REGISTRATION IS OPEN! And Elizabeth Schafer’s plenary title and abstract!

Happy Monday, everyone! We’re delighted to announce that registration for #NRNMarkingTime is now OPEN!

You can register here via Eventbrite.

Attendance at the symposium is free. Lunch can be provided for attendees for a fee of £4.50, payable on the day of the event. Please indicate on the registration form if you would like us to provide lunch for you, and if you have any dietary requirements!

We’re also delighted to share Professor Elizabeth Schafer’s plenary title and abstract ahead of #NRNMarkingTime. See below, and get excited!

‘Slipping Through My Fingers’: Adventures in Marking Time

In 1999 Mamma Mia repositioned ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ – Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson’s lament for the passing of time – and brought that song to new audiences. The potential layering of time in this song’s new manifestation(s) will be explored alongside the impact of Mamma Mia in enabling Phyllida Lloyd’s anachronistic, all women Shakespeares. Early modern theatre practices that attempt to mitigate against time ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ such as Caroline playwright Richard Brome scoring his play texts for readers; Ben Jonson’s invention of – ; contrast with the creative anachronism of Shakespeare’s Romans who wear doublets (or women’s prison boilersuits) and who demonstrate some of the pleasures of historically intercultural performance.

Stay tuned for more details about the symposium soon…

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Elizabeth Schafer confirmed as plenary speaker for #NRNMarkingTime!

We’re absolutely delighted to confirm that Professor Elizabeth Schafer will be our plenary speaker for Marking Time next month.

Elizabeth Schafer is Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London, and has published widely on ideas surrounding the impact of culture on the meaning of drama – particularly in relation to Shakespeare. You can read more about her extensive work here.

We’re thrilled that she’ll be joining us at Roehampton in June. And we also encourage you to submit an abstract sharpish — our deadline closes today!

CFP: 4th Annual NRN Symposium, ‘Marking Time’

The Society for Theatre Research

New Researchers’ Network

Fourth Annual Symposium

Marking Time

21st June 2017

University of Roehampton 

The Society for Theatre Research’s (STR) New Researchers’ Network (NRN) is delighted to announce their fourth annual symposium, which will centre on the theme of Marking Time within performance, research, and our lives.

Time is a significant factor in everything we do. We organise our lives by dividing time into measurable units (seconds, minutes, hours, days, years), and remain constantly aware of its passing as we grow older. The societal desire to mark time also results in a culture of commemoration: prominent events and figures from the past are memorialised through anniversaries, and many organisations exist to further historical legacies.

How is time represented in contemporary and/or historical performance, and how does an awareness of time’s passing impact upon research methodologies? To what extent does our real and imagined relationship with the past impact upon contemporary culture?

Areas of interest might include (but are not limited to):

  • The significance of anniversaries and commemoration culture (i.e. Shakespeare 400, the Easter Rising centenary, and the ongoing commemoration of WWI)
  • The marking of time through space, movement, and live art
  • Popular performance and construction of legacies (i.e. Hamilton)
  • Constructing the passage of time in performance
  • Issues of marking time in methodologies in theatre and performance studies
  • Histories of theatre companies, theatre buildings, and theatre collectives
  • Genealogies of performance
  • Period dress and reconstruction; the desire to replicate obsolete theatrical and cultural practices
  • Constructing (and performing) the theatre archive
  • Time as a social construct; how we perform notions of time in our everyday lives
  • Performance that responds to critical moments in national/international history and culture (i.e. Brexit, the recent US election, the Iraq War, the Leveson Inquiry)

The NRN welcomes abstracts (maximum 250 words) for 20-minute conference presentations or creative responses that relate to the symposium theme. Abstract submissions should be directed to the NRN Committee at nrn@str.org.uk; the deadline for submissions is 23:59 GMT on Monday 22nd May. Applicants will be notified of the results by Friday 26th May. For any further details, please don’t hesitate to contact the NRN via email: nrn@str.org.uk

Apply for a STR Research Award!

STR Research Awards

Deadline: 17th March 2017

Every year the Society of Theatre Research awards pots of money to support continuing research into all aspects of British theatre. Find out more about the awards below and make sure you apply if you are eligible!

Who can apply?

Anyone who is engaging in a research project that is substantially concerned with the history, historiography, art, or practice of British theatre can apply. Previous award winners have included PhD students, early career researchers, researchers unaffiliated with a university, professors, and groups of researchers working on a larger project. There are no restrictions imposed on the status or nationality of applicants, or on the location of the proposed research. Awards are not given for MA study, but if the project is unrelated to the degree then it may be considered.

In which subject areas?

The topic of the research must be concerned with an aspect of British theatre, but the society is interested in all forms such as music hall, opera, dance, circus, pantomime and other forms and crafts of performance. Previous awards have been given for a diverse variety of topics from a study of Scottish medieval theatre, to a study of disabled circus aerialists in Canada, to research into ethnic minority actors in Shakespeare. In the past, awards have also contributed towards research that involves a practical or performance element, as well as to research projects that investigate theatre’s relationship to other media.

For what, and how much?

A sum in the region of £5000 will be available in total. This will comprise of one or two awards of up to £1000 named after benefactors to the society as well as smaller awards in the range of £100-£500.

In your application you will need to specify the intended purpose for the award. In the past, awards have been given for research trips and their associated costs, for digitisation projects, for costs related to translation or transcription, for the creation of video installations, and for setting up and running research seminars. Awards have also been given for costs related to the dissemination of research such as for publisher’s subvention, for production costs for practice-led research, and for the development of an online database of performance. You will need to provide an itemised budget in the application form (even if it is estimated).

What do I need to do to apply?

To read more about the specific awards and to download the application form visit the STR website [http://www.str.org.uk/research/awards/index.html]. The application form [which you can also access here: awards_2017 (1)] will ask you to describe your project, the purpose of the award within the project, your qualifications, circumstances (including other sources of funding), and the details of two referees. Send this form to awards@str.org.uk before the 17th March 2017. Good luck!

A part time PhD: With a little help from my (full time) friends …

clairereadClose NRN friend, Claire Read, tells us about her experience of feeling more at home as a part-time PhD student. Claire (Roehampton) is concerned with the use of technology, specifically live streaming, as altering the relationship between performance and documentation. Her research looks at the media work of Katie Mitchell as well as the development of NT Live. Claire has published with the International Journal of Performance Art and Digital Media and has contributed a co-authored chapter in Documenting Performance: The Context and Processes of Digital Curation and Archiving, Ed. Toni Sant (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama – forthcoming). She is a member of TaPRA and was a committee member for the STR’s New Researcher’s Network between 2014-2016. Claire is currently an Associate at the University of Surrey.

I’m not saying I speak for everyone, but I find it weird thing going to a conference and speaking with others who work full time on their thesis. I feel out of it, like an imposter who attends and ‘plays’ at being an academic for a weekend. Upon leaving the conference, any thoughts or inspirations are soon extinguished as I return to my day job, envious of those who can pounce on new found ideas and keep the conversations going. It’s even more peculiar attending events as a lone student – being part time and working I’m rarely on campus and so don’t really have a group of ‘PhD friends’. So trying to integrate with not just another researcher, but a circle of researchers and established friends, makes the task of meeting all the more difficult. Over the years I have had to force myself to ‘network’: an expression and concept I hate, probably because I feel so out of any network that I’m ashamed that I’m trying to gatecrash.

A few things happened over the last few years to help. (As a part time researcher another thing that makes my work separate to others is that the project is on a very slow burn. The amount of people I have seen start and finish their PhD in the time I’ve taken to write a few chapters is astonishing; inevitable, but astonishing. So yes, it has been years). Joining SCUDD seemed like such a simple thing to do but really helped. Getting emails from academics makes me feel part of the world even when I’ve been tying karate belts for the last hour (one of my day jobs). There are other mailing lists as well pertinent to my research that hone the sometimes random calls from SCUDD. Joining TaPRA and the mailing list for my working group was another great move and was the first time I made ‘PhD friends’. When the call for an interim event came I gladly applied. As the TaPRA interim events are usually only a day its easier to finance with no funding (that’s why I’m part time, after all). They’re also quite intimate, and a good place to foster relationships ahead of the annual conference.

The other thing that really helped was joining the NRN, and being part of the committee (although it must sound like a shameful plug, as I’m now blogging for them, the following is absolutely true). Live streaming lectures for the STR forced me to talk to established academics and I was previously very scared to do this, mainly as I had so little experience. (I once responded to a question about my ‘area’ with ‘Bracknell’. I am the walking facepalm emoji). Joining also had the advantage of ‘ready made friends’ – even last week I started talking to a friend of a committee member. Finding a way in to talking takes away the apprehension of starting a conversation and makes networking feel like friend making, and that’s what I really miss as a part time postgrad.

There are good things that come with part time study. Even though your time is precious in balancing research around other jobs (at one point last year I had four occupations and not enough boxes to list them all on my tax form), I get time to consider my research and see it grow. I can also afford time to be a committee member, in addition to joining a network. I can be a member of SCUDD rather than a SCUDD digester. In a way this sets me up for a life in academia. From what I can gather there isn’t always room for collegiality in the working environment due to time constraints and being pulled at from every direction. Maybe in this way being part time and having to juggle responsibilities is a nice dress rehearsal.

I don’t think there’s a magic way to get through a PhD regardless of whether you engage as a full time or part time student. I am still a little jealous of the full time (and funded students) as the collegiality seems built right in, although perhaps this is just me thinking that the grass is always greener. I know that the stress levels are right up there. But these are elevated by good working relationships, so if you are lucky enough to have ‘academic friends’, or people who now you just call your ‘friends’, cherish them. They may be your colleagues in future, helping you out with form filling and admin tasks or even co-authoring chapters and books, but they’ve been through something with you and more than that, they made your path a bit easier. And please remember that if you see a random person at a conference they will appreciate you taking the time to speak with them and make them feel less lonely. It was lovely people like that who made this part time student a full time friend. (They’ll disown me for being so sickly sweet though, I’m sure).


Do you think your experience of making your research work might be helpful to others? Take a look at our CFP and get in touch.

What next? Life After the PhD

Acatia FinbowHere at the NRN, we’re very lucky to have great members who write for our blog and attend our events. The lovely Acatia Finbow has combined two of those things by writing about our latest event. Acatia is a third year Collaborative Doctoral Award student at the University of Exeter and Tate. She was attached to the two-year AHRC-funded research project ‘Performance at Tate: Into the Space of Art’ (2014-2016), which included generating case studies around both historic and contemporary performance works taking place across the spaces of the museum, which have now been published online. Her own research considers the value of performance documentation in the contemporary art museum, and she is particularly interested in generating new models for documenting works institutionally. Her other research interests include institutional documentation practices, mapping documentation, audiences as documenters, and the similarities and differences in attitudes towards documentation in theatre and visual art spaces.

The ways of academia have often felt like a bit of a mystery to me. From learning how to reference properly in the first couple of weeks of my undergraduate degree to a recent training session in my third year of my PhD about what the Viva actually involves, my experience of the world of academia has been a series of slow revelations. One particular mystery which has been haunting me for some time now, is how to break into the world of paid academic work. In short: how to get a job.

I went straight through from A-levels to my Master’s degree, meaning that when I finished at Leeds in 2013, I had never had what my parents would call ‘a proper job’. After my MA, I tried in vain to get jobs, paid internships, unpaid internships, work experience, in the museums and galleries sector, and eventually ended up working in a commercial art and craft gallery in Cambridge, after the sheer luck of handing my CV in at the desk when I was passing by. Now, coming rapidly to the end of my PhD and three years of very gratefully received AHRC funding, I find myself in the same position: where do I go from here?

This is why I jumped at the chance to attend the STR NRN’s ‘What Next? Life after The PhD’ at the University of Birmingham on the 11th February. Having the chance to hear about the actual experience of people who had gone through this process of moving into their field professionally, and being able to ask them the burning questions I’d been sitting on for a while, seemed like a perfect opportunity.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed. From Kirsty Sedgman’s frank and empowering keynote which addressed the difficulties of finding full times posts, and the uncomfortable but necessary task of branding yourself as a researcher, to the individual stories we heard from those who were in their first University roles, up to established Professors, there was a refreshing honesty from everyone involved. Professor Graham Saunders’ assertion that the work really gets done in the bar at conferences, and Naomi Paxton’s encouragement to stick our fingers in as many pies, and pie-shaped things, as possible will be two pieces of advice which really stick with me. Jumping in, accepting opportunities, creating your own chances, and being persistent but realistic were all threads which ran through the panels, and will resonate with me in the following months, as I try to apply this advice to my impending job hunt.

CV surgery

Working on CVs during the CV Surgery, (c) Ella Hawkins

The two practical elements to the day – a mock interview for a job at the ‘University of West Pluto’, and a CV surgery session – added a sense of real grounding to these conversations. My own mock interview, conducted by Dr Sarah Olive, forced me to confront the way I describe the research I do, and to be honest about the gaps in my CV. Her feedback was really practical, useful advice, and I’ll certainly make use of it in actual interviews in the future. The CV session was another process of demystifying, laying out clearly what is expected of an academic CV, but also being open about the flexibility of how that is presented, how to bring in non-academic experience, and acknowledging that different departments will require different information.

Overall, ‘What Next?’ was not a day designed to convince us all that we’re going to be able to walk into well-paid academic jobs the moment the Viva is done. Rather, it was about empowering PhD students and early career researchers to go into the process with open eyes, and an even more open mind, to allow us to understand the intricacies of the systems we will be up against (and perhaps, one day, in) and to recognise opportunities which might fall outside of our expectations of what an academic job is. I, for one, am feeling galvanised: it won’t be easy, but it can be done!


If you’d like to contribute to this blog, take a look at our call for contributions and get in touch!

Tough Love: Tips on Getting Your Application Right

headshotIn anticipation of our upcoming Employability Event we asked Prof Kate Newey to give us the benefit of her experience shortlisting candidates for jobs. What we got was a combination of practical and strategic advice that we think you’d be silly to ignore!

…be ready to hear it like it is…

 

CVs – the basics

Layout, layout, layout. Make it clear and easy to get the main facts from a CV quickly. Jobs I’ve been on the selection committees for have up to 100 applications – there are some areas (eg Eng Lit) where this is doubled. If we have to hunt for information in your application, it’s not necessarily a good thing for you! If the information is unclear, or ambiguous, ditto. And I start to wonder what you’re trying to hide…

On the other hand, no whizzy showy stuff to “stand out” in that pile of 100. I can live without pictures on a CV too. We don’t need to know what you look like (Sorry <grin>).

What will stand out is a clean, professional, sensible knowledgeable CV with a clear straightforward application letter.

Always order things from the most recent to the most historic ie backwards.

Be judicious about what you include. We don’t really need to know your hobbies or your non-academic employment UNLESS you want to refer to it in your cover letter for a specific this-job-related reason. EG voluntary work is lovely, but only mention it if you’re doing such work in an area relevant to the job for which you’re applying. But I really don’t need to know that you enjoy reading (I should hope you do in this business!) or fell-walking in your job application. If you’re invited to interview, we can have a great talk about that over lunch. But don’t waste your space or my time on such stuff in your job application.

Resist, resist, really resist the urge to inflate your CV. Please.

You really don’t need to have more than you’d be expected to have in relation to your ‘career age.’ The problem with CV inflation is that you think you have to have all this stuff for a job application, but we might make a less than positive comparison between what you write and what we know to be the case: for example, book reviews are book reviews, not publications in the same way that a refereed journal article is a publication.

Just be straightforward about articles out for review: say that you’ve submitted an essay for X journal, and are awaiting readers’ reports. In the first couple of years post-PhD, we’re looking for a research trajectory, which means that you need to show you know what you’re doing & the direction you’re going in, and that you’re taking practical, concrete steps to get there eg you’re preparing a book proposal adapted or drawn from your PhD (important to show you know that your PhD is rarely publishable in its raw form!) and have submitted/about to submit to XYZ publisher. Be ready to talk about why that publisher in interview. Basically, any claim you make in your CV, be prepared to discuss in interview.

Personally I don’t like the Twitter-like biogs at the top of a CV for an academic job: just stick to the utilitarian basics.

Ditto for the summary such as “I am a highly motivated self-directed individual, able to work on multi-disciplinary project.” That sort of guff. This is for your cover letter, and needs to backed up by concrete evidence/examples. For non-academic jobs, such statements are required & useful, but for an academic job, we all know what the job is; your distinctiveness is going to be in your CV, which represents the mix of your experience so far.

Cover letters, proposals etc

Again, remember that your application or proposal is going to be one of many. So keep things clean, clear, and try to be helpful in your submissions – in that you should adhere to any directions given you about layout or word length and so on.

Simple stuff such as: if you’re submitting an electronic document, name each document with your name & what it is not just randomly “Exeter application”.

Instead, label it clearly <YOURNAME_Grant proposal Exeter 2017>

Think about what information you would need and in what order if you were managing say, 20 applications for the same thing. You’d want to be able to sort & save the documents by applicant probably.

I always prefer MSWord, rather than a PDF but check about format for sending something. Usually, if you’re asked for several parts eg Proposal, summary, and CV it makes sense to put it all in one document (as above, think of the recipient, managing 20 or a 100 such documents), each section of the document separated by a page break.

It’s all just digital good manners.

Cover letters for jobs

Be straightforward and clear, and get to the point of what you offer to the post.

Give us a one or two sentence summary of your PhD research, and what was original. Then tell us how this is relevant to a broader field. And show us/explain to us how what you’re an expert in will add to, complement, enable collaboration, challenge the students etc etc in the Department you’re aiming to join.

Think beyond your PhD. It changed your life, but your PhD won’t change the world – it’s just the start.

To be really tough on this point: when I’m chatting to ECRs informally, and even more so when I’m interviewing them for jobs, I do tend to find those who can’t look beyond their own nose – see beyond their PhD topic – can be rather <ahem> boring and a bit self-absorbed, and I do wonder what sort of a collegial sharing generous person they’re likely to be. Ditto people who are arrogant about their work, or secretive. You should be able to talk to colleagues about your work in an open, non-jargonistic way; indeed, you need to be able to explain your research to your colleagues, and enthuse your colleagues about it. One way of doing this is to have a built-in response to the “So what?” question – excite them about how your work opens up broader issues, or whatever, and so on.

It’s important because it’s a good way to conduct your professional life – it’s a good ethic to share and to engage, and to collaborate. But on a more pragmatic note, if I have concerns about your arrogance or the narrowness of research enquiry, from the way you share or don’t share in writing and in person, I’m going to probe and prod & push you in interview. Or if I can’t see, in your CV and your research forward planning, that you’re aware of the level of team work and collegiality needed as an academic, and the openness & breadth needed as a teacher, then I may not push for you to be shortlisted. With 60 or 100 candidates, we’re looking for reasons not to shortlist as much as to shortlist.

Take your work seriously, by all means, but don’t take yourself too seriously. I think if you approach it like that, you’ll find your balance.

And if you’re a man, you’ll probably have to work a bit harder at this, because you’re socialised since birth to feel self-important and necessarily of interest to others without having to try too much; it’s as well to try to be self-aware about that socialisation. Gender politics are real, and you can’t rely on the advantages of institutional sexism for very much longer. (And women, note that I am deliberately phrasing this in terms of male advantage rather than female disadvantage.)

Kate Newey

<aka the Grumpy Professor>

________________________

Kate Newey is Professor of Theatre History at Exeter. She has been a Head of Department for three different University Drama Departments (Lancaster, Birmingham, and Exeter), and has sat on appointments committees from Teaching Fellows to Professorial and other senior appointments. She is currently Director of Research for Drama at Exeter, and has led on the last 3 REF/RAE submissions for her department (2001, 2008, 2014). She was a member of the AHRC Peer Review Panel from its inception, and is a founding committee member of the British Association for Victorian Studies, and the Theatre and Performance Research Association. She was a judge for the Society for Theatre Research Theatre Book Awards (2008) and sits on the STR Research Awards sub-committee. She has taught in English and Drama Departments in Australia and the UK, and is an expert in the literature and popular culture of the nineteenth century and has published widely on Victorian theatre and women’s writing, including the books Lives of Shakespearean Actors: Fanny Kemble (editor, 2010), John Ruskin and the Victorian Theatre (with Jeffrey Richards, 2010), Ruskin, the Theatre, and Victorian Visual Culture (co-editor, 2009), Women’s Theatre Writing in Victorian Britain (2005), and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1993). She was co-editor of Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film from 2005-2015, and led the AHRC-funded project ‘A Cultural History of English Pantomime, 1837-1901,’ 2009-2012.