Groundwork: place-based integrative actor training in a fluctuating world
Lewis, Robert and Harris, L and Grant, S and Sweeney, D and Dowdeswell, S, Groundwork: place-based integrative actor training in a fluctuating world, Theatre Dance and Performance Training, 12, (3) pp. 358-369. ISSN 1944-3927 (2021) [Refereed Article]
Acting and performance programs are shifting to respond to the variety of professional areas they serve. In this article, the authors discuss their integrative practice actor training based in 'groundwork'. While attempting to address a global demand for greater intercultural exchange and new technologies, how do Australian acting institutions move forward and provide students with relevant, contemporary training methods that respond to these demands? While original methods like Frederick Alexander's technique have found their place internationally during the 20th Century, it is foreign methodologies that dominate Australian actor training institutions. Robert Lewis, Dominique Sweeney and Samantha Dowdeswell embrace Australian voices, bodies, imaginations and creativity in the Charles Sturt University Acting and Performance course. Wiradjuri elders, as advisors in appreciating country, provide the foundation to develop an integrative pedagogy we are developing fusing non-Western practices like the Suzuki Method of Actor Training (SMAT) with original training aesthetics. Traditional Aboriginal theatre practitioners of the northwest of Australia refer to the gut as the connection to country. In actor training gut-like intelligence, centre or core, is regularly used when training performers to be present and responsive to the text, action and acting partners. The pathway to connect to country, through stomping or shuffling feet, is part of Aboriginal and Tadashi Suzuki's training, where the significance placed on the 'centre', and where the core plays an integral part of connecting self to place. The integrative actor training program at Charles Sturt University gives actors power and ownership of their work located in place. In this article, we discuss how our diverse backgrounds use 'groundwork' to anchor actors in an ever-changing world. Integrative practices looks to a conversation developing a synergy between the complementary and contradictory ideas in fluctuating and constant traditions; ancient and contemporary systems as we are grounded in country.