Image: Katerina Kotti

Michael Chekhov in the Twenty First Century: New Pathways

Click here to access a full project report: New Pathways Short Project Report

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, the University of Kent, the professional organisation Michael Chekhov UK and The Chekhov Collective. The lead researchers are Dr Cass Fleming (Goldsmiths, University of London, MCUK, TCC) and Dr Tom Cornford (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and MCUK).

New Pathways Symposium 2016 Session: Devising and Catalyst Direction. Image: Katerina Kotti
New Pathways Symposium 2016 Session: Devising and Catalyst Direction. Image: Katerina Kotti

This long-term project started 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), edited by Dr Cass Fleming and Dr Tom Cornford.

New Pathways Symposium 2016. Image: Katerina Kotti
New Pathways Symposium 2016. Image: Katerina Kotti

The genesis of this project was an exchange, and subsequent series of edited interviews, within 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)[1].

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 were some useful preliminary explorations of other uses of Chekhov Technique but we felt strongly that this needed to be taken further and into new areas. 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 UK.

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The Chekhov Collective performing in 2016. Image: Katerina Kotti

The central research question we posed in this project was: 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?
This was then investigated further in six strands:

  • Devised Theatre and Catalyst Direction
  • Collaborative Writing
  • Theatre Design
  • Voice and Singing
  • Movement Training and Dance
  • Community Contexts, Drama Therapy, Psychotherapy and Health Contexts

Each strand of the project drew on the rich archival materials held on the work of the Chekhov Theatre Studio at Dartingon Hall.

New Pathways Symposium 2016: Engaging with the Archive. Image: Katerina Kotti
New Pathways Symposium 2016: Engaging with the Archive. Image: Katerina Kotti

A related aim of the project was to extend and diversify the existing Chekhov community by outreaching to new groups of practitioners from different disciplines.  Consequently the project was designed to offer completely free and inclusive events to a range of practitioners who had little, or no, prior experience of Chekhov Technique.  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 currently included in training and provision in their sectors.

New Pathways Symposium 2016 Session: Chekhov Technique in Therapeutic Contexts. Image: Katerina Kotti
New Pathways Symposium 2016 Session: Chekhov Technique in Therapeutic Contexts. Image: Katerina Kotti

 

New Pathways Events

Various outreach activities and events took place between 2013 and 2016. These included:

    • Workshop in Chekhov Technique for Catalyst Direction at National Theatre Studio (2013), led by Cass Fleming.
    • Launch of The Chekhov Collective, Goldsmiths, University of London (2013- Ongoing). The Collective explored archival materials through sustained ensemble practice over three years, and continues its work beyond the new Pathways project (more information here).
    • Workshop series exploring Chekhov with Linklater Technique for Voice, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and Actors Centre (2014-15), led by Daron Oram and Sinead Rushe.
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Chekhov and Linklater Workshop led by Daron Oram and Sinéad Rushe, RCSSD. Image: Matther Churcher.

 

    • Practice-as-research performance: Demons, adapted from Dostoyevsky’s novel, University of York (2015). Dr Tom Cornford and Dr Hannah Davies carried out extensive practice-as-research on Chekhov Technique for Collaborative Writing.
Demons, a collaborative writing project developed by Dr Tom Cornford and Dr Hannah Davies (Playwright). Image: Timothy Kelly
Demons, a collaborative writing project developed by Dr Tom Cornford and Dr Hannah Davies (Playwright). Image: Timothy Kelly
    • Presentation of interim findings at Performance Research Forum Dis-Play [24], Goldsmiths College (2015). Fleming, Cornford and Mitchell, with five actor-devisers from The Chekhov Collective.
    • Workshops and Talks for the Director’s Programme at the Young Vic Theatre (2016). Run by Fleming, Mitchell and the Chekhov Collective, these popular events with emerging directors will be followed up by a Masterclass in 2018.

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    • Practice-as-Research performances: The Little Prince, Queen Mary (June 2016), and Goldsmiths, University of London (September 2016). The Chekhov Collective presented their practice-as-research, using archival materials and working with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince as a stimulus.
The Chekhov Collective exploring The Little Prince. Image: Katerina Kotti
The Chekhov Collective exploring The Little Prince. Image: Katerina Kotti

 

Final Event: New Pathways Praxis Symposium, held at Goldsmiths, University of London in September 2016 

For this culmination of the research project we were delighted to host over 120 participants from a wide variety of fields at a three-day praxis-symposium. The event included:

  • Chekhov Technique for Devised Theatre and Catalyst Direction – Dr Cass Fleming (Goldsmiths University of London), Dr Roanna Mitchell (University of Kent) and members of The Chekhov Collective
  • Chekhov Technique for Collaborative Writing –Dr Tom Cornford (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama)
  • Chekhov Technique for Theatre Design –Sinéad Rushe and Aldonna Cunningham (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama)
  • Chekhov Technique in the Community, Drama Therapy, Psychotherapy and other Psychotherapeutic and health contexts – led by Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey (Queen Mary University of London), Martin Sharp (MCUK) and Zoe Brooks (Bazooka Arts)
  • Chekhov Technique for Voice Training and Singing – led by Daron Oram (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama), with Christina Gutenhunst (E15) and John Gillett
  • Chekhov Technique for Movement Training for Actors and Dancers – led by Dr Roanna Mitchell (University of Ken) and Juliet Chambers (Guildford School of Acting)
  • Chekhov Technique for Non Actors – Graham Dixon (Michael Chekhov Studio London/MCUK) and Julia Krynke (MCUK).
  • Research and Development PaR Event – Dr Cass Fleming and The Chekhov Collective presented R&D material on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince drawing on archival materials. Dr Tom Cornford presented on his collaboration with playwright Dr Hannah Davies that led to their performance of Demons, in response to Chekhov’s original adaptation.
  • Academic Auditors – Professor Franc Chamberlian (University of Hudderfield) and Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey (Queen Mary University of London)
  • Plenary – Chaired by Dr Cass Fleming (Goldsmiths University of London)
  • Short Papers – Zoe Brooks (Bazooka Arts), Dr Roanna Mitchell (University of Kent) and Ulrich Meyer-Horsch (Michael Chekhov Europe/MICHA)
  • Cross Currents International Exchange – Chaired by Gretchen Egolf (MCUK/MICHA) with MICHA faculty including Joanna Merlin and Ragnar Friedank in the USA and Marjolein Baars in Holland.

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Future research and events

  • Publication of Michael Chekhov Technique in the Twenty First Century: New Pathways (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama 2018), edited by Dr Cass Fleming and Dr Tom Cornford (2018)
  • A follow up impact survey with participants of the various events.
  • The Chekhov Collective led by Dr Cass Fleming at Goldsmiths will be offering a new series of events for 2018. See here for details.
  • Friday 5th January 2018: Dr Roanna Mitchell and The Chekhov Collective will be working with Juliet Chambers and the Labanarium to run a further research and exploration session on the dialogue between Chekhov Technique and Laban’s approach. Book here.
  • Daron Oram will be developing further workshops for voice teachers.
  • A future project on our work on Chekhov Technique in the Community, Drama Therapy, Psychotherapy and other Psychotherapeutic and health contexts.
  • Continuing to grow and diversify the New Pathways Network in the UK.
  • Continuing to nurture our relationship with international colleagues.

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

Impact and cross fertilisation
Our project design and methodological approach to Practice-as-Research has in turn inspired various other projects since 2013 and we hope that it will add to the development of this field of research, professional and academic practice. 

We will be holding a public book launch in 2018 and we hope that many old, and brand new, members will join us.

Image: Katerina Kotti
Image: Katerina Kotti

 

Research team

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

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), Martin Sharp (MCUK); Daron Oram (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama) and the practitioners involved in the two New Pathways Research and Training Groups.

 

[1] ‘The Michael Chekhov Centre UK Past, Present and Future: An Inter-Generational Dialogue,’ an edited selection of interviews with Sarah Kane, Graham Dixon and Martin Sharp by Tom Cornford, Cass Fleming and Sinéad Rushe in Franc Chamberlain and Andrey Kirillov (eds), ‘Michael Chekhov in the C21st: New Sources, New Contexts, New Perspectives,’ Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, Special Issue 4.2, Routledge, 2013.

 

Image: Katerina Kotti
Image: Katerina Kotti

 

 This project was a partnership between

Michael Chekhov UK

The Chekhov Collective

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            Unknown

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         Kent

An association of artists working with Michael Chekhov's approach to performance