Professor Phillip Zarrilli

Research through practice

Zarrilli has been recipient of numerous grants/fellowships, including Guggenheim, Fulbright, Humanities, SSRC, and AIIS awards while in the US. More recent grants in the UK supporting his artistic practice and practice-led research as Principal Investigator include:

Told by the Wind

Produced by The Llanarth Group (2009-10), Told by the Wind was co-created as a practice-led research project exploring intercultural theatre processes/aesthetics by Zarrilli (PI/actor/director) with Kaite O’Reilly (playwright), and Jo Shapland (performer) with input from Dr. Mari Boyd (Japanese theatre specialist, Sophia University, Tokyo) and Peader Kirk (London). The project explored East Asian principles/beginning points for creating an alternative dramaturgy and performance aesthetic without reproducing in any way East Asian performance styles:

  1. the dramaturgy of “phantasmal” noh dramas with female transformation scenes;
  2. the aesthetic principles of yugen informing Japanese noh;
  3. principles and qualities of “quiet theatre” exemplified in Ōta Shōgo’s dramas of “living silence”.

Told by the Wind follow-on funding: Following on from the original practice-led production project, ACW funding (£5,000) supported a second co-created production--The Echo Chamber (Chapter Arts Centre, 5 performances, January/February, 2012)—with co-creators Kaite O’Reilly, Ian Morgan, and Peader Kirk.

Continuing this exploration of East-Asian aesthetic principles is a third planned exchange/collaboration taking place between 2013-2015. Wales Arts International and DAIWA have provided funding totaling £10,500 for an initial exchange/interaction between Phillip Zarrilli and Okamura Yojiro, Artistic Director, AMI Theatre (Tokyo) which will include performances of Told by the Wind in Tokyo, performances by AMI theatre, exchange of work techniques, and beginning work on collaboration toward a future production in 2014-15. This future production will be the third performance in the ‘East-Asia inspired’ trilogy of performances that began with Told by the Wind.

The Beckett Project

The Beckett Project began in 1995 as a collaboration between UK-based director and actor-trainer, Phillip Zarrilli and American actress, Patricia Boyette. The project applies a psychophysical approach to the unique demands that Beckett’s theatrical minimalism make on the actor’s stamina and awareness by providing intensive training in Asian martial arts and yoga. In addition, Boyette and Zarrilli have regularly consulted with Billie Whitelaw, a close collaborator of Beckett’s throughout his lifetime, and originator of a number of his female roles.

The Beckett Project opened at the Grove Theater Center, Los Angeles, in 2000 with Ohio Impromptu, Not I, Act Without Words I, and Rockaby. The evening won critical acclaim, including two major greater Los Angeles area theatre awards. T.H.McCulloh of the L.A. Times said the productions were ‘like faintly recalled dream fragments, the images are subjective…spellbinding…presented with style and fire.’ Paul Hodgins of the Orange County Register described the evening as ‘spare, elliptical…the theatrical equivalent of Japanese Noh theatre…unexpectedly terrifying.’ In 2001 The Beckett Project briefly toured the UK with performances at the Leicester Haymarket, Charter Theatre (Preston), Exeter Phoenix, Cochran Theatre (London), the Beckett Festival (Cork), and Chapter Arts Centre (Cardiff).

A second major staging of The Beckett Project took place at the Granary Theatre, Cork (Ireland) in 2004. Joining Zarrilli and Boyette in Cork were five Ireland-based actors who underwent an intensive five week training and rehearsal process that culminated in performances of the four original productions, plus three additional plays--Eh Joe, Footfalls and Play. The expanded Beckett Project provided a unique opportunity to see seven of Beckett’s plays organized into two programmes of approximately two hours each.
Programme #1 Ohio Impromptu, Play, and Eh Joe
Programme #2 Not I, Footfalls, Act Without Words I, and Rockaby.

In 2006 the original programme of four plays was performed in the United States, again to critical acclaim.

A DVD-video with selected excerpts of ROCKABY, NOT I, ACT WITHOUT WORDS I, and OHIO IMPROMPTU is available on request.

As part of this research, Zarrilli organised the symposium 'Beckett in Performance' at the Malta Arts Festival in 2012.



“…presented with style and fire…Like faintly recalled dream fragments, [the] images are often spellbinding. They insinuate themselves into the viewer's mind and heart...”
--T.H.McCullugh, L.A. Times (2000)

“Spare, eliptical…unexpectedly terrifying…Each play demands absolute mastery of vocal and muscle control, not to mention the stamina and strength of an athlete. Fortunately, Boyette…[and] Zarrilli…know exactly what they’re doing. Their consummate success with this daunting material transforms The Beckett Project from a curiosity into one of the don't­miss events of the…theater season...’
--Paul Hodgins, Orange Co Register (2000)


“striking…intensely focused and resonant performances…a remarkable combination of vocal discipline, emotional depth, and intelligence.”
-- Anna McMullan, Irish Theatre Magazine (2004)

“…the images on stage linger in the mind and some of the more resonant lines remain etched in memory…one never tires of Boyette’s rich, sensitive and almost hypnotic voice… Saturday night’s audience…gave THE BECKETT PROJECT a standing ovation.”
--Collette Sheridan, Irish Examiner (2004)

“…stunning performances…”
--Jerri Daboo, Total Theatre Magazine (2004)


“Stylistically enigmatic and spare […] surprisingly moving, tender and poetic […] glacial slowness acquires an acutely intense effect.”
-- Luc Allen, Isthmus (2006)


Rockaby 1
Rockaby 2
Act Without Words I (1)
Act Without Words I (2)
Act Without Words I (3)
Act Without Words I (4)
Act Without Words I (5)
Act Without Words I (6)
Act Without Words I (7)
Act Without Words I (8)
Not I (1)
Not I (2)
Not I (3)
Not I (4)
Not I (5)
Ohio Impromptu (1)
Ohio Impromptu (2)


Phillip Zarrilli is internationally known for training actors through Asian martial arts and yoga, and as a director. He is especially noted for his work on Beckett. In 1999 he moved to the UK where he established The Llanarth Group and a private studio (Tyn-y-parc CVN Kalari/Studio) in Wales. The Llanarth Group brings together international artistic collaborators all of whom have worked with Zarrilli in training through psychophysical process. The Beckett Project is one example of this international work.
Zarrilli has taught workshops throughout the world for Gardzienice Theatre Association (Poland), the National Theatre of Greece, Passe Partout (Netherlands), Seoul International Theatre Festival, International Workshop Festival (London), Centre for Performance Research (Wales), the Korean National Academy of the Arts (Seoul), the National School of Drama (New Delhi), TTRP (Singapore), Tainan Jen Theatre Company (Taiwan), the Centre of Studies on Jerzy Grotowski (Wroclaw, Poland), Esalen Institute (USA), among many others. Other recent directing includes: Speaking Stones (text by Kaite O’Reilly) with Theatre Asou (Graz, Austria, 2002; English premiere: Grotowski Centre, Wroclaw, Poland, 2003); The Dance of the Drunkun Monks with Sangalpam Dance Company, U.K. (all-UK tour included the Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 2003); Walking Naked with Gitanjali Kolanad (2000-present: has toured internationally including India, Korea, USA, Canada, UK); Ota Shogo’s The Water Station for TTRP at The Esplinade, Singapore (September, 2004); and The Maids (Die Zoffen) with Theatre Asou in Austria (September, 2005); The Flowering Tree with Gitanjali Kolanad (October, 2006, USA).
Zarrilli’s books on acting include (editor) Acting Reconsidered (2nd edition, Routledge: 2002), and (editor) Asian Martial Arts in Actor Training (Madison, 1993). He is currently writing a new book/DVD-Rom on his approach to acting through psychophysical process: The Psychophysical Actor at Work: a post-Stanislavskian Approach’ (Routledge, forthcoming).

Patricia Boyette has played major roles on stages throughout the United States including the American Conservatory Theatre, The California Actors Theatre, The Magic Theatre, the Eureka Theatre and the Michigan Ensemble Theatre, among many others. Patricia worked with Tennessee Williams, being personally cast in the West Coast premiere of his Two Character Play and as Laura in The Glass Menagerie. She has performed extensively at the Grove Theatre, Center, Los Angeles, and won critical acclaim for her recent performance of Sally Talley in Talley’s Folly. Other recent roles include Gertrude in Hamlet and Elvira Condornine in Blithe Spirit. She won critical praise from the Los Angeles press, and Orange County’s ‘best actress’ award for her performances of Not I and Rockaby. Her most recent performance was as Home Body in Tony Kushner’s Home Body Kabul. In addition to continuing her acting career, Patricia is Head of Acting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.