Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

Influences, Institutions and Outcomes: A Survey of Masters and Doctoral Theses on Actor Training in Australia, 1979-2004

Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

Influences, Institutions and Outcomes: A Survey of Masters and Doctoral Theses on Actor Training in Australia, 1979-2004

Article excerpt

This survey provides a summary of some of the research into actor training in Australia - and the disciplinary, industrial and political issues that inform it - that has come out of the work of Higher Degree Research candidates at Australian universities in the past three decades. The survey has been conducted as part of a broader project that looks at the power relationships that operate in the discursive field of training, rehearsal and performance, and this informs its focus and methodology. It is included in this issue of Australasian Drama Studies on lineages, training, techniques and traditions on the premise that a survey of Higher Degree Research theses1 addressing the area may provide useful insight into these lineages, and the ways in which they have been understood by a range of different researchers.

The criterion for selecting the theses has been straightforward; the survey considers only those theses that deal with actor training broadly defined, and deal with Australia or Australian practices in some dimension of their study in other words, theses that speak in some way to Australian approaches, be they personal or collective, private or public.2 I have not looked at theses that deal with training in dance or other bodily disciplines, at theses defined as studies of writing, directing or other dramatic processes, or at theses that address a theatre-in-education authence.3 Moreover, I have tried to limit the scope of the survey to theses submitted for the award of Masters or Doctorate, though valuable work has been done by students in prior phases of their research careers, and there is one occasion where I have included an Honours thesis that resonates strongly with work done at Masters and Doctoral level. The survey covers 1979-2004, a chronology determined by the documents identified in the databases I will shortly describe. I do not discuss work currently in progress, which does not appear in these databases, and which may shift in its focus and contributions by the time examination is finalised and it becomes publicly available.

The theses included in the survey have been identified through a search of the National Library of Australia's Libraries Australia database,4 which draws from the catalogues at all Australian tertiary institutions, and the Australasian Digital Theses (ADT) database,5 to which the majority of Australian universities now belong. Search terms included 'drama', 'theatre', 'performance', 'training', 'devising', 'improvisation', 'mask', 'mime' and 'clown', along with names of prominent practitioners like Stanislavski, Lecoq, Suzuki and Barba. These databases were selected because they are a reasonably comprehensive source of cataloguing information. This said, I do not by any means want to suggest these search mechanisms have been exhaustive, both because of the expanse of terminology by which theses in this area may have been described, and because of the extent to which training and performance metaphors have been adopted in other disciplines. The other limitation on the research has been with regard to theses identified across Australia, and different institutional policies on document delivery mean I still need to point to one case where I have not been able to sight the thesis itself. Difficulties in this regard have, however, been to some degree mitigated by the promise the ADT database has shown for remedying this situation for researchers embarking on similar undertakings in future.

As a final point before I turn to the survey itself, I would like to make it clear that the purpose of this research has not been to provide an original or exhaustive description of the theses,6 or a critical examination of their success regarding their research aims. The survey has, rather, been approached as a means of providing a resource which lists work, locates it within loose thematic threads, and flags one or two occasions where work has been done outside Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies departments. …

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