Performer Training

A group that shares research about performer training in all its manifestations.

TaPRA 2019, Exeter, Performer Training WG CfP: Exercise

Deadline: Tuesday 16 April 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 the associated blog,

The Context

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.

Possible Questions/Topics:

  • How might training be complicit or resistant to the exercise of control?
  • What underlying power structures do performer training exercises enact?
  • Do the rules of an exercise suggest that training requires submission to authority?
  • How might training be involved in exercising one’s rights?
  • Are exercises useful tools, or do they allow the trainer to abdicate responsibility for the training?
  • Should exercises be considered public property, or does the creator own the exercise?
  • How might exercises evolve over time, or in translation between contexts?
  • How are exercises documented, transcribed, archived, and disseminated?
  • What are the connections between exercising for physical/mental health and exercising within training for performance?
  • What are the connections between military exercises and performer training exercises?
  • What is the distinction between an exercise that trains, and an exercise that teaches?
  • Can the act of performance be an exercise?
  • Are theatre games distinct from exercises?
  • In what conditions might an exercise be detrimental to training?
  • Do exercises cultivate discipline or habit? Might this be beneficial or detrimental to the trainee?
  • Is training possible without the use of exercises?
  • What is the future of the exercise in training?
  • Any other novel interrogation of the ‘exercise’ in the context of performer training.

Submitting a proposal

Please send a 300-word (max.) proposal and a short biography in a Word document via email.  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 the Working Group conveners, Kate Craddock, James McLaughlin, and Jane Turner at

The deadline for the submission of proposals is Tuesday 16th April 2019. 

    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 the criteria and wish to be considered for the bursary scheme:

Postgraduate Bursary Scheme: There will be a separate call for PG Bursaries later in the year, but please do indicate in your proposal whether you are planning on applying to the scheme.

TaPRA Papers may be considered for further development and publication on the TDPT Blog or in the Routledge Journal TDPT,

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

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