CfP: TDPT Special Issue, Training and Agency

Theatre Dance and Performance Training Journal (TDPT)

Special issue: Training and Agency to be published in June 2024.

Call for contributions, ideas, proposals and dialogue with the editors

Guest editors:

Dr Jane Turner, Manchester Metropolitan University (J.c.Turner@mmu.ac.uk)

Dr James McLaughlin, University of Greenwich (J.a.mclaughlin@gre.ac.uk)

Dr Sarah Weston, University of Bolton (S.Weston2@bolton.ac.uk)

Training Grounds Editor: Aiden Condron (condrona@gmail.com)

Training and Agency (Issue 15.2)

Training could be thought of as a regime. A repeated practice with structures and boundaries, which the subject is required to conform to. Yet, this subject is an agent with their own thoughts, feelings and instincts who needs to both serve the discipline and rigour prescribed by training while retaining a sense of autonomy. In this Special Issue, we will be exploring performer training in relation to the idea of agency. Developed out of the TaPRA Performer Training Working Group 2021 Conference, the issue will examine to what extent the subject has agency within frameworks of training, through a variety of themes including: agency and creativity; the drama school or training institution; agency and consent; and the possibility of subversion within the structures of performer training. Contributors will come from a wide range of performance disciplines such as actor training; critical pedagogy; applied theatre; opera; studio practice; circus; and dance.

Agency, the ability of the subject to act according to their own will, is temporal: dependent on the past, present and projected future of the subject (Emirbayer and Mische, 1998). The capacity for agency is often defined in relation to structure, the social, economic, cultural or other circumstances in which the individual acts. Moving beyond believing purely that subjects operate entirely according to their freewill, or an approach that argues humans have no independence and their behaviour is entirely determined by circumstances, it is possible to conceive of structure and agency’s power as interlinked. In this sense, structure and agency could be argued to work in tandem: as structures increase, agency recedes, as the agent is empowered the structural power decreases.

The relationship between structure and agency is significant for any pedagogic practice as with the interplay of rules against the emergence of self-determination familiar to many learning processes. Performer training as an over-arching practice is highly contingent on the connection and tension between a training structure (the institution, the practice, the exercise) and the agency of the individual. In response to Maria Kapsali’s editorial to the Training Politics and Ideology Special Issue (2014), this issue directly addresses the notion of agency in relation to the external forces that surround practice. Kapsali describes how the content and structure of performer training is subject to many forces outside of individual control, such as the entertainment industry, government funding, education systems and curriculum, and limitations of particular institutions (ibid, 103). Yet alongside this, she writes, it is often within training practices, that we find the ‘last haven of liminality’ through experimentation, and the acceptance of failure as a strategy that can lead to new possibilities (ibid, 104). This precise tension highlights the ways in which the structures of training, or a training as a structure, can also provide the circumstances for the agent to push back.

Within this conversation, it is important to acknowledge the historic and cultural circumstances in which training structures emerge and have become dominant. Mark Evans (2014), for instance, discusses the extent to which training structures emerge in accordance to the subject’s own history, with the relatively privileged trainee less likely to come up against limitations to their agency as their history reflects the prevailing order. Similarly, Royona Mitra (2022), through her discussion of contact improvisation, highlights how power (particularly that of whiteness) operates through practice, and the danger of invisible power structures permeating activity; this also includes those practices that claim to be determined by subjective agency. Emma Gee and Matthew Hargrave also outline systems of performer training that require disabled students take on practice that mirrors the structures of a disabling society (2011, 36). They offer a difficult set of propositions to make us question the fine line between training as a liberatory activity, against training as perpetuating social discrimination and inequalities:

Clearly, it is problematic to require any person to ‘normalise’ what is not possible for them to ‘normalise’, for example requiring an actor with a lisp to refrain from lisping. Conversely, this ‘problem’ may be an ingrained set of habitual behaviours that have gone unchallenged and assumed to be impairment. We then hit upon the double barrier that learning disabled actors face: assumptions about ability go untested and habitual tropes are reinforced in an attempt to be ‘enabling’. (2011, 42)

Accordingly the authors ask whether performer training needs to be radically different: do we require ‘more an undoing of repressive social mechanisms than a goal-driven acquisition of a set of formal skills’ (Gee and Hargrave, 2011, 34)?

This special edition will investigate how training structures impacts on the agency of the trainee, and vice versa. Some of the questions we would like to explore are:

  • Are the boundaries of training necessary in order to define the individual agent?
  • Can performer training traditions, repertoires, canons, or training institutions, impede the creativity, imagination or abilities of those in training?
  • Is agency significant in relation to codified training practices, particularly non-western traditions, such as Noh Theatre or Kathakali?
  • Does training conform and/or perpetuate pre-determined requirements set out by the entertainment industry, in tension with the performer’s agency?
  • Are the social, economic, cultural and political structures that correspond to institutional power erasing social and cultural difference, or even preventing access to training? Or, are training structures an essential part of an individual’s journey to the realisation of agency?
  • Could the empowerment of individual agency subvert, counter or challenge the structures of training regimes? 

Contributors may wish to explore the following themes:

  • Performance training in negotiation with existing power structures: from the specific power of the institution, for example, to broader structural operations of power in terms of race, class, gender identity, sexuality, disability, nationality and more.
  • Performance training and the implications of a neutral stance promoted by some forms, such as Lecoq training and the neutral mask. Does this notion of neutrality erase individuality and autonomy and point to questions of disabling or double-disabling practices in an attempt to ‘normalise’?
  • The challenges of working as an autodidact to achieve self-development and personal training; does this approach offer different questions concerning the role of individual agency?
  • Access to performance training, particularly in terms of class, socio-economic deprivation, race and disability.
  • Agency, empowerment and/or liberation through the subversion of traditions of performer training, such as radical practice within existing frameworks or institutions, or approaches of decolonization in terms of performance training canons.
  • Agency as the use of personal, social and ethical values to foster personal responsibility, ownership and a self-determining artistic trajectory to animates one’s practice. 

We welcome submissions from authors both inside and outside academic institutions, from professional practitioners and those who are currently undergoing training or who have experiences to tell from their training histories.

To signal your 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  Dr Jane Turner, Manchester Metropolitan University (J.c.turner@mmu.ac.uk), Dr James McLaughlin, University of Greenwich (J.a.mclaughlin@gre.ac.uk) and Dr Sarah Weston, University of Bolton (S.Weston2@bolton.ac.uk).  Training Grounds proposals are to be made to Aiden Condron (condrona@gmail.com), copied to Jane, James and Sarah.

Our deadline for these abstracts is January 9th 2023

Theatre, Dance and Performance Training has three sections:

  • “Articles” features contributions in a range of critical and scholarly formats (approx. 5,000-6,500 words)
  • “Sources” provides an outlet for the documentation and analysis of primary materials of performer training. We are particularly keen to receive material that documents the histories and contemporary practices associated with the issue’s theme.
  • “Training Grounds” hosts shorter pieces, which are not peer reviewed, including essais (more speculative pieces up to 1500 words); postcards (up to 100 words); visual essays and scores; Speaking Images (short texts responding to a photo, drawing, visual score, etc.); and book or event reviews. We welcome a wide range of different proposals for contributions including edited interviews and previously unpublished archive or source material. We also welcome suggestions for recent books on the theme to be reviewed; or for foundational texts to be re-reviewed.

Innovative cross-over print/digital formats are possible, including the submission of audiovisual training materials, which can be housed on the online interactive Theatre, Dance and Performance Training journal blog: http://theatredanceperformancetraining.org/.

About Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT)

Special Issues of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) are an essential part of its offer and complement the open issues in each volume. TDPT is an international academic journal devoted to all aspects of ‘training’ (broadly defined) within the performing arts. It was founded in 2010 and launched its own blog in 2015. Our target readership comprises scholars and the many varieties of professional performers, makers, choreographers, directors, dramaturgs and composers working in theatre, dance, performance and live art who have an interest in the practices of training. TDPT’s co-editors are Jonathan Pitches (University of Leeds) and Libby Worth (Royal Holloway, University of London).

Issue Schedule

  • 9th January 2023: proposals to be submitted.
  • Early March 2023: Response from editors and, if successful, invitation to submit contribution
  • March to July 2023: writing/preparation period
  • July to early October 2023: peer review period
  • October 2023 – January 2024: author revisions post peer review
  • June 2024: publication as Issue 15.2

We look forward to hearing from you.

References

Emirbayer, Mustafa and Mische, Ann. 1998. “What Is Agency?” American Journal of Sociology 103 (4): 962–1023.

Evans, Mark. 2014. “Playing with history: personal accounts of the political and cultural self in actor training through movement.” Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 5 (2): 144-156.

Gee, Emma and Hargrave, Matt. 2011. “A proper actor? The politics of training for learning disabled actors.” Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 2 (1): 34-53.

Kapsali, Maria. 2014. “Editorial.” Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 5 (2): 103-106.

Mitra, Royona. 2022. “Unmaking Contact: Choreographic Touch at the Intersections of Race, Caste, and Gender.” Dance Research Journal 53 (3): 6-24.

Critical Pedagogy and Performer Training: Let’s hold the space for one another

As our classrooms and studios still recover from social upheavals and the pandemic, and the economic crisis in our sector makes us feel more vulnerable than ever, the 20th of May event at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (co-organised by TaPRA, the University of Sussex and the University of Greenwich) felt like a breath of fresh air. The resurgence of the #MeToo and the #BlackLivesMatter movements and the social inequalities that were further highlighted during the pandemic invite actor trainers and scholars to consider how their pedagogies play with and against intersectionality or social equality, diversity and inclusivity. A critical attitude is crucial for tutors working across universities and conservatoires, but also an extra challenge after the shift to online teaching during the pandemic has left everyone exhausted. In this context, the Performer Training event on Critical Pedagogy invited us to ‘hold the space’ for one another, by which I mean to be physically, mentally and emotionally present for colleagues.

The introductory panel drew parallels between the fields of critical pedagogy, language as power and performer training. Rebecca Webb (Senior Lecturer in Education in the School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sussex) addressed the negative connotations of the words ‘critical’ and ‘pedagogy’. She invited us to ‘embrace uncertainty’ within our teaching and consider critical pedagogy as ‘not passing down a pre-existing body of knowledge’ but as ‘engaged pedagogy’, which challenges incontestable knowledge, and as ‘fluid’ pedagogies that invite the exploration of ‘knowledges, experiences, identities, politics and values in the teaching’ as relational rather than fixed. Charlotte Taylor (Senior Lecturer in English Language & Linguistics at the University of Sussex) invited us to consider language in pedagogy, particularly how ‘linguistic choices frame thinking and interactions’. Because not every linguistic ‘choice is conscious or deliberate’, a critical approach is necessary to avoid reproducing marginalising and patronising patterns. As the tensions between theory and practice dissolve, Lisa Peck (Senior Lecturer in Theatre Practice at the University of Sussex) invited us to place the ‘actor at the centre of the curriculum’ and asked us to investigate ‘how we teach personal and social knowledge beside technique’ and how love operates as a material within our pedagogies. The panel’s focus on critical pedagogy, and the language associated with it, as a praxis of love inspired insightful group discussions.

The group discussions facilitated a sharing of how participants understand critical pedagogies; the problems they identify in their teaching that can be addressed with critical pedagogies; the role of language in training exchanges; and the importance of acknowledging the emotional responses in the training space. As illustrated in the below image from the produced documentation, the words/themes that stood out involved: love, courage, failure, enabling, shame, defensiveness, orientation, boundaries of love, non-linearity, positionality, vulnerability, holes and frameworks.

Documentation from the participants’ group discussions.

The highlight of the day was Niamh Dowling’s (Rose Bruford /incoming Principal at RADA) workshop exploring the language of Systemic Constellations and its intersection with Alexander Technique. Dowling’s generous facilitation allowed the embodied exploration of how critical elements can be investigated in the performer training studio. A set of movement-visualisation exercises invited each participant to observe how their body and the bodies of their peers responded to specific words and images, and how feelings emerged after the bodily fatigue climaxed. The reflective discussion that followed revealed that, perhaps, the workshop’s function as a critical pedagogy peaked in a particular moment: when the participants were asked to stay still with their eyes closed and focus on the artists/teachers that influence their work, taking a step back every time their thoughts travelled to a previous generation. A participant who had not stepped back responded that past generations of artists/teachers did not represent her. I had stepped forward instead because I am primarily inspired by the artists/teachers of the future that I currently teach. Dowling modelled the humility, and courage required to hold a critical space as she facilitated the provocative group reflection.

The day closed with a shift in focus to social justice work and art-making with a talk and open rehearsal for Quarantine’s Brighton Festival show Twelve Last Songs. The durational performance is about the jobs we do; how our labour defines us.  As with most of Quarantine’s work the majority of the performers are not ‘trained’, and as we watched the technical rehearsal of a dog groomer from Brighton, it made me wonder how a performer trainer would adapt their approach in a performance like that. Our work primarily involves holding the space for student artists to develop their skills: not only artistic skills but also social skills, for which we need to consider holding critical spaces for our students. Because the task feels hard, especially towards the end of the academic year, days like the one organised by Lisa Peck and the Performer Training Focus Group at TaPRA that invite us to hold the space for one another are invaluable.

A positive thing that the pandemic taught us is that supportive communities can also thrive in virtual spaces. We can keep holding the space for one another through the new strand of the Performer Training blog that is dedicated to Critical Pedagogies and Performer Training. Blog entries (500-2000 words) might identify particular teaching and learning challenges and then offer: a description of an exercise/s that invites a critical engagement; an account of a challenging teaching moment and a successful approach; a lightbulb moment – unexpected discoveries or pivotal moments of performer trainers’ engagement with critical pedagogies. The event welcomed the coming together of a community of practice in performance training pedagogy. Let’s keep holding the space for one another.

Talking about Pedagogy

bell hooks said, ‘Talking about pedagogy, thinking about it critically, is not something most folks think is hip and cool.’ (1994, 204)

Thankfully hooks was not of this mindset and her engaged pedagogy reveals the complex passing between and production of power and love in the teaching and learning exchange. Like hooks, I am compelled by the alchemy of pedagogy – the dance between teacher and student which unites theory, practice and praxis. Too often pedagogy is implicit in scholarship. What if the extraordinary beauty and complexity of pedagogic training practices became a field of research in its own right? What if at the heart of this was trying to support each other in practicing freedoms within our teaching? At a time when certain pedagogic practices have been called to account it seems vital that we join together to build a community of practice, that repositions and re-thinks what training is.

It’s time to talk about pedagogy – to dive deep into the processes of teaching and learning – What are we teaching? How are we doing it? And why?

The December 2021 edition of TDPT (12:4) reflects a movement towards working with educational research methodologies to interrogate our pedagogies – McNamara’s work with Bloom’s taxonomy (528-540), Aujla’s action research (482-499) and Mircev’s critical pedagogy (540-554). Harnessing this momentum, I propose we make space to think about our work as embodied critical pedagogy or liberatory pedagogy or post-critical pedagogy (more on this later). We know that what we offer students goes far beyond technique. That, at its best, it can open up questions about how to be, how to see, how to feel; to nurture what Anne Bogart describes as ‘civic responsibilities’ through the practice of art (2021). It is a great privilege to share in this deep discovery yet, at the same time, a great responsibility that has become increasingly complex – an entangling that can feel like treading on eggshells, can steal energy and sap joy.

I’d like to talk about pedagogy and mine the potential of embodied knowledge intersecting with educational practice. I’m sure, like me, you have many questions.  Let’s work together to find some answers or to ask better questions.

On Freedom and Pedagogy:

Here’s a biggie to start with:

At this cultural moment what does freedom mean in relation to training practices?

In Maggie Nelson’s On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint she problematises the word ‘freedom’ whose meaning is not universal or self-evident, citing Foucault’s call for ‘practices of freedom’ as the ongoing work needed to agitate against the mechanisms of Advanced Capitalism (2021,6). The current outcry against systems of oppression and acts of abuse in actor training institutions demands a radical revisioning of what training is, who it is for and how it happens; it is time to look for different ways to navigate, different architectures and different materials. Paulo Freire noted that ‘Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift.’ i.e. not by the teacher gifting the student knowledge but by the student taking control of their process of learning (2000,29). Whilst I recognise that you can’t give someone freedom, set someone free, I am driven by the idea that teaching performance practices might enact practices of freedom.

When I use the term critical pedagogy I am drawing on the work developed by Paulo Freire, first in Brazil with oppressed communities, which paved the way for teaching approaches that foreground marginalised groups, including, but not limited to, feminist, queer and race pedagogies. A liberatory pedagogy allows us to critique oppressive power structures in order to activate alternative ways of being. Recognising that any overview can be reductive, certain tenets can be seen to characterise this learning exchange:

  • Students critique the mechanisms of power at work in language, behaviour and representation to understand how oppressive marginal positions are constructed and to re-imagine the status quo
  • The negative view of ‘the other’ is challenged to seek empowerment where there is difference
  • How you teach something is as important as what you teach
  • There is the aim to flatten power structures
  • There is a commitment to develop the individual’s political, personal and social awareness
  • To recognise the complexities of problems as opposed to seeking conclusions
  • To take notions of difference and particularity as productive sites for resistance  

When we shift our focus away from ideas of technique in training and focus on the ‘hidden curriculum’, the personal and social knowledges, or dispositional qualities produced beside technique the developmental learning exchange of performer training can be re-considered as critical pedagogy.

Looking beyond methodologies, pedagogic research offers us ways to re-examine the effect of our co-constitutive praxis. Over the last decade my research has mapped an alternative female genealogy of training, looking at the work of women practitioners through the lens of feminist pedagogies. I want to address the lack of alternatives to the dominant white male lineages in the canon; the lack of visibility of women’s practices; the historical absence of focussed research into pedagogy.  My book Act As A Feminist: Towards a Critical Acting Pedagogy interrogates the matter of training, with chapters on women working in voice, movement, acting and directing (2021). My focus is the politicising potential of training, working from Eve Sedgwick’s alternative ‘beside thinking’ (2003,8) to consider the personal and social knowledges of acting learnt beside technique. What, for instance, happens when we consider gender as technique?

Returning to a central idea in critical pedagogy, that how you teach is more important than what you teach, certain tenets of feminist thinking, observed through the pedagogies of women practitioners, shape some alternative architectures which enable practicing freedom in training. For example, working with feminist philosopher Rosi Braidotti’s affirmative position to harness the potential of the ‘positivity of difference’ and ‘vital materialism’ can be seen as a practice of freedom (2011,161). Translating this into what I term the via positiva, an alternative position to learning through play and failure, based on love and support, takes Braidotti’s theory into pedagogic practice. Another possibility is to work with feminist physicist Karen Barad’s concept of ‘agential realism’ (2003,814). This offers a powerful alternative to the fetters of mimesis and representation that have troubled feminist thinking. Guiding students to recognise diffraction as a liberating alternative to reflection, where every interpretive action offers us choice in how to represent multiplicity and changeability, challenges hierarchical thinking and reveals our biases. In the studio or rehearsal room this can explode the possibilities when working with narrative, character and text. These are just a couple of alternative positions that can give momentum to practicing freedom in our pedagogies.  

The work of the women practitioners I have had the privilege to observe has opened up exciting possibilities for alternative training curriculums and ways of teaching. What if we did things differently? What if, instead of teaching the same canon the students explored Kristine Landon Smith’s ‘intracultural actor’ or Niamh Dowling’s ‘nomadic actor’ or the late  Ali Hodge’s ‘relational actor’ (Peck, 2021). What if movement, voice and acting were taught beside each other to synthesize the knowledges of acting, investigating what ‘readiness’ means for example in each of these domains? I’m excited to be part of a new era in training, with possibilities and opportunities to develop new ways of thinking through our pedagogies as practices of freedom.

20 Questions:

In the Comeback section of the Blog, a group of practitioner/scholars responded to the Special Issue (TDPT 11.3) titled: Against the Canon. The editors thought through how studio practice could work with the edition as a stimulus. One statement stood out to me:

Don’t just decolonise the curriculum, decolonise the pedagogy.

We need to make space to talk about how to do this.

Let’s play 20 questions. I’d like to find ways to work through these with others:

(Big umbrella question)

What works? What doesn’t?

What research methods can we use to analyse and evaluate our pedagogies?

How does research in education intersect with training pedagogies?

How do we understand the term critical pedagogy in relation to training?

How can we capture and write about the teaching and learning exchange?

How do we foreground the politics of identity in our work?

How can assessment be decolonised?

What do we mean by a safe space and what do we do to try to create and maintain it?

How do we manage the power dynamic in teacher student relationships?

How is pedagogy about love?

What are the types of language that we use in the teaching/learning exchange?

How has the language we use changed and how might it continue to change?

How can working with time and space affect the learning exchange?

How do we work consciously with choice in the learning exchange?

How do we perform teaching? How does teaching perform us?

What is feedback?

How can peer learning be effective?

What are examples of assignments?

What are learning intentions and how can we make them useful?

Who are the teachers on whose shoulders we stand?

And that’s just for starters. I’m calling on all those who want to talk about pedagogy, who want to build a community of practice that grapples with difficult questions about teaching and learning to gather in. To start with, let me know what questions seem most urgent, intriguing or troubling; what questions I’ve missed. Come and join the TaPRA Performance Training event at the University of Sussex on May 20th, where we will be thinking through how we work with structures of choice in our training practices to enable critical embodied pedagogy. You can view details of this event on the TaPRA website:

Tickets are free to TaPRA members, but numbers are limited. Non-Members of TaPRA will have to obtain membership to attend (£18 standard rate, £10 concessions for postgraduates and non-affiliated researchers).  Please book via Eventbrite at:

CfP: Performer Training Working Group, TaPRA, 2022 — Passing it On: Genealogies and Legacies of Training

Deadline for Proposals: 1 April, 2022

Conference: 12-14 September, 2022, University of Essex.

Training isn’t easily contained within a single person. Although the individual subject is often the nexus where training is realized, it generally depends upon a community for its sustenance, upon trainers to pass the disciplines on, upon trainees to carry them forward, and upon successive generations to rediscover and renew the practices. The focus of this year’s meeting of the working group is about these processes of passing training on.

This discussion leads on from our focus in 2021’s conference on Training and Agency. From one perspective the genealogies and legacies of training might represent the structure against which individuals assert their agency. However, from another point of view these ideas might provide alternative structures that empower individuals through collectivity, tradition and community. What might be the narratives of training through which an individual ascribes meaning to their own practice? Could these narratives offer people and communities a site of resistance to an individualizing capitalist culture?

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CfP: Proposals for the Performer Training Working Group, TaPRA, 2021

We would like to announce the call for proposals for the Performer Training Working Group of the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) Annual Conference : 6-10 Sept, online & co-hosted by Liverpool Hope University.

The Performer Training Working Group’s theme is Training and Agency.

For full details of the call, details concerning submission, costs and bursaries, please visit our TaPRA page:

http://tapra.org/call-participation/tapra-2021-performer-training-working-group-cfp-training-and-agency/http://tapra.org/call-participation/tapra-2021-performer-training-working-group-cfp-training-and-agency/

Please do share to anyone else who you think would be interested in joining us.

Please note, deadline for submitting proposal is Friday, April 9th.

In addition, look out for an additional email call to an exciting online interim event that we are putting together and will share with you in a couple of week’s time.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us (the Working Group convenors: Sarah Weston (S.Weston2@bolton.ac.uk), James McLaughlin (j.a.mclaughlin@gre.ac.uk) and Jane Turner (J.C.Turner@mmu.ac.uk) should you have any queries/questions.

Emotion-Action/Musiciality as a practical tool for investigate and creating the invisible space.

Bred In The Bone is a multilingual and culturally diverse company of theatre creators. Musiciality, physical practise and development of the body, ear and voice as an eternal ever-inspired instrument, are at the core of our training.


The idea that there should be a practice of ‘scales’ for the actor is arguably an ancient endeavour, and it remains the best description of what we developing, both in our rehearsal work and in what we implement in our training and our teaching.

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Call for Papers – TaPRA 2019, Performer Training Working Group: ‘Exercise’

University of Surrey, 4-6 September, 2019

The Performer Training Working Group

The Performer Training Working Group has been meeting for thirteen years and has produced several collaborative outputs, including a variety of contributions to the thrice-yearly journal, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT), dedicated to training in all its manifestations, and this blog.

The Context – ‘Exercise’

Performer training is often conducted through and made up of ‘exercises’. These short activities, put together in a particular structure are the substance of what the trainee undertakes in the studio.  And yet, what is an exercise?  The most obvious definition from the Oxford English Dictionary is ‘a task set to practise or test a skill.’  However, the many meanings of the word imbue it with a host of connotations including physical training, military drills, or the use of one’s rights.

Exercises to train performers are documented in the Natya Sastra (500 BCE – 500CE) and Zeami’s treatise (14th Century CE) and have proliferated around the world in the wake of Stanislavski’s systemization of acting at the start of the 20th Century.  Exercises are the core of performance training; books about performance in all its forms commonly contain catalogues of exercises; workshops and masterclasses are often structured around engagement with and critique of exercises.  And yet, possibly through the blindness of familiarity, this fundamental building block of our work usually escapes interrogation.

We are seeking contributions that add to our understanding of what exercises are, the different ways they have been used in performance training, what their limits are, and what might be beyond them.

We Invite:

We invite contributions in a variety of formats from practical demonstrations and workshops (30-60 minutes), traditional academic papers (20 minutes) and provocations (10 minutes).   Practitioners and researchers without institutional support are encouraged to apply and may contact the convenors to discuss ways that we might facilitate this.  Contributors may also wish to make use of the TDPT Blog as part of their presentation.

For full details please go to the TaPRA website:

The deadline for the submission of a 300-word proposal, plus additional information, is Monday 8th April 2019.

Embodied/Embodying Performer Training: Practices and Practicalities

TaPRA Performer Training Working Group Interim Event

24th April 2019, University of South Wales, Cardiff Campus, The ATRiuM

Call deadline: March 15th

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Reflections on TaPRA 2018 Performing Training Open Panel: Training Across Cultures: Connections, Community and Cultural Cannibalism

Activating the Space: Memories and Metaphors

One of the greatest things about going to a conference where you are to discuss, reflect on and explore performer training is that at some stage you are likely to revert to/experience being a drama student. For our performer training working group at TaPRA 2018 we were based in the R Gerallt Jones Studio at the Parry-Williams building, Aberystwyth University, which coincidentally was the same room I had my undergraduate voice and acting classes with Joan Mills. So, when Kate Craddock (co-convener, with Maria Kapsali and Tom Cantrell) said we were going to ‘activate the space’ it was a particularly surreal moment.

This is how Day 2 of the conference began. Our instructions from Kate: Do not speak during the exercise; if you notice something in the room go to it and explore it; if you notice someone else noticing something, and you are compelled, go to it. Continue reading

CfP TaPRA Performer Training Working Group

TaPRA Performer Training Working Group

University of Aberystwyth 5th  – 7th September 2018

 Performer Training Working Group

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

The working group co-convenors are delighted to issue a call for contributions for the forthcoming 2018 TaPRA conference.

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

  • provocations or position statements (max 10 minutes)
  • laboratory explorations rooted in practice research e.g. workshops, demonstrations, performance lectures or other appropriate formats (30-60 min)
  • formal papers (max 20 minutes)

 

2018 Theme: “Who are we training for?”

This year we invite proposals that respond to a purposefully provocative, playful and open question that the WG Convenors have derived at to address a very particular set of current concerns and debates in our field.

As was experienced at the conference last year, in which ‘the end of training’ was explored, ‘training’ in itself remains an open, ambiguous and contentious term.  Whatever form ‘training’ takes (i.e. however it is experienced or defined) it will not conform into one neat homogenous experience, nor should it. Indeed, training can be understood and experienced in numerous ways: as a self-practice; a collective endeavour; a means to an end; a means in itself; a discovery. It can be embarked upon to fulfil an ambition; to land a role; to develop a particular skill, craft, or discipline.  However, something that remains unclear, yet applicable to all forms of training, is who the beneficiary of this endeavour is.  Indeed, who or for whom are we training?

This question, and its series of sub-questions, call for equally urgent critically framed responses. This Call for Papers encourages contributions positioned, although not exclusively, in light of one or more of the following contexts:

 Institutions and Pedagogical Approaches

Specifically with reference to the rapid decline of access to arts provision across core compulsory state education in the UK and the predicted knock on effect this will have on the viability and perceived value of ‘training’ in our field in Higher Education.  (See numerous recent  reports and studies based on Government and independent research, including for example: BBC, January 2018, which states nine in every ten schools has significantly cut back on its arts provision: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42862996 and Arts Professional, June 2017 https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/news/devastating-decline-arts-schools-surges)

 Industry and Professional Organisations

Particularly in light of an industry that has been globally disgraced, outraged, and left searching for solidarity and solutions through committing to the mass movements and global campaigns of #Metoo and ‘Time’s Up’.  (See, for example, numerous recent industry guidelines and statements by organisations including Society of London Theatre (SOLT); Equity; and many independent theatres)

Employability

With reference to agendas that demand trained graduates to be multi-faceted practitioners who can readily devise, perform, self-produce, fund and promote their own practice, as well as desperately seeking to improve and address diversity quotas and credentials. (See, for example, ‘Skills for Theatre: Developing the Pipeline of Talent’ 2017 and Arts Council England ‘Creative Case for Diversity’: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201617/ldselect/ldcomuni/170/170.pdf

http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/how-we-make-impact/diversity-and-equality)

In relation to this background, we invite proposals that may address, but are not limited to, the following questions:

  • How do performer training approaches and regimes understand and frame ‘the Other’ and/or questions of otherness?
  • At what point in training does a consideration of ‘an audience’ arise?
  • How do I consider and position myself in relation to those others that I am in a training situation with?
  • To what extent is training recognised and experienced as a solo endeavour?
  • Can training respect and work through marginality or does its very process and logic cultivate homogeneity and conformity?
  • When and how might training become ‘counter-training’?
  • How might a trainer or trainee be experienced as ‘other’ and what impact might this have on my experience of training?
  • How might performer training practice and discourse relate to recent theorisations of marginality, queerness and otherness?
  • How do we experience training in relation to our social media selves/other personas?
  • How do we train in relation to a digital other? How do I relate to and experience/feel a training mediated through digital technologies?
  • How has intersubjectivity in performer training practice and discourse been framed?

We are particularly keen to receive proposals where responses are situated inside critical frameworks as well as recent cultural policy related to the aforementioned questions.

Additional Note

This year, the Performer Training Working Group will be collaborating with the Performance and New Technologies Working Group by holding a joint session, addressing performer training in relation to digital/networked technologies. If you believe your proposal is most appropriate for this session, please indicate this, though final decisions will be made by working group convenors.

Submitting a Proposal

Please email all abstracts (no more than 300 words in length),  along with an additional few sentences of biographical information. Please also include precise details of your resourcing needs, for example, any audio-visual technology, or a particular type of space (e.g. drama studio) that you will need to make your presentation.

Email abstracts and information to Kate Craddock (kate.craddock@northumbria.ac.uk), Maria Kapsali (M.Kapsali@leeds.ac.uk), and Tom Cantrell (tom.cantrell@york.ac.uk).

The deadline for the submission of proposals is Friday 20th April 2018.

Please note: only one proposal may be submitted for the TaPRA 2018 Conference. It is not permitted to submit multiple proposals or submit the same proposal to several Calls for Papers. All presenters must be TaPRA members, i.e. registered for the conference; this includes presentations given by Skype or other media broadcast even where the presenter may not physically attend the conference venue.

 Early Career Researchers Bursary Scheme

If you are an Early Career Researcher, then you are eligible to be considered for a TaPRA ECR Bursary. Please follow this link for more information, and please indicate on your proposal whether you fit this criteria and wish to be considered for the bursary scheme: http://tapra.org/bursaries/

 Circulation of paper-based presentations in advance of the conference

Papers are circulated in advance of the conference, so paper contributors should be prepared to have a full paper by early/mid August.

Please note that our group also welcomes participation from colleagues who do not wish to submit papers or other presentations. However, if you do wish to participate in our working group, but are not delivering a paper, please email us your name and details so we can ensure you receive papers in advance.

We also warmly encourage, that where possible, contributors attend over the 3 days, so that conversations and experiences can grow and develop collectively during this time-frame.

Theatre, Dance and Performance Training journal (TDPT)

TaPRA Papers may be considered for further development and publication in the Routledge Journal TDPT, http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/rtdp

We very much look forward to hearing from you.

Kate, Maria and Tom

 

 

 

 

Reflections on the open panel of the Performer Training Working Group – ‘Training and Other Disciplines/Practices’ – 1st September 2017

In the whirlwind of PhD study, teaching, and the endlessness of admin tasks associated with these activities one can forget that there is very exciting research happening within the performer training world. It is only when you have the opportunity to attend a conference with the diversity of program that is included in the TaPRA ‘Performer Training’ working group, which took place at the University of Salford August 30th-September 1st, that you fully understand that there are others thinking and working fruitfully on this topic in research terms. Continue reading

TaPRA Conference 2017 — Performer Training Working Group — Training Comedy and Transgression

 

This session began Day Two of TaPRA. The three papers in the sessions all drew upon the personal experiences of the presenters as artists and performers. The papers questioned and reconsidered traditional paradigms of performer training for comedy and theatre. Continue reading

On Modes of Sharing: Blog Report on Training and the Ensemble/Training Beyond Training Session at TaPRA Conference 2017

The Training and the Ensemble/Training Beyond Training session of the Performer Training Working Group at TaPRA Annual Conference 2017, included three different modes of sharing new knowledge and new practice. The session started with the group’s reflective discussion about the blog “Tuning: Preparing to Perform Gaudete with OBRA Theatre Co.”, compiled and edited by Eilon Morris with contributions from Kate Papi, Oliviero Papi and Fabian Wixe. The session continued with the presentation of Jane Turner’s and Patrick Campbell’s paper “The End(s) of Training: Three Case Studies from the Third Theatre”. The session ended with the workshop “The Ends of Your Training Revisited—A Timeline Experience”, designed and delivered by Ysabel Clare.

After two long days of paper presentations, attending a session that involved three different modes of sharing findings, brings attention not only to the overall theme of how specific actor-training practices affect the individual/ensemble but also about the complications and challenges of the sharing mode itself.

Eilon Morris, Kate Papi, Oliviero Papi and Fabian Wixe are all members of an ensemble that creates work under the direction of the core members of OBRA Theatre Co., Kate Papi and Oliviero Papi. Inspired by Peter Brook’s use of the term ‘tuning’ for ensemble work, OBRA Theatre Co. members give an insight into specific exercises that they use for the purpose of pre-performance preparation.  The three exercises of this first sharing mode— ‘Bouncing’, ‘Balls’ and ‘Tuning’—are described in the Theatre, Dance and Performance Blog in a ‘workbook’ format. The sharing structure of each exercise includes basic description, how each exercise was deposited to the training capital of the performer who introduced the exercise to the group and the main objectives of the exercise.

Carlos Simioni, Mia Theil Have and Carolina Pizarro are three actors who have a training relationship with Eugenio Barba’s Odin Theatre. Turner and Campbell share the actors’ training experiences, through a critical analytical account of the actors’ testimonies. Turner and Campbell’s critical analysis is driven by Barba’s writings, but they also draw on Gilles Deleuze’s and Félix Guattari’s philosophical concepts in order to elucidate their investigation. This second sharing mode uses a ‘case studies’ format: the three actors’ testimonies are used as a basis for offering different perspectives in which a specific practice may affect different individuals who embody different cultural and actor-training backgrounds.

The last sharing mode of the session was a practical workshop, which, under Clare’s facilitation, invited the participants to revisit memories of their own training life. The participants were invited to explore how this new embodied experience resonates through their prior training capital. The practical process inspired each participant to generate their own findings about how their past and future training work with and against each other.

Closing my report for the Training and the Ensemble/Training Beyond Training session, I would observe how the challenge of ‘curating’ innovative sharing modes in academic conferences speaks to contemporary challenges not only of participatory performance but also of practice research. I will summarise my point in a series of broader and more focused questions:

How much interaction is enough to keep a participant interested?

When does interaction distract from the new knowledge?

What is the most appropriate way of disseminating specific forms of new knowledge?

What are the expectations of specific audiences?

What is a ‘taster’/brief description of a practice and how can it be framed differently for academic and other environments?

How do different modes of sharing new knowledge to actor trainers reveal common assumptions about how an actor trainer should behave, like willingness to actively participate (thou shalt not refuse peers’ invitations to participate) and ability to use technology (thou shalt not live anymore without blogging and microblogging)?

Evi Stamatiou is an actor, director and writer who works across stage and screen with 14 years of international experience. She is currently finishing a PhD in Actor Training and Direction at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She trains actors in conservatoires and universities and is currently the Programme Coordinator for the BA (Hons) Acting at the University of Chichester. She specialises in comedy and in using a variety of text-based and devising practices that tackle under-representation and misrepresentation issues in the acting industry. Parts of her academic work are in preparation or have been published by Intellect Books, Routledge, Bloomsbury Methuen Drama and McFarland & Co. She also specialises in the development of new work, having workshopped new writing for various platforms, including Lincoln Centre Theatre Directors Lab. She is an Associate Artist to New Theatre Royal. She is represented by RD Casting in all aspects of her creative work. You can see more about her work at www.evistamatiou.com.

 

Artist Award announcement, and a new milestone of readership

We are delighted to share that the Theatre, Dance and Performance Training blog has now surpassed 20,000 views. Whilst this is only one measure we hope this is indicative of the many fine posts and comments being contributed to our site and we thank all the contributors who have made content for us so far.

To add to our growing community we have been supporting a handful of contributors through our Artist Awards. This week sees a new post by The Wardrobe Ensemble, our first Artist Awards recipient and the first post by Asha Jennings-Grant, who received the third Award.

The Artist Awards were conceived to highlight and support the most innovative creative practice in the field of performance training. Accordingly, we are excited to share Wardrobe’s reflections on the work that Complicite say, ‘fills us with joy and reminds us of why we love working in theatre.’

The two posts from The Wardrobe Ensemble trace two weeks in the development of their most recent show, Education, Education, Education, and the way training informs their remarkable ensemble dynamic.

Our second Blog Artist Award takes us to a territory that has remained relatively uncharted in the field of performer training. Please join dance artist Marie Andersen on a series of posts on Motherhood in/as training exploring a number of perspectives, including female artistic identity and embodiment, training beyond disciplinary boundaries, and training when there is no time.

Marie has currently posted two of a series of three posts that combine creative video and reflective writing in an innovative approach to this neglected topic.  The two posts published have already elicited stream of comment and discussion.

Finally, Asha, in her first post introduced the work she is developing on movement training for Motion Capture and will continue to post in the next coming months on the workshops she will be leading.

Visit the TDPT blog to follow this and other engaging threads, join the conversation by commenting on any of the posts, or even submit your own piece of writing to the blog to share your own practice.

Also look out for a series of reviews of the meeting of the Performer Training Working Group at the TaPRA Conference (Theatre and Performance Research Association) in Salford in September 2017.

The TDPT blog was launched in November 2015 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. 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.  With one milestone reached, these aims are becoming a reality and we hope that the TDPT blog is achieving its aim of offering a vibrant and engaging hub for discussion of the leading edge of theatre, dance and performance training.