Amateur (?)Theatre Practices and Culture Heritages

Organized by Dr Kiki Selioni Post-doc Researcher Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Labanarium, MCF (Michael Cacoyannis Foundation) and hosted by Berthelot Thêatre Municipality of Montreil in Paris.

Conference Venue: Thêatre Berthelot, 6 Rue Marcelin Berthelot, 93100 Montreuil, Paris, France

Following the successful conferences; Laban’s Philosophy and Theatre Practice’, held July 2018 in Athens and Rhythm and Resonance in Acting, held March 2019 in Copenhagen, Post-doctoral Researcher Dr Kiki Selioni, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Labanarium and MCF have taken the initiative to organize a third event in Berthelot Thêatre in Paris. The aim is to create a series of international events to meet colleagues, practitioners and researchers, to share experiences, knowledge and current research practices in the field of actor-training and performance practices.This event precedes a large-scale pilot event in Athens July 2019, towards the establishment of the International Centre for Actor’s training that will officially open the next year 2020 supported by several established institutions for actor training and performance practice. Its mission is to gather international practitioners and researchers to discuss the needs of contemporary performance practice through Conferences, performances and workshops taking place internationally.

Amateur (?)Theatre Practices and Culture Heritages

The dinstiction between the professional and the amateur actor has been debated and there are many different approaches to where the boundaries and disticntions between them might be revealed. Instead of continuing the debate this Conference turns to what they share in common. Both the professional and the amateur need training in acting to improve their skills and creativity, usually either in a drama school, a theatre or in another community setting under the direction of a teacher. Nicoloson, Holdsworth, Milling (2018) in their book The Ecologies of Amateur Theatre, Palgrave Macmillan, write:

Contrary to the stereotype of shoddy practice, amateur theatre is often characterised by skilled labour and a desire to improve despite underlying material constraints (p:14)

Acting as a practice requires the training of body and voice, for the skillful embodiment of life in performance and, not least for ensuring the health of the performer. This conference is concerned with both the necessary training in skills for the actor, but also recognises theatre practice and pedagogy (professional and amateur) as a social, cultural and political force. Amatuer Theatre has played a role in the health of communities and individuals since ancient Greek theatre practice, indeed the ancient Greeks made no distinction whatsoever between the amatuer and the professional actor. It was no coincidence too, that Greek theatres were often situated next to hospitals – health in the body, the mind and the individual as part of a conscious and responsible society, theatre created the kalos kai agathos – kagathos – ”the beautiful and good man” in his/her community. Amatuer theatre as a part of a healthy society creates and leaves the trace-forms of our cultural heritages and tells the stories of our ever shifting identities. Although it can be argued that genetically and culturally we are all from mixed heritages, there are some heritage discourses whose stories are still largely untold.

[Α] characterisation of the amateur in cultural practice sees amateurs as expert guardians of traditional forms, legitimated not by their high aesthetic value, but as important markers of national or community identity. This conception of being an amateur is already nostalgic, and produces the amateur as responsible to cultural heritage, particularly vernacular performance forms, examples of which from the UK might include folk dance, Morris sides, or mummings. There are parallel examples internationally that draw attention to the political and cultural stakes for amateurs in sustaining traditional performance forms (Nicholson, Holdsworth, and Milling (2017), in their article Theatre, Performance, and the Amateur Turn in Contemporary Theatre Review Volu. 27, issue 1).

This can be an issue with regards to performed identities for people who have been severed from their cultural roots, who have been subjugated by another culture or those whose heritage has been rewritten in the image of another; therefore, eradicating specific and distinct ‘effort forms’ from our collective and performed identities (Nicholson, Holdsworth, and Milling (2017), in their article Theatre, Performance, and the Amateur Turn in Contemporary Theatre Review Volu. 27, issue

1) write: ..anthropologist Erving Goffman in the 1950s, amateur theatre can provide a safe space for people to explore and perform different dimensions of their identities that may be a world away from their performance of self in school, work, or the home environment. How can we use collective and individual performances to reclaim, reconnect and re-invent ourselves, and as performers by rescuing these untold stories, to release these native instincts through a critique of different paradigms of thought and action both in theatre and life?

Questions this conference asks include:

– What distinguishes professional and amateur theatre (and dance) practice?

– Are there distinct training/creative approaches for amateur theatre practice?

– Is a”studentproduction” of theatre considered amateur or pre-professional? What is the difference?

– What is the role of community/amateur theatre in retaining identities and heritages?