Participants charting 'objective atmosphere' in a devised theatre making praxis symposium with Dr Cass Fleming. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Participants charting 'objective atmosphere' in a devised theatre making praxis symposium with Dr Cass Fleming. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

MICHAEL CHEKHOV IN THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY: NEW PATHWAYS

New Pathways is a major multi-institutional research project that involves Goldsmiths, University of London, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Queen Mary University of London, and the professional organisation Michael Chekhov UK (www.michaelchekhov.org.uk). 

Lead Researchers:    Dr Cass Fleming (Goldsmiths, University of London and MCUK)
                                    Dr Tom Cornford (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and MCUK) 

Dr Tom Cornford and writers.  Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Dr Tom Cornford and writers.  Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Dr Katja Hilevaara and Dr Cass Fleming with directors and devised theatre makers. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Dr Katja Hilevaara and Dr Cass Fleming with directors and devised theatre makers. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

This long-term project was initiated by Dr Cass Fleming, Dr Tom Cornford and MCUK in 2013 and culminated with a series of Research Events at Goldsmiths, University of London in September 2016.  The outcomes of the project will be discussed in the forthcoming publication Michael Chekhov Technique in the Twenty First Century: New Pathways (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama 2018), written by Dr Cass Fleming and Dr Tom Cornford and contributing authors.

Research team: Graham Dixon (MCUK), Gretchen Egolf (MCUK) Sarah Kane (MCUK), Julia Krynke (MCUK), Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey (Queen Mary, University of London), Dr Roanna Mitchell (University of Kent), Sinéad Rushe (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London and MCUK), Martin Sharp (MCUK); Daron Oram (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama) and the practitioners involved in The Chekhov Collective based at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Contributors to the September Events: Marjolein Baars (Holland), Zoe Brooks (Scotland), Professor Franc Chamberlain (UK), Juliet Chambers (UK), Aldonna Cunnigham (UK), Ragnar Friedank (USA), John Gillett (UK), Christina Gutenhunst (UK), Joanna Merlin (USA) and Ulrich Meyer-Horsch (Germany).

 

WHY? 

Since the late 1980s interest in Michael Chekhov’s (1891-1955) Technique has grown rapidly in the UK and has been recognized for its innovation and accessibility. Exploration of Chekhov’s imaginative techniques has primarily been limited to acting and actor training practice in the twentieth century.  There had been some useful preliminary explorations of other uses of Chekhov Technique but this needed to be taken further.  This innovative project brought together professional practitioners and scholars from different disciplines to investigate new uses of Chekhov’s techniques both within and beyond the theatre in the twenty first century.  

The genesis of this project was an intergenerational exchange, and subsequent series of edited interviews, within the Michael Chekhov UK about the work in this field and how we could explore new pathways for this practice in the future (Cornford, Fleming and Rushe, 2013).  

 

Participant viewing selection of archival materials. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Participant viewing selection of archival materials. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

WHAT?

How can Chekhov’s techniques be used in contexts other than actor training designed for the interpretation of existing dramatic literature in a 21st Century context?

Each strand of the project has drawn on the rich archival materials held on the work of the Chekhov Theatre Studio at Dartingon Hall and has explored how it could be used in new and innovative ways in relation to different practices in the twenty-first century. 

To do this we brought together a group of disparate scholars, researchers, therapists, clinicians, social/applied practitioners, theatre practitioners, designers and pedagogues to explore, interrogate and valorize Chekhov’s work in a twenty first century context.

The key areas that this project addressed were:

  • Chekhov Technique for Devised Theatre and Catalyst Direction - led by Dr Cass Fleming, Dr Roanna Mitchell and members of The Chekhov Collective
  • Chekhov Technique for Collaborative Writing - led by Dr Tom Cornford
  • Chekhov Technique for Theatre Design - led by Sinead Rushe and Aldonna Cunningham
  • Chekhov Technique in the Community, Drama Therapy, Psychotherapy and other Psychotherapeutic and Health contexts - led by Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey, Martin Sharp and Zoe Brooks
  • Chekhov Technique for Voice Training and Singing - led by Daron Oram, John Gillet and Christina Gutenkunst
  • Chekhov Technique for Movement Training for Actors and Dancers - led by Dr Roanna Mitchell and Juliet Chambers

An additional overarching aim of the project was to extend and diversify the existing Chekhov community both in the UK and internationally.  The project was designed to offer completely free and inclusive events to a range of participants who had little, or no, prior experience of Chekhov Technique. 

 

HOW?

Early Outreach and Research Events

In 2013 Dr Cass Fleming was invited to run a workshop on Chekhov Technique for Catalyst Direction at the National Theatre Studio and this formed the first round of outreach for her strand of the research project. 

Later that year Dr Cass Fleming launched The Chekhov Collective at Goldsmiths, University of London, to carry out the preliminary experiments related to this project and from 2014 it has undertaken work on the practice-based research strand of this project exploring the use of the technique in relation to Devised Theatre Making and Catalyst Directing.  This has led to the development of the practice-as-research work on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince

In November 2015 Dr Cass Fleming, Dr Tom Cornford, Dr Roanna Mitchell and five actor-devisers from The Chekhov Collective gave a paper on two strands of the New Pathways Project at Performance Research Forum Dis-Play [24] at Goldsmiths College.

Demons, a collaborative writing project developed by Dr Tom Cornford and Dr Hanna Davies (playwright). Photo by Timothy Kelly.

Demons, a collaborative writing project developed by Dr Tom Cornford and Dr Hanna Davies (playwright). Photo by Timothy Kelly.

Dr Tom Cornford and Dr Hannah Davies also undertook practice-as-research relating to their strand of the Research Project in 2015, which led to Demons, adapted from Dostoyevsky’s novel and performed at the University of York. 

Daron Oram and Sinéad Rushe led a series of workshops exploring the actors' presence using their blend of Chekhov and Linklater Technique for Voice at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and The Actors' Centre (2015-2016).

Chekhov and Linklater Workshop led by Daron Oram and Sinéad Rushe, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Photo by Matther Churcher. 

Chekhov and Linklater Workshop led by Daron Oram and Sinéad Rushe, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Photo by Matther Churcher. 

Chekhov and Linklater Workshop led by Daron Oram and Sinéad Rushe, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Photo by Matther Churcher. 

Chekhov and Linklater Workshop led by Daron Oram and Sinéad Rushe, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Photo by Matther Churcher. 

In the spring of 2016 Dr Cass Fleming, Dr Roanna Mitchell and The Chekhov Collective were asked to present a paper ‘Chekhov Technique for Devised Theatre Making and Catalyst Directing’ to a large group of Directors as part of the Genesis Project at the Young Vic Theatre.  This was followed by a very successful workshop for Directors later in the year led by the same team.  This work will be followed up with a Masterclass in 2017. 

Members of The Chekhov Collective with directors from the Young Vic Genesis Project. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Members of The Chekhov Collective with directors from the Young Vic Genesis Project. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

In the summer of 2016 The Chekhov Collective presented their practice-as-research, using archival materials and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince as a stimulus, as a public Scratch at Queen Mary University of London in June and a Work-in-Progress at Goldsmiths in late July. 

Phoebe Naughton and Dr Roanna Mitchell. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Phoebe Naughton and Dr Roanna Mitchell. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

 
Sian Clarke, Thomas Bostock and Alistair Foylan. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Sian Clarke, Thomas Bostock and Alistair Foylan. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

National and International Research Events – September 2016

The project culminated with a series of Research Events hosted at Goldsmiths in September 2016 for over 120 participants from the UK and other parts of the world that included:

  • A workshop in Chekhov Technique for Non-Actors
  • Two Research and Development Performances
  • A series of six Praxis-Symposia sessions on the key areas
  • Feedback from Academic Auditors
  • A series of short papers
  • A plenary
  • An international Skype exchange with practitioners in other parts of the world

Dr Caoimahe McAvinchy at the plenary. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Dr Caoimahe McAvinchy at the plenary. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Dr Roanna Mitchell and Juliet Chambers with participants. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Dr Roanna Mitchell and Juliet Chambers with participants.
Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Martin Sharp and Zoe Brooks with participants. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Martin Sharp and Zoe Brooks with participants. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Ulrich Meyer-Horsch and Gretchen Egolf with participants.  Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Ulrich Meyer-Horsch and Gretchen Egolf with participants. 
Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Participants

The various events were designed for practitioners from different fields who were either completely new to Chekhov Technique or have had only a limited opportunity to work with them in the past. These events enabled participants from different fields, for example therapists, theatre designers or teachers of voice, to try a methodology that was new to them and not included in training and provision in their sectors. 

Zoe Brooks, Graham Dixon, Chris Wise and Julia Krynke in conversation with participants. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Zoe Brooks, Graham Dixon, Chris Wise and Julia Krynke in conversation with participants. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Gretchen Egolf and Professor Franc Chamberlain participating in praxis symposium for writers. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Gretchen Egolf and Professor Franc Chamberlain participating in praxis symposium for writers. Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Sinéad Rushe leading praxis symposium for theatre designers.  Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Sinéad Rushe leading praxis symposium for theatre designers. 
Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Darom Oram leading praxis symposium for voice practitioners.  Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Darom Oram leading praxis symposium for voice practitioners. 
Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Participants in devising praxis symposium. Photo by Katerina Kotti. 

Participants in devising praxis symposium. Photo by Katerina Kotti. 

Participant in voice practitioner praxis symposium. Photo by Katerina Kotti. 

Participant in voice practitioner praxis symposium. Photo by Katerina Kotti. 

Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Photo by Katerina Kotti.

WHAT NOW?

We are delighted to report that the New Pathways Network has indeed grown and diversified the Chekhov community, and we are grateful to all the participants for their vibrant and creative contributions to the project.

The research team had hoped that the series of research events and experiments would identify new research questions for future development with our national and international partners and this has been the case.  

In addition to the forthcoming project report (spring 2017) and publication of the book (2018) we will also be further developing our work on a number of the strands explored.  This will include:

  • A future project on our work on Chekhov Technique in the Community, Drama Therapy, Psychotherapy and other Psychotherapeutic and Health context
  • The Chekhov Collective have been invited to develop the R&D material on The Little Prince for a full run in London venue
  • The Chekhov Collective will return to deliver a Masterclass for the Young Vic Theatre Genesis Programme in 2017
  • We will also be continuing to grow and diversify the New Pathways Network in the future. 

To join the New Pathways Network please email us at chekhov.new.pathways@gmail.com with your name, your area of practice, your related company/institution, your email address and telephone number. 

Photo by Katerina Kotti.

Photo by Katerina Kotti.