There are all kinds of reasons why you may have found your way to this video series.
You may be asked by your instructor to watch these videos and answer some of the questions by yourself or with your peers. Please know that we’ve not been shy about the need to use a mix of different types of language here: some of it theoretical, some of it more straightforward and more familiar to a studio environment. If the language is too complex at first and repels you, have some patience. We’re not using complex terminology to be annoying or to show off, but because the question of equity and diversities in acting training is a complex one, and needs complex tools to address it. Notice that we’ve supplied all kinds of references and further resources. Try watching these videos by stopping and starting. Watch with a friend or studio-mate and unpack the meaning with each other as you work through it. Come back to a video after you’ve taken a break and digest a bit at a time. Use the questions, activities, and references to make the material increasingly clear for you. Whatever you do, don’t give up simply because a meaning isn’t immediately apparent. By using complex terminology, we’re honouring your intelligence.
You might also be an actor-in-training who has found your way to these videos and are curious about why this material isn’t being covered in your acting class. Maybe you’re someone with visionary and a rambunctious spirit who is saying to her/himself/themselves ‘I can’t believe how dicey and conservative my acting training is’ or ‘I’m totally being objectified or demeaned by the material in my acting class’ or ‘My entire cultural history is being negated or erased in my acting class.’ Use these materials to ask questions of your instructor, to build alliances with others who feel the same way and who want to push back against what you might be being force-fed. Contact those of us who’ve made this series and the many others who do similar work. Whatever you do, don’t be satisfied with the status quo: the future of the art form depends on your voice.
First of all, thanks for finding your way to this material. It is all creative commons (see details on acknowledgements page) so use and re-use at will. You may be well-versed with the thinking that informs these videos, or you may be curious and coming to it for the first time. Wherever you are in your thinking and practice, this material has been designed to engage a rich conversation with your training practice. It is meant to fit easily into your course syllabus as material that students can study while outside of class, or videos that you can show in a studio or classroom during class time.
Although, as you’ll discover, many of the authors of these videos suggest practical strategies for embodying and representing ‘otherness’ and ‘difference’ in complex ways that work against negative stereotypes, what drives this project are a series of open-ended questions. These questions (and many others like them) are ones you can also explore with your classes:
- What does it mean to embody someone else’s story?
- What are the ethical, political, and aesthetic implications of the way we depict genders, sexualities, cultures, ethnicities, able-bodied-ness, and other forms of abilities on our stages and in our performance spaces?
- How do actors train to negotiate such diversities with skills, sensitivities, and virtuosities?
- How do actors do so with awareness and attention to their own personal relationship to these diversities?
- How can we move beyond realism to explore the world in a richer and more intensive way?
- Can a revolution in acting training help our theatres move beyond repressive depictions of so-called ‘otherness’ ultimately inherited from patriarchal, imperial, colonial, capitalist, and other exclusionary regimes?
Again, we stress that these questions are open-ended because there aren’t necessarily hard and fast or even always ‘right’ ways of answering them. What we propose in the video series is information and suggestions to help ask these questions clearly, to understand the stakes informing them, and to provide tools, skills and resources for incorporating these questions into the studio practice of the actor-in-training. We’ve also provided questions and references to help you turn the thinking in these videos into material for your classes, and a number of the videos themselves include suggested studio training exercises. You may have questions: reach out to us.
You might be a successful mid-career actor working in the industry, you may be just getting going, you may be a devotee of collaborative creation or contemporary performance. Wherever you are in your work or what your approach to creation is, you know that curiosity, passion, and unyielding effort are key to successful artistry. The materials in this series can be used to provoke questions about the performance culture around you, to allow you to extend further the inquiry at the heart of your work, to confirm some of your suspicions, or to help keep you coming back to why you got into this business in the first place. This material is all in the creative commons (see acknowledgements for details), so please make use of all of it as you wish.