Performer Training

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

Performer Training 2019

Full Name: Jane Turner

Venue and Date: April 24th 2019 Drama and Performance Department within the Faculty of Creative Industries at the University of South Wales, Cardiff

What were the main points that emerged from your interim event this year?
Embodied/embodying performer training: Practices and Practicalities

Convenors: Denis Cryer-Lennon and Sarah Crews

The theme for the event was drawn from the preface of Atypcial Plays for Atypical Actors by Kaite O Rielly, that the actor enters with their own complex, resistant, bodies and selves’ (2017), and posed questions concerning the nature of embodiment through training: how performer training practices are embodied, not just enacted. The call for proposals drew nine proposals of which five were selected to present at the event.

The schedule was packed but curated with care and thus we moved from key-notes provided by established and experienced practitioners in the field to performances from emerging, recently graduated students, to free-lance practitioners, PhD students and academics sharing their observations and insights into the ways embodied experience have been challenged, creatively developed, adapted and translated to the needs of our own/their own bodies.

The event began with a poignant and brave solo performance by Bridie Wood, a final year student at the University of South Wales, whose devised autobiographical story engaged with the ways in which we embody words – a language –  as a lived experience; the ways in which language imposes a frame and foists on us a way of being and being seen. This was followed by an excellent keynote given by Kaite O-Reilly. Segueing seamlessly from the opening performance, Kaite spoke provocatively but astutely about the notion that an atypical body as ‘not being neutral’; she challenged us to reflect on the politics of the gaze, saying ‘you say inclusive, I say subversive..’. Her argument that the theatre and rehearsal space still does not accommodate different bodies, bodies that have different needs, framed the day and brought an important alternative perspective on what we mean, hear, envisage when we refer to notions of embodiment and training the body.

This was followed by Phillip Zarrilli and Sara Beer speaking to a collaborative project titled Richard III Redux that they had developed and Sara had performed. Again the project and performance spoke powerfully to Birdie’s performance and Kaite’s paper, particularly in terms of what presents as normalcy, what it means to listen to and attending to our self rather than the chatter of those around us.  It was particularly impressive that they were able to fit us in before dashing off to leave on a flight to the US!

Jodie Allinson spoke about her experience in the 1990s of the Magdalena Project, the pick and mix journey through different physical training and the jolt that shifted her experience and perspective: following an illness her body changed and she was charged in finding an alternative way to articulate experience through her body – this is a narrative of success against the odds – and chimes with the previous presentations

James McLaughlin – talked about his encounters with three different training techniques and how these became translated by his body. All three offered a different cultural challenge to him as a New Zealander: Meisner – a 1930s NY approach impacted by a Jewish sensibility, UK Improv scene required spontaneous reaction rather than pre-determined action but often resulted in a deadening rather than creative freedom; the psycho-physical, as developed by Zarrilli, offered a sustained training taking influences from eastern practices that again appeared alien to his body. A key challenge in all these approaches was to hear oneself and reclaim one’s own body and identity.

Fillipo Romanello, currently working on his PhD comes from a dramaturgical and directorial background but has been challenged by working with students without a training and has thus found himself having to find/create ways exercises that require a student to work with depth of experience – instituting an embodied sense of being enabled through training

Chloe Kennedy, a freelance practitioner, offered a paper on her observations of different approaches to learning presented by students that she posed as a spectrum with the narcissist at one end and the ‘echoist’ at the other. Working as a teacher/ performer training requires not just identifying different forms of engagement with training but also the ability to nuance teaching to bring different identities and needs together within ensemble practice.

Finally, we were treated to a work demonstration by Bred in the Bone; a multilingual working of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. The director of the group spoke about their work with impulse, breath, movement and song as the three female performers performed. This was a fascinating insight into the working of the group and the performance was a provocative and captivating end to the event.

The event was well organised, well attended and provoked some useful and important discussion about ways that regimes of training and the notion of embodiment can often obfuscate the individual experience. Challenging cultural assumptions about what is normative, prioritising and giving credence to reflective experience, acknowledging and celebrating the individual body were all important aspects that emerged from the day and will undoubtedly feed into the main conference event being held at Exeter University in September.  

Types of contributions (papers, performances, workshops, etc.)
Papers and performances

Number of Delegates: 22

How many were new to TaPRA? 8

Did you have any non-UK participants? No

Any additional points or feedback not covered above?

Overall budget awarded: £800

Amount spent: tbc

Breakdown of costs:

£400 from TaPRA plus £450 match funded from Media, Music, and Drama Research Group, Faculty of Creative Industries.

Costs broadly covered travel expenses:

– Keynote joint speakers: Kaite O Reilly (playwright, radio dramatist, writer, and dramaturg who works in disability arts and culture and mainstream culture) & Sarah Beer (actor and South Wales Regional Officer supporting disabled artists in her area, promoting disability arts events).

Student performance: A showcase of USW student performance work

Bred in the Bone

Plus, social wine and cheese at the end of the day.

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