Dr Bryan Brown
I joined the staff at Exeter from Los Angeles where I was deeply engaged with the contemporary performance scene. With Olya Petrakova, I created ARTEL (American Russian Theatre Ensemble Laboratory), a company committed to the creation of our own training and devising processes, and a performance incubation house called Schkapf, a name we created from Russian words meaning essentially a ‘cabinet of curious performances’. Clearly Russia is central to my research concerns. Besides the rich artistic and intellectual history of the culture, I am interested in the use of distance to create perceptual shifts. Thus performer training, ensemble creation and historical reassessment are all areas of current research. As are conceptions and histories of laboratory theatre and laboratory discourse itself.
I received my PhD from the University of Leeds. My thesis, and its reiteration in the monograph A History of the Theatre Laboratory has been called “the first honest effort in clearly defining the phenomenon of the laboratory, creating the history of the theatre laboratory, and relating it to other arts, and to science”.
I have been a collaborator with the Laboratory Theatre Network organised by the Centre for Performance Research, and funded by the Leverhulme Trust. I have also worked as dramaturge and organisational consultant for the international physical theatre laboratory Studio Matejka and on the production of O Réjane with UNESCO-recognized Awake Projects.
The main areas of my research today include:
- Performer Training with a particular emphasis on psychophysical coordination of body, image, and self
- Pedagogy of Performer Training
- Clown and the Fool as instigators of wonder
- Ensemble Creation
- Devising Processes
- Laboratory Studies
- Scenographic Practice and Audience Experience
- Craft and Perception
I am always keen to supervise new research projects in my areas of specialty, and particularly invite proposals for practice research that expands understandings of training for performance and/or ensemble or collective creation processes. I would also welcome historical projects on pedagogies for performance training or projects focused on training places, such as Dartington, the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, Hellarau, Institute of Applied Theatre Studies Geissen, Lecoq, Black Mountain College, etc. Interested applicants might wish to send me a 500-1000 word outline and CV as a starting point for discussion.
I am currently supervising two practice research projects: Howard Gayton's "The Esoteric Art of Commedia: making new British verse theatre" and Francesco Bentivegna's "The human-cyborg dialogue: an experiential perspective on theatre and synthetic voice" (second supervisor).
Research through practice
Through my company ARTEL, I have a substantial practice-research base in the histories and creation of performer training and performance processes. Currently we are collaborating with Animal Cracker Conspiracy on a devised performance inspired by Anthony Pogorelsky’s “The Black Hen”. Seed money for this project was provided by a NET/TEN travel grant from the Network of Ensemble Theatres, supported by lead funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The initial stages of the work were developed at the O'Neill Theater Center's National Puppetry Conference. Further funding has been given in the form of a Workshop grant and Production grant from the Henson Foundation. Beyond continual research into training and devising processes, this project furthers my interests in the mixture of alchemical and laboratory discourses, emergent properties, and collaboration with the more-than-human world.
External impact and engagement
Building upon my years of work in Los Angeles, I am currently on the advisory board of a new performance making space in Exeter called Maketank: https://www.maketank.org.uk
From my practice research, I have been working with the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center for the last two years to develop stronger international collaborations between our institutions. In so doing, I organised a public panel at RAMM entitled "Investing in the Arts & Culture" which provided the space for five very different panelists to offer short provocations on the current funding structures in UK and USA and how artists and communities value cultural work. I am also in the process of assisting the O'Neill in preserving and cataloguing their archive with a future view towards animating it through performative interventions.
Contribution to discipline
Devising a Playground: ARTEL’s Strategies for Embodying Research and Text (2016) is part of larger article I am developing on the training and devising practices of ARTEL.
Enter into a Larger System: The Actor-Creator Pedagogy of Nikolai Demidov (2016) is a reflective review of a masterclass and seminar by Andrei Malaev-Babel on recovering the legacy and practice of Nikolai Demidov. This was held at Exeter University.
Practical Guide for Emergent Exchange (2015) as part of the Network of Ensemble Theatre's growing Shareback Library was the beginning of "The Black Hen Society" and a new research project on collaboration.
I co-wrote a review of the Laboratory Theatre Network's concluding conference (2015) for the Los Angeles online arts & culture space Stage Raw: One Hundred Years Of Fortitude: A long-view case for laboratory theater in L.A.
- DRA2007 - Theatre Practice II: Interpretative Acting
- DRA2064 - Performance and Interpretation
- DRA2067 - Staging The Text
- DRA3087 - Working Together: Performer Training for Collective Creation
- DRA3094 - Theatre Dissertation