recent undergraduate student project encouraged me to re-question approaches of
training students to work in community and applied theatre contexts. This
article considers how, in addition to the development of multiple skills
required for applied theatre, encouraging selfish
motivation enabled a deeper student learning experience. The project is
discussed within a conceptualisation of applied theatre expertise and explores
how my theory of responsivity informed the teaching of novice practitioners.
This special issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) is interested in the training of performance and live artists – its forms, histories, pedagogies, geographies, institutions and anti-institutions, and its legacies. To speak of ‘training’ in this context may seem surprising as the term evokes notions of tradition, technique and canon that performance and live art have frequently challenged or abandoned altogether. And biographies of performance and live artists often imply that their artistic formation occurred despite rather than because of the formal training they received at art colleges and universities. Yet, the making of performance and live art requires many skills and knowledges, whether embodied or conceptual, compositional or professional, and such skills and knowledges have been the subject of a multiplicity of approaches to their nurture and development.
Training for Performance Art and Live Art is interested in tracking the approaches to training in performance and live art as they have emerged both within and outside the contexts of formal education. The histories of performance art and live art are deeply imbricated with those of education and its institutions. Many artists who have shaped performance and live art have also been committed teachers and activists educators; pedagogical approaches to their teaching emerged alongside the performance practices themselves; educational institutions offered material support for the making of performance works and provided a living for its artists; and the integration of performance into their provision has led to changes to the organisational structures and procedures of art schools and universities. At the same time, performance and live artists have devised radical artist-led modelsof anti-training, created non-institutional spaces of learning and adopted events and publications as alternative forms of curricula.
This call for contributions invites textual, visual or performative submissions (see below) that examine the role that training and education have played for performance and live art. We are particularly keen to receive proposals that explore the theme from an historical perspective; and those that discuss local, translocal, national or transnational contexts for the pedagogical and training histories of performance and live art. We also encourage contributions that evaluate the legacies of these histories, and that assess their continuing relevance and potential for re-activation in the context of today’s predominantly normative, market-driven educational provision. Contributions that explore the methodological implications of documenting and researching what has gone on in the training spaces of performance and live art are also welcome.
We also welcome suggestions for recent books on the theme to be reviewed; or for foundational texts on the topic of performance and live art training to be re-reviewed.
Innovative cross-over print/digital formats are possible, including the submission of audiovisual training materials, which can be housed on this online interactive Theatre, Dance and Performance Training blog: https://theatredanceperformancetraining.org/
Areas of interest for the Special Issue include (but are not limited to):
• distinct pedagogical approaches to the teaching of performance and live artists
• experimental and alternative modes of training in performance and live art
• models of anti-training in performance
• the role of educational institutions in the emergence of performance art and live art
• the role of anti-institutional, counter-educational or deschooling initiatives in the emergence of performance art and live art (eg. anti-universities; artist-run schools; cooperatives; workshops; laboratories)
• approaches to learning and ’unlearning’ in performance training
• models of the ‘self-taught’ performance artist
• training as continuing artistic practice
• translocal or transnational exchanges and collaborations (eg. festivals; residencies; magazines; mail art) and their impact on the pedagogies of performance and live art
• the impact of key teachers on the development of performance and live art (eg. John Cage; Joseph Beuys; Allan Kaprow; Suzanne Lacy; Alastair MacLennan; Marina Abramović; Anthony Howell; Alanna O’Kelly; Doris Stauffer; Roy Ascott; Rose Finn-Kelcey; etc)
• publications on the pedagogy and training of performance and live art (eg. Anthony Howell; Charles Garioan; Marilyn Arsem) and their impact
• artists books; charts; games or kits as alternative curriculum models for performance and live art
• alternative spaces and models for intergenerational exchanges in the framework of teaching and learning performance and live art
• the documentation of teaching practices in the field of performance and live art
• research approaches to the histories of training in performance and live art
• the impact of the ‘pedagogization’ of performance and live art on artistic development
• institutional legacies of performance art training
• strategies for the re-activation of past pedagogies for the future ofperformance and live art
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. TDPTis 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).
Submitting a proposal:
To signal your interest and intention to make a contribution to this special issue please contact Heike Roms for an initial exchange of ideas/thoughts or email a proposal (max 300 words) to Heike Roms at [email protected]
first year of my PhD I was trying to design a ‘political voice’ workshop for
young people. And for some reason voice training came into my head. Like,
proper actor training – drama school voice training. At first, I assumed it was
a terrible idea. As a student of applied theatre who had largely left much of
the technical training I had learnt in past behind, the idea of ‘training’
raised some alarm bells. Training, skills, telling others what to do and how to
be, correctness – all these associations ran in opposition to what applied or
participatory performance felt to be about – dialogue, reflection, agency and
heterogeneity. But then, when I thought about it a bit more, I thought about
Boal, and one of my favourite parts of the Theatre
of the Oppressed:
To control one’s own body, we need to undo the ‘muscular alienation’ that is imposed on the body from work. Training can be used for this purpose, not to weaken or destroy the subject but to raise them to a level of consciousness about how labour has marked their body (Boal 2008: 103-104).
The undoing of muscular alienation always seemed such a powerful idea to me. That we can undo the marks that the world has left on us, the drudgery, the pain, the work, the reification and commodification of our bodies – theatre could help undo that, or at least begin to fight back against it. This was the principle that underpinned the decision to use practices of voice training and technique in a community context, specifically with young women around the question of political voice. In this context, the voice could be more than a metaphor for opinions, or a symbol of political representation. It could be a form of bodily apparatus that can be marked and investigating the voice could make the subject conscious of this vocal alienation. Voice training could be a tool of political intervention to undo this.
I will illustrate this further by discussing just one aspect of my voice practice. This practice was part of a doctoral research project that explored political voice as something material and embodied, rather than the ways in which the voice in the political sphere is a word used to symbolise broader ideas of representation and engagement. I worked with a small group of young women in different parts of the north of England. The workshops consisted of a combination of vocal technique with theatre exercises and political discussion, culminating in a short (aural) performance to a blindfolded audience. These performances were explicitly political, responding to a feeling of exclusion from politics that many of these young women felt. Their voices expressed these feelings of exclusion before making sounds of protest and resistance. We largely worked with the voice technique of Linklater and Rodenburg, thinking about their idea of habits and the habitual voice as something sociologically and culturally constructed.
the main aspects of the workshops was the creation of vocal soundscapes. This
was the creation of a non-linguistic sound world, where the young women
produced a series of vocalisations together to represent a theme or idea. They
didn’t use any words and produced the sounds entirely through the voice. In one
project, we produced a series of soundscapes in response to four themes that we
had identified through a political discussion: being ignored, feeling helpless,
feeling engaged, being active. The creation of these soundscapes happened quite
late in the project, after the participants had already engaged in three days
of both vocal technique and political discussion.
first soundscape, being ignored, one of the young women created a specific
sound to represent this, a sound of being silenced. This was a
kind of interrupted “B-uh” sound, as if she was trying to speak but the word
got cut off; consonants never making it to a vowel. It was quite breathy,
guttural, falling into sighs: a stopped voice. The other participants created
the sounds of ignoring her: forceful “hah” sounds, elongated vowels that rolled
over her stutters, clicks and other noises from the teeth and tongue.
contrast to this, the soundscape for being engaged developed these cut off
consonants to open vowels. “C-uh”
and “b-uh” became long “ah’s”, moving from the staccato to something with more
flow. The “ah’s” began in tone as a series of questions, a form of discussion
between the participants, which eventually became “ah’s” of agreement,
enthusiasm and excitement. We worked on how this change happens, and how it
felt to finally allow the cut off consonants to become fully vocalized vowels.
This move from the consonant to the elongated vowel sound was reflective of
Linklater’s sigh of relief exercise. The sigh of the relief is when the
participant stretches her arms into the air on an in breath, holds the breath
to experience the tension, and then releases the arms at the same time as
exhaling deeply, producing a sigh-on-sound, relieving tension through the body
and voice simultaneously. The frustration in the first soundscape of not being
able to make the sound, and being stuck at the consonant, was like the tension
of the stretched arms and held breath. Then, the feeling of release in the full
vocalization was like the relaxation felt in releasing the breath and arms on a
long ‘ah’ sound. Here the participants drew a direct comparison between a vocal
representation of being silenced to being heard, with the physiological
experience of vocal tension to vocal release.
In creating these two soundscapes, the young women drew on vocal technique
to help them articulate specific political feelings. Voice training helped
provide a vocabulary of sounds that could represent political ideas. This is
because voice training helped make clear how being silenced or the opposite,
feeling able to voice, is something that can be experienced in the body. Becoming
aware of how their bodies have been marked by their experiences of politics,
the young people used these marks to help them articulate this experience to
the audience. By using the motifs of voice training: vowels and consonants,
sighs of relief, the touch of sound or blocks and tensions (as some examples),
the young people demonstrated how this training has helped them articulate the social
restrictions on their voice, and furthermore, how to begin combatting this
restriction, firstly, through the body.
Augusto (2008). Theatre of the Oppressed. Trans. Charles A.
McBride, Maria-Odilia Lead McBride and Emily Fryer. London: Pluto Press.
in the Community investigates pedagogic approaches outside of professional
practice, exploring how performance training is utilised in community and
applied theatre settings as well as how practitioners train and prepare for
in the Community investigates the role of training in applied and community
theatre. We are looking for contributions from practitioners, scholars,
teachers and others interested in exploring the intersection between training
and community for instance, how training might be used in relation to theatre
for social change, the relationship between training and some of the prominent
themes of applied practice, or how we train for working in the community.
the blog we want to explore the complicated relationship that training has to
practice in non-professional settings, considering the broader questions that
this practice raises in terms of representation, cultural recognition, power
and domination and social change. On the one hand, training can be an act of
consciousness raising, re-distributing skills and resources and accordingly
giving participants the means of the production (bodily and vocal production).
On the other, training can be a homogenising practice, eliminating cultural
difference and perpetuating certain dominant ideas of ‘correctness’. The blog
will explore the complexity of training, neither dismissing it as culturally
domineering, nor fetishizing its value or social good.
interested in investigating where practices of performer training are still
used in community and applied contexts. Is performer training used as a
practice of social change? Can we understand training as a tool of
transformation, resistance or political intervention? Furthermore, we are interested
in how community and applied practitioners are trained. With a growth in
undergraduate and postgraduate courses in applied theatre it seems especially
important now to explore what constitutes “training” in this regard. Are
applied programmes training theatre craft that is then “applied” to community
contexts? Or are they training practices of how to work in the community, how
to be a “facilitator”? Finally, we are interested in the politics of training
itself, and how training practices relate to broader questions of community
identity and representation, particularly with relation to social class,
gender, race and sexuality.
May 7th 2019 (5-7.30pm) Alec Clegg Studio, stage@leeds, University of Leeds
In our increasingly digitized and visual industry, actors have to adapt their skillsets constantly for different media, styles of storytelling and myriad roles. How might we develop our ‘inner creative state’ so that we can remain professionally flexible, imaginatively available and emotionally thin-skinned?
In this practical lecture/presentation, Bella Merlin draws upon recent experience in film, theatre and actor training to share how Stanislavsky’s ‘toolkit’ provides a sound bedrock for developing our ‘inner creative state’. Using the fundamental principles of Active Analysis, along with tools including a ‘constant state of inner improvisation’, the ‘creation of the living word’ and ‘dual consciousness’, Merlin addresses how practice-as-research can take us deeper into our acting processes.
Bella Merlin, PhD. is an actor, writer and Professor of Acting and Directing at the University California, Riverside. Her publications include The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit(NHB, 2014), Konstantin Stanislavsky(Routledge, 2018), and Facing the Fear: An Actor’s Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright(NHB, 2016).
The Performer Training Working Group has been meeting for thirteen years and has produced several collaborative outputs, including a variety of contributions to the thrice-yearly journal, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT), dedicated to training in all its manifestations, and this blog.
The Context – ‘Exercise’
Performer training is often conducted through and made up of
‘exercises’. These short activities, put together in a particular structure are
the substance of what the trainee undertakes in the studio. And yet, what is an exercise? The most obvious definition from the Oxford
English Dictionary is ‘a task set to practise or test a skill.’ However, the many meanings of the word imbue
it with a host of connotations including physical training, military drills, or
the use of one’s rights.
Exercises to train performers are documented in the Natya
Sastra (500 BCE – 500CE) and Zeami’s treatise (14th Century CE) and have
proliferated around the world in the wake of Stanislavski’s systemization of
acting at the start of the 20th Century. Exercises are the core of performance
training; books about performance in all its forms commonly contain catalogues
of exercises; workshops and masterclasses are often structured around
engagement with and critique of exercises.
And yet, possibly through the blindness of familiarity, this fundamental
building block of our work usually escapes interrogation.
We are seeking contributions that add to our understanding
of what exercises are, the different ways they have been used in performance
training, what their limits are, and what might be beyond them.
We invite contributions in a variety of formats from
practical demonstrations and workshops (30-60 minutes), traditional academic
papers (20 minutes) and provocations (10 minutes). Practitioners and researchers without
institutional support are encouraged to apply and may contact the convenors to
discuss ways that we might facilitate this.
Contributors may also wish to make use of the TDPT Blog as part of their
For full details please
go to the TaPRA website:
The deadline for the submission of a 300-word proposal, plus additional information, is Monday 8th April 2019.