Paper Presentations # 3 – Session 3C

NZ – 2pm | VIC/NSW/TAS – 12pm | SA – 11.30am | QLD – 11am | NT – 10.30am | WA – 9am

Chaired by Chris Hay

Links to join all conference sessions can be accessed via the program page of the ADSA conference website

Decentring the Training Institution
Across the last few years, student demands for institutional equity in performer training have reached fever pitch across the Anglosphere. From the Student Body Anti-Racism Action Plan at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), to NIDA Alumni for Black Lives Matter, to the Juilliard Student Congress’s Call to Action, actors in training demand that the optimistic statements in policy documents become concrete action that addresses inequality, decolonises pedagogy, and embeds diversity in training. Across this panel, three scholar/trainers offer provocations for the decentring of actor training in Australia, beginning with a manifesto for decentring the institution and then offering two accounts of practice from within actor training programs. This panel has been convened to celebrate the publication of the Special Issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training on Performer Training in Australia (12.3), and one of the editors will chair the session.

Lisa Harper Campbell – Decentring the Institution

Gone are the days of closed off centres. Performance training cannot exist in a vacuum. Structurally, conservatoires need to be de-centred. Welfare issues, overspending and a lack of clarity around curriculum and teaching outcomes have forced previously ‘closed off centres’ to open themselves up to at best constructive criticism and at worst, complete dismantling. A recent review of the Flinders University Drama Centre in South Australia disintegrated into an ‘us vs them’ narrative where efforts to promote sustainability, albeit with some worrying recommendations, was met with palpable fear and fury. Responding to the proposed closure of the Centre of Theatre and Performance (CTP) at Monash University, Robert Reid passionately argued that “In one form or another, through theatre courses and student theatre companies, theatre at university has been the bones and flesh of our industry” (“The Centre Cannot Hold”, Witness Performance, 18/9/20). This vitality is only assured if we critically assess the value of what we are ‘preserving’ in conservatoires: should we conserve or correct the course in order to make the best use of tertiary infrastructure and support? The dreaded advice offered to disenfranchised artists throughout the Covid-19 pandemic was, and remains to be, ‘pivot’. Patronising tone aside, creative industries do, and therefore university departments training creative practitioners must, overlap. Cross-disciplinary practice, education and training, especially in a university context, may be the best weapon against the total de-funding and de-legitimising of performance training. Synthesising previous studies — including those of Barisonzi and Thorne, Newell and Davis, and Ivanitskaya — Mahoney and Brown (2013) argue that interdisciplinary courses “enhance students’ abilities to synthesise knowledge, to generate inks and make thoughtful comparisons between discourses, resulting in an improved capacity for critical analysis, and that interdisciplinary learning increases awareness of the extent to which knowledge might be transferable to other context, issues or problems” (143). This would not only see a sharing of valuable resources, but also better equip students to be engaged, adaptive and productive contributors in a diverse industry.

Mahoney, Kristen, and Rich Brown. “Devising and Interdisciplinary Teaching: A Case Study in Collaboration Between Theatre and Humanities Courses.” College Teaching, vol. 61, no. 4, 2013, pp. 143-149.

Lisa Harper Campbell is an acting graduate of the Flinders University Drama Centre. Her work in theatre, radio and screen has spanned across roles as an actor, director, playwright, critic and producer. She obtained her doctorate in French Cinema from the University of Adelaide in 2017 and has since researched and lectured in Drama, French and Screen Studies at various universities. Her first book, Reframing remembrance: Contemporary French cinema and the Second World War, will be published by Manchester University Press in 2021.

Jo Loth – From exoticism to personal discovery: An Australian adaptation of the Suzuki actor training method

This paper will share my experience of adapting the Suzuki actor training method for an Australian context. It will share processes for de-centring a training form: moving from a replication of style towards the development of personal agency. Tadashi Suzuki and his company developed this method for specific aesthetic results in a Japanese context, and, unsurprisingly, challenges arise when adapting these exercises within other cultural contexts for an educational/training purposes. My journey as an actor trainer has involved a conscious unravelling of an idealised exoticisation of Suzuki’s aesthetic form, to understand the work within its socio-cultural context and consider how it may relate to my own work. In Carl Weber’s terms, this process is moving from ‘acculturation’ towards ‘transculturation’. This paper will share three breath and imagery techniques created for application within the Suzuki Method’s ‘Standing Statues’ exercise. The first two techniques were developed within a workshop series exploring the integration of the Suzuki method with Linklater voice (co-facilitated with Rob Pensalfini). The third technique, an experiment with Eastern approaches to the breath, was developed during a workshop series co-facilitated with Jeremy Neideck and Ros Williams. These techniques will be situated within the context of other Australian adaptions of the Suzuki Method, focussed on allowing actors to find personal discoveries within the training.

Jo Loth is a movement, voice and acting teacher, and Lecturer in Theatre and Performance at the University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia). She has trained in the Suzuki actor training method with SCOT (Japan), P3/East (Seattle) and Oz Frank (Australia); and in Linklater voice with Kristin Linklater, Judith Shahn and Rob Pensalfini. Jo has worked as an actor, cabaret writer/performer, and director. She performed with Oz Frank Theatre from 1993-2000. She is currently on the path to becoming a Designated Linklater Teacher.