Josephine Christensen – Rehearsing with the Michael Chekhov Technique during the Covid-19 Pandemic


Josephine Christensen

University of Tasmania

Rehearsing with the Michael Chekhov Technique during the Covid-19 Pandemic

The first project for my practice-as-research PhD was always intended to be an act of gathering. On one level, as a theatre director, I intended to assemble a directorial process that drew upon my own embodied experience of the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique. This directing approach would amass the pedagogies and practices of Chekhovian master teachers working across Europe, UK and North America. A second act of gathering would be the collaboration inherent in any theatrical production, the exchange of creative ideas between the design team, cast and director. Finally, a third act of gathering would be data collection. The research questions to be investigated would be answered through the written and audio-visual reflections of the cast, myself as director and selected audience members at each performance. A period of archival research in the Dartington Hall Archive would examine Michael Chekhov’s own studio practice and directing techniques and integrate these findings into the project. Fundamental to realizing my project was the notion of spacio-temporal co-presence; then the Covid-19 pandemic closed theatres and rehearsal studios.

This presentation will discuss my own response to the Covid-19 pandemic. I will outline the difficulties, tensions and contradictions experienced when studio practice moves to an on-line platform. Specifically, I examine the efficacy of delivering the Michael Chekhov Technique on-line, questioning which tools lend themselves easily to the process and what needs to be adapted to overcome the spatial restrictions of lockdown. I investigate which acts of gathering enable us to invite and collaborate with others in the private spaces of our own homes. Finally, I consider the spiritual and emotional impact of the Covid-19 crisis on current theatre students and question how we can use the on-line platform to metaphorically touch one another during this period of government enforced social and physical distancing.

Josephine Christensen is a certified teacher of the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique (Great Lakes Michael Chekhov Consortium, Micha). She is a professionally trained actress (Unitec, NZ) with performance and directing credits in many genres. She has completed a Graduate Certificate in Theatre Practice at the University of Exeter in the UK and is currently a practice-as-research PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania in Australia. Josephine is currently investigating the impact of the Michael Chekhov Technique on the affectivity of theatre performance. Her research interests include, acting methodologies, embodied practices, directorial approaches, movement and voice, embodying text and classical theatre. 

Peta Downes – Rehearsal, Interrupted: re-imagining a live performance for an online space


Peta Downes

University of Sydney

Rehearsal, Interrupted: re-imagining a live performance for an online space 

Abstract: In their case study research article, “Theatre Online: The design and drama of e-learning”, Robyn Phillip and Jennifer Nicholls (2007, p.277) reflected on the delivery of an online university theatre course and how it could replicate the dynamic of the live drama class, complete with synchronous interaction. They noted in conclusion that the course was effective due to the design of the mise-en-scène and the online space in which the drama occurred, which “created a lively course dynamic even though the course was conducted at a distance and mediated by technology”. They also suggested that the active presence of the teacher “as designer, director, and side-coach” provided students with the direction and guidance to construct individual and ensemble work as performers. 

In 2020, technological advances, mediated culture, accessibility and live streaming has enabled online teaching and theatre performance to be easily experienced all over the world. Gathering an audience together has never been easier. But how do you gather an ensemble of actors for a live performance when your theatre rehearsal process has been interrupted by a pandemic? 

Referring to the parameters of Philip and Nicholls and the notion of directing theatre at a distance, this paper will present the case study of how theatre director and educator Peta Downes worked with her ensemble of second year Bachelor of Performance students to reimagine and present what was planned to be a live theatre version of Michael Gow’s THE KID on an online “stage” during Sydney’s COVID-19 shut down. Combining rehearsal and performance footage with commentary by the performers, the paper demonstrates the individual and group processes used to gather this ensemble of self-isolated student actors, and through a combination of theatrical mis-en-scene, film techniques and virtual technology, enabled them to deliver a performance of the play. 

Peta Downes. Position: Program Leader – Scholarship, Academic Lecturer (Acting, Directing, Producing and Entertainment Management) – Australian Institute of Music, Sydney Current Research: Artist or Creative Entrepreneur: the impact of creative industries on independent theatre practice in Australia 302.html 

Peta Downes is a theatre director, producer and arts educator of twenty- eight years’ experience. She is a PhD candidate with the University of Sydney and holds a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Directing (QUT), a Bachelor of Arts – Honours -1A in Directing and Educational Drama (QUT) and a Graduate Diploma in Arts Management (UTS). She has developed and produced new theatre works with the Brisbane Powerhouse, Metro Arts (Brisbane), Darlinghurst Theatre and the Seymour Centre (Sydney), and worked as a director for theatre companies La Boite Theatre Company, the Queensland Theatre Company and the Bell Shakespeare Company.