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STAGING ECSTASY
A Practioner's Summer School

August 2010   Exeter University

A 3 day residential Summer School led by Howard Barker
and Wrestling School practioners that explored the practice of preparing and presenting Howard Barker plays in performance.

Howard Barker and The Wrestling School have produced perhaps some of the most controversial theatre in the UK. These exhilarating but challenging works inspire hatred in some but passionate devotion in countless others. Why? 

What are the characteristics of this work? 
What are its guiding principles and governing aesthetics? 
Why does it inspire so much pleasure and devotion among performers? 
How is this work made to resonate so powerfully in performance? 
Is the creative process transformed by the writer as director?

This intensive practical residential school led by Howard Barker and key Wrestling School practioners explored the practice, techniques and underlying theories that make up the Howard Barker/Wrestling School approach to these extraordinary texts.

TWS Summer Schools are of interest to both the practioner (actor/director) who wants to gain a greater insight into approaches to presenting Howard Barker’s texts on stage and those who wish to take a more academic/analytical approach to the texts and gain greater understanding of Barker’s underlying theories of theatre and the highly individual and ground breaking aesthetic he has developed over the past 21 years.

Why do we present plays at all? 
For whom?  For what purpose?

These basic questions underlie everything TWS has staged. Howard Barker led masterclasses on his theory of Catastrophic Theatre, a theory that has been the starting point for the move to method and presentation. The sessions also included
an opportunity to observe Howard Barker directing company members in new Barker texts.

We hope to hold another Summer School
in August 2011.

'Playing in his world and speaking his language leaves one hot, speechless, exhausted and exhilarated - as theatre should be.  Thank you to all for creating a terrifically generous, warm and openly experimental atmosphere.  Brilliant!'
Suzanne Ahmet   Participant of the 2009 Summer School

‘A compelling experience…… I arrived feeling a little apprehensive and nervous but left feeling exhilarated and inspired…’
Sarah Crews  Participant of the 2010 Summer School

‘The atmosphere was extremely conducive to exploring Barker's texts and the input of Barker and Wrestling School actors over the three days on performing the physicality as well as the textual elements of Barker's plays was most rewarding.  It was a well-organised and extremely useful experience for any scholar, actor, or playwright enthused by Barker's theatre work and was well worth the long trip from Australia.’
Stephen Chinna  Participant of the 2010 Summer School

Outline Content

Theatre of Catastrophe HB talks about some of the underlying theories in his approach to his writing

Poetic text and the actor  Examination of the technical demands and rewards of working with Barker texts. 
 
Reading the text  A performer’s approach to the text on the page.

Sounding the text  Practical work in sensing that Barker’s texts are the gestural in sound; the excitation of the text into the palate and the mind is a somatic experience, which when fully articulated, renders a Barker text clear, exhilarating and real. 

Analysing the text  Talk by a writer/researcher on approaches to analysing Howard Barker’s work and his theories of the Theatre of Catastrophe

The development of an aesthetic philosophy Howard Barker reflects on the development of the company’s style.

There will be opportunities for practical work on Barker texts, though these sessions are not compulsory for people who would rather just observe.

The Ecstatic Bible [ISBN 1-84002-413-5]  is published by Oberon    www.oberonbooks.com
Howard Barker’s key works on theatre theory will be useful background reading:
Arguments for a Theatre by Howard Barker [ISBN 0719052491] is published by Manchester University Press  www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk
Death, The One and the Art of Theatre   [ISBN: 0-415-34987-7] is published by Routledge   www.routledge.com

Location These residential schools have taken place amid the attractive surroundings of the campus of Exeter University, just 2 ½ hours by train from London and with good rail connections to all parts of the UK. The venues are fully accessible. Further information on Exeter University

Accommodation: Comfortable accommodation on campus with breakfast is included along with a welcome lunch. The last night concluded with an optional meal out in Exeter.

2010 Fee: £450 
Included 2 nights accommodation on campus, welcome lunch, tea/coffee throughout.
Booking advance got an early bird discounted fee of £425

The school began with a welcome lunch at 1pm on Mon 16th and end mid afternoon on Wed 18th. So it was possible to travel from/to London within the three days.
Alternatively additional accomodation can be arranged at the start at end.