2021-22

  • INTO VIEW Festival: From Wednesday 22 to Saturday 25 September, Peltz Gallery presented INTO VIEW – a short festival exploring new perspectives and practices in art discovered during the pandemic. As part of the festival, artists studying on MA Text and Performance presented new digital art and performance works:
    • Wednesday 22 September, 8pm: Bella Enahoro, A PLACE CALLED US (2021)
    • Thursday 23 September, 3pm: Gabriele Uboldi, LONDON/LONDRA (2021)
    • Friday 24 September, 6pm: Tom McLean, SKIP (2021)
    • Saturday 25 September, 3pm: Darren Hill, THE STORY PILGRIM (2021)
    • Saturday 25 September, 6pm: Amanda Chennell, THE ARMCHAIR (2021)
    • Saturday 25 September, 6.30pm: Emily Perzan, DARK STEPS (2021)
  • Graduate Research in Theatre (GRiT):
    • Monday 15 November 2021, 4-5pm: Lisa Woynarski (Department of Film, Theatre and Television, University of Reading), ‘Decolonising Ecodramaturgies’: This paper is premised on recent critiques of the Anthropocene as homogenising, erasing difference and ignoring the unequal effects of climate change. Settler colonialism has been suggested as one the key markers in the shift in epochs to the Anthropocene, placing the exploitation of Indigenous peoples and lands at the heart of the concept (Lewis and Maslin 2015). Indigenous ecodramaturgies can critique western binaries between human and nonhuman as well as revealing the way colonialist oppression has had shared material effects on environments and Indigenous communities. Looking at Indigenous ecological performance from Turtle Island, such as activist performances from the Idle No More movement or The Unplugging (2014) by Yvette Nolan, I argue that Indigenous ecodramaturgies can reframe destructive thinking and centre marginalised ecological worldviews and traditional knowledge. Thinking about the idea of recovery, I ask what is recovery from colonial violence and climate crisis and what role does performance play? Lisa (she/her) was born on traditional Anishinabewaki territory in Ontario, Canada. She is of white European settler/immigrant ancestry. She is now an immigrant herself as well as Associate Professor in Theatre in the Department of Film, Theatre & Television at the University of Reading. As a performance-maker and scholar, her work connects performance and ecology, from an intersectional lens. She is the author of Ecodramaturgies: Theatre, Performance and Climate Change (Palgrave, 2020).
    • Monday 14 March 2022, 4-5pm: Emma Meehan (Centre for Dance Research, Coventry University), ‘Gestures of Pain: Dance, Chronic Pain and Agency’: In this paper, I discuss a series of interviews with dance artists based in the UK who live with chronic pain and make choreographic work about it, through the lens of personal and collective agency. Hellström (2001, 89) suggests that lack of agency is a significant experience for people living with chronic pain, with ‘feelings of inferiority and of being disregarded and mistrusted’ along with a ‘weakening of his or her autonomy to affect the situation.’ Living with pain can impact on capacity to work, travel and socialise (Jay 2015; Gonzalez-Polledo 2018), altering a sense of self-identity and personal autonomy. In defining agency, Graham (2009, 378-279) contrasts the ‘authoritarian structures of Western biomedicine’ with ‘agency as the process of instantiating change in the status quo.’ He goes on to describe how discursive networks and objects/materials can inform agency, creating change not only on an individual basis but also in terms of how wider systems operate. In my current research, I examine the work of six dance artists with persistent pain from different regions in the UK, to question if and how agency takes shape in their work through their material and discursive practices. In reflecting on agency, I also ask what ‘recovery’ might mean for dance artist with chronic pain, as an ongoing and fluctuating experience that can disrupt and inspire their work – and how this might support new understandings for living in the context of the COVID19 pandemic. Emma Meehan is Assistant Professor in Dance at Coventry University. She is the principal investigator for the AHRC funded Somatic Practice and Chronic Pain Network; and was co-investigator for Sensing the City (AHRC). Recent publications include ‘Moving with Pain’ co-authored with Bernie Carter in Frontiers in Psychology (2021) and ‘Moving and Mapping’ co-authored with Natalie Garrett Brown in Urban Sensographies (ed. Whybrow, Routledge, 2020). Emma has edited several collections including Performing Process (2018) with Hetty Blades and Dance Matters in Ireland (2018) with Aoife McGrath. Research interests include dance and somatic practices; dance and chronic pain; cultural embodiment; site dance practice; and practice research.
    • Monday 30 May 2022, 4-5pm: Natalie Raven and Dagmar Schwitzgebel (Plymouth Marjon University): In this talk, artists Natalie Raven (UK) and Dagmar Schwitzgebel (DE/UK) – collectively known as Church of Performance – share insight into their DIY methods of performance making, including live performance-to-camera on the streets of Plymouth & editing post-production for their video (I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdalena (2020). Utilising Roberta Mock’s model of performance processes (2000) as a framework through which to discuss different insight and findings along the artist’s journey, Dagmar & Natalie conclude with reflections on how their friendship and continuing collaboration – in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic – supported them in surviving periods of isolation during multiple lockdowns. Fun, ‘serious play’, and a collaborative approach to working with friends supported them in enduring the pandemic, and continuing onwards on the road to recovery. Natalie Raven is a Lecturer at the University of St Mark and St John (Marjon) in Plymouth UK, where she currently trains actors in movement for performance, drawing on her own training in yoga, strength, and conditioning. She recently completed her PhD at the University of Plymouth UK, with her doctoral research revealing new insights into the materiality, affect, and presence of textiles in contemporary feminist performance art. Dagmar Schwitzgebel is a Lecturer at the University of St Mark and St John (Marjon) in Plymouth UK, where she teaches pedagogical approaches to performance and performing arts in education. Dagmar trained in world leading contemporary German actor schools, with current research interests in gift-giving and participation in performance. Together Natalie and Dagmar run Church of Performance, a Plymouth based arts collective critiquing contemporary relationships between womxn and organized religion. They frame resistant re-presentations of womxn and womxnhood in performance, presenting their research at exhibitions, festivals, and conferences both nationally and internationally. Church of Performance is a local artist-led DIY collective based in Plymouth, run by Dagmar Schwitzgebel (DE) and Natalie Raven (UK). Their collaborative artworks explore the rites and rituals of performance in its broadest sense, with visually driven feminist performances typically crafted in response to contemporary political contexts and climates, as well as environmental, object, performer, and audience affects. They share a mutual passion for 80s culture (including counter cultural movements) and symbolism (particularly in Christian religious art), taking pleasure in staging abject materialities and realising the playful and poetic potentialities of their own womxn’s bodies. Artworks are presented both live and through performance documentation in exhibitions, festivals, and conferences both nationally and internationally. www.churchofperformance.blogspot.com // @ChurchofPerform
  • Birkbeck Theatre Alumni Annual Lecture: On Friday 10 December, 6-7pm, we welcomed theatre director Diane Page to reflect upon her practice. Diane Page is a graduate of Birkbeck’s MFA Theatre Directing and BA Theatre and Drama Studies programmes. She was recently announced as the winner of the JMK Award for her production of Statements after an Arrest under the Immorality Act by Athol Fugard at Orange Tree Theatre (August-September 2021). Diane’s lecture will focus on her approach to directing her critically acclaimed production. This was the inaugural Birkbeck Theatre Alumni Annual Lecture that celebrates the work of graduates of our BA Theatre and Drama Studies, BA Theatre Studies and English, MA Text and Performance, MFA Theatre Directing, MA Dramaturgy and PhD programmes in Birkbeck’s Department of English, Theatre and Creative Writing.
  • Working in the Arts Workshops: A series of three lunchtime workshops with academic, writer and dramaturg Lewis Church. What does it mean to work in theatre and performance today? How do you take your first steps after graduation? Designed for Birkbeck students but open to all, these workshops provided a space to start to answer these questions by helping attenders develop their own strategy for professional development.  Each online workshop was focused on practicalities and useful resources, centred around an open discussion of the challenges and opportunities of a career in the arts today. Dr Lewis Church is an academic, writer, and dramaturg. His research is concerned with experimental performance, subcultures and censorship, and is currently focused on the new culture war of the early 21st century and its intersections with theatre, performance, and live art. This has been published in PAJ, The First Line, Punk & Post-Punk, and the forthcoming collection Theatre in a Post-Truth World: Text, Politics and Performance.  Other writing includes interviews and features with punk legends Penny Rimbaud, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti, and rebel artists the Guerrilla Girls, AA Bronson, Vaginal Davis, and Poppy Jackson. As an artist and producer he has worked with Ron Athey, Franko B, Bobby Baker, Split Britches, Sh!t Theatre, and others. He has taught at Birkbeck since 2018, as well as at other institutions in London and Edinburgh.
    • Monday 25 April 2022, 1-2pm, Funding and Money: this workshop focused on the important issue of money in the UK performing arts sector: an outline of funding structures and guidance on applying for grants, discussion around developing a career as a freelancer and consideration of the kinds of jobs that exist both onstage and off.
    • Monday 9 May 2022, 1-2pm, Venues and Festivals: this workshop addressed the sharing of artistic practice, from plays to live art, and how to develop a network around practice within the UK through festivals, platforms and curated opportunities, and discuss strategies for productive collaboration and engagement with venues and arts organisations.
    • Monday 23 May 2022, 1-2pm, DIY in the Arts: What does it mean to ‘do-it-yourself’ in the arts today? How can artists make and sustain their own opportunities when established institutions are struggling to do so? And what does independence look like after the pandemic? Drawing on research into punk subcultures, guerrilla film makers, and live artists in the US and UK, Lewis Church led this discussion of the future of making your own art on your own terms. This session took place as part of Arts Week 2022.
  • Birkbeck Arts Week 2022: From Wednesday 18 to Friday 27 May, the Centre for Contemporary Theatre staged a range of events as part of Birkbeck Arts Week – an eclectic range of inspired contributions from Birkbeck’s academics, artists and associates.
    • Thursday 19 May:
      • 13:00 DAN RYAN: IN CONVERSATION: Dan Ryan, one of the UK’s leading stage and screen actors talks with Birkbeck’s Daragh Carville and David Eldridge about their work together on The Bay (ITV, 2019-date) and Middle (National Theatre, April-June 2022), among his many other stage credits. In-person.
      • 15:00 COLLAGE AND FEMINIST THEATRE MAKING: Good Friends for a Lifetime (MA Text and Performance graduates Maeve Campbell, Lily Levinson and Minna Jeffrey) introduce collage as a tool that can be used to inspire and support feminist, collaborative and non-hierarchical theatremaking processes. In-person.
      • 18:00 BOOK LAUNCH: MEDIATIZED DRAMATURGY: Book launch for Seda Ilter’s new book on the evolution of playtexts in response a mediatized age. With Barbara Fuchs, Christina Papagiannouli, Vicky Angelaki, Duska Radosavljevic, and Sarah Grochala. Online.
    • Friday 20 May:
      • 15:00 WE MOVE – FINDING CONNECTION AND JOY THROUGH MOVEMENT: The first of two workshops exploring the possibility of connection and joy through movement, open to artists of all abilities and disciplines and hosted by choreographer, dancer, teacher and Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre Fellow Ingrid Mackinnon. In-person.
      • 18:00, MARY/MARIANNE: A short film and presentation exploring the ways in which women’s work and voices have been silenced in both historic and contemporary contexts by Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre Fellows Sarah Sigal and Katharina Reinthaller. Online.
    • Monday 23 May
      • 15:00 THE TWOFOLD ROAD: OR HOW TO RISE UNTARNISHED: In-progress performance of a new play investigating the link between violence and femininity through history via multiple intertwining stories, presented by Birkbeck MA Dramaturgy graduate Chiara Dadini. In-person.
      • 18:00 A MOVEMENT EXPRESSION VIA INDIAN MARTIAL ART KALARIPAYATTU: Demonstration of Kalaripayattu, a martial art for the battlefield and how it symbolises the cycle of human physiological growth, through a presentation and live Q&A session. Led by arts producer Krishnapriya Ramamoorthy. Online.
    • Tuesday 24 May
      • 18:00 BREADTH: Play conveying fictionalised experiences through characters on a multiracial street, casting a kaleidoscopic lens on survival through violence; prejudice; the struggle for breath: the grip of the COVID-19 virus on our lungs, the importance of oxygen for life. Presented by Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre Fellow Alda Terracciano, Raminder Kaur (Sussex) and Mukul Ahmed (Birkbeck MFA Theatre Directing graduate). In-person.
    • Wednesday 25 May
      • 15:00 WE MOVE – FINDING CONNECTION AND JOY THROUGH MOVEMENT: The second of two workshops exploring the possibility of connection and joy through movement, open to artists of all abilities and disciplines and hosted by choreographer, dancer, teacher and Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre Fellow Ingrid Mackinnon. In-person, outdoor.
      • 18:00 IRISH PLAYS ON LONDON STAGES: WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW? A collaboration between Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre and THISISPOPBABY (Ireland) on the state of Irish plays in London now: who is writing them, where they are being staged, and what the term ‘Irish play’ now means. With Graham Whybrow, Rachel O’Riordan, Gillian Greer and Nancy Harris. Online.
    • Thursday 26 May
      • 18:00 PERFORMING THE CLIMATE: “Present difficulty: better future.” A new piece of climate theatre created by Birkbeck’s MFA Theatre Directors in response to the work of Zoe Svendsen, theatre-maker and the UK’s first climate change dramaturg. A radical reimagining of the future to come. The performance will be followed by a discussion with the directors. In-person.
    • Friday 27 May
      • 15:00 PATAFLAFLA: A RHYTHM WORKSHOP FOR WELLBEING: In this drumming workshop, learn the basics of percussion and rhythm, freely express yourself through the beat, and explore the positive effect music and rhythm can have on our mental health and wellbeing. With Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre Fellow Lucy Yates. In-person.

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