Through fragmented images, snatched conversations and half remembered events, York St John’s second year theatre students have created their production as a reconsidering of William Shakespeare’s King Lear. It has been composed in response to the student’s recent secular pilgrimage to Auschwitz; to try and answer the question “how will we remember when all the witnesses are gone?”
Every year Level 1 BA Theatre Students make a three-day visit to Featherstone Castle, an historic building near Haltwhistle, Northumbria. This field trip allows students to make site specific theatre in response to the building, its grounds and its history. This years work notably featured a haunting array of spooky devised work, performances that concentrated on theatre images, sound and space and moved away from dramatic representation to create environments for audience to experience the live situation as a presentation of tasks, gestures and text. Two students, Alex Kaniewski and James Harris have provided reflections on their experiences (below).
“After being told that we were going to make theatre in an old, semi derelict castle in the middle of the Northumbrian countryside, most of us did not have a clue what to expect and little did we know what an amazing experience it would be. To have free reign of an entire Castle and the ability to explore its vast network of interesting rooms, corridors and stairways was nothing less than exciting and enchanting. The aim of the trip was to create work in response to the space around us, with most groups playing with the ideas of supernatural spirits, the history of past occupants and the general creepy atmosphere of the place. It was a very interesting place to work, as sound and movement could be very effective without the need for much verbal communication, a simple whistle was enough to have our audience frightened and disorientated. It was also a great opportunity to get to know each other, and the friendships we have developed by working with new people will be invaluable as the course progresses. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Featherstone Castle, and the experiences that I have shared with my course mates I feel has brought us all closer together.” (Alex Kaniewski Level 1 BA Theatre)
“A memory that I will always treasure was walking to the river. In my hands I held a glass full to the brim with water and a small stone inside. Was this a representation of life; a tiny stone in a vast sea of water? We were asked to throw the water and tiny gem back into the river and speak a meaningful word aloud or to our selves. Almost as if we were giving an offering to the gods. I screamed ‘Mercy’. I questioned my self, why did I say that? Nothing. Its no mistake that a site can contain a flood of emotions and memories, especially when you’re driven hours away from home. Featherstone Castle, like most odd looking places, was brought back to life by some measly looking theatre students for three-days and I will always remember it.” (James Harris, Level 1 BA Theatre)
YSJ Theatre Lecturer Dr Eirini Nedelkopoulou has edited a special issue of the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media. This special issue, edited with Mary Oliver (MMU) is entitled ‘Hybridities: The intersections between performance and science and the digital‘ and considers productive interactions between performance and mathematics, physics, neuroscience, biology and computation. Asking questions of how science nourishes, moves and changes performance and performance studies through the development of digital tools.
Dr Nedelkopoulou has also contributed to the issue with an interview with belgian-based immersive art company CREW (pictured).
Trying to condense a whole year of Theatre at York St John into one blog post isn’t easy, so we’ve condensed it into three! In the next three posts we will document the innovative and diverse theatre practices taking place both on and off campus. We haven’t included everything but instead present a range of projects, events and achievements from the last academic year.
Part 1 – Staff Research & Practice
Dr. Claire Hind
The International Symposium Infinite Record, Archive Memory, Performance was hosted by York St John University and welcomed Berlin Based Artist Arnold Dreyblatt, Performer Sxip Shirey, Composer Trevor Wishart and academic Astrid Schmetterling. Faculty of Arts MA students were involved in the technical running of the symposium and MA student Emily Rowan presented a sound installation over the 3 days to international guests.
An exhibition and presentation of York St John staff members was curated by Dr. Claire Hind. Dr. Matthew Reason and Dr. Justin McKeown delivered papers and Nathan Walker premiered his work the Action Score Generator. The conference also saw a presentation of ‘Dream Yards’ a walking tour by Gary Winters and Claire Hind which included Theatre student Jess Chaney.
Dream Yards has also been touring the UK’s studio theatres, playfully delving into the hidden worlds and narratives connected to iconic figures and fictional characters. The work premiered at York Theatre Royal and will go to Theatre in the Mill Bradford later in the year. Theatre graduate Richard Wade worked on this touring show as the stage manager.
Dr. Nick Rowe
Nick’s project Converge, which forms relationships between YSJ and local mental health service providers, was shortlisted for Times Higher Excellence and Innovation in the Arts Award.
Dr. Eirini Nedekopolou
Eirini has recently completed a collaborative project with KMA as part of Yorkshire Innovation Fund and there is a research outcome linked to it. This is related to the conference paper ‘Performing Participation into the Open Air. KMA’s Congregation’, delivered at Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens, May 2014.
Eirini has also delivered her research ‘Re-routing Intermedial Participation: (Anti) Social Generosity in Six Acts’, at the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR), Re-Routing Performance Conference, Institut del Teatre, Barcelona, Spain, July 2013, and
Eirini Co-convened the TaPRA Performance and New Technologies, University of Glasgow, September 2013 with the theme of Embodied Engagement: Participatory and Immersive Performance.
As part of the Cultures of Memory Symposium 2013 Jules and David co-authored a paper Talking back the Y(t)ears – on their collaborative Theatre of Witness series of works with WW2 veterans, witnesses and survivors, which David presented at Syracuse University London. They also performed their autobiographical duet terrorists of the heart–ameditation on parenthood, ageing, grief and loss, as well as a political manifesto with some Morris dancing, which was shown at York St John’s Performing House. Jules also exhibited her Memory Drawings,which exploredthe relationship between the feelings of a memory, mark making and repetition.
Jules and David are currently working on The Personal Archive Project, which is a paper, exhibition and catalogue document of personal objects and narratives, which chart their embedded lives together, which will premier at the forth coming Cultures of Memory Symposium 2014.
Jules and David are working on a chapter for a book: The Self in Performance: Autobiographical, Self-Revelatory, & Auto-Ethnographic forms of Therapeutic Theatre. Co-Editors: Susana Pendzik, Renee Emunah, David Johnson. To be published in 2015.
David Richmond exhibited his photographs at City Screen to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, depicting his annual secular pilgrimage to Auschwitz and the subsequent work made with students on the Artist as Witness module.
Jules Dorey Richmond, along with Rachel Conlon conducted consultations with various local agencies and delivered a series of 12 taster workshops with 3 different groups in York: YACRO Women’s House; Changing Lives; and Blossoms at Life line, as part of On the Out – a project which places creativity at the centre of working with women on the fringes of the criminal justice system. Jules is currently working on a visual document of this project to be disseminated as part of the forthcoming I-CAN event at the Theatre Royal on narrative and criminal justice.
Professor Matthew Reason
Elusive Evidence – On 10th June Matthew Reason and Nick Rowe co-convened a symposium exploring how artists and researchers can document, measure and evaluate arts practice in social context. Ten invited speakers presented papers, along with staff from York St John University in theatre, fine art, music and dance.
International Centre for Arts and Narrative (ICAN) Run in collaboration between York St John University and York Theatre Royal, ICAN runs events, workshops and talks exploring narrative in and through the arts. This academic year ICAN ran four public talks on Narrative &… ( & food; & mental health; & adolescence; & alternative futures) and between January and July ran weekly workshops to schools, community and other groups. See www.artsandnarrative.co.uk
Storytelling and Adolescence – In September 2013, York St John University and York Theatre Royal received Arts and Humanities Research Council funding for a collaborative doctoral studentship on the theme of storytelling and adolescence. Cath Heinemeyer is now working on this project. You can visit Cath’s blog here www.storytellingwithadolescents.blogspot.com.
Nathan has presented his practice-led research in computer generated text and performance scores at Modular Form Symposium, Roehampton University, London and at TaPRA Performance and New Technologies, Royal Holloway, London. (forthcoming) This research discusses the context and history around his work the Action Score Generator which was presented at York St John as part of Infinite Record Conference, curated by Dr Claire Hind.
Nathan was commissioned to make a new large scale performance at Performance Space, London which resulted in new work NAPE a 6 hour durational install-action.
Nathan premiered the performance of a new play ‘SNECK STAIRS’ with artist Emma Bennett at York St John’s Performing House and also presented new writing at The Other Room, Manchester.
Rachel launched The Prison Partnership Project in September 2013 and has provided theatre and fine arts students the opportunity to gain experience from working inside HMP Askham Grange. Clean Break’s play ‘Billy the Girl’ was performed at the launch and students and staff attended the performance in HMP Askham Grange. Run in collaboration with the nationally acclaimed theatre company Clean Break and HMP Askham Grange, the project was born out of the desire to provide a unique, creative partnership between education, the arts and the prison service. The project aims to give students the invaluable experience of working in the community and provides a real-world understanding of the impact of the arts within a criminal justice setting. The project aims to provide the women residents the opportunity to develop creative and life skills through the arts, in line with their resettlement plans approaching release into the community.
The partnership has just been awarded funding for the next year from the North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioners Office to deliver three arts projects on a weekly basis in theatre, singing and fine art.
Rachel also secured funding from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Trust to deliver the ‘On the Out’ project with colleague Jules Dorey Richmond – working with women who have had an experience of the criminal justice system or who are in recovery and living in the wider York community. It had come to Rachel and Jules’ attention that there was no such provision in York for women post release to engage in an arts process. So following on from the arts delivery at HMP Askham Grange and after a wide consultation with service providers in York, the project began and has grown in strength working with the local organisations Changing Lives, Lifeline and YACRO.
Both projects offer the opportunity for two different kinds of communities to come together – university students and women, with the aim of participants coming together to engage in an arts process and gain understandings and encounters and to be part of a transformative learning experience that emphasises collaboration, dialogue and addresses issues of social concern.
At the end of Semester 1 Level 2 Theatre Students presented a devised performance responding to research into Human Rights Abuses and the media coverage of the political prisoners Pussy Riot. Using found texts and excerpts from Harold Pinter’s ‘One for the Road’ and Simon Stephens’ ‘Pornography’ the students created a scenographic landscape of absent bodies, debris of clothing inspired by the work of artist Christian Boltanski.
Level 1 Ensemble Theatre Practice students have been engaging in devising techniques responding to the work of American composer Philip Glass. The three performances, which consider experimental Glass-esque approaches to structure, time, composition, repetition and sound, will be presented this Wednesday 4th December from 9:30am. All Welcome.
Students from Masters programmes in Applied Theatre, Music Composition and Theatre & Performance spent the weekend of the 21st and 22nd Sept in the Yorkshire Dales on the 4th MA Away Weekend.
The weekends are a chance for postgraduate students from different disciplines to meet and work together in the barn, field and hillside and away from studio or seminar room. We engaged in long walks, hard thoughts, endless conversation and good food.
In an abandoned space where nobody goes, three performers stand silently on stage, anticipating an audience. They’re ill rehearsed, they can’t find the words, and though they’re not ready to show, it must go on.
Tick-tock goes the clock. We’re sorry. So very, very sorry. Ladies and Gentlemen…’Three'”
Thursday 19th September 2012
2:00pm in Theatre 1
Written by Level 2 Students Benjamin Rosenfield, Charlotte Goodlad and Jonathan Curd. Performed by Mikhail Lim, Charlotte Goodlad and Jonathan Curd. ‘Three’ Combining the influences of Samuel Beckett, the Rat Pack and Dr. Suess, ‘Three’ is an intertextual performance that plays with the nonsensical phono-aesthetics of every-day language and 1950’s pop culture.