Asher Warren – Living Rooms and Populist Listening


Asher Warren

University of Tasmania

Living Rooms and Populist Listening

In 2018, struggling with a sense of dislocation and strangeness after moving to a new city, I began a project to try and bridge a gap with between myself and what seemed to be the dominant force in the local theatrical ecology: the musical theatre crowd. Since then the project (Living Room Musicals) has moved through a series of stages, to approach a public launch in 2020. It was planned to be launched at the Australian Musical Theatre Festival in Launceston, which was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The project itself, which consists of a ‘do-it-yourself’ musical theatre toolkit to empower people to express their own place-based stories, rather than reciting Broadway narratives, and perform them in their homes for family and friends, has taken on some unexpected urgency in a time of quarantine by social isolation. However, this presentation seeks to examine the process that had led to this stage; reflecting on the workshops across the state of Tasmania with musical theatre enthusiasts from across the community. On the one hand, it is to unpack a model of engagement with theatrical production and reception I wish to term ‘populist listening’, expanding on the paradoxes that Philip Auslander (2008) teases from the Milli Vanilli lip-sync scandal regarding the live performance of music, and turning these toward the production and reception of musical theatre, with a focus on the overwhelming familiarity of the musical theatre ‘canon’. On the other, it is to track my own adventures into territory I would not otherwise venture; and coming to re-evaluate my own assumptions, prejudices and values. Through examining a range of acts that in the first instance were intended to gather data; I explore how they have accumulated a longer tail of unexpected associations.

Dr Asher Warren is a Lecturer in Theatre at the University of Tasmania. His research interests include intermedial and networked performance, participatory and collaborative practices, and the sites of contemporary artistic practice. He is a member of ADSA, PSi, and the IFTR intermediality working group, and currently sits on the PSi Future Advisory Board. His writing has been published in Performance Paradigm, Performance Research, Australasian Drama Studies, Refractory: Journal of Entertainment Media, and in the edited collection Performance in a Militarized Culture (2017).

Hannah Banks – Devising with Empathy: Goodbye Solo Genius – Hello Partnership


Hannah Banks

University of the Sunshine Coast

Devising with Empathy: Goodbye Solo Genius – Hello Partnership

“Empathising means understanding, sharing and creating an internal space to accept the other person, hence helping them to feel understood and not alone” (Cunico et al. cited in Flemmer et al. 2014: 549).

Empathy and connection are critical aspects of theatre and importance, and a desire to find understanding and community led me to create and research devised theatre. However, devising requires extraordinary amounts of empathy since practitioners are more vulnerable within a devising process as they are likely to be offering up their own life experiences and stories as material. Whereas a playscript, in a more traditional theatre process, provides a clear dramaturgical structure and a mediator between character and performer. Therefore, emotion and empathy need to be embraced within a devising process and not suppressed. While these ideas are important for any creative process, the uncertainty and intangible nature of devising means that they are even more crucial in a collaborative process. 

This paper will explore a new method for devising that I first investigated in my doctoral research: Flemmer, Dekker, and Doutrich’s theory of Empathetic Partnership for Primary Care Practice, in a theatrical devising context. Empathetic Partnership builds on “concepts of New Zealand nursing’s cultural safety” and creates a framework of six key elements, all of which are applicable in a devising room (Flemmer et al 545). I will outline the theory, explore how it can be applied in a devising context, and discuss its value for teaching devising in tertiary education, using a 300-level course from the University of the Sunshine Coast as a case study. By embedding this theory into devising methods, I believe we can challenge oppressive rehearsal practices and create safer rehearsal rooms with horizontal leadership and emotionally ethical and sustainable processes. Goodbye Solo Genius. Hello Empathetic Partnership.

Dr. Hannah Joyce Banks completed her PhD at Victoria University of Wellington in 2018. Her ground-breaking research explores women in devised theatre in Aotearoa New Zealand. She is one of the founders of award-winning theatre company My Accomplice and was a recipient of The Richard Campion Accolade for Outstanding Performance at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards in Wellington in 2014. She also received a PGSA Postgraduate Teaching Award in 2017 for her work at Victoria. In 2020, Banks moved to Australia to take up a lecturing position in Theatre and Performance at the University of the Sunshine Coast. 

Kate Hunter – A constellation of utterances: Using eavesdropping to make live performance


Kate Hunter

Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia 

A constellation of utterances: Using eavesdropping to make live performance 

‘We live only in relation to one another. Other people and our traffic with them is what makes us who we are.’ Anne Bogart 

We live in an increasingly digital world in which we are subjected to very private stories being aired in very public ways – consider reality TV, cooking shows, ‘Married At First Sight’, the Kardashians, and the narcissism of selfies. These public airings have subtly but radically shifted our relationship to each other, and ourselves because our experiences and understandings of privacy, of discretion, and of confidentiality have changed. The more we manifest our private worlds in public spaces, the more the boundaries between personal and private shift. What are the implications for us as these edges blur? Where is the public domain in contemporary life? the park? the cafe? your street? your back garden? Who should be permitted to listen? 

This paper investigates eavesdropping as a provocation for new approaches to verbatim theatre practice. The public domain, with its myriad of accidental overhearings, is a rich source of performance material – full of epic drama, sub-plot, poetry and twists of fate – if only we tuned our ears to the dramatic potential of the stories we hear in public places. Refracted through a musical multitude of voices old and young, accented and broad, eavesdropping provides us with an aural snapshot of gatherings in place. 

To examine these ideas, I draw on the innovative dramaturgical methodologies used in ‘Earshot’, a verbatim theatre performance in which private conversations of complete strangers were collected through a process of eavesdropping to create the text. Part theatrical poem, part undercover surveillance operation, ‘Earshot’ was a symphony of the authentic voice which used a breadth of digital/analogue technologies to create spatialized sounds throughout the space. ‘Earshot’s exploration of language was poetic and fragmentary, foregrounding the ‘ums’, the ‘ers’, the coughs and splutters – the incidental utterances of everyday speech. 

Framed as a practice-led research inquiry, I describe the way the ‘Earshot’ team reconfigured eavesdropped texts across spoken, written and performed territory. I propose public listening as a way to generate new practices for the contemporary theatre-maker – practices which lead us to re-consider the ways our modes of conversation and communication have adapted and evolved across the digital age. 

Dr Kate Hunter is a theatre-maker whose work juxtaposes digital and analogue technology, storytelling and the live body, and investigates innovative use of polyphonic verbatim recordings to examine the complex interplay between hearing, listening, reading and speaking that is implicit in the ways humans communicate through language. Kate is interested in cognitive and biomedical sciences, diseases and dying, perception and the senses as provocations for enquiry. Her work is characterized by a very specific, writerly approach to devising – gathering, crafting & re-voicing an extensive array of found texts from contemporary media, oral histories & personal stories, which are layered, repeated and extruded to create a comic and highly distinctive theatrical form. Recent works include Earshot (FoLA 2016, 45downstairs 2017; Due West 2019) and Memorandum (Theatreworks 2014, JSPAC ‘Brave New Work’ series Sydney, 2015). Works in development include In Perpetuity: a piece for actors, prepared harpsichord and disembodied voices, which has been supported by an Art in Biomedical Science residency at the Harry Brookes Museum of Anatomy and Pathology. Kate is currently Lecturer in Art and Performance at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.