Current Research Projects:
Scoping a Network of and for Trans Actor Training, Stage One: Gaps, Methods, Trainers
Abstract: There is a growing call in the performing arts for transgender and gender non-conforming(GNC) people to be forefronted in our media products and to take ownership of the roles and characters these present. However, while opportunity is increasing, production companies called upon to cast Trans/GNC roles report few Trans/GNC actor/performers have the confidence and/or training to create viable media products and professional actor training is rarely fully accessible to Trans/GNC performers. Assumptions of traditional gender and sexual identity presentation and conformance limit or exclude Trans/GNC students from actor training environments. Training that attempts to be free of these assumptions is rare and there is no established network that could connect teachers and students in order to create and share training practices that could break these hegemonic ideologies. This project conducts initial research towards the creation of this network, interviewing learners and teachers, and identifying current and potential Trans/GNC focused trainers and training.
On August 16th 2019, Intergenerational LGBT Artist Residency is hosting a think tank with me on this subject. See Calendar page for details.
Monograph: Transing Performance
I am in the process of developing the work I explore in my PhD into a monograph for publication with Routlege Press.
In progress Abstract:
LBGTQ+ identity-based performance has a long history of presenting personal narratives to audiences. These works have been instrumental in making LGBTQ+ subjectivities “visible” - recognisable, coherent and representable in our cultures - and as such have been positioned as some of the most important elements of our cultural production. However, these performances also run the risk of fixing, essentializing and normativising identities; the conditioned desire for these stories can work to restrict our performance output to the sphere of the explanatory. Michel Foucault tells us that fixing our identities cannot be a radical act as this fixing ties us in deficient binary relationship to/with the normative. The radical, he writes is in the undescribed, unnamed realm of “bodies and pleasures;” of, as this book will explore, identity doings, rather than identity beings.
This writing takes a jumping off point from trans theorist Sandy Stone when she suggests that the trans ‘set of embodied texts’ has potential as a force disruptive to normative notions of sexual and gender identities. (Stone 1991). In The Empire Strikes Back: A Post Transsexual Manifesto(1991) Stone suggests constituting trans ‘[...] as a genre—a set of embodied texts whose potential for productive disruption of structured sexualities and spectra of desire has yet to be explored.’ (Para 44). More than twenty-five years later this potential remains largely ‘yet to be explored’. Many Trans people (as well as Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people) in our neoliberal western cultures work against the idea of identity as a doing/disruptive force and instead opt to attempt to fold into normative sexual and gendered structures as beings, asking only that those structures stretch to include us rather than attempting to dismantle them. While this assimilation is important to our day to day existence, the adoption of this as a primary methodology in identity performance practices misses a trick on more than one level: from an identity politics angle, trans performances that refuse the normativising act have the still largely untapped potential for Stone’s ‘productive disruption’ of ‘structured sexualities and spectra of desire’ — to fundamentally disrupt normative structures and spectra, creating space for other ways of being in the (gendered and sexual) world. As performance methodology, activating this resistant and disruptive potential of our bodies in the space together in physical proximity to the audience is crucial to the continuing (political) relevance of the live theatrical form.
This project works through and develops these arguments and identifies performance work that focusses not on Trans* identity positions but on trans- identity doings. Looking at the works of performers such as Cassills, Rose Wood, Nina Arsenault, boychild and my own among others, I present theory and practices of these identity doings. I focus on a new dialectical structure and practice of “Identity Visuality”performance in which trans- identity is visually present without narratives of representation that work to “fix” it in place. I deploy this “Identity Visuality” in contrast to the more common understanding of “Identity Visibility” (that creates narratively coherent and recognizable subjects). I articulate the performance strategy of forefronting the unfixed gender “Visual” - that disrupts and oscillates (in the culture and onstage) with the narrative “Visible”and present this as a powerful force that can be uniquely activated by trans- performing bodies. This book puts trans- performance and performers in dialogue with post-structuralist, cinematic, transgender and queer theories to find and forefront the political power in these identity doings. It will be of interest to performance, trans/gender, cultural studies scholars, teachers, students and practitioners, adding to the growing and necessary dialogue on, and understanding of, gender, culture and performance.
I welcome proposals from prospective PhD or MPhil students who are interested in studying with me at Northumbria University. I am available to support both practice-research and conventional projects concerned with:
Transgender, Queer and LGBT cultural production
performance and identity
queer studies / queer culture
sexuality, gender and feminism
social and political theatre and performance / activism
Alternative performance pedagogies
For initial conversations email me at firstname.lastname@example.org