Performers Jo Shapland and Philip Zarrilli in 'Told by the Wind'

Outstanding award for drama

A major American prize for books on theatre practice has been awarded to an Exeter drama academic.

Professional theatre director and actor, Philip Zarrilli’s book Psychophysical Acting: An intercultural approach after Stanislavski’ had been selected among 40 titles submitted for the 2010 ‘Outstanding Book of the Year Award’ by the Association of Theatre in Higher Education.

Zarrilli takes an intercultural approach to his reconsideration of contemporary acting. Over his 30 plus year career, Zarrilli has immersed himself in the practical study of a variety of non-Western performance practices. He lived in Kerala, India for seven years where he became the first non-Indian master of the Indian yoga-based martial art, kalarippayattu, which he uses along with yoga and Chinese Wu-style taiqiquan to train professional and student actors at the University of Exeter. Zarrilli’s unique approach to training actors throughout the world is described and theorized in the book. It also features five case studies of various type of productions to which Zarrilli has applied his system of actor training. 

An integral feature of the book is Peter Hulton’s audio visual DVD-Rom where training exercises and their application to performance are explained and shown in mini clips. One member of the selection committee summarized the importance of Zarrilli’s new book it ‘absolutely should-and-will influence how acting is taught and written about.’

Philip Zarrilli said of the success, ‘It is fantastic to have such validation of my life’s work by colleagues in the field of theatre. The approach I’m using to theatre practice in the book will get wider recognition through the award.’

Zarrilli’s most recent professional production, ‘Told by the Wind’ draws directly on the approach to acting described in his book, and will be performed at the Exeter Phoenix on 11 – 12 October at 8pm.  Co-created with Kaite O’Reilly and Jo Shapland, ‘Told by the Wind’ garnered a glowing 4 star review in The Guardian which described the production as ‘...hypnotic...a haunting painterly beauty...[with] the astringent purity of a haiku poem...intense meditation in movement...the performers have a remarkable presence.’ The performance has minimal, fragmentary text, and draws upon East Asian aesthetics to explore an alternative mode of time, space, and place. Co-creator Kaite O’Reilly is an honorary research fellow at Exeter, and Jo Shapland received her MFA degree in Theatre Practice at Exeter several years ago.

Zarrilli was awarded funding for 'Told by the Wind' by both the Arts Council of Wales and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

‘Told by the Wind’ previewed at the Evora, Portugal festival in 2009, premiered at Chapter Arts Centre for an initial two week run in January, 2010, was performed at Tanzfabrik (Berlin) in 2010. It has also been invited for performances at the Grotowski Institute in Wroclow, Poland 22-23 October, and in Chicago during May, 2011 as part of the Chicago Theatre Symposium.

Date: 10 October 2010

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