Theatre Lecturers Jules Dorey Richmond & David Richmond have exhibited their work ‘Personal Archive #1’ at York St John University as part of the International ‘Cultures of Memory Symposium II‘. (8th – 11th October) Here they talk about the reasons behind opening up their personal archive:
We have often claimed that our work occupies the space that lies in the void and the nexus between fine art (the object) and performance (the living body). This work-in-progress is offered as a furthering of a conversation, which began at last years Cultures of Memory Symposium and is conceived in response to a constellation of events:
In an after show discussion we were thanked for opening-up our personal archive, which immediately excited us as we had not thought about our work in this way before.
In October 2013 we journeyed to Zagreb to the Museum of Broken Relationships and wondered what a museum of unbroken relationships would look like.
This is the first step of our collaborative practice-led PhD. We are interested in the small, everyday detritus of life and the various memories and associations that these simple objects invoke. Whilst agreeing with Kuhn when she asserts that, ‘[T]elling stories about the past, our past, is a key moment in the making of ourselves, we are aware that this idea is problematised within embedded lives. Lives in which time lived together out-weighs time lived apart. Slippages and gaps of memory provoke doubt, contestation, frustration, and, an unsettling feeling of an unknowable and unstable sense of the past and the present
 Kuhn, A. Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination (1995) p2
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)
The first of this semesters Performing House series began last week with a performance by graduate theatre company Verb Arts. Performers Amy Camsell & James Norris presented ‘A Mothers Trace’ a work that questions one’s ability to parent – or ‘mother’. ‘A Mothers Trace’ uncovers a traumatic past and discusses the repercussions of parenting from parent to child, Camsell & Norris took a scrupulous and unforgiving look at their own potential as compassionate and caring parents.
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 this third and final year in review post we show a sample of the brilliant achievements our Theatre Students have made over the last academic year. We haven’t included everything but instead present a range of projects, events and achievements from the last academic year.
Part 3 – Student Achievements
Graduating Student company Juniper Theatre present their work ‘The Wood between 2 Worlds’ at Deer Shed Festival in North Yorkshire. Starring graduating theatre students Lizzy Wynes, Johnny Curd & Mikhail Lim.
4th Annual Graduate Theatre Prize
York St John University and York Theatre Royal are delighted to announce the winner of the 2014 Graduate Theatre Prize: Meander Indoors for Arthur Author
(Meander Indoors are Jonny Curd, Kym Kitching, Ben Rosenfield, Elizabeth Whynes, Charlotte Goodland and Simon Bedwell.)
The prize is awarded each year to a final year student or student theatre company studying at York St John University. As well as recognising the excellence of work produced by YSJU theatre students, the prize also represents both organisations commitment to assisting creative individual in the post-graduation transition to professional arts practice.
The Prize is judged by a panel including the Artistic and Associate Directors of the Theatre Royal. The prize winners will receive a period of artistic mentoring at the York Theatre Royal and the opportunity to present work at a platform event hosted by the theatre in autumn 2014.
Associate Director Juliet Forster said, “The company have created a piece that is both original, theatrical and precise, high production values were shown throughout and they were clear winners. Damian Cruden and myself are looking forward to working with them and seeing how the piece can develop further.”
This year, a runner-up prize has also been awarded to Jim Jams Theatre Company (Adam Waslin, Michaela Pascall and Alex Holderness), in recognition of their ambition to create high quality theatre for children. Jim Jams have also performed Little Red Riding Hood at the Deershed Festival, The York Pauline Quirke Academy, Park Grove and Lord Deramores primary schools.
final year students James Aconley and Melissa Mallin were employed on the Prison Partnership Project to deliver a summer programme of weekly drama and singing workshops with the residents at HMP Askham Grange.
Melissa Mallin was successful in her application to be the student researcher on the Prison Partnership Project.
Recent theatre graduate Lisa Thornton was successful in becoming the student intern on the Prison Partnership’s “On the Out” project working alongside lecturers Rachel Conlon and Jules Dorey Richmond.
Out Of Character
Out of Character perform with our students at the International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery Conference, Liverpool, June 2014
99 Nauman, Recite, Loop, Shift
Theatre Students Kirsty Wolf, Jess Chaney, Jonny Curd, James Norris, Charlotte Goodlad and Orlando Wind-Cowie wrote and composed 99 Nauman. Recite, Loop, Shift in collaboration with Dr. Claire Hind.
Taking the Artist Rooms’ Bruce Nauman exhibition as inspiration, 6 students (writers and performers) composed physical, written and spoken responses to the works on display at York St Mary’s with the specific task of thinking through some of Bruce Nauman’s forms and influences.
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.
The University Christmas carol service was held in York Minster last Sunday 8th December. Attended by around 1500 people this was a huge audience for the 13 Level One Theatre students involved in the ‘theatrical reflection’ as part of the service.
Based on the theme ‘I have a dream‘, students worked with staff to devise a piece that would have visual impact in such an impressive space. They used text from Martin Luther King’s speech, familiar songs about dreaming and projected dreamlike video images onto 4ft helium balloons suspended above heads.
Students become dream-givers and dreamers.
At the beginning of the service they also we allowed to access a little used window ledge above the nave where they looked like angels! Joined by the University Chamber Choir stood below, they sang their dream sequence of songs before the service, creating an atmosphere and introducing the theme of the event. The chamber choir also accompanied the piece whilst the students were processing down the aisle and collaborated with the final call of ‘Let freedom ring’.
There has been some great feedback from the University and congregation who were ‘moved and inspired’ by the work.