Monday, 7 February 2011


Issue Teach me about the people on the D and D map

Convener Thomas Eccleshar

Kieran Hurley Fiona Drummond
Lindsey Hope Pearlman Daniel Bye
Gemma Brookis Tashan Pandey
Tom Hughes Dan Copeland
Julia Taudevin Phelim Mcdermot
Oly Petrakova Caroline Pearce
Ed Jaspers Lewis Barfoot
Caroline Horton Elles Kerchovey
Jennifer Tam
Lucy Foster

The purpose of this session was to try to learn who the names on the D and D map were and why they were significant. Phelim revealed that the connection between all of them was that they were teachers (of theatre practice) and, as we went through (almost) all of them we tried to trace a heritage or lineage that might reveal something about where we are now or where we’re going.

We all learned a lot.

It was suggested, and I would love to try (but it might be better suited to one of the ‘teachers’, that the Tate modern’s ‘map’ of 20th century artists both in time but also in space is a very useful conceptual way of figuring this lineage and wouldn’t it be good to have one of the people below.

The purpose was also to be brief so, in that interest, I have tried to keep the biogs / definitions short. I have also tried to write them in the order we discussed them as this was often informed by links/similarities.

The descriptions are key words, places, book titles and things they said / stood for.

Book titles are underlined.

Jaques Lecoq.
1960s → / Paris. / Work that concerns the body in space / a practice based on the purity of movement from his background as a sports teacher / The Poetic Body / “Everything moves” / Complicite, Mummenschantz, Clod Ensemble.

Philippe Gaulier
1970s→ / Paris, London / Pleasure, playfulness, games / “You are not funny” / Clown, bouffon, melodrama / catholic / Spymonkey, Sasha Baron Cohen, Peepolykus.

1990s → / London / LISPA / Lecoq disciple but adds elements of psychology, zen, meditative, mindfulness / A negotiation between Grotowski and Lecoq.

John Wright
1980s / UK, Paris / Clown, bouffon / Moved to England because ‘he got cash’ / Like Gaulier but ‘more english’ / Improvisation / Codifying comedy, the science of laughter / Games as opposed to play / Pushed clown towards the pathetic, the tragic / Told by an Idiot, Trestle.

Keith Johnstone
1970s, 80s / UK / Impro / Impro towards narrative, storytelling (as opposed to Gaulier who was towards the relationship w an audience → often people who don’t connect w Gaulier are more comfortable/successful w Johnstone) / Ran the writer’s room at the royal court in the 70s → Barker, Brenton, Bond / Gaulier and Lecoq say ‘No’, Johnstone says ‘yes’ / Failure is an active part of the process / Lifegame (anecdote from Phelim about a woman recounting a story in Lifegame about her mother’s heart attack and it being the first time Phelim realised impro could create wonderful, memorable scenes, and not just comedy, moments).

Viola Spolin
1950s / USA / Pioneer of early ‘impro’ in the US. / Worked w street kids and developed, through this work, improvisation techniques / if Johnstone’s impro is about narrative, Spolin’s is about space / ‘Single focus’ allowing for instinct and intuition (eg. Coming onstage focusing on your feet allows you to instinctively use the rest of your body) / Improvisation for the Theatre / Games, play / ‘anyone can be an actor’ /

Anne Bogart
1990s onwards / NYC / Serious badass with a sensitive, vulnerable side (!) / Founder of Siti company / Works with ‘Viewpoints’, a system of codifying patterns in space and time to describe things and thus to be used in training or as a starting point for creation / not dissimilar from Laban / The performer of this has a 180 degree field of vision (unlike, say, a Gaulier performer who focuses on the audience) / an awareness tool / The director prepares

Tadashi Suzuki
Japan / Comes from a Japanese tradition of Noh and Kabuki / voice centering (in the diaphragm, not the chest or head) / THIGHS.

Yoshi Oida
Japan, Paris / Part of Peter Brook’s company / Noh training / the Japanese tradition of clear pictures, clean, clear language / Jo-Ha-Kyu / The Invisible Actor.

Konstantin Stanislavski
1890s-1920s / Russia / Came out of a period where declamation was king, his practice was a reaction to this, a search for authenticity, truth to life and a rejection of self-consciousness / He evolved from a place where actors worked as individuals to ensemble work / His system(s) has been misappropriated by Stella Adler and The Method in the US and is unfairly maligned as a result → in need of reconsideration!

Michael Chekhov
1940s / Russia, USA / Stanislavski’s student / ‘the psychological gesture’ → the idea of creating a whole body physicalistation of a character or a play / ‘Atmospheres’ as tangible, physical things, ‘there’s an atmosphere of love in the room, what does it feel like to move my hand through it?’ / He himself was a star performer (an amazing clown) and ended up in Hollywood teaching Marilyn Monrow, Yul Brynner etc. (you can see him as the Russian in Spellbound) / Phelim’s hero / To the Actor / the Charles Morovitz Biography / Spiritual / Jungian

Jeremy Whelan
Instant Acting / working w. text: the actors record the text then, while listening to it, move in the space. This is repeated but with completely different movement. After the fourth repetition, the actors try to speak it without the sound (and almost always manage with amazing success) / alternative to ‘dubbing’ exercise / the effect is almost like improvising a text / On the first day you should do the whole play(!) / Bypasses the intellectualising of the parts, lines / Dictionary of Emotions.

Joan Littlewood
1960s / UK / Radical / Socialist / Impro / ‘Oh what a lovely war’ / Devising / Working class / that theatre should be like boxing, should be a struggle / wanted to form the “Pleasure Palace’, a home for art and theatre, on the Southbank but was denied and ended up moving to Paris.

Uta Hagen
1960s-90s / Respect for Acting / sense memory / 6 questions / things like ‘who am I?’, ‘where am I?’, ‘How do I get what I want’.

Augusto Boal
1960s – 90s / Brazil / Forum theatre / Theatre of the Oppressed / Political / The audience became actively involved in the experience, performance / later became a politician / ‘rainbow of desire’ added a psychological aspect.

Joan Skinner
Dance / Dance improvisation pioneer / Similar to Chekhov’s ideas about externalising internal images physically / ‘Slinner Release / Feldenkreis / How internal images effect movement.

Wesley Balk
1970s-2003 / USA / Director of the Minnesota Opera / Created a system for actor singers / wrote a famous article called the ‘Disappearing Diva’, which argued that singing compromised acting (and vice versa) and, in the effort to do both, things became tangled and the result was unsatisfactory. He developed techniques to separate the two processes than bring them back together (eg. holding up emotion cards while they were singing) / The Complete Singer actor / Radiant Performer.

Dell Close
Improv teacher and comedy writer / ‘the truth in comedy’


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