Theatre Studios : A Political History of Ensemble Theatre-Making book cover
1st Edition

Theatre Studios
A Political History of Ensemble Theatre-Making

ISBN 9781138185647
Published December 31, 2020 by Routledge
360 Pages 54 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Theatre Studios explores the history of the studio model in England, first established by Konstantin Stanislavsky, Jacques Copeau and others in the early twentieth century, and later developed in the UK primarily by Michel Saint-Denis, George Devine, Michael Chekhov and Joan Littlewood, whose studios are the focus of this study.

Cornford offers in-depth accounts of the radical, collective work of these leading theatre companies of the mid-twentieth century, considering the models of ensemble theatre-making that they developed and their remnants in the newly publicly-funded UK theatre establishment of the 1960s. In the process, this book develops an approach to understanding the politics of artistic practices rooted in the work of John Dewey, Antonio Gramsci and the standpoint feminists. It concludes by considering the legacy of the studio movement for twenty-first-century theatre, partly by tracking its echoes in the work of Secret Theatre at the Lyric, Hammersmith (2013–2015).

Students and makers of theatre alike will find in this book a provocative and illuminating analysis of the politics of performance-making and a history of the theatre as a site for developing counterhegemonic, radically democratic, anti-individualist forms of cultural production.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Ensemble Theatre-Making and the Theatre Studio Tradition; Section 1 The London Theatre Studio (1936-1939) and the Old Vic Theatre Centre (1947-1952); Chapter 1 Remnants of the London Theatre Studio and the Old Vic Theatre Centre Chapter 2 Practices of the London Theatre Studio and Old Vic Theatre Centre; Chapter 3 Models of Practice in the London Theatre Studio and Old Vic Theatre Centre; Section 2 The Chekhov Theatre Studio (1936-1942); Chapter 4 Remnants of the Chekhov Theatre Studio; Chapter 5 Practices of the Chekhov Theatre Studio; Chapter 6 Models of Practice in the Chekhov Theatre Studio; Section 3 Theatre Workshop (1945-63); Chapter 7 Remnants of Theatre Workshop; Chapter 8 Practices of Theatre Workshop, 1945-55; Chapter 9 Models of Practice in Theatre Workshop; Conclusion Why Do Theatre Studios Matter?


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Tom Cornford is Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Performance at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.


‘This is a rigorously compelling examination of a long-neglected area of British theatrical history. With confidence and acuity Tom Cornford lays out the tangled strands of influence and achievement that constitute the Theatre Studio tradition in this country. His examination of the benefits and pitfalls of ensemble theatre-making is sharp, provocative and always surprising.’ – Sean Holmes, Associate Artistic Director, Shakespeare’s Globe and formerly Artistic Director of the Lyric, Hammersmith

'This book recontextualises and critiques three fundamental strands of British theatre history through the lens of the theatre studios of Michel Saint-Denis, Michael Chekhov and Joan Littlewood. It is comprehensively researched, elegantly written, robustly argued and emphatically current.' – Jonathan Pitches, Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Leeds