1st Edition

Act as a Feminist Towards a Critical Acting Pedagogy

By Lisa Peck Copyright 2021
    228 Pages
    by Routledge

    228 Pages
    by Routledge

    Act as a Feminist maps a female genealogy of UK actor training practices from 1970 to 2020 as an alternative to traditional male lineages. It re-orientates thinking about acting through its intersections with feminisms and positions it as a critical pedagogy, fit for purpose in the twenty-first century.

    The book draws attention to the pioneering contributions women have made to actor training, highlights the importance of recognising the political potential of acting, and problematises the inequities for a female majority inspired to work in an industry where they remain a minority. Part One opens up the epistemic scope, shaping a methodology to evaluate the critical potential of pedagogic practice. It argues that feminist approaches offer an alternative affirmative position for training, a via positiva and a way to re-make mimesis. In Part Two, the methodology is applied to the work of UK women practitioners through analysis of the pedagogic exchange in training grounds. Each chapter focuses on how the broad curriculum of acting intersects with gender as technique to produce a hidden curriculum, with case studies on Jane Boston and Nadine George (voice), Niamh Dowling and Vanessa Ewan (movement), Alison Hodge and Kristine Landon-Smith (acting), and Katie Mitchell and Emma Rice (directing). The book concludes with a feminist manifesto for change in acting.

    Written for students, actors, directors, teachers of acting, voice, and movement, and anyone with an interest in feminisms and critical pedagogies, Act as a Feminist offers new ways of thinking and approaches to practice.


    Part 1: Shaping a Methodology

    1. Feminist Underpinnings in Acting: Re-Making Mimesis

    2. Feminist Interventions: Via Positiva and Critical Acting Pedagogy

    Part 2: Considering Practice

    3. Women and the Matter of Voice

    4. Women and the Matter of Movement

    5. Women and the Matter of Movement

    6. Women and the Matter of Directing



    Lisa Peck is Lecturer in Theatre Practice at University of Sussex and Associate Tutor at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She has worked in drama education for over twenty-five years as a teacher educator, in universities and drama schools and as a consultant for The National Theatre and Digital Theatre Plus. She researches pedagogic practices in actor training in relation with feminisms, working at the intersection between social science and humanities.

    "As Lisa Peck says in this fine book's first sentence, Act as a Feminist: Towards a Critical Acting Pedagogy is 'a call to arms.' This thoroughly researched, historically grounded engagement with performance pedagogies and practices in the UK takes up how traditional practices operate to disempower women, and how this can be reframed by theatre artists from feminist perspectives. Peck engages feminist theories seriously to critique some current methods and attitudes, and provides alternative ways of thinking and working; particularly useful are the rich case studies. This book is a valuable contribution to understanding how to more fully empower women in theatre practice."

    Rhonda Blair, Professor, Southern Methodist University; author of The Actor, Image, and Action: Acting and Cognitive Neuroscience; co-editor of Theatre, Performance and Cognition: Languages, Bodies and Ecologies


    "Tremendous care and rigour is given to thinking through a feminist stance in the context of actor training. New feminist materialism proves to be a valuable ‘hub’ that allows for both critique of patriarchal, even abusive, systems of training whilst simultaneously embracing the essential physicality of training and its engagement with objects, spaces etc…It is testimony to Peck’s writing skill that she can so seamlessly navigate between the different textures and rhythms of thinking and experiencing. It is a signature of the book’s methodology and as a critical text it nevertheless aims to demonstrate the very claims she makes for women’s actor training, that it is empowering, ‘embraining’ and embodying."

    Libby Worth, Reader, Royal Holloway University; co-editor of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training


    "At a critical time in Drama School training, where models of teaching and learning are being rightly interrogated, this book takes us through a feminist perspective to endorse feminist pedagogy as part of the vital reimagining of the importance of "how" we teach, not "what". This is a succinct and exciting study of feminist theory and its application in current training and theatre settings, through the work of women practitioners past and present, many of whom have yet to be recognised for their vital contribution to embodied learning and theatre practice. It will be a valuable asset to Drama Schools as they re-configure their syllabus and examine the need for critical pedagogy and student centred learning and a creative challenge to the status quo which has yet to appreciate the significance of women's contribution to the making of theatre and the training of theatre artists"

    Shona Morris, Lead Movement Tutor, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, UK


    "Lisa Peck's Act as a Feminist: Towards a Critical Acting Pedagogy is an important and much-needed work for reasons that concern both feminism/gender studies and actor/performer practice. Written in an accessible style, it tackles in a sophisticated manner via materialist perspectives some of the hidden and silent aspects in discourses on performance and performer processes. The book's double focus on methodology and practice, especially as regards the author's proposals about 're-making mimesis' and 'critical acting pedagogy', is amply and convincingly illuminated with reference to the contributions of women to voice, movement, acting, and directing. A must-have book for students, teachers, and practitioners."

    Professor Frank Camilleri, Associate Professor, University of Malta, Author of Performer Training Reconfigured: Post-Psychophysical Perspectives for the Twenty-First Century


    "This book is a great contribution to actor training in two ways: it develops a methodology to assess the feminist potential of the pedagogies of established women practitioners and it offers a witnessing experience from the studios of these practitioners."

    Evi Stamatiou, Senior Lecturer, University of Chichester, UK