Performer Training in Australia
Theatre Dance and Performance Training Journal (TDPT)
Special issue on Performer Training in Australia to be published as TDPT Vol 12.3 (September 2021)
Call for contributions, ideas, proposals and dialogue with the editors
Conjoined with blood and tears, the axiomatic price of supreme rigour and achievement. Sweat (water, ammonia, salt, sugar) is deemed a noble and miraculous secretion, yet we habitually strive to disguise it. […] In the unapologetic seclusion of the training space, it becomes the proof of our proud status as grafters, as corporeal, visceral, present, working.
As described in Theatre, Dance and Performance Training’s “A Lexicon of Training Terms” (3.1), sweat is a constituent part of training — a synecdoche for the tension and effort that underpin it. Sweat is also a precondition of living and training in Australia, from our corporeal engagement with a heating continent to the metaphorical ‘she’ll be right, mate’. This no sweat, laissez-faireacceptance of the status quo finds its way into training through “a willingness to ‘have a go’; a refusal to be cowed by received authority […] a characteristically Australian suspicion of influence” (Maxwell 2017, p. 326).
The image of sweat also brings with it metaphors of fear, tension and anxiety, often drawn out or extended. This sense of determination over time pushes back against a conception of Australia as the rushed continent, whose artists seek to take short cuts to success. Hugh Hunt, the inaugural director of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, cautioned as much in a 1959 public lecture:
We sometimes expect theatre to be made too quickly. Australians are impatient people, who would like their theatre to be made as quickly as wool grows on a sheep’s back. It takes many years to make it; it takes time to train and develop actors and producers. (Hunt 1960, p. 4)
What has changed since Hunt’s proclamations? What is the labour of training in Australia, and how do we train an “impatient people”? In a country where sweat comes easily, do we mistake the by-product of hard work for the work itself? Hunt, like many others in Australian performance history, speaks only for white Australians: how do (or might?) the distinctive temporalities, collaborative modalities, and lineages of practice of First Nations training and performance inflect performer training in Australia?
Despite the diversity and range of its performance ecology and the prestige in which its major training institutions are held, Australia’s influence in and contribution to key debates has, until fairly recently, remained surprisingly marginal. While much doctoral-level work has considered training in Australia, there is no authoritative, published history of Australian performer training. The history of training is thus another iteration of what Ian Maxwell terms “Australian theatrical bricolage” (2017, p. 338), its history an assemblage of sometimes contradictory facts, uncertain pathways, and unsubstantiated anecdote. In this special issue of TDPT, we endeavour to provide an update to Meredith Rogers and Elizabeth Schafer’s special issue of Australasian Drama Studies“Lineages, Techniques, Training and Tradition” (vol. 53, 2008). We also seek to curate a companion to the roundtable discussion “Training in a Cold Climate”, published in Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 5.2, by considering training in a hot climate.
As we are reminded all too frequently, Australia is at the forefront of the climate emergency. Australia’s wide skies and open spaces have always proven a challenge and a stimulus to artists: playwright Louis Esson insisted in 1914 that “in an authentic Australian play, there should be a real atmosphere — some space and sunshine” (quoted in Fitzpatrick 1995, p. 117), while decades later legendary critic H. G. Kippax wondered “realistic drama makes much of scene; but what stage could hold the Australian bush and plains?” (1963, p. 13). In our new ecological epoch “marked by unprecedented human disturbances of the earth’s ecosystems” (Gilbert 2019, p. 220), how do we train performers to hold the burning Australian bush and plains on stage? What kinds of training philosophies and regimes might be required in the Anthropocene? How might training intersect with or even encourage sustainability in performance practice?
In this special issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, we want to use the sweat of training in the heat of a crucible to think through performer training in Australia. To do so, we welcome proposals that consider topics including:
- Training, fear, and the negative imagination;
- Anxiety as an affect of training;
- Impatience and speed in training;
- Tensions between First Nations and settler ways of knowing in training;
- Lineages of practice in Australian training;
- Training beyond the centre and in the regions;
- Tension and/in collaborative training practices;
- Heat, humidity, and training in the tropics;
- Training in the Anthropocene;
- Sustainable training practices;
- The ‘cultural cringe’ in training; and
- Training and the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’.
Other topics that are broadly sparked by the consideration of sweat in Australian training are also welcomed. We particularly encourage proposals from scholars and practitioners whose voices are traditionally under-represented in higher education, as well as collaborations between scholars and artists that seek to amplify practice from the margins.
We are seeking proposals in three distinct categories, and authors are invited to indicate which category they feel best suits their work:
- Articles in a range of critical and scholarly formats, of between 5 500 and 7 000 words;
- Sources that document and analyse the primary materials of performer training. We are particularly keen to receive material that documents the histories and contemporary practices associated with the issue’s theme; and
- Training Grounds, shorter pieces that are not peer reviewed, including biographical and autobiographical sketches, postcards, visual essays and book or event reviews.
We welcome a wide range of proposals for contributions including edited interviews.
Innovative cross-over print/digital formats are possible, including the submission of audiovisual training materials, which can be housed on the online interactive Theatre, Dance and Performance Training journal blog. The editors will correspond with authors about the most appropriate category for their work, and can happily provide guidance before a proposal is submitted. Prospective authors are encouraged to familiarise themselves with TDPT’s Scope & Aims, as well as with the Instructions for Authors for guidance on formatting.
- 29 June 2020: 300-word proposals submitted via email to Chris Hay (firstname.lastname@example.org) and David Shirley (email@example.com).
- 31 July 2020: Response from editors and, if successful, invitation to submit contribution.
- 30 November 2020: Submission of first drafts.
- February 2021: Author revisions post peer-review.
- September 2021: Publication as TDPTVolume 12, Issue 3.
Duffy, C., et al., 2012. A Lexicon of Training Terms. Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 3 (1), 129-130.
Fitzpatrick, P., 1995. Pioneer Players: The Lives of Louis and Hilda Esson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gilbert, H., 2019. Performing the Anthropocene: Marrugeku’s Cut the Sky. In:B. Neumeier and H. Tiffin, eds., Ecocritical Concerns and the Australian Continent. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 219-233.
Hunt, H., 1960. The Making of Australian Theatre. Melbourne: F. W. Cheshire.
Kippax, H. G., ed., 1963. Three Australian Plays. Ringwood, Vic: Penguin.
Maxwell, I., 2017. Theatrical Bowerbirds: Received Stanislavsky and the Tyranny of Distance. In: J. Pitches and S. Aquilina, eds., Stanislavsky in the World: The System and its Transformations across Continents. London: Bloomsbury, 325-346.