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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Journal of Embodied Research launch talks

These following talks were given on 8 February 2017 to launch the new Journal of Embodied Research. The transcript has been edited for clarity. To hear the audio recording, please visit the original post.

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Embodied Research events

Readers of this blog are warmly invited to submit proposals and/or participate in the following upcoming events, both of which seek to develop a new territory of embodied research that overlaps significantly with theatre, dance and performance training.

Call for Proposals: 5 February 2017 (extended deadline)
Embodied Research Working Group

International Federation for Theatre Research
Annual conference in São Paulo, 10-14 July 2017
more details | WG info | abstract submission

Journal Launch Event: 8 February 2017
Journal of Embodied Research

Open Library of Humanities
Birkbeck College of Arts, London
JER | OLH | event registration

Hoping to see you there!

Call for Contributions Special Issue Training Places: Dartington College of Arts

CfP for Dartington Special Issue

We are very pleased to announce the following call for contributions for a special issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, focusing on Dartington College of Arts.

Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) 

Special issue on Training Places: Dartington College of Arts to be published October 2018. Call for contributions, ideas, proposals and dialogue with the editors.

Guest editors: Dr Bryan Brown, University of Exeter, Dr Libby Worth, Royal Holloway, University of London, and Editorial Consultant Professor Ric Allsopp, Joint Editor Performance Research

The Training Grounds section of the issue (see below) will be guest edited by Dr Simon Murray, University of Glasgow and Dr Dick McCaw, Royal Holloway, University of London

Background and context

This will be the ninth Special Issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) following issues on sport, Michael Chekhov, politics, Feldenkrais, showing/writing training, interculturalism, popular performance and immersive, interactive and participatory performance. 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).

Dartington College of Arts: pedagogies, contexts, people, performances and experimentations.

This is the first time that a place of performance training has been taken as the subject of a TDPT special issue and although it and other centres of performance training have been addressed in specific articles, this singular focus for a whole issue calls for some explanation.

Why Dartington and why now?

Over the near 5 decades of its history, Dartington College of Arts, established an international reputation for innovation in performance making, spawning new directions in dance, theatre, devising, music and visual performance that continue to influence current artists and scholars. Based on an 800-acre estate on the River Dart near Totnes in rural Devon, its staff and students explored ways of working that emphasised learning through doing and questioning, working across arts disciplines, paying attention to the social impact and context of their artistic output and encouraging robust and engaging international contacts and exchanges.

The publication date for this special issue (2018), marks ten years since the college merged with Falmouth University, resulting eventually in a controversial move from the Dartington Hall estate to a purpose built complex at what was then University College Falmouth in 2010. This, perhaps, is a good time therefore to re-examine Dartington’s ecology, its people, its sites and its continuing influence within the arts world. In the current national and international climate with political uncertainties, the rise of nationalism and the new right, and the steady undermining of the arts in UK educational curriculum, it could be the appropriate moment to re-assess what Dartington College offered and its legacy continues to offer. Those who participated in the life of Dartington College of Arts are active internationally and continue to develop new working practices inspired and influenced by the “Dartington ethos”. Articulating how places inform training (pedagogy, practice, conversations, ways of being) through the fostering of a complex ecology and ethos is what this special issue aims to attempt.

Echoing Dartington’s fluid approach to training that positively encouraged experimentation in form/structure to better reflect artistic concepts and practices, this issue welcomes a variety of ways of responding to the call and actively encourages co-authoring, embedding of images, diagrams, drawings within critical articles. These could include offering additional visual/audio media on the TDPT blog or directly linked to an article. The issue aims to include writing/images representative of all the College’s training disciplines (theatre, dance/choreography, music, performance writing and visual performance) and of its different eras.

We are particularly interested in (but not limited by) responses to the following set of questions:

  • How did the social/political context of each of the College’s eras contribute to the training ethos?
  • In what ways did the college ascribe to a form of ‘un-training’ or ‘de-training’ and how was this structured? What did it generate?
  • How might have the environment of diverse buildings and countryside influenced the type of training that happened at Dartington College of Arts? And how did this geographically isolated experience sit with student international placements and commitment to international artists’ residencies?
  • What were significant strands in Dartington Hall’s history that contributed to the philosophy and practical components of the College programmes?
  • What was left out in the training offered at the College and why?
  • What remains important of the mystiques, fantasies, hauntings and residues triggered over the life of the college?
  • What was shared within the training processes but not articulated?
  • What has gone missing that matters outside of this community?
  • If Dartington College is seen as an ecology and not merely a place, how is this still growing?
  • What roles did Dartington College take in nurturing innovative practices – New Dance for instance?
  • What sources from the college’s history might be timely to reprint in order to generate contemporary responses?
  • What were the cultural, economic, pedagogical, political and psychological circumstances of the College’s closure in Devon and the merger with University College Falmouth in Cornwall?
  • What are the legacies and implications of the DCA educational experience for other performance training ecologies?

We welcome submissions from potential contributors, both inside and outside academic institutions, who may have been students, academic and non-academic staff, and visiting artists/tutors at the College over its 50 year history in Devon. Equally, we welcome potential contributions from anyone associated with Dartington or who has been influenced by its history in one way or another.

To signal your interest and intention to make a contribution to this special issue in any one of the ways identified above please contact Bryan and Libby for an initial exchange of ideas/thoughts, or email an abstract (max 250 words) to: Bryan Brown at b.brown@exeter.ac.uk and Libby Worth at libby.worth@rhul.ac.uk Our first deadline for these is 20th April 2017.

 

Training Grounds sections for Dartington College of Arts special issue.

Training Grounds (TG) is, and has always been, an alternative space within the journal to encourage contributors to use the kind of languages and forms that seem most appropriate to their own practice. It is a space for shorter contributions which may experiment with different writing registers, and be passionate, provocative, poetic or rhetorical. A space for lists, for saying awkward things and offering up difficult and perhaps unfashionable ideas. A place, nonetheless, for generosity and big-heartedness. TG editors for this special issue are Simon Murray (Simon.Murray@glasgow.ac.uk) and Dick McCaw (Dick.McCaw@rhul.ac.uk).

For this special issue we are looking for contributions to cover all the Dartington fields (Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, Performance Writing, Choreography/Dance, and Cultural Management) within each of the following categories:

1/ POSTCARDS 1: A description of a startling/challenging/rewarding moment of teaching or learning from your Dartington experience. Possibly, a Eureka type moment, or one of clarity, astonishment, insight or understanding. A sense perhaps of the feelings generated by the experience. 125 words or image/graphics to fit into a postcard size space.

2/ POSTCARDS 2: A contribution which succinctly describes (without comment, analysis or evaluation) a particular teaching exercise you used or experienced. 125 words or image/graphics to fit into a postcard size space.

3/ ANSWER THE QUESTION (ATQ): For this area we are suggesting either of two (inter-related) questions.

Question 1 (for ex-Dartington teachers and other staff):  What was Dartington training or educating for?

Question 2: (for ex-students of Dartington): What in retrospect do you feel the Dartington experience trained you for and what did it leave out?

With these two ATQs we would aim to carry 4 or 5 examples for each question and as far as possible these would reflect the different subject areas and timelines over the College’s history. You could either send us a draft of your response to one of these questions, or arrange for a conversation with either Dick McCaw or Simon Murray. This might be in person or via Skype or phone. We would transcribe and edit your responses and agree any text with you before publishing. Responses to ATQs should be between 500 and 750 words (max).

4/ IMAGES: We are planning to carry at least one photo-essay and will be commissioning this for Training Grounds. However, we would welcome other photo images, sketches, paintings and drawings from contributors. In the first instance please contact either Simon or Dick, briefly describing the image(s) you are proposing. If you have enough to constitute an interesting and revealing photo essay please do write to us and we will have a conversation with you. All images must be at the appropriate resolution: 1200 dpi for line art, 600 dpi for grayscale and 300 dpi for colour.

Please contact Simon Murray (Simon.Murray@glasgow.ac.uk) and Dick McCaw (Dick.McCaw@rhul.ac.uk) if you wish to contribute to this section or have other ideas and suggestions. Either of us will then discuss your possible contribution as we begin to curate Training Grounds. The final deadline for this initial conversation is August 30th 2017, but let’s start the exchange going as soon as possible please. Some materials and contributions may be more appropriate for the TDPT blog and we will encourage these to be developed for the lead up to the special issue as well. The deadline for final delivery of all TG materials is January 31 2018.

Approximate timelines for this issue

January 2017: Call for papers published

20th April 2017: Abstracts and proposals sent to Bryan Brown and Libby Worth

End June 2017: Response from editor and, if successful, invitation to submit contribution

July to mid December 2017: writing/preparation period for writers, artists etc.

August 30th 2017 – deadline for discussing TG contributions with Dick and Simon

Early December to Early Feb 2017: peer review period

January 31 2018 – deadline for submission of all TG material to Simon and Dick

Mid Feb  –  end April 2018: author revisions post peer review

End April to June 2018: All main articles into production with Routledge

Early July 2018: Training Grounds articles into production

July to September 2018: typesetting, proofing, revises, editorial etc.

October 2018: publication as Issue 9.3.

 

We look forward to hearing from you.

Ric Allsopp, Bryan Brown, Dick McCaw, Simon Murray & Libby Worth

 

 

Feedback requested for new online digital performer training resource

A pilot has been launched by Profs Paul Allain and Frank Camilleri which promises to be a rich resource of training with a nice balance of student, teacher, trainee voices. To feedback on its development go to:

https://thedigitalperformer.co.uk/2016/10/04/test/

Their full message is below:

Our Leverhulme-funded project for Methuen Drama Bloomsbury is well underway. We are now seeking your input ahead of our second stage of filming in early January.
Please go to this website https://thedigitalperformer.co.uk and click on the Physical Actor Training section to view our films and provide your responses. All feedback will be anonymous. Do please share this as widely as possible.
The digitalperformer website will be developed further over the course of 2017 to house our research material and encourage dialogue.
Many thanks in advance for your contribution, which will make a vital difference to our resource.
Best wishes,
the A-Z team
Paul Allain, Stacie Lee Bennett, Frank Camilleri, Peter Hulton

 

 

Predictive Texts

A ‘provocation’ presented at the Future of Performer Arts Training symposium, Coventry University, UK, 4-5 November 2016.

Paul Kleiman is Senior Consultant (Higher Education) at Ciel Associates, and Visiting Professor at the School of Media and Performing Arts, Middlesex University and Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance.

In the process of thinking about this and putting it together, it appeared increasingly like one of those fiendish jigsaws, in which there are not only loads of pieces, but there are several possibilities, it’s not even certain if all the pieces fit together, as some are located in the past, some in the present and some in the future. In the end I gave up trying to weave a compelling linear narrative and accepted the fractured, uncertain nature of what I was confronting….what we are confronting.

So, what I have are just three of the pieces, which I’ll present in the form of three different narratives: two short ones – one from the past and one from the present – and a longer one from the future, in the hope that some connections and sense might be made.

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What will happen to actors in the digital world?

Preparing for the Future of Performer Training symposium, I stumbled across this fascinating glimpse into the creation of ‘digital humans’.

The question: “What will happen to actors?” is posed and answered at 9.44 minutes in.

Issue 7.3: Training and Interculturalism is now available

The editors of TDPT and of this special issue on intercultural training (7.3) are delighted to announce that it is now available online. Check it out here:

http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rtdp20/current

If you don’t have institutional access the articles by Electa Behrens and Tara McAlister-Viel will be free-to-access very soon. In the meantime, the editorial by Phillip Zarrilli, T Sasitharan and Anuradha Kapur and the Training Grounds editorial by Royona Mitra are free-to-access permanently.

Please do let us know what you think.

The New Thing (Third Manifesto), A Minor Gesture

[Editors Note: Initially believed to be evidence of an attack on the TDPT website by Russian hackers, it was later translated from the original German, subjected to an electronic jigglebath, and identified as an assemblage of texts and precepts developed in Los Angeles and North Carolina (US) for training in the creation of and performance in devised theatre.  The many hyperlinks take the reader to the “Borrowed Things” of texts, videos, songs, and non-sequiturs.]

 

The New Thing (Third Manifesto)[1]

a Minor Gesture[2]

Tony Perucci

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern (Durham, NC)

The Performance Collective (Chapel Hill, NC)

www.tonyperucci.com

perucci@unc.edu

 For Carlo

In principle, I am against manifestos.

                                                Tristan Tzara

There’s no reason. There’s no reason why you couldn’t.

                                                            Amelia Gray

As a way to try to name an ethic of making work, a mode of collaboration, an animating spirit of contestation, etc., the term The New Thing is borrowed from Free Jazz musicians who knew that jazz had become what Ornette Coleman called a conventional thing, ruined in no small part by white critics. The New Thing names some of Free Jazz’s key characteristics: horizontality of organization (of the ensemble), challenging the primacy of melody, the veneration of improvisation, the valuing of chance and composition, the potentiality of performance as a means of creation not just exhibition, and putting all of these artistic practices in the service of challenging white supremacy and capitalist exploitation.  Just as white folks attempted to, as Amiri Baraka said, change swing from a verb to a noun, The New Thing enacts a continual return from noun to verb.

The New Thing is constituted by (and through) attending to these practices:

  1. BRACKETING OF MEANING
  2. DISTILLATION OF EXPERIENCE
  3. RUPTURE
  4. DREAM LOGIC
  5. FORM AS CONTENT
  6. CONTENT AS FORM

The New Thing is generated by and dependent upon paradoxical principles:

  1. It is alternately minimalist (in its commitment to the phenomenal encounter with materiality) and maximalist (in its production of an excess of things).
  2. Or, another way to put this is that The New Thing is material substance that could not be any other way, even as it haunted and taunted by the many other ways is could be.
  3. It contends that
    1. Performance is most itself when it is completely fake—characterized by theatrical artifice, make-believe, amusing hats.
    2. Performance is most itself when it is really real – characterized by the accident, the error, chance and the unknown.
  4. Real and Fake are categories that are hopelessly (and hopefully) saturated by each other.
  5. The presence of presence must be enacted even as we have no access to anything like pure presence.
  6. The New Thing is beautiful when it is ugly and ugly when it is beautiful.
  7. The New Thing is urgent as it enacts rupture and does the unnecessary.
    1. Ruptural Performances are interruptive, becoming-events, confrontational, confounding, becoming-a-problem, and give rise to the virtuosic multitude.
    2. Doing the Unnecessary is the task of interfering with ordinary, automatic actions.
  8. Doing The New Thing is almost invariably a bad idea. It is goaded into being by Imp of the Perverse.

  • The New Thing asks the audience, “What’s the matter?” because it is the matter of performance (time, space, bodies, etc.) that matters.

  • Working with and being worked on by matter that matters invests in the somatic and the haptic, not just the good idea. In fact, when bad ideas produce a failure, the reveling in (im)possibility that failure as a failure is the matter that matters.

  • Ideas alone are not worth the paper their written on. Including this one. Confronted with The New Thing, Manuscripts (don’t) Burn.  Not satisfied with an ideational concept of the new that emerges from brainstorming with those burning texts, The New Thing requires the corporealizing of sharing and colliding texts through BodyStorming.  The ecology of The New Thing tells us that proliferation and increasingly destructiveness of BodyStorms is attributable to the (revolt against) climate change produced by industrial capitalism.

What is this?

What is it now?

Can you help me construct a better question?

Will you?

  • Even still, in the context of injustice fomented by capital and other practices of exploitation and violence, we may confront the audience with a list of demands. The New Thing presents itself to the public to allow itself to be seen.  But it always and necessarily demands to be reckoned with.

  • The New Thing chases down the frenzied disappearing really really Real real. And it fails every goddamn time.

  • The New Thing is impossible. And we do it anyway.

[1] Long thought to be an elaborate hoax, some contend that the 1st Manifesto and 2nd Manifesto of The New Thing disappeared alongside Scene 4 of Frederico García Lorca’s work of impossible theatre, El Publico. Like that play, the initial versions of the The New Thing Manifesto were partly written on hotel stationary under fascist rule while attempting to produce a Theatre Beneath the Sand.

[2] Larry Grossberg, Branislav Jakovljevic, D. Soyini Madison, Mary Overlie, and Hong-An Truong graciously read versions of this text and told me what I had right and wrong.  Any errors of fact, conceptualization, and/or attribution, however, are entirely theirs, not mine.

Stanislavsky symposium – booking and call for papers

Dear Colleagues,
A brief update on information about The S Word event in Prague (24th to 26th March 2017).
The deadline for receiving proposals for papers, practical sessions or panels is 30th November 2016.
Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words.
Papers should be of a maximum 20 minutes, practical sessions 45 minutes, and panels with a minimum of 3 presenters, 60 minutes.
Proposals should be sent to me at this address (paul.fryer@bruford.ac.uk).
Online booking is available now.
There is an early-bird booking rate of £140 (representing a 30% reduction on the full rate) available up to 2nd January.
Please visit:

http://store.bruford.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=1&deptid=10&catid=115&prodvarid=229

Information on accommodation will be available at the end of November.
I shall look forward to seeing some of you in Prague.
Regards,
Paul.

Professor Paul Fryer FRSA, FHEA.

Associate Director of Research

Head of The Stanislavski Centre

Research Degrees Coordinator

Editor in Chief, Stanislavski Studies (Routledge/Taylor & Francis)

Michael Chekhov Survey on behalf of MICHA

Please consider filing in this survey, designed to track the impact of Michael Chekhov and Chekhov training.
When MICHA formed in 1999 there were comparatively few places to practically engage the Chekhov technique. As our Association approaches our 20th anniversary we decided we want to understand more about how and where the work is adapting and thriving around the world. Toward this end we have created the ‘Michael Chekhov Survey’; and I am writing to invite you, as one of the leaders in the Chekhov community, to share the link to our survey with your community.
We will be gathering responses to our survey through October 31 and hope you can help us to reach out to all the corners of the Chekhov world. While some of the questions in the survey relate to MICHA directly, many do not and the individuals taking the survey can choose to answer only the questions that are relevant to their experiences. We hope to hear from performers, teachers, directors, scholars, art activists, art therapists and any others who are engaging the Michael Chekhov work in meaningful ways.

Thanks to those of you who have already answered the survey personally – and if you haven’t yet completed the survey, please do!
Here is the link to forward to your community so that they can connect with the survey:  https://www.cvent.com/d/yfqh6p
We look forward to sharing the outcome of the survey with the Chekhov community in the coming year.
Sincerely,
Jessica & Joanna
—-
Jessica Cerullo
MICHA, the Michael Chekhov Association, Managing Director

 

Joanna Merlin
MICHA, the Michael Chekhov Association, President

A constant and continuous interaction: some personal reflections on the performer training working group session at TaPRA 2016

…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

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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Post-conference reflection on disseminating praxical research in actor training

 

I am an actress (Diploma GNT Drama School, MA East 15 Acting School) [1]

I am an actress, somatic movement educator (Cert IBMT, RSME)[2]

I am an actress, somatic acting-movement educator and researcher (PaR PhD, RCSSD)[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7] I identified dualism and universalism in actor training within the general philosophical problem of logocentrism.

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TDPT Blog Artist Awards

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 jimmyacademy@gmail.com.

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.

 

 

 

Call for Papers: TDPT Special Issue: Training for Immersive, Interactive and Participatory Performance

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 (a.edinborough@hull.ac.uk)

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:

  • analyse innovations in the field of performance training with reference to the growing need for performers to work in immersive, interactive and participatory contexts.
  • question how (and whether) historical training methods might be used and adapted within one-to-one performance, immersive theatre and participatory contexts.
  • explore the value of ‘cross-training’ in different performance modalities.
  • question whether existing training programmes should be developed to meet the evolving needs of contemporary performance culture.

Expressions of interest

We are particularly interested in (but are not limited to) submissions in the following areas:

  • Articles that analyse and contextualise approaches to training developed by companies and practitioners working in immersive, interactive and participatory contexts.
  • Articles that question how audience participation and interactivity reframe the performer’s role and, therefore, the training s/he requires.
  • Analyses of existing and historical models of performance training in the light of the performer’s need to function in participatory/interactive/immersive contexts.
  • Articles that reflect on how the creative and critical dialogue surrounding participatory aesthetics (seen in the critical writings of Rancière, Bourriaud, Bishop, White etc.) have led (or might lead) to new ways of thinking about performer training.
  • Articles that explore training for one-to-one performance.
  • Articles that explore training for improvisation in participatory/interactive/immersive theatre.
  • Reflections on acquiring training/skills during the development of participatory/interactive/immersive performance.
  • Analyses of primary source documents related to training in participatory, immersive and interactive contexts: manifestos, training regimes, archival gems, appropriately contextualised and analysed.
  • Essays which use photos and video materials to examine participatory/ interactive/immersive theatre training, in tandem with the TDPT blog.

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: a.edinborough@hull.ac.uk  

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 (thomas.wilson@bruford.ac.uk) 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.

2nd ‘S word’ symposium: Merging Methodologies: Call for papers

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: paul.fryer@bruford.ac.uk

Registration for this event is now available online, please visit:

http://store.bruford.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=1&deptid=10&catid=115&prodvarid=229

There is an early-bird booking rate (saving 30% on the Full fee) available until 1st December.

Learning from athleticism: creating the space for artistic flow

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.

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Michael Chekhov New Pathways Event – 9th-11th September

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

NEW PATHWAYS LEAFLET

In search of an Editorial Assistant (or two)

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:

  • A UK-based PGR student or Early Career researcher working in a relevant discipline.
  • Interested in contemporary debates concerning training and performance and committed to the principles of ethical research
  • Highly organised, efficient with excellent communication skills

Editorial Assistants’ responsibilities include:

  • Acting as an advocate for the journal at conferences and symposia
  • Liaising with Editors to provide regular updates on the status and content of submitted manuscripts, forthcoming articles and enquiries from authors
  • Liaising with authors during the publication process and directing enquiries to Editors as necessary
  • Managing the submission of manuscripts through the web-based peer review tool ScholarOne and helping to source peer reviewers.
  • Compiling the Notes on Contributors section for publication in each Volume issue
  • Assisting with the organisation and administration of the Assistant Editors’ AGM and annual Training Grounds team meetings
  • Attending and recording the Associate Editors’ AGM and annual Training Grounds team meetings and disseminating these amongst participants and the Editorial Board
  • Maintaining accurate records of contact details for Associate Editors and the Editorial Board members
  • Liaising with publishing staff at Routledge Taylor and Francis as required

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 tdptassistant@gmail.com.

For more information and an informal discussion please contact: Professor Jonathan Pitches j.pitches@leeds.ac.uk and/or Dr Libby Worth libby.Worth@rhul.ac.uk

Deadline is 8th September 2016.

Report on Conference at the University of West London: “Making the Impossible Possible”: The Feldenkrais Method in Music, Dance, Movement and the Creative Practice

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.

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BodyConstitution in Wrocław

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.)

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NEW PLATFORMS FOR SHARING RESEARCH ON VOICE

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to draw your attention to the new publication initiatives spearheaded by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Voice Studies:

Voice Studies Journal Cover

 

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

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Stanislavsky Symposium on Translation in July

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.

Guest speakers:
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:

http://www.pushkinhouse.org/events/2016/7/13/the-stanislavski-centre-and-university-of-california-riverside-the-s-word-translating-the-artthe-art-of-translation

For further details, please contact Prof. Paul Fryer (paul.fryer@bruford.ac.uk)

BodyConstitution seminar 2-10/04/2016

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.

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Enter into a Larger System: The Actor-Creator Pedagogy of Nikolai Demidov

 

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.[1]

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.

Figure 8

(photo of Nikolai Demidov with Konstantin Stanislavsky courtesy of Andrei Malaev-Babel)

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Variations on a theme: Active Analysis at the “S-Word” symposium

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 transmission of practice and its assimilation into a wide range of cultures
  • Separating the durable principles of acting from ephemeral theatre fashion
  • An appreciation of flexibility and diversity rather than a dogmatic view of the Stanislavskian tradition
  • Cognitive perspectives are often interesting, but how will they affect practice?

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

Masks for leadership development in a business school.

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.

From Mike Chase mask set: 'The Temperaments'

Choleric: from Mike Chase mask set: ‘The Temperaments’

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.

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Verbatim practices, the acoustics of training, and giving voice: a voice studies afterthought

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.[1]

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