- Course: MA Performance Design
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I have practiced as a scenographer for the last 27 years since graduating with a BA in Theatre Design. I have worked with a wide variety of companies, primarily small to mid-scale, both designing and making sets, props and costumes. Over the last few years I have become interested in collaborating with other theatre disciplines as a way of making work, often facilitated by the use of materials and objects as a way of generating creativity.
What made you want to apply to your MA course and to Leeds?
I was particularly drawn to the MA in Performance Design at University of Leeds because it encompasses all parts of theatre-making, not just set and costume, and this fits with my collaborative approach. I also welcomed the opportunity to explore new technology and contemporary performance practices to inform my own work. In addition, my practice has been mostly based in Yorkshire, and studying in Leeds allowed me to develop my professional contacts.
What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?
I am passionate about performance design because it allows us to explore what it is to be a human in the world. Through theatre we can do many things; we can tell stories, scrutinize ideas, explain concepts or challenge perceptions. We can also provoke wonder and create magic.
What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?
Everything about the MA in Performance Design is inspiring. I found that the theoretical side of study opened my eyes to all the amazing work that is happening around the world, and also gave an intellectual framework with which to analyse and discuss the work. On the practical side, the time and space to experiment and explore offered by the course has contributed hugely to the development of my practice. Being given the opportunity to design and carry out my own research project has allowed me to think more deeply about what direction my work will take in the future, and explore in more depth the theoretical basis for my ideas.
What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?
The School of Performance and Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds has excellent facilities to support the development of student’s work. Access to performance and rehearsal spaces, equipment and materials allowed me to try out ideas and learn new skills. This was enhanced by the wonderful technical staff who are always on hand to offer help and advice.
Did you work closely with a particular tutor or member or the University’s academic staff? Tell us about that experience.
The staff on the MA Performance Design course have a wide range of knowledge and experience to pass on. Having been practicing designers, they are able to offer an insight into the practical aspects of the subject which compliments the academic perspective they are able to give. I found all the staff to be extremely supportive and encouraging, with an understanding of the issues of balancing study and work that I encountered as a part time student.
What do you plan to do when you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?
When I have finished the MA in performance design, I am hoping to go on to do a PhD. During my MA study I have developed my academic and writing skills, and gained valuable experience of research methods.
As well as further academic study, I am enthusiastic about developing my own practice into areas I hadn’t previously considered. My study has provided me with the language to enable me to discuss my ideas with others, and to communicate the concepts behind my work.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?
To anyone thinking of applying for the MA in Performance Design, I would say that it is invaluable in giving designers a theoretical basis for the work they do, and providing a wide-ranging knowledge of contemporary practice. It is a space to grow and develop ideas in a supportive and inspiring atmosphere.