Practice-as-Research Panel

Practice-as-Research Panel

Reflecting on Practice as Research: A decade of playful experimentation, Dr Scott Palmer

This session will focus on the use of playful experimentation as research methodology revisiting work undertaken from 2004 (in collaboration with Prof. Sita Popat, undergraduate & postgraduate students and external industry partners KMA). The presentation will outline how an open-ended workshop within a theatre context led through iterative cycles of practice-research to a number of high-profile public outputs and ultimately to an Impact Case study for REF2014.

The session will also introduce current work linked to Leeds Institute of Teaching Excellence (LITE) Creativity and the Mobile Phone project in collaboration with students and researchers at University of Miami where the smartphone offers new possibilities for exploring performance documentation, relational performance and audience experience through the use of 360VR technologies and techniques. (There will be an opportunity to experience this individually at the end of the session.)

Dr Scott Palmer is a University of Leeds Excellence & Innovation Fellow and Lecturer in Scenography in the School of Performance & Cultural Industries. His teaching and research focus on new ways of thinking about light as a creative performance practice, immersive theatrical environments and the interaction between technology and performance. Publications include the monograph Light: Readings in Theatre Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and Scenography Expanded: An Introduction to Contemporary Performance Design co-edited with Dr Joslin McKinney (Bloomsbury Methuen 2017). He has recently contributed a chapter examining historical notions of theatrical darkness in Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre (Methuen Engage 2017). He was co-convenor of the International Federation of Theatre Research (IFTR) Scenography Working Group (2013-16), an executive member of the Association of Lighting Designers, associate editor of the Routledge Theatre and Performance Design journal and co-editor of the new Bloomsbury Performance + Design book series. His research has contributed to the scenography of DV8 Physical Theatre’s internationally acclaimed To Be Straight With You (2007-9) and the realisation of Phoenix Dance & NVA’s Ghost Peloton (Yorkshire Festival 2014).

Dramaturgy: bridging artistic practice and Practice-as-Research, Dr Kara McKechnie

[…] dramaturgy and dramaturges often worked, in this respect, as bridge and bridgebuilders: they are, after all, halfway between theory and practice, between thinking and doing. (Kerkhoven 1994:12) 

This paper constitutes an enquiry into dramaturgy as artistic practice in theatre and opera, and its relationship with Practice-as-Research (PaR). Its aims are

  • to consider current trends and impulses within the fields of dramaturgy and PaR
  • to discuss the relationship between these two fields in principle. Under which circumstances can the practice of dramaturgy, located in between research and practice, also be PaR?
  • to illustrate the discussion through findings from production dramaturgy on L’histoire du soldat (Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, April 2017) and Flood (Hull, City of Culture, throughout 2017).

What constitutes dramaturgical practice? It can be defined as research which is undertaken for conversion into production-related practice. PaR addresses research through practice, or practices towards a resolution (Haseman, Nelson et al). The key question is whether dramaturgy is or can be PaR. Is dramaturgy PaR by default, or do dramaturgical practice and PaR share some common ground, but are not identical? What is dramaturgical practice in relation to PaR – is it the practice which takes place during a production process (where a conceptual framework is addressed and realised through practice) – or is it the outcome of the practice, i.e. the production itself?

Existing research throws into focus the differences between practicing dramaturgy as part of a tailored research project, often in HE institutions or in an industry context, raising questions around collaboration, control and tailored research methods.

Dr Kara McKechnie is Lecturer in Dramaturgy at the University of Leeds and founding member of NORN (Northern Opera Research Network) with Prof Rachel Cowgill and Prof Sarah Hibberd. The inaugural conference Operatic Immersions took place at the Universities of Leeds and Huddersfield in 2016.  Apart from advancing the pedagogy of dramaturgy and its professional and academic contexts, Kara regularly works with Leeds-based company Opera North in various dramaturgical functions, e.g. a series of Inside Opera events accompanying The Ring of the Nibelung tour in 2016. She has also published a monograph, Historical and Dramaturgical Practice on Opera Studies, applied to the work of Opera North (Emerald Publishing, 2014). In 2017, she has collaborated with director Alessandro Talevi on Stravinsky’s  L’histoire du soldat (Maggio Musicale, Florence, 2017) and Leeds-based company SlungLow (Flood, Parts 2-4).