement, combined with the understanding of how the interrelation between various disciplines informs the shaping of contemporary actor-training pedagogies. In this brief reflection on my participation in TaPRA 2016 conference on the theme ‘Speech and Text in Performer Training’, I intend to communicate aspects of my present understanding of the dynamic integration between theory and practice in actor training through my own praxical research.
I started my engagement with praxis through a practice-as-research (PaR) doctorate thesis on my process of becoming an actor-trainer based on my experience as a conservatoire trained actress and my simultaneous development as somatic movement educator. I grounded my critical awareness as emerging trainer-witness upon the shaping of an original somatic actor-training and creative methodology inspired by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s developmental process of embodiment. I modified Cohen’s Body-Mind Centering® (BMC®) inetsrubjective narrative and principles as I practised them through Linda Hartley’s Integrative Bodywork & Movement Therapy (IBMT) training. The objective of my PhD research was a modern response towards scientifically-informed problematic binaries in actor-training discourses (including mind-body, inner-outer, self-other/s) as well as a common description of actors’ multiple embodied individualities as a single, universal and unchanged existence. I identified dualism and universalism in actor training within the general philosophical problem of logocentrism.
The TDPT blog was launched last year to encourage a growing community of artists, academics, practitioners and researchers to share practice and debate issues that are currently alive within the disciplines of theatre, dance and performance training. In November to mark the one year anniversary of the launch of the site we will be launching a series of blog posts supported by the new TDPT Blog Artist Awards.
One of our aims was to engage a new audience for the TDPT journal while also creating an online space that encourages spontaneous and productive conversation and debate. We are grateful to everyone who has posted their work on the site to date and we are looking to further grow our network of artists, researchers and performance-makers. The blog currently has around 1000 visitors a month from around the world.
We are keen to encourage artists, practitioners, students and freelance performance-makers to engage with the blog and are launching the TDPT Blog Artist Awards which aim to facilitate those not in full-time employment and students to be able to contribute to the site and the community. We have small pots of money (£50-150) to support artists who pitch an idea for a contribution to the site, either audio-visual, text-based or audio that disseminates an area of performer training that may be of interest to the wider community. To apply, please write a short proposal (no more than 300 words) outlining your suggested submission, format and any media you intend to use. You should also include in your statement how you intend to disseminate your post to your networks and help build new audiences for the blog. Please email proposals to the blog editors: Maria Kapsali M.Kapsali@leeds.ac.uk, Bryan Brown B.Brown@exeter.ac.uk and James McLaughlin firstname.lastname@example.org.
The special issue 7.2 of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training was themed on ‘showing and writing training.’ Edited by Mary Paterson (with Training Grounds contributions edited by Dick McCaw), this issue includes contributions that show themselves beyond the realm of the written page.
One of these contributions is Elke Mark’s paper, ‘A Moving-Thinking-Reading Practice.’ Mark describes her performance practice as a type of knowledge production that interweaves sensory experience, the potential for difference, and participatory relationships. Her practice therefore blurs the lines between academic thought and artistic training, suggesting they are collaborative elements in a holistic process of learning and discovery.
She describes her philosophy as follows:
The more I succeed in understanding plans, ideas and concepts that have been well thought through as a mere framework, in putting them aside when a performance begins, when I start to work intently, and to allow intuition and chance encounter to carry me along from one moment to the next, the closer I feel to unintended actions – a form of working that has scope for the unthought, scope for unfurling processes that evolve unpredictably, processes which I follow and accompany: a knowledge that opens itself up to anyone moving attentively, that finds potential in encounter. My horizons broaden, extend all around me, meet with points of intersection, resistance and centres of attraction in space and in my activities. If I succeed in following the rhythm, in finding the tune, in taking it up and developing it, a powerful coherence unfolds, one that both attracts and includes the viewer unintentionally.
Elke Mark, I Set My Foot Upon The Air Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 7.2 pp. 216-230, p. 219
As part of her artistic and training practices, Mark’s writing expands beyond one medium. Her paper for the printed journal was also an installation, which required audience members to read and move in relation to its words. She describes the work as follows:
These images show part of an installation at the Künstlergut Prösitz in summer 2015, which was developed whilst I was participating in an Artist Residency for female artists with children. The pictures show an essay-installation, in which the essay appeared as one long, paper tape, installed inside the building and in the garden.
In order to read the text, the reader had to start outside, first winding round and round an empty potato sack. Then, she could follow the text line, to be guided step-by-step through the whole installation. The act of reading was therefore also an act of movement, making readers aware of the subtle differentiation in their attention between alertness and passivity, as experienced incidentally within their own bodies and in relation to other people’s moving-reading practice.
An edited version of this essay is printed in the special edition of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, ‘On Showing and Writing Training’ (7.2).
Photos (c) Elke Mark
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT)
Special issue entitled Training for Immersive, Interactive and Participatory Performance to be published July 2018
Call for contributions, ideas, proposals and dialogue with the editor
Guest editor: Dr Campbell Edinborough, University of Hull (email@example.com)
Background and context
This will be the eighth Special Issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) following issues on sport, Michael Chekhov, politics, Feldenkrais, writing training, interculturalism and popular theatre. TDPT is an international journal devoted to all aspects of ‘training’ (broadly defined) within the performing arts. The journal was founded in 2010 and launched its own blog in 2015. Our target readership is both academic and the many varieties of professional performers, makers, choreographers, directors, dramaturgs and composers working in theatre, dance and live art who have an interest in and curiosity for reflecting on their practices and their training. TDPT’s co-editors are Jonathan Pitches (University of Leeds) and Libby Worth (Royal Holloway, University of London).
Training for Immersive, Interactive and Participatory Performance
The twenty-first century has seen a significant growth in the popularity of theatre forms that invite audiences to interact and participate with performers – often in unconventional performance contexts. This diversification within the landscape of contemporary performance has been accompanied by a blurring of traditional boundaries between theatre, cabaret, live art, installation and dance. This special issue of TDPT will question the impact of immersive, interactive and participatory forms of performance on training.
The special issue will:
Expressions of interest
We are particularly interested in (but are not limited to) submissions in the following areas:
We welcome submissions from authors both inside and outside academic institutions and from those who are currently undergoing training or who have experiences to tell from their training histories. To signal your interest and intention to make a contribution to this special issue in any one of the ways identified above please email an abstract (max 250 words) to Campbell Edinborough at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our first deadline for these is 30th November 2016.
Training Grounds: we will also be seeking contributions for the Training Grounds section of this special issue edited by this Special Issue’s Training Grounds editor, Thomas Wilson. Within TDPT, Training Grounds represents a playful space for shorter and perhaps more provocative and rhetorical contributions. Thus in our generic issues we have postcards (Training and …), responses to an ‘answer the question’, essais and reviews of events, workshops, conferences as well as books. Our Training Grounds section in special issues does not always follow this model so please contact Thomas Wilson (email@example.com) and Campbell Edinborough if you have ideas and suggestions.
Approximate timelines for this issue
Mid-September 2016: Call for papers published
30th November 2016: abstracts and proposals sent to Campbell Edinborough
February 2017: Response from editor and, if successful, invitation to submit contribution
March to mid September 2017: writing/preparation period for writers, artists etc.
Mid Sept to end October: peer review period
November 2017 – end January 2018: author revisions post peer review
End March 2018: All main articles into production with Routledge
Mid April 2018: Training Grounds articles into production
April- June 2018: typesetting, proofing, revises, editorial etc.
July 2018: publication as Issue 9.2.
We look forward to hearing from you.
The S Word: Merging Methodologies
Co-conveners: Prof Paul Fryer (Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance),
and Jakub Korčák (DAMU).
Creative Adviser: Prof Bella Merlin (University of California Riverside).
at DAMU Theatre Academy, Prague – 24th, 25th and 26th March, 2017
Keynote speakers – Professor Anatoly Smeliansky (Moscow Art Theatre School), Professor Jan Burian (General Director, Czech National Theatre).
Following on from our first international symposium (The S Word: Stanislavski and the Future of Acting) we are very pleased to announce the first Call for Papers/Presentations for the second major event which will take place in Prague, Czech Republic in March 2017.
Merging Methodologies invites you to explore how Stanislavski’s work and teaching has been adopted, adapted, developed and re-invented since his death in 1938.
How did Stanislavski’s disciples use his approach to theatre, and how did they make it their own; how has this approach been translated into other methods and how much have we lost in translation; who carries the torch for Stanislavski today and why; how do other (newer) methodologies compare and how much do they owe to what has gone before?
We invite written proposals for contributions in the following formats:
individual papers (20 minutes’ duration), practical/workshop sessions (45 minutes’ duration) and panel presentations (60 minutes’ duration).
In the first instance please send a short written proposal (no more than 300 words) to Prof. Paul Fryer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Registration for this event is now available online, please visit:
There is an early-bird booking rate (saving 30% on the Full fee) available until 1st December.
I grew up watching classic films, mostly starring Fred and Ginger, or musicals like Gypsy (1962) and West Side Story (1961). I remember being particularly taken with Fred and Ginger’s famous routine on roller-skates from the film Shall We Dance (1937) performed to Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off by Gershwin and Gershwin. I also vividly recall Marilyn Monroe singing, Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend (1955) whilst a chorus of girls enacted Busby Berkeley style choreography (see 42nd Street,1933) by hanging from and becoming chandeliers. At the time I couldn’t articulate why I enjoyed these films so much. Although now I suspect it has a lot to do with how movement and choreography facilitate a conversation between the performer and the stage design, and how this conversation can be just, if not more interesting than a scripted dialogue.
Details are below of an event in September looking at wider applications of the Chekhov technique.
Contact Tom Cornford or Cass Fleming directly for more information
Call for Editorial Assistant (s)
Journal of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT), Routledge
The editorial team of the international journal, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training is seeking to recruit at least one Editorial Assistant to work closely with our two Editors, Professor Jonathan Pitches (University of Leeds) and Dr Libby Worth (Royal Holloway, University of London) on this very successful journal, published by Routledge. Now in its seventh year, the journal runs to 3 issues annually and attracts contributions from scholars and practitioners across the globe.
Working on TDPT will offer you unique insights into academic publication and provide you with opportunities to develop your own networks with scholars and practitioners, as well as to contribute to discussions about the content and continued development of the journal. It will offer you good grounding for editorial projects you might want to take on in the future and help demystify the process of journal publication.
You should be:
Editorial Assistants’ responsibilities include:
Candidates with appropriate skills and interests may also offer assistance to the journal’s blog team led by Dr Laura Bissell (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland).
The post is unpaid but all travel and expenses will be paid.
To apply please send a one-page statement of your relevant skills, interests and aspirations for the journal with an accompanying CV to email@example.com.
Deadline is 8th September 2016.
On 30 April 2016, Marcia Carr and I organised a conference at the University of West London entitled “Making the Impossible Possible”: The Feldenkrais Method in Music, Dance, Movement and the Creative Practice. Speakers came from around the world: from North and South America, Australia, Europe as well as some homegrown talent. This in itself was testament to the spread of Feldenkrais’s thought, but what was most pleasing, and what in many ways represents a great continuity of Feldenkraisian thought, was the welcome unorthodoxy of the approaches on show. This I think shows something profoundly potent about Feldenkrais’s thought: it is intellectually malleable, durable and that it is a hinge towards the advancement of thought and practice for the mutual benefit of these arenas.
In What a Body Can Do (Routledge 2015), I asked why there aren’t more functioning laboratories dedicated to exploring the intersection between martial arts and performer training. This interdisciplinary connection has been hugely productive in Europe throughout the twentieth century, not to mention the much longer-standing relationships between martial and performing arts found throughout Asia. But it is hard to think of even one institution in Europe or North America that aims explicitly to innovate theatre, dance and performance training practice by placing it in dialogue with martial arts and physical culture more generally. While many individual practitioners and scholars do excellent work in this area, institutions tend to be oriented towards one domain or the other. And we still tend to see martial arts as cultural entities rather than fields of knowledge.
What would a laboratory of martial and performing arts look like? In order to create substantive interdisciplinary interactions, care would have to be taken to create the kind of ‘third space’ described by Pil Hansen and Bruce Barton in their article on ‘Research-Based Practice’ (TDR 53.4, 2009): a space in which specific flows of martial and performing arts would collide without either one being subordinated to the other. BodyConstitution, a project developed by the Grotowski Institute in Poland and funded by major grants from EEA/Norway, is the closest I have seen to such a laboratory. The project is ‘programme of research in practice at the Grotowski Institute,’ which has involved numerous formats of exchange, including four annual seminars (2013-2016), each about a week long, drawing together a wide range of international performers, teachers, and participants. I was recently a guest at the final BodyConstitution seminar and want to use that experience as a starting point to highlight the value of the project as a whole. (For more details and reflections on the 2016 seminar, see Jen Parkin’s post below.)
I would like to draw your attention to the new publication initiatives spearheaded by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Voice Studies:
1) With the publication of its second issue, the Centre of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies is currently celebrating the first year of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies. You can find more information about the journal, including guidelines for submission and subscription, here. The first issue is freely available online while 1.2 is our first themed issue on the topic of ‘Voice and/as Devising.’
We would also like to draw your attention to the Call for Papers for issue 2.1 (Spring 2017):
Special Issue of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies
‘Voicing Belonging: Traditional Singing in a Globalized World’
Editors: Konstantinos Thomaidis and Virginie Magnat
The Stanislavski Centre and The University of California Riverside
in collaboration with The University of Westminster present
The S Word: Translating the Art/The Art of Translation
Wednesday 13th July, 10.00 to 16.00
@ Pushkin House, 5A Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A 2TA.
Geraldine Brodie (University College London) is a Lecturer in Translation Theory and Theatre Translation at University College London.
Mark Stevenson (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), actor, director and teacher.
Noah Birksted-Breen (Sputnik Theatre) is Artistic Director of Sputnik the only British theatre company dedicated to staging contemporary Russian plays for British audiences.
Alexa Alfer (University of Westminster) is Senior Lecturer in Translation at the University of Westminster, where she is Course leader for the MA in Specialised Translation, MA Translation and Interpreting, and MRes Translating Cultures.
Anna Shulgat is a theatre scholar and translator, and Research Associate at The Stanislavski Centre.
Morning session: presentations from three guest speakers who each have a different perspective on the task of translation. They will share their experiences and take questions on their work.
Afternoon session: an open forum/debate will address the many issues that face both the translators and those who use their translations: how has the role of translator changed in the digital age? Translator or co-author? How do we maintain the author’s original voice? Should the translator act as a kind of editor/censor when dealing with sensitive material?
Places for this event are limited: £30 (full), £25 (concessions – student, unwaged, retired), which includes tea, coffee and a sandwich lunch.
on-line booking is now available at:
For further details, please contact Prof. Paul Fryer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
9 days. 11 workshops and training sessions. 13 work demonstrations and screenings. 3 lectures. 4 discussions. 3 performances. 2 exhibitions.
This year’s BodyConstitution seminar, held in Wrocław on the 2nd-10th April, was the final event of the Grotowski Institute’s BodyConstitution project, which began in January 2014. The project brought together teachers, students, artists, and masters of movement techniques to explore the interaction of body practices and physical actor training, both in practical work and theoretical discussion. These included martial arts such as aikido, Capoeira, and kalarippayattu, theatrical techniques such as butoh and Body-Energy, and movement techniques such as l’Art Du Déplacement and somaesthetics. As befitting of the final event of the project, this year’s seminar was bigger than those held in 2014 and 2015, bringing together contributors from the previous years and new contributors, as well as students and artists who came to participate in the training available.
As his book on Nikolai Demidov is on the brink of publication, director-scholar Andrei Malaev-Babel visited the UK to share his revelatory practical and historical investigations into the long suppressed Russian master pedagogue. I don’t use the term revelatory lightly. Nikolai Demidov’s work radically challenges our conceptions of Stanislavsky and the creation of his System. A collaborator and provocateur of Stanislavsky’s, Demidov approached acting from within the rich milieu of spirituality, philosophy and science that was the Russian Silver Age.
As Malaev-Babel explained in a seminar at the University of Exeter, Demidov was a practitioner of yoga and his approach to acting is permeated with a sense of breath, of clearing the mind-body receptacle for inspiration, and what he termed a ‘culture of calm’. Despite all the hoopla about Sulerzhitsky and his time with the Doukhobors – a schismatic group of Christians that were purported to have taught Suler yoga – Demidov is clearly the person who introduced yoga to Stanislavsky. And not just the books by Ramacharaka (William Atkinson), but through first-hand experience.
Demidov was also a trained psychologist, and therefore the only acting teacher of the early twentieth century to have a certified medical insight into the psychophysical processes at work. In fact it was due to the efforts of medical specialists that Demidov’s book on acting was first published in Russia. As Malaev-Babel mentioned, this was because the scientific community believed Demidov was a man ahead of his time. What Demidov was researching with the many actors he worked with was a new understanding of the creative process, the foundations of a new creative psychology.
(photo of Nikolai Demidov with Konstantin Stanislavsky courtesy of Andrei Malaev-Babel)
The following post was written by David Jackson but due to IT issues was posted by the current Comeback curator Bryan Brown.
I intended to blog about The S-Word: Stanislavski and the future of Acting symposium soon after the event was held at Rose Bruford College on 18-20 March. I’m shocked to see we are already well into May and I’m only just sitting down to do it. I blame a blizzard of assessments, timetabling problems, teaching commitments and research events at the beginning of the summer term. Clearly, it couldn’t possibly have been my fault. So before memory fades any further, I put fingers to keyboard. At a symposium where three sessions run simultaneously (two panels and one work demonstration) delegates construct their own programme by picking from the menu of papers and workshops. Naturally, we follow a thread according to our own obsessions. So one of the key themes of ‘my’ S-Word was Active Analysis. I was originally taught Active Analysis by the late Albert Filozov, the celebrated Theatre and Film actor who trained under Michael Kedrov at the Moscow Art Theatre School. Filozov led the ‘Russian School of Acting’ summer schools that took place in Birmingham in the mid-90s. If it resonates with you, there is something about Active Analysis that fills practitioners with a missionary zeal, and I certainly went on to make full use of it as a professional actor and subsequently as a teacher in the conservatoire. My first article for Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, published in 2:2 (2011), documents my experiments with the technique in training and rehearsal at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. I frequently use it in my current job as an acting tutor at the Birmingham School of Acting (BSA). The symposium was a rare opportunity to gain an insight into how other scholars and practitioners use Active Analysis.
The S-Word attracted an extremely high calibre of scholars in the field. Arguably all the leading Stanislavski experts in the English-speaking world were present, including Sharon Marie Carnicke (University of Southern California), Rose Whyman (University of Birmingham), Jonathan Pitches (Leeds University), Bella Merlin (University of California, Riverside), Maria Shevtsova (Goldsmith’s University) and Sergei Tcherkassky (St. Petersburg Theatre Arts Academy). Delegates came from all over the world, including Australia, India, Brazil, Mexico, China, Canada and the US, in addition to several European countries.
The programme for the first evening consisted of two keynote speeches, the first by Stefan Aquilina and Jonathan Pitches. Their topic was the transmission of Stanislavskian practice, not just to the obvious destinations of Russia itself, the US and Europe, but to additional territories in Australasia, Asia and Africa. They argued that practice is necessarily inflected by the individuals who engage with it and that this process is entirely consistent with the spirit of the Stanislavski ‘system’, since it is not and never was fixed or unitary. They concluded that it is a living thing that will continue to spread and develop in response to local conditions. The second address was delivered by Sharon Marie Carnicke, one of the most influential Stanislavski scholars in the world, a Russian speaker and expert in Active Analysis. She spoke eloquently of the importance of separating the principles of the system from the historical contingencies of the time. In her own practice, she has applied Active Analysis to situations undreamt of in Stanislavski’s era, including a motion-capture experiment designed to generate a digitised method of reading emotional expression and a performance of a post-dramatic text written by contemporary Russian playwright, Ivan Vyrypaev.
The whole of Saturday and Sunday morning were devoted to a series of papers and practical demonstrations, with two panels and one demonstration running concurrently. The presentations I saw nearly always illuminated some area of the field in a stimulating and useful way. Stephane Poliakov’s paper was devoted to Stanislavski’s rich use of painting and drawing to generate the ‘obrazi’ or images that informed his set designs and ‘inner images’ of characterizations. Maria Kapsali and Sreenath Nair debated the strong influence of yoga on the development of the system. Two of the less obvious perspectives on Stanislavski dealt with the application of acting techniques in the classroom. Tamara Guenoun’s paper dealt with the use of drama therapy with troubled teenagers. Petronilla Whitfiled introduced new strategies for teaching verse-speaking to dyslexic students. My own paper proposed a novel way of understanding acted emotion, by linking the Stanislavski-Vakhtangov concept of ‘affective emotion’ with Antonio Damasio’s hypothesis of the ‘as-if’ body loop.
Active Analysis was addressed in both formal presentations and workshops. Jay Skelton’s work demonstration explored the integration of Active Analysis with Viewpoints. Knowing little or nothing about Viewpoints, I was curious to see how it might merge with a method that is one of my areas of expertise. Skelton’s session bore little resemblance to anything I would recognise as Active Analysis – which I hasten to add is simply an indication of how the same or similar practice can develop in completely different directions. John Gillett’s popular workshop posed the question, is Active Analysis relevant to Shakespeare? Although I couldn’t attend Gillett’s session, I was intrigued by his research question, as I regularly use Active Analysis in the rehearsal of classical text. The final plenary session was introduced by a documentary made at the University of California, Riverside, about Bella Merlin’s use of Active Analysis. After the screening, an informal conversation with Sharon Marie Carnicke made it clear that her use of Active Analysis was different from all of these models. So my closing reflections were dominated by the thought that an apparently simple technique in the hands of a relatively small cross-section of practitioners can generate very diverse practices and performance outcomes. This observation corresponded with some of the themes that emerged during the weekend. Throughout the symposium, three ‘witnesses’ were stationed in each of the three conference spaces and reported back to delegates at the plenary event. The principal issues they identified were:
The system is now well over one hundred years old. If Stanislavskian practice is to continue to survive and develop into the 21st century, it is essential that it is subjected to a continual process of review and renewal, at conferences, in the studio and through the literature. As I post, two new S-Word events have just been announced: “Translating the Art/The Art of Translation” will be held in June in London and a Spring 2017 Conference will be held at DAMU Theatre Academy in Prague. It’s too soon to tell but as the “S Word: Merging Methodologies” Conference grew out of the conversations had at this future of acting symposium, it may just be the future event needed to specifically address variations on the theme of Active Analysis – there’s plenty more debate to be had on that topic.
David Jackson, 26.05.15
It began with a disaster.
Confused, angry MBA students. Even some complaints to the module leader and the MBA Director, about yet another inappropriate, irrelevant teaching experiment, use of students by staff as ‘guinea pigs’, while paying expensive fees for the privilege.
Me: bruised, disappointed, humiliated….
After all that hard work… To secure a Westminster Business School (WBS) teaching and learning grant to buy masks from maskmaker Mike Chase. To research and carefully design the workshop for a professional development module for MBA students, using tried and tested theatrical maskwork techniques and exercises that I know from experience are useful for actors. Using Mike’s sets of masks based on ‘The Temperaments’ and ‘The Planets’, masks he has used in the past in workshops for therapeutic and leadership development purposes.
Coming out of the 2016 TaPRA Interim Event of the Performer Training Working Group, ‘Training to Give Evidence,’ gracefully organised by Kate Craddock and hosted by Northumbria University, certain provocations around the ethics of verbatim, documentary, and auto/biographical performance still resonate with me. To navigate such a rich landscape, I would briefly like to outline some thoughts in relation to voice.
Voice and vocal practices were, implicitly or explicitly, a recurrent trope in many of the papers and practical demonstrations. As part of his opening provocation on mimicry and impersonation in verbatim theatre, Tom Cantrell shared interviews with actors that have engaged with the genre. Ken Drury, in an attempt to distance his approach to acting from impersonation and the creation of exact copies, stated that he was mainly interested in the (real-life) person’s behaviour. By contrast, Jason Watkins started accessing his character through locating the accent and was mainly preoccupied with rhythm – not necessarily of words, he hastened to footnote, but rhythm of thinking. There is an intriguing underlying assumption perhaps emerging here; acting has to do with behaviours, actions, feelings and thoughts, but the role of vocality in training and performance is at best acknowledged when recast in the shadow of the above, or, at worst, implicitly equated with mimicry.
As a voice studies practitioner-scholar, I constantly come across deeply embedded assumptions about voice, and, when interacting with scholarly environments more closely affiliated with performance studies, sometimes these assumptions transform into a certain type of polemics. Bodies speak the truth; voices can hide it. Actors are trained into speaking classical/mainstream/canonical texts; performers/artists honour their own voice or prefer to work with the untrained or the amateur. Body-first approaches to text are (ideologically) valued more, and the trained actor as a ‘talking head’ has been criticised consistently by a lineage of influential practitioners and makers in the UK.
Here’s my (inevitably flawed and holey) summary of the fascinating day dedicated to training in verbatim practices, hosted by Kate Craddock as part of a TaPRA Performer Training interim event at Northumbria. Any confusions are all my own.
First Provocation from Tom Cantrell
Where does imitating end and performing begin? “Imitating is a less noble art than acting” But nevertheless close observation and mimicry is part of the craft of verbatim work and of faction. What terminology do we need to capture this strand of the work? And how do we manage the bias towards emotional, empathic acting (from Stanislavsky). What is our ‘craft terminology’ Cantrell asks?
Second Provocation from Lexi Strauss
Developing a growing discomfort about some of the ethical approaches in verbatim work. So how to use the same techniques in paint and fine art? A life time body of work might be the closest to a definitive self portrait? What’s the problem with recorded delivery verbatim then? Perhaps because the original ‘darkness’ of the material might not translate and might be reinterpreted by an audience. Perhaps because its claim to objectivity is specious. Lexi only interviews people with whom she has ‘a specific connection’. The result is a hybrid of the subject and the interviewer/artist. How would you describe your verbatim practice, Lexi asks, is it closer to the journalistic or the immersive – or something entirely different? Either way it needs to acknowledge its hybridity.
Third Provocation from Richard Gregory
How to show our hands? Questions from the work of Quarantine:
No such thing Buying people a free lunch in exchange for a conversation. (No documentation of any part of the conversation, no evaluation, no public airing). Monthly themes: on hope, on risk, on utopia, on what’s new. The work retains the ‘considered rigour’ of the more formal work of the company but invisibly. Dramaturgy based on Starters, Mains, Afters, Today’s special.
Wallflower: Can you remember all the dances you’ve ever danced? How do you develop the facility to be responsible for the dramaturgy and the whole mise-en-scene? All that is possible is to set ‘a delicate architecture’ and be alert to what the possibilities are. One of the biggest questions about training and preparation is ‘How do we know how we are being seen’ [by an audience]?
Summer, Autumn Winter, Spring: 7 hours, (Part 1 – Summer – 40 people on stage from across the age range, without experience, responding to questions and a projected score). As the questions are unseen how do you rehearse the performers? Feed them, make them familiar with the idea of responding to a structure – training for ‘becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable’ Continue reading
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:
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:
As I write this blog, my predominant emotion is curiosity: I am wondering how you feel as you read it. Specifically, I’m curious how you feel about Grotowski. He has always been a divisive figure in the world of theatre and performance, from his first days in the international spotlight in the early 1960’s. He seems to invoke either adulation, or outright rejection. Richard Shechner famously called him “shape-shifter, shaman, trickster, artist, adept, director, leader”. If you are willing to satisfy my curiosity, and tell me how you feel about Grotowski, then read on.
In the process of my own research and writing on this subject, I have been inviting participation and personal testimony from anyone who feels that some aspect of Grotowski’s work has had an impact on their own practice. If you would like to make contact and contribute, you can do that by emailing me directly at email@example.com and I will send you a page of “prompt” questions. Alternatively, you can visit my Facebook page: Grotowski/Kumiega: Re-Write https://www.facebook.com/Grotowski.Kumiega/
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).
My journey into theatre traditions started early. An intriguing new drama teacher arrived at my school at the age of eleven. She brought with her a dynamic and challenging way of creating theatre and I began to pay attention. I was subsequently a founder and for eight years a member of a most peculiar youth theatre. Our teacher turned director, Carran Waterfield, had been trained by Roberta Carreri of Odin Teatret and in the years that followed, I began to research the history and methodology of this now almost mythical theatre troupe and became fascinated by the writings of its director and founder, Eugenio Barba and by default, his mentor, Jerzy Grotowski. This early exposure to such an intense tradition created many difficulties and exhilarations for me in my youth. When other children were watching ‘Neighbours’ on TV in the 1990s, I was trying to do ‘training’ on a concrete floor in a cold church hall in Coventry.
Wroclaw has always been synonymous with the name of Grotowski. His Teatr Laboratorium 13 Rzędów (13 Row Laboratory Theatre) relocated here from Opole in 1965. The last time I visited Wroclaw was in October 2001 as an actor in the Polish premiere of Millennium Mysteries, a co-production by Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre and Poznan’s Teatr Biuro Podrozy, directed by Pawel Szkotak. It was also the year that I left life in the UK behind and joined Teatr Biuro Podrozy where I remained as an actor for three years.
So I found myself in Wroclaw (now the European City of Culture 2016) again, 15 years later and the location for the third session of the International Platform for Performer Training (IPPT). The IPPT was launched in Helsinki in 2014, its aim being to develop performer training on an international platform. It is a forum for theatre makers, pedagogues and academics involved in performer training within institutions offering higher education in the fields of performing arts. In Zurich last year the forum focused on the themes of Curriculum, Voice and Speech. This year, the subject of the session was Practicing Tradition in Performer Training. I have been out of theatre and academic circles for several years due to maternity leave, so the anticipation of witnessing presentations by and conversing with such an esteemed group of professionals from within my field, was immense.
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?
If you would like to attend the event, please send an email off list directly to Kate Craddock by Friday 18th March at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Click here to see the details of the 4th edition of Meyerhold on Theatre, edited by Edward Braun and with a new Introduction by TDPT editor, Jonathan Pitches.