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Schedule & Content

June 5-16, 2023

Core Works

These works were chosen to provide participants with a solid foundation of American ensemble-based devised theatre, global influences on American companies, and the impact ensemble theatre continues to have on the culture at large. These selections will support individual sessions and will serve as reference points for the discussions the Institute will hold.

Institute Core Texts:

  1. American Theatre Ensembles Volume 1: Post-1970: Theatre X, Mabou Mines, Goat Island, Lookingglass Theatre, Elevator Repair Service, and SITI Company
  2. American Theatre Ensembles Volume 2: Post-1995: The Builders Association, Pig Iron Theatre, Rude Mechs, Radiohole, The Civilians, and 600 Highwaymen.
  3. Women, Collective Creation, and Devised Performance: The Rise of Women Theatre Artists in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries 1st ed. 2016 Edition
  4. A History of Collective Creation 1st ed. 2013 Edition
  5. Collective Creation in Contemporary Performance 1st ed. 2013 Edition

Institute Core Videos:

  1. The Two Voyages of Jacques Lecoq (Canal+)
  2. 1789, by Théåtre du Soleil
  3. The Adventure of the Théåtre du Soleil
  4. A Circle of Connaisseurs
  5. Wielopole, Wielopole by Tadeusz Kantor
  6. Underground Railroad Game by Lightning Rod Special, Jenn Kidwell, and Scott Sheppard
  7. Café Muller by Pina Bausch and the Tanzteater Wuppertal

Institute Schedule 

Monday, June 5, 2023

  • 9 am: Check-in, greetings, and Formal Welcome by Quinn Bauriedel and Allen Kuharski: Vision, Definitions, Background, Goals, and Daily Overview
  • 11 am: Break
  • 11:15 am-12 noon: Individual Introductions (Group 1) 
  • 12 noon: Impossible Play Creation
  • 12:30-1:45 pm: Lunch
  • 1:45-2:30 pm: Individual Introductions (Group 2)
  • 2:30-3:30 pm: Pig Iron’s Story (Quinn Bauriedel)
  • 3:30 pm: Break
  • 3:45-4:15 pm: Individual Introductions (Group 3)
  • 4:15-5:45 pm: Screening of The TEAM Makes A Play
  • 5:45 pm: End-of-the Day Discussion
  • 6:30 pm: Opening Night Reception with local guests

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

  • 9-9:50 am: Integration Session
  • 10 am-12:30 pm: Mike Vanden Heuvel (University of Wisconsin at Madison)
    • The Center Cannot Hold - This seminar will focus on the present moment of devised theatre in the U.S. as the practice moves (using the phrase from Kathryn Syssoyeva and Scott Proudfit’s Collective Creation in Contemporary Performance) “From Margin to Center.” The aim will be to complicate both these locations by analyzing how they have been transformed under neoliberalism. Having destabilized this influential binary in the first session, alternative methods for understanding the potential dynamics between devised theatre and the mainstream will be explored in the final two. Under the rubric of “Parasite,” the second session will call upon some ideas from the work of Michel Serres to imagine how devised theatre’s historical position of relative powerlessness within the American theatrical ecosystem might create more robust outcomes when it interacts with mainstream practices and organizations. In the final session, “Emergence,” the work of scholar/devising practitioners like Alan Hancock, Rick Kemp and others will be surveyed to show how ideas from the sciences of dynamical systems might enhance our understanding of devised theatre practices and the place of these in the American theatrical firmament.
  • 12:30-2 pm: Lunch
  • 2-6 pm: Kathryn Syssoyeva with Diana Zhdanova (AnomalousCo, New York City)
    • The Roots of Practice: a workshop on history and method - This practice and scholarship workshop begins with an overview, by Dr. Kathryn Mederos Syssoyeva, of the roots of contemporary American devising methods in 20th century European and North American collective creation practices, including early experiments by Meyerhold and Stanislavsky circa 1905; the investigation of early childhood play by Suzanne Bing in collaboration with Maria Montessori circa 1920, and the influence of that work on Jacques Copeau, Michel Saint-Denis, and the development of French mime; the investigations of Viola Spolin into early childhood play and theatre games in the context of the US settlement house movement, and her vast influence on 1960’s collective creation – and so on into the present day.
    • Following a short Q&A, we get onto our feet, with the remainder of our time spent exploring the applicability of Stanislavsky’s Etude Method – a form of actor-driven propositions and structured improvisation deriving from the final period of his work – in contemporary ensemble devising process. The workshop will be co-led by Dr. Syssoyeva and Diana Zhdanova, co-artistic director of AnomalousCo, and an award winning actress, director, deviser, and graduate summa cum laude of the Felshtinsky Studio of the Saint Petersburg Institute of the Performing Arts.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

  • 9-9:50 am: Integration Session
  • 10 am-12:30 pm: Tom Sellar (Yale/Theater) in conversation with Bonnie Marranca (PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art)
    • Editors’ Conversation and Institute Roundtable: Writing the Past, Present, and Future of Interdisciplinary Performance -Two leading figures in theatre/performance criticism and publishing discuss critical writing and research on the history and practice of experimental performance and texts. Of particular interest are artists writing about their own work.  Using as a jumping off point Bonnie Marranca’s most recent book Timelines: Writings and Conversations, the session will examine past and present intersections of the art world with performance, and the contrast between the rich archive of writing by visual artists about their own work and the relative dearth of such writing by American theater artists. The necessity for historical research and critical writing on a wider range of topics, contemporary attitudes toward historical legacies and reading criticism will also be explored.  The session will include discussion with Institute participants on the problems confronting theatre historiography and archiving, issues in writing criticism, and the role of editors and journals. There will be time devoted to their editorial prompts and invitations to the group to contribute to their publications and others.
  • 12:30-2 pm: Lunch
  • 2-3:15 pm: Lecoq Workshop with Emmanuel Delpech
  • 3:30-6 pm: Richard Kemp (Indiana University of Pennsylvania)
    • Jacques Lecoq—Create A Theatre That Does Not Yet Exist - Jacques Lecoq founded his school of theatre in 1956. Since then, an estimated 6,000 students from over 84 countries have trained there, with many more learning in schools around the world run by former students. Lecoq’s famous dictum Tout bouge (“Everything moves”) resonates with contemporary neuroscientific understandings of cognition. I’ll explore key components of Lecoq’s approach to better understand why it has inspired so many ensemble companies that devise their own work, and how its underlying principles can inform both pedagogy and practice.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

  • 9-9:50 am: Integration Session
  • 10 am-12:30 pm: Judith Miller (New York University)
    • France’s Théâtre du Soleil: A Parallel and Sometimes Perilous Adventure in Devising - The spirit of contestation and need for meaning that fueled experimental theatre in New York during the 1960s also gave rise to politicized and innovative companies in France. The best-known and most stunning visually, the Théâtre du Soleil, now in its 59th year, has practiced variations on devised (or collective) work since its inception, while remaining committed to an ideal of equal pay and shared responsibility for process and final “product” (always more elaborate than the theatre piece itself.)  In this seminar, after situating the Soleil in the French theatrical landscape and reviewing its particular trajectory, we will look in depth at three productions, 1789 or the Revolution Must Stop at the Perfection of Happiness (1971), the work than launched the Soleil’s ongoing creative method; Molière’s Tartuffe (1995), which illuminated the pitfalls of working with a text; and The Last Caravanserai (2003), a masterpiece that crystallized recent preoccupations with the representation of immigrants and cultural appropriation.
  • 12:30-2 pm: Lunch
  • 2-4:30 pm: Allen Kuharski (Swarthmore College, Pig Iron School/University of the Arts)
    • Incubating An Incubator: Swarthmore College as a case study for a pedagogy of creation and transmission - Kuharski will analyze the 30-year evolution of the Department of Theater at Swarthmore as a case study of a liberal arts curricular incubator for devised, company-based, and physical performance. While Pig Iron played a key early role in this history, over time it has involved many other ensembles and artists. Kuharski will provide concrete examples of how an undergraduate curriculum and production program can prepare students for artistic futures based in their own companies, in the creation and performance of primarily original works, and the pursuit of appropriate post-graduate opportunities and training (which for many eventually include teaching careers in higher education). This “anatomy” will critically define the various distinct parts (including carefully-tailored academic courses in performance theory and theater history) of this institutional history and how they combined to create a greater whole. The pursuit of a curriculum of continuous creation and transmission can generate virtuous cycles that link current students with alumni and guest artists as well as feed and renew the work of the faculty and department involved.  
  • 5-6 pm: Workshop with Ruwanthie de Chickera (Stages Theatre Group, Colombo, Sri Lanka)

Friday, June 9, 2023

  • 9-9:50 am: Integration Session
  • 10 am-12:30 pm: Duška Radosavljević (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London)
    • Gig Theatre as a Form of Ensemble Theatre-Making - What does it mean to be an ensemble theatre-maker in the 21st century? Are the existing divisions of labour – between writer, actor, director, designer, audience – still fit for purpose today? This session takes into account historical continuities when considering ways in which changing modes of authorship in contemporary theatre practice are indebted not only to the ensemble theatre practices of the 20th century but also to models of popular music production and consumption. Specifically, my research into the contemporary ensemble (2013) has highlighted insights about how popular music culture has influenced the ways theatre-makers such as Simon Stephens, Adriano Shaplin, Chris Thorpe and Anton Adassinski think about their creative processes. My subsequent research into ‘gig theatre’ as part of a paradigmatic shift toward the privileging of speech and sound in contemporary theatre-making (2020-22) registers an increasing trend in this direction across a range of diverse examples such as Christopher Rüping’s Dyonisos Stadt, Aris Biniaris' Hill 731, Lola Arias’ Minefield, Arinzé Kene’s Misty, Middle Child’s All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, Wildcard’s Electrolyte, Lucy McCormick’s Triple Threat, Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music and many others. The main significance of these works, I argue, is that they fundamentally change existing modes of collaboration not only among the theatre-makers themselves but also between the theatre-makers and the audience in the process of live performance.
  • 12:30-2 pm: Lunch
  • 2-6 pm: Ruwanthie de Chickera (Stages Theatre Group, Colombo, Sri Lanka)
    • Devising in the Context of Political Crisis and Protest

Saturday, June 10, 2023

  • 9-9:50 am: Integration Session with Duška Radosavljević
  • 10 am-12:30 pm: Jessica Nakamura (University of California at Santa Barbara)
    • Global Performance and Devising: Problems and Potentials - Global performance practices have contributed to the development of devised theater, historically through the intercultural experiments of European and North American directors, who were often exposed to global performance forms through exhibitions and overseas tours to the West. Accordingly, this history and resultant theatrical work can also carry a history of imperial, racial, and gendered power imbalances. This seminar aims to contemplate this complex history while thinking of approaches to global performance practices in devised theater today. In other words, how do we mark the past issues of intercultural theater while at the same time acknowledging the global flows in our current world? In this seminar, we will contemplate the problematics of globalization, interculturalism, and performance, identifying key questions and, together, considering best practices moving forward. Part of our inquiry will include training and pedagogy.
  • 12:30-2 pm: Lunch
  • 2-6 pm: Kym Moore (Brown University, Antigravity Performance Project)
    • Acting Outside the Box: The Body as Source Material - In this workshop we will discuss and physically explore various methodologies for retrieving “content” for the development of a performance from the hidden knowledge contained in the body. “Traditional” theatrical methods, even those that are “devised,” seem to underestimate the imaginative potential and indisputable knowledge that exists in the body. How does breath, gesture, movement, and improvisation serve as source material for the creation of performance. Methodologies we’ll explore include many known approaches such as The Viewpoints, Sound and Movement, Moment Work and Theatrical Jazz Aesthetics. However, the goal of the workshop is to explore how to take the content that comes to the surface in an exercise and use it to construct a performance. The mode of instruction will be one-part lecture/demonstration, followed by somatic workshop practice. 

Sunday, June 11, 2023

  • Dr. Allen Kuharski will host the Institute participants and available faculty for dinner at his home, a gathering of extended conversations and planning for future collaborations.

Monday, June 12, 2023

  • 9-9:50 am: Integration Session
  • 10 am-12:30 pm: Telory Arendell (Missouri State University at Springfield)
    • Embodied Playwriting: A Fierce Kind of Hope - This presentation is based on the introduction to Telory Arendell’s next book about Suli Holum’s collected works titled Embodied Playwriting: A Fierce Kind of Love.  Arendell explores a total of five works written by or with Holum: 1. Oedipus at FDR Park: written by Holum, idea created by Emmanuel Delpech that took place at a skatepark in Philadelphia under highway I-95 (Adaptation of a Classic on Wheels); 2. The Wholehearted: written by Deborah Stein, co-direction by Stein and Holum, performed by Holum; based on a true story about abused female boxer, Dee Crosby (Domestic Abuse Docudrama); 3. Conception: written by Holum about mothering (A Radio Play); 4. A Fierce Kind of Love, written by Holum in response to intellectually disabled people of all ages including her mom (Theatre of Witness); 5. Layli Dove Stanton Outruns Them All, written by Holum, based on her interviews with North Dakota residents, a fictional play about the genocide of Indigenous People (Site-Specific Theatre). Holum trained with Mary Overlie and her work informs Holum’s own approach to devised theatre, dance, and playwriting. Just as dance theatre worked to find a space between words and motion on stage, embodied playwriting relies as much on improvisation-inspired devised text as on physical realization of this devising process. Embodied playwrights like Holum draw words out of physical realization in practiced hope of finding a middle ground. Pina Bausch’s “Getting at the Essence” exercise will take us physically and verbally through this middle space.
  • 12:30-2 pm: Working Lunch with 5 participant Pecha Kuchas
  • 2-4:30 pm: Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento
    • In Defense of Theater - In Defense of Theater challenges the ongoing schism between theater and performance, where many of today’s ground-breaking productions are typically described as “performance” rather than “theater.” As we locate the sources of the contemporary bias against theater, we will also be able to reintroduce this artform as a political and vibrant branch of the performing arts with a long track of aesthetic rupture. This talk begins with the premise that the contemporary anti-theatrical prejudice is connected to 1) the insistence of the commercial métier and training conservatories in replicating past theatrical forms without regard for the fact that in their original historical contexts these represented aesthetic ruptures moved by critical thinking; 2) the rise in the 1970s of the term “performance” to describe time-based visual arts that absorbed productions of experimental theater; and 3) the emphasis of funding agencies—private and governmental alike—on associating “theater” strictly with the production of new plays. The latter erases the perception of theater-as-event (to borrow the expression from German scholar Erika Fischer-Lichte) and removes it from contemporary discussions on presence. This conversation hopes to prompt considerations about which new works move us today and, perhaps principally, why.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

  • 9-9:50 am: Integration Session
  • 10 am-12:30 pm: Dan Rothenberg (Pig Iron Theatre Company, Pig Iron School/University of the Arts)
    • Lecoq, Chaikin, Okada: Three Visions of Presence - An adaptation of director and Pig Iron co-founder Dan Rothenberg’s 3-week class on actor presence, this presentation traces Rothenberg's own artistic trajectory.  Encounters and collaborations with theater visionaries ​Jacques Lecoq, Joe Chaikin, ​and ​Toshiki Okada​ over the past 30 years frame an investigation of performance style that bridges experimental, clown-based, and cabaret-based techniques. What is the muscle that allows contact with the audience? How does the performer mold the attention of the audience? Through brief histories and improvisational exercises, Rothenberg will trace the provocations, contradictions, and wellsprings of inspiration that have most shaped his teaching and artistic practice. 
    • Rothenberg trained with Jacques​ ​Lecoq ​in Paris, and Pig Iron’s roots are in Lecoq’s work with physical performance and clown. In 1999, legendary director and founder of the Open Theater ​Joseph Chaikin ​directed and developed ​Shuteye with Pig Iron—from which emerged a new pedagogy called “Ordinary-Extraordinary.”  Then in 2011-2013, Pig Iron collaborated with award-winning Japanese writer-director​ Toshiki Okada​ whose self-conscious writing and unique physical performance style have made him a sensation at festivals across Asia and Europe.
  • 12:30-2 pm: Working Lunch with 5 participant Pecha Kuchas
  • 2-4:30 pm: Kathleen Cioffi (Princeton University Press)
    • Devised Theatre in Poland: How Alternative Theatre Found Theatrical Poetry in Political Reality - From 1968 to 1989, there was a surprisingly robust alternative theatre scene in Poland, created by young actors who devised productions that often made thinly veiled political statements. The most prominent of these theatres, the Theatre of the Eighth Day, still exists today with a core group of four actors (now in their late sixties and early seventies) who joined the company in the early 1970s and were inspired by Jerzy Grotowski. Their story is an interesting case study of the evolution of a theatre company that made (and still makes) devised theatre central to its mission. Because of their early fascination with Grotowski’s methods and their origins as part of the student poetry theatre movement, their productions were both highly physical and poetic in form, while at the same time satirizing the absurdity of the political reality of the Communist days (and now of the right-wing Polish government). We will discuss the history of the company and the methods they used to devise performances, view video clips of some of their productions, and situate them vis-à-vis Polish theatre history and the history of devised theatre in general.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

  • 10-10:50 am: Integration Session 
  • 11 am-12:30 pm: Group Video Viewing hosted by Lars Jan
    • Institute of Memory (2015, Early Morning Opera) - Director and media designer Lars Jan is the founder of the Los Angeles performance group Early Morning Opera. A child of a Polish father and an Afghan mother, Jan maintained a distance from his family history until the creation of this piece. The Institute of Memory opens with a variation on the scene in Shakespeare’s Hamlet where the title character encounters the ghost of his father.  What follows is a combination of autobiography, investigative journalism, and detective story. The Institute of Memory confronts the contemporary American audience with urgent questions about the larger spiritual and philosophical consequences of political terror, trauma, and cultural displacement—and the temptation of simply ignoring them. The piece enjoyed critical acclaim on national and international tours after opening in Los Angeles in 2015.  
  • 12:30-2 pm: WorkingLunch with 5 participant Pecha Kuchas
  • 2-4:30 pm: Lars Jan (California School for the Arts, Early Morning Opera)
    • At the edge of the frame — losing focus with technology and play - In this workshop, Lars Jan will introduce frameworks that have guided his interdisciplinary practice over the past 20 years, particularly through the lens of his performance + art laboratory Early Morning Opera. Discussion will focus on integration of new technologies, visual art making, novel collaborative structures, as well as several traditional theatre practices, from devising to Bunraku.Together participants will also make new material based on exercises that spatialize and layer personal memories, histories and identities -- as developed during the creation of recent works, including The Institute of Memory/TIMe (2015) and Jan’s stage version of Joan Didion’s The White Album (2018). 
  • 5-6 pm: Dance theater workshop with Nicole Canuso (Nicole Canuso Dance Company, Philadelphia)

Thursday, June 15, 2023

  • 9-9:50 am: Integration Session
  • 10 am-12:30 pm: Richard Kemp (Indiana University of Ohio)
    • Embodied Action, Embodied Meaning, Cognitive Science and Performance Praxis - In this workshop presentation we’ll investigate why and how cognitive science can be valuable for performance practitioners and teachers. Findings from neuroscience show that movement and sensory perception create neural patterns that are the foundation of language, feeling and conceptual thought. This principle, known as embodied cognition, dissolves the persistent “mind/body split” in favor of a holistic approach that integrates thinking and doing. This form of performance praxis can help us improve our creative work, be it generating material, performing, researching or teaching.
  • 12:30-2 pm: WorkingLunch with 5 participant Pecha Kuchas
  • 2-4:30 pm: Adrienne Mackey (University of Washington at Seattle)
    • Game Design for Live Performance - Interaction and immersion have increasingly become staple features of devised performance. However, as theater makers journey into the creation of such audience-responsive experiences, they confront the problem of how to translate the collaborative practices of the generative rehearsal space, which often extend over months or years of partnership, to an audience relationship that is usually mere hours in duration. Game design offers a vast array of tools and approaches to use in structuring interactive performance. It also highlights the ways in which participatory experience might reframe the role of the viewer, transforming them from passive observers into active co-creators of the event. In this session, Mackey will overview a variety of such techniques used in her company Swim Pony's work as well as survey an array of leading practitioners straddling the devised theater/participatory game field. She’ll also share ways that this scholarship demonstrates how to make devised works more democratic and accessible to communities, bringing them into meaningful co-creation of the content devisers seek to explore. The talk with culminate with an exploration of how, in a contemporary moment saturated with static media narratives, harnessing the interactive power of games may hold the key to highlighting theater’s inherent superpower of liveness.
  • 4:45-6 pm: Group Video Viewing Hosted by Rubén Polendo (New York University, Theater Mitu)
    • UTOPIAN HOTLINE: A Theater Mitu Collaboration (55min)
    • [performance • vinyl record • installation • phone hotline • videogame]
    • In 2020, we engaged communities by way of a voicemail phone hotline we set up inviting folks to leave a voice message and tell us what their dream is for a more perfect future. Initially we wondered if anyone would call. In fact, many people called—so many! They left beautiful messages, poetic messages, funny messages, they sang to us, prayed for us, told us stories, put their children on the phone, and above all inspired us about the future and about hope. This informal community action became an important space to give voice to hope. 
    • In partnership with ASU’s Interplanetary Initiative  and the SETI Institute  we interviewed technologists, futurists, astrophysicists, and even astronauts—whose answers to the same question were nothing short of astounding. We also engaged the most important dreamers of the future—children. We partnered with a middle-school in Brooklyn, and collected a lengthy series of interviews about the future. Those conversations were incredible. They were wise, and smart, and thoughtful—and above all hopeful. 
    • We took those voicemails and interviews to create an intimate performance and installation piece titled UTOPIAN HOTLINE. This technology-forward piece is designed for 15 to 30 individuals and is experience entirely on headphones. 

Friday, June 16, 2023

  • 9-9:50 am: Integration Session
  • 10 am-12:30 pm: Rubén Polendo (New York University, Theater Mitu)
  • You cannot teach devising 

You can seed curiosity.

You can offer tools for collaborative leadership. 

You can develop company building as arts practice.

You can support transdisciplinarity.

You can promote innovation.

  • These are key to company created work. There is no one way to create work as a company. This session will engage us in challenging how we teach process, meet the moment, and the importance of innovation and collision in our work as artists and teachers. Committed to challenging inheritances of generative processes and pedagogy, Polendo will center a detailed study of Theater Mitu’s ethos, work, and the transliteration of arts practice into pedagogy and curriculum.
  • 12:30-2 pm: Working Lunch with 5 participant Pecha Kuchas
  • 2-4:30 pm: Plenary Panel - Quinn Bauriedel, Allen Kuharski, Adrienne Mackey, and Rubén Polendo
  • 4:30: Closing Reception/Dinner/Celebration









Preserving and Transmitting American Ensemble-Based Devised Theatre has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.