The Physicality of Writing

Committee member Kate Holmes invites everyone to take a break and look after your body. If you want to know about Kate’s research, check out her eprofile.

Think: eyes look to the side slightly. I raise my right hand, push it and the mouse across the desk, finishing the action with a downward pressure to cause the mouse to click and to put the in cursor place. I lift my right hand so that it comes to meet the left hovering over the keyboard. The action facilitated by the light engagement of shoulder muscles that hold the hands in place. Now, I push fingers down, hardly noticing the link between movement and mind. Without thinking, I press the backspace, not noticing how the process of writing is also edited through the movements I make which track back from finger to shoulder.

I’m struggling to work through an idea. My immediate instinct is to reach for my notebook. I lift the notebook with both hands, and lay it on my lap. One hand rests on the left edge of the notebook, whilst the right hand lifts to pick up the pen and position it over the page. Again, the right shoulder facilitates the movement of my hand pushing from left to right across the page, stepping downwards to fill it with my script.

Until 8 April this year I hadn’t really thought about how I use my body when I’m writing. Instead I very much thought of it as an activity of the mind. What changed my perception was when I was involved in an accident that left my right shoulder immobilised. I had just entered the last six months of my PhD and was very much in writing mode and was suddenly brought face-to-face with how I use my body and mind together when writing.

As you can see from the description above, the shoulder muscles I wasn’t able to engage are used in most of the activities of writing. But, not only that, being left with just one hand makes performing a range of tasks associated with it really difficult. When I write I often have files open on the floor or pieces of paper on my desk, so I frequently find myself reaching, lifting, crouching and using both hands to flick through papers. Obviously these activities were no longer possible in the same way.

But for me, the hardest part of temporarily losing the use of my right shoulder, was the link between the mind and the physical acts of typing or putting pen to paper. I experimented with using speech dictation software – in fact this post was written using it a few weeks back. For anyone who has ever tried to use this, it is a really strange experience. In fact, you might notice that I’m generally using quite short sentences in this post which is as a result of dictating. This sort of software requires more thought because you need to speak a full sentence rather than being able to delete as you go (you also need to be really careful about using the word ‘delete’ because it can remove something unintended! Can you guess what just happened!) There are commands you can use to edit text, but you generally need to have got the sentence out in one go first. Credit goes out to anyone who uses this sort of software every day, because although it is great I find it a real challenge. Although I can see how it might help when suffering from writers’ block because it feels such a different way of working from typing.

But when my brain was fuzzy through painkillers and I wanted to think through the fuzziness by putting pen to paper I couldn’t. I couldn’t capture or clarify those things I thought I might forget when I got back to work. When I physically write with a pen I feel like I’m accessing a different part of my brain. And, to be honest that is something that I had to put to one side for a while, (alongside my timetable for completion). Technology has meant that I could have a Google document that I could speech dictate into on my phone, but it’s still not the same…

So, I suppose the point of this post is really to try and make people privilege the relationship of your body to your mind – because I was in danger of forgetting it. Despite the fact that my research uses my bodily understanding of aerial practice, I still didn’t value my body enough in the writing process. This experience has made me realise I need a healthy body to really write well. That means that as I re-approach the last six months of my PhD I need to look after my body, because I might well have put writing in front of exercising or eating as healthily as I should. For me this is going to mean putting my body first in terms of doing my physio and trying not to push my body too far by working at my old work rate, before I even get back to exercising as I once did.

For you, particularly if you’re in your last stages of your PhD I’d love it if this post made you finish work early on a day you needed some rest, or encouraged you to go to the gym when it was rainy and you felt like the exercising but didn’t want to get wet. Put your body first now because we all rely on it: the act of writing is a physical one that is assisted by a strong healthy body and mind.

Before Shakespeare PhD scholarship

Before Shakespeare is a very exciting and very important project (we recommend perusing the website and reading some of the excellent blog posts up there). They’re currently advertising for a PhD student to join their ranks (based at Roehampton): if you’re interested in early modern London theatrical culture 1565-95, consider applying.

Before Shakespeare

We are delighted to announce a fully-funded PhD scholarship on London theatrical culture and its context, 1565-95. Full details can be found here, and all current Roehampton PhD scholarships are posted here.

This PhD will be supervised by Dr Andy Kesson and Professor Clare McManus and run alongside much of the work of our project. This will provide multiple opportunities to develop networks for future career plans and develop the impact of the candidate’s own research. Candidates are being asked to propose their own topic within the remit of the project, in the hope of adding new ideas to our own for everyone’s mutual benefit. Any questions, contact Andy on andy.kesson@roehampton.ac.uk.

Andy Kesson

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NRN Blog: Innovation in Research, Innovation in the STR

2014-09-13 12.36.04-1To tie in with the recent opening of registration for our symposium (what are you waiting for? Get going!), we asked our previous Chair, David Coates, to write about innovation in his research and in the STR at large — and we’re glad he did! David is a part-time doctoral candidate at the University of Warwick writing a thesis on Private and Amateur Theatricals in Britain, 1830-1914. He completed his MA by Research in 2010 with a thesis that interrogated the social, cultural, political and theatrical significance of the Chatsworth House Theatre and the Duchess of Devonshire’s Private Theatricals, 1880-1914.

David has been a member of STR since 2011 and sat on the Executive Committee after founding the NRN, from February 2012 until September 2015. He’s also a member of TaPRA, and was fortunate enough to sit on the Executive Committee as a Postgraduate Representative until Summer 2015. He continues to attend the Historiography working group at both TaPRA and at IFTR, and for the latter organisation acted as Administrator for the Warwick World Congress in 2014.

Innovation In My Research

The Call for Papers for the NRN’s annual symposium draws attention to the importance of innovation in academia and states that innovation is ‘at the core of our development as scholars’. Though undoubtedly true, our determination to find innovation in our work has occasioned a proliferation of micro histories that – as fascinating as they may be – ultimately fail to acknowledge the bigger picture. Equally, it has resulted in skewed theatre histories and has left some areas of our discipline heavily under-researched and underappreciated. Amateur theatre pre-1914 is but one of these areas.

Amateur theatricals in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been investigated by a handful of scholars, including Sybil Rosenfeld, Gillian Russell, Kate Newey and Mary Isbell. More often than not, these histories have categorised and compartmentalised amateur performance into distinct types, such as Private Theatricals, Shipboard Theatricals, Garrison Theatricals and University Theatricals. These microhistories have their place – they’ve been enlightening and have contributed hugely to my research – but I think they’ve missed something crucial. They’ve lacked the scope to allow for understanding the relation these forms have to one another.

Way back in 2010 I started my PhD with an emphasis on Private Theatricals in country houses, but that focus very quickly expanded. You could say that I got distracted. I was convinced that so little had survived to tell the story of amateur theatre in the period, that any material to have made it through the last two centuries relating to amateurs in any form would help to contextualise my rather niche field. The truth was that there was more evidence surviving than I could have imagined and seeing as much of it as possible hasn’t been light on my pockets or my time. I’ve taken over 24,000 images of materials relating to nineteenth century amateur theatricals in Britain, and have created a database of the thousands of performances that I now know to have taken place. This database continues to grow!

It’s safe to say that some colleagues were concerned by the increasing scope of my project and I was encouraged to narrow my focus. Others thought I was mad to have gathered so much material and yet not put pen to paper to start writing my thesis. I too was beginning to question it! But, luckily I knew that there was method to my madness. In doing all of this research, the innovation came from the good fortune of being able to take a holistic approach. By looking very broadly at the field, at the various forms of amateur theatre previously studied, and at many lesser know examples of amateur performance, I was able to fully explore their interconnections for the first time.

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Figure 1: Lady Monckton became famous as an ‘amateur’ society actress. She was the member of many of the leading amateur dramatic societies and was frequently invited to perform as part of amateur theatricals across the country. Lady Monckton is the perfect example of the ‘professional amateur’ I have uncovered during my research. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum.

The research has revealed a group of what I term ‘professional amateurs’, who were invited to country house parties, were performing in charity theatricals in the West End, and were connected to the Canterbury Old Stagers and Windsor Strollers – two of the country’s most elite amateur societies.[Figure 1] Many of the male ‘professional amateurs’ had performed at Eton, Harrow, Cambridge or Oxford together, had mingled together at the Garrick Club, and had been involved in theatricals onboard ships and at garrisons. The well-documented literary theatricals of Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray, which otherwise had been assigned to a literary culture, could very firmly be connected to this world of ‘professional amateurs’.[Figure 2] Thus, my research reveals a network of aristocratic and middle class men and women who formed what could be perceived as a national amateur theatre network, well before any formal organisations, such as the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (1899), had been founded in Britain.

This holistic view has done much more than revealing the interconnections between amateur theatrical forms in the period. It’s also exposed interconnections with amateur sports and amateur music making, consequently documenting the changing attitudes to labour and leisure time through the century. I’ve uncovered the macro – at least in Britain! – but this work could undoubtedly be extended to look at the profusion of materials across Europe, North America and the Empire.

Figure 2: The theatricals of Charles Dickens have thus been viewed in isolation as part of a literary culture. Instead, this research reveals the amateur theatricals of Dickens and his company to be part of the emergence of amateur dramatics more broadly. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum.

Figure 2: The theatricals of Charles Dickens have thus been viewed in isolation as part of a literary culture. Instead, this research reveals the amateur theatricals of Dickens and his company to be part of the emergence of amateur dramatics more broadly. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum.

Finally, by taking a step back I’ve also uncovered a distinct repertoire for amateur theatre in the period. This repertoire may be used to challenge our current understanding of the nineteenth century theatrical canon – a canon which presently upholds the notion that only professional theatre is worthy of study. Expelling the hierarches and binaries associated with ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ theatre when looking at the canon, and beyond, could provide fresh perspectives.

Through this research I’ve become acutely aware that our discipline is skewed to focus almost entirely on professional theatre. This skew may well have derived from our desire to unearth innovations in theatre history. We know far more about the innovative amateurs from the turn of the twentieth century – such as the Elizabethan Stage Society, the Independent Theatre Society and the latter’s continental forerunners – than we do of the everyday amateur.[Figure 3]  I feel proud to be part of a group of scholars, including Claire Cochrane, Helen Nicholson and her colleagues on the AHRC Funded Project Amateur Dramatics: Crafting Communities in Time and Place, who are taking an innovative approach by setting out to redress that imbalance!

Innovation and the Society for Theatre Research

When the STR was founded in 1948 the individuals who formed its first committee were innovative in applying academic rigor to a new field – Theatre Studies. Many of the same individuals had started to produce the journal Theatre Notebook in 1945 and saw the value in bringing those interested in theatre research together in a society. It was only in the previous year that Glynne Wickham had established the first university department to focus on theatre research in Britain, at the University of Bristol. The STR was undoubtedly at the forefront of this new and emerging field.

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Figure 3: A programme for the Elizabethan Stage Society’s production of Doctor Faustus produced by William Poel. The event took place at St. George’s Hall, a venue which was available to hire for amateurs and became a hub of upper-middle class amateur activity. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum.

On the STR’s website we can read of some of the organisation’s success stories. The STR played a crucial role in the twelve-year campaign for a dedicated Theatre Museum, which opened in Covent Garden in 1987 but sadly closed in 2007, with materials being transferred to the V&A’s Theatre Collections. The STR were also involved in the debates over the abolishment of the censorship of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, and fought for a clause to be written into the act which stated that the British Library would continue to be the repository for the script of every play given for public performance in Britain. The STR were also the driving force behind the establishment of an umbrella organisation for our discipline in 1957– the International Federation for Theatre Research.  In fact Eileen Cottis, one of the current Honorary Members of the STR’s Executive Committee, was at that meeting where IFTR was founded.

Some scholars would argue that the STR’s days as innovative are long gone. But perhaps the Society just doesn’t shout loud enough about its success stories anymore? Arguably, the STR’s continued commitment to support innovative writing and research is one of its greatest assets!

The STR’s annual Theatre Book Prize celebrates scholarship in British Theatre. Previous winners have included Michael Billington’s State of the Nation (Faber & Faber), Jim Davis and Victor Emeljanow’s Reflecting the Audience: London Theatregoing, 1840-1880 (Iowa University Press/ University of Hertfordshire Press) and Patrick Lonergan’s Theatre and Globalisation: Irish Drama in the Celtic Tiger Era (Palgrave Macmillan). The Society is also a firm believer in funding new and original research. Thousands of pounds are given away each year to support scholars, with past awardees including the NRN’s Kate Holmes, the V&A’s Simon Sladen, the University of Glasgow’s Prof. Dee Heddon, the University of Bristol’s Dr. Catherine Hindson, and the University of Manchester’s Dr Kate Dorney.

If this isn’t its greatest asset, then it’s surely the STR’s pledge to support new talent for the professional stage through the annual Poel Event? In recent years, this event has gone from strength to strength, with workshops being led by Jeannette Nelson (Head of Voice, National Theatre), Cicely Berry (former Voice Director for the RSC), and Sir Ian McKellen.

Alternatively, it would be the STR’s investment in new and emerging scholars through the New Researchers’ Network. The NRN has built up a regular membership since it was formed in February 2012, with new and returning members coming together for study days, workshops and symposiums to share expertise, skills, approaches and knowledge. The Teaching Theatre Practice workshop was a particular success story, as it provided valuable training for researchers with very little experience of teaching practice, who may need to adapt their teaching style as our discipline becomes more and more practice-centric.

From its inception the STR has been committed to innovation in our field. While it may not have had influence over an act of parliament in recent years, today it shows that commitment through funding and supporting innovative new writing, practice and research. It therefore seems fitting that the New Researchers’ Network is asking its membership to consider their relationship with innovation – essentially that dreaded Viva question – ‘What is your contribution to the field?’. I look forward to hearing everyone’s answer to that question at the NRN’s Annual Symposium in Bristol!

How do YOU consider your relationship with innovation and your research? What new discoveries have you made in your work? Write about it for our blog: contact Emer and Kate at nrn@str.org.uk to talk about your ideas! And once more, here’s another reminder to register for: the symposium on 6 July AND for the study day at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection on 5 July. The symposium hashtag is officially #NRN16. 

STR New Scholars Essay Prize Competition 2016

Following the success of the first three New Scholars Prize competitions, the Society for Theatre Research invites submissions for the 2016 competition. The competition is open to postgraduate students, academics with an institutional affiliation, and independent scholars, but not undergraduates. Entrance is restricted to scholars who have not had more than one article published in a refereed journal.

Entrants do not need to be members of the STR or to reside in the UK for an essay to be eligible for the competition, it must be aligned with the aims of the Society for Theatre Research and be concerned with the history and techniques of the British Theatre. The word ‘theatre’ may be interpreted widely to cover, for example, activities that go on in theatre buildings, theatrical activities outside theatres, professional and amateur theatre, the business of theatre, stage design, the history of theatre buildings, acting techniques, or theatre outside the British Isles that relates directly to the history and techniques of the British theatre.

Essays must not exceed 4000 words and must use the current version of the MLA guidelines on scholarly presentation.

The closing date for the submission of entries is 03 October 2016. Entrants must take great care to ensure that their essay does not allow them to be identified by their readers. Essays should be sent as an attachment to newscholarsprize@str.org.uk. In their covering email entrants should include a brief biography and a confirmation that they are eligible to submit an entry for the prize. Essays should not be offered to other journals while they are under consideration for the prize.

The essays will be judged by a panel of distinguished judges chaired by Professor Trevor R Griffiths. In order to facilitate the double-blind peer review process, the names of the other judges will not be released until the prizes have been awarded.

The prizes include a cash element, a subscription to the STR, a selection of STR books and the guarantee that the essay will be considered for inclusion by Theatre Notebook under its normal guidelines.

STR Lecture Series 2016: ‘Re-evaluating the Actresses’ Franchise League: Suffrage Theatre, Networks and Activism’

You are warmly invited to the next talk of the 2015-16 Society for Theatre Research annual lecture series, which takes place on Wednesday 13 April 2016 at 7.30pm at the Swedenborg Hall, 20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH.

DR NAOMI PAXTON will present ‘Re-evaluating the Actresses’ Franchise League: Suffrage Theatre, Networks and Activism’

The Actresses’ Franchise League was formed in 1908 by a group of theatre professionals keen to support the work of the suffrage societies. Neutral in regard to tactics, the variety of their work and contributions to the performative propaganda of the suffrage movement shows an organisation embracing new forms, new spaces, new ideas and new audiences. This lecture will explore the work of the Actresses’ Franchise League, the networks created by and through the League and the organisation after 1918, drawing on both suffrage and theatre histories to tell the story of suffragist actresses and actors and their political activism.

Dr Naomi Paxton is an actress, performer and researcher and has appeared in the West End and on tour in the UK and internationally. She has shared her passion for the work of the Actresses’ Franchise League at many events, including the National Theatre, Hay Festival and Latitude Festival and was one of the AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers for 2014-15. From 2015-16 she was Research Associate for the AHRC funded project Poor Theatres at the University of Manchester. Naomi edited The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays (Bloomsbury, 2013), is an Associate Artist of the feminist production hub Scary Little Girls and is currently Cultural Engagement Fellow at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

The talk will be livestreamed here: https://livestream.com/accounts/6741029/events/5156919

These events are free and open to everyone. For further information about the STR and events see the society’s website: http://www.str.org.uk/.

The University of Bristol Theatre Collection: ownership and the archive

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Evidence of the previous use of the University of Bristol Theatre Collection’s building as a printers.

Our latest blog post is by Kate Holmes, an STR NRN Committee member. She is in the third year of her PhD researching female aerial performers of the 1920s and early 1930s at the University of Exeter. She undertook her MA at the University of Bristol where she first developed her affection for the University of Bristol Theatre Collection. (You really should visit it!)

I’ll admit it, the title blog post is deliberately a little bit misleading. This isn’t a philosophical discussion inspired by a specific archive but is instead about my feelings of affection and ownership towards the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, an archive I first encountered during my MA at the University of Bristol.

There are a few things that make this archive special for me: it was my first (and you have to have a certain amount of affection for your first don’t you?); it was the place I developed an interest in theoretical archival concerns when working on Clare Thornton’s Unfurl artist-in-residence project, and practical archival concerns when employed by the Theatre Collection on a range of small projects from scoping materials to administrative and marketing support.

I can’t help but feel affection for this particular archive and just a little bit of ownership because of it. Part of that is because Unfurl gave me a chance to open boxes from the M&M Collection that hadn’t been opened for years before the Collection had been catalogued. (If you’re interested in reading about my thoughts on Unfurl, then this blog post for Theatre Bristol will tell you a bit more.) There are so many emotions that run through your body as you open a box and don’t know what you’re going to find. Carefully unpeeling the acid free paper is like unwrapping a present – just without the frenzy of ripping paper. What was special about this experience was the unusual situation of looking for something with an aesthetic rather than a research imperative – there is something liberating about that experience!

Affection is also a prevailing emotion because through working with this archive on an on-going basis I’ve been lucky enough to class these archivists as friends. Having worked both as a member of staff and a volunteer, I also know my way around the public reading room and back-stage in the stacks. For me, this archive is not a series of disembodied boxes, but is a series of rolling shelves and plan chests. Opposed to archives I visit as a guest, my home archive has a vast sense of physical space. I know where my archive boxes sleep.

Classing these archivists as friends also means I’m lucky enough to hear some of the discussions that go on about how best to make the huge variety of different materials available to researchers. (I’m only privy to a fraction of this, but I can promise you that it is fascinating!) And, that is something I really want to highlight, if you are interested in performance you would be unlucky not to find something of interest here. The University of Bristol Theatre Collection’s holdings range from live art and traditional theatre to my area of interest, popular culture and circus.

It is an archive that is interested in the many pasts of performance, including those that are more immediately passing, but it is also interested in inspiring new works. As part of Unfurl objects from the archive lived again through the moment of performance, acquiring new layers over the ones for which they were acquisitioned. Tinsel prints within the Collection inspired new creations that even included a tinsel print of Bradley Wiggins. For me, this is an archive that lives.

If you’re not aware of this particular archive, you should be.

BritGrad registration now open!

We’ll cut right to the chase with the most exciting news: registration for BritGrad 2016 is officially open! Now the long-form version: we’ve added two brand new pages to our website today – first, the 2016 Registration page and, second, a Dates and Deadlines page. Hopefully the latter will help answer any deadline-related questions you may have, […]

via The Moment You’ve All Been Waiting For… — BritGrad. June 2nd – 4th 2016.

Our friends at BritGrad, the annual graduate conference at the Shakespeare Institute (and chaired by our very own Ella Hawkins this year!) has opened registration for this year’s event. If you’ve already sent in your abstract, or if you plan to audit, check it out! It’s a very friendly, fun conference, and always worth going to. (Two of our committee members are already veterans at this stage…)

NRN Blog: Surviving Your Viva

 

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Nora Williams

We’re particularly delighted to feature a blog post from our own Chair (or Fearless Leader, take your pick), Nora Williams. Nora recently completed her PhD at the University of Exeter on the intersections between print and performance of Middleton and Rowley’s The Changeling — you can find out more here — and now she extols her wisdom on making the most of your viva experience…

 

5:30am. My fratboy of an upstairs neighbour is blending something, or Hoovering. I can never quite tell. Normally I’m not awake at this time to hear his shenanigans, or I’m able to shut them out fairly quickly. Today, it’s T-4.5 hours until my viva, and I’m wide awake on the other side of two vivid dreams: one in which it went well, and one in which it was a disaster. Guess which one is on replay?

Spoiler alert: it did go well! It was a great conversation, and I learned a lot. I got some great compliments, and some difficult questions, and some tough but fair criticism. I passed with minor corrections, which means I now have three months in which to address my examiners’ comments. Phew!

In this blog post, I’m offering my five top tips to survive and thrive in viva week.

  1. Think Big Picture

In re-reading my thesis for the first time, I got stuck in all of the detail. I misspelled W.B. Worthen’s name! They’re going to murder me! (They didn’t.) That reference is to the wrong page number! What’ll I do? (Fix it in corrections.) In my mock viva, however, my supervisors focused much more on the “meta” questions, as one of them put it. What are your research questions? What is your contribution to knowledge? Who are the key theorists you’re in dialogue with? What’s the most important thing you’ve done here? It’s hard to convince yourself of this when all you can see is the typo in your table of contents (true story), but the examiners care much more about the big stuff than they do about the little mistakes.

That doesn’t mean they won’t ask you about the details or that you shouldn’t present your thesis in the best possible condition. Rather, it’s a reminder that what’s really important in the room, on the day, is the quality of your research and your arguments—not the typos.

  1. Nothing Means Anything

The best advice I got from my mock viva came from my second supervisor and became my mantra in the week leading up to the viva: “nothing means anything”. If they keep you waiting forty minutes between viva and corrections/result, it doesn’t mean anything. They could be writing up the report. Or talking about old times. Or having a toilet break. Equally, if they call you back in really quickly, it doesn’t mean anything. Maybe they have kids to pick up from school, or trains to catch. If they ask you the same question six times, they could be probing for more detail, or they could be unhappy with your answer, or they could be looking for the publishing pitch—you just don’t know. My examiners asked for my supervisor to be present in the second half, when they were going through the corrections, so I thought for sure I had failed. I hadn’t; there was no correlation at all between my supervisor’s presence and the outcome of the viva. They just wanted to make sure I got all the info I needed—and sure enough, her notes are much more detailed than mine!

The mantra doesn’t stop you reading into every single detail of the day, but for me it became a kind of security blanket to default to. Say it with me now: nothing. means. anything.

  1. Be Kind to Yourself

I was really lucky in that my department offers a one-off seminar about viva prep for final-year PhD students (if your department has one, you should go!). One of the things that they really emphasised in that seminar was to look after yourself in the run up to the viva. So with 24 hours left to go, I gave myself strict instructions to work a full day and nothing more. I did roughly 9-5 prep, with a lunch break, and then cut myself off. I went home, cooked a comfort-food dinner, and FaceTimed with some of my best friends and my mom. I watched Gossip Girl on Netflix and tidied my bedroom. I made sure that all the clothes I wanted to wear and all the things I wanted to bring were ready to go. I tried to have a normal bedtime. I drank a lot of herbal tea with things like camomile and lavender and lime flower in it.

Preparing for a viva isn’t like cramming for an exam. You already know your material inside out and backwards. For this brief moment in time, you are the world-leading expert on your subject. Trust the work you’ve been doing for the past three or more years and let your brain have a break before the big day. Prep like you mean it, and then give yourself a rest.

  1. Lean on Your Support System

Ultimately, you’re the one who has to walk into that room and answer the questions, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need a little help getting to the door. If at all possible, I really recommend bringing along someone you trust to a) give you a hug before you walk into the room, b) look after anything you don’t want to bring with you, and c) be a friendly face in the space between the viva proper and the discussion about corrections that follows. I brought my flatmate, who was an absolute star and a support network unto herself. It was so reassuring to have someone to talk to during the waiting period, and to have someone to celebrate with immediately upon leaving the room with good news. Had things gone the other way, I would have really appreciated having her there as a shoulder to cry on, too.

Oh yeah, and have at least one someone ready to go the pub with you whatever the outcome!

  1. Try to Enjoy It!

This is one of those things that lots of people said to me ahead of my viva, and also one of those things I didn’t think was possible until I was doing it. The day will go by in a blur and you’ll have so many thoughts and feelings and ups and downs as events unfold. Try to take a step back every now and then and appreciate what a fantastic opportunity the viva is: people at the top of their game and at the top of your field have spent a great deal of time looking at and thinking about your work. And now they want to talk to you about it!

Bonus tip: big picture questions checklist

These come from notes taken during that viva prep seminar I mentioned earlier, and they were a really handy tool for me, particularly on the last prep day, when I needed an anchor to keep me focused:

  • What sparked my personal interest in this research topic?
  • What gap am I addressing in my research? What is my contribution to knowledge?
  • What is the value of my research to the field(s)?
  • What are my central research questions?
  • What is my methodology? How did it develop?
  • What is my central argument?
  • What have I deliberately left out?
  • What are my findings?
  • What are my most important literary sources?
  • What are key terms that I might need to clarify?
  • Which areas of my work are part of ongoing debates?
  • Why did I choose these case studies?
  • What are my conclusions?
  • How do I see this work developing? Where am I going next?

If you can answer these questions, then you’re going to be just fine! Good luck!

What advice would you give to PhD students on the process of completing your thesis? If you’d like to share your advice on the NRN blog, please email Emer and Kate at nrn@str.org.uk to discuss your ideas! 

 

Symposium CFP: Innovation in Performance History & Practice

DEADLINE EXTENDED! 

Call for Papers:

Third Annual Symposium:

Innovation in Performance History and Practice

Wednesday 6th July, 10.00am-6.00pm, University of Bristol

The STR New Researchers’ Network (NRN) is pleased to announce their third annual symposium, which will centre on the theme of Innovation in Performance History and Practice. The symposium will also feature a keynote address from Catherine Hindson (University of Bristol).

Innovation is what drives our work as researchers in the academy, and generating original contributions to knowledge is at the core of our development as scholars. As practitioners and performers, too, our work depends upon creativity and originality. For this reason the NRN symposium 2016 is devoted to ‘innovation’ and what it means to the field of performance. Now that the symposium is in its third year – and in the midst of the Decade of Centenaries as well as the marking of Shakespeare 400 – it is more important than ever to reflect on what innovation and change means in relation to theatrical and cultural institutions, or outside of them.

Performance innovates to be popular and relevant to its time, and this year’s symposium is interested in innovation in 21st century performance as well as in the past. The definition of live performance has changed in the last 15 years: innovative live art practices, cinematic presentations of theatrical works, and 3D projections now fall under this umbrella. What is perceived as innovative is also up for debate, with immersive practices, for example, seen either as ‘new’ or as part of a longer history that includes the Happenings in the 1960s. How have innovations shaped the way we think about performance and performance history/historiography today? How is innovative thinking about history important, especially in terms of minority/marginalised groups telling their stories? How can we credibly break with convention when teaching performance history by choosing not to teach the canon of white male practitioners such as Shakespeare and Stanislavski whilst retaining a credible curriculum? What innovative methodologies can we employ when researching performance? Moreover, how has theatre and performance studies as a field overall adapted to change?

With these contexts in mind, we invite proposals that may address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Changing definitions of performances and audiences;
  • Challenges to established canons or definitions of performance innovation;
  • The digital age and the future of the performance;
  • The historian or scholar as innovator;
  • Interdisciplinary creativity and industry collaborations;
  • Creative responses to issues such as budget cuts, casualisation, REF/TEF, EBacc, etc;
  • Applications of innovative performance practices in educational, social and community contexts.

The NRN Committee welcomes proposals from new scholars, postgraduates, and early career researchers, on any aspect of the conference theme, broadly interpreted. This year we will be accepting proposals for traditional, 15-minute papers as well as three-paper panels, performed and performative responses, and PechaKucha presentations. Abstracts of up to 300 words should be submitted to nrn@str.org.uk by FRIDAY 22nd APRIL.

Applicants will still be contacted by Friday 6th May. Please feel free to contact us at the email address above with queries at any time.

Please note that this symposium will be free for all STR members (you can receive the special discounted membership rate of £10 by attending the Symposium). There will be up to 5 bursaries available for University of Bristol students who volunteer as conference assistants. Email us on nrn@str.org.uk for more details.

This symposium is part of a series of events devoted to innovation run by the New Researchers’ Network this academic year. These include the Teaching Practice event, which encouraged innovation in performance pedagogy, and the V&A Study Day, where Senior Curator Simon Sladen explored how archives might respond to change.

STR Lecture Series: ‘The Development of Professional Stage Management’

The next talk of the 2015-16 Society for Theatre Research annual lecture series takes place on Thursday 10 March 2016 at 7.30pm at the Swedenborg Hall, 20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH.

DR TRACY CATTELL will present ‘THE DEVELOPMENT OF PROFESSIONAL STAGE MANAGEMENT’

Primary evidence from the earliest theatre-based companies in Britain indicates that ever since there have been professional theatres, there has been professionalstage management.  This lecture will explore the development of professional stage management in this country by considering primary sources that demonstrate its progression since the late sixteenth century, drawing on the earliest surviving prompt copies to reveal how the first theatre-based companies were supported in their performances by an infrastructure that is recognisabletoday as stage management.

Dr Tracy Cattell is a professional Deputy Stage Manager whose experience ranges from subsidised repertory and theatre-in-education to opera and daily repertoire, in which genre she continues to practise on a freelance basis.  She undertook her doctorate at the University of Warwick and has a particular research interest in the development of cued performance.  She lectures on the practical staging of Shakespeare, contemporary and historical stage management practice, and the interpretation of promptbook annotations, and enjoys sharing her research and professional heritage with professionals in training.  She is a member of the Theatre History & Historiography Working Group of the Theatre and Performance Research Association, and the Society for Theatre Research’s New Researchers’ Network.

If you are unable to attend in person, the lecture will be live streamed and can be accessed at: https://livestream.com/accounts/6741029/events/4906757

Forthcoming talk for your diary:

• Wednesday 13 April: Dr Naomi Paxton, ‘Re-evaluating the Actresses’ Franchise League: Suffrage Theatre, Networks and Activism’

These events are free and open to everyone. They commence at 7.30pm in the Swedenborg Hall, Holborn. For further details see the STR’s website: http://www.str.org.uk/.