Throughout my work in professional rehearsal rooms and conservatoire training institutions, my attempts to work with the specific cultural contexts of performers were frustrated. Over time it became clear to me that actors lacked a language for investigating the richness of their own background, and moreover lacked a methodology that would allow them to bring these to bear on the acting challenges they were facing. In my early explorations of this territory, I found that performers faced great difficulties breaking free of a perception that the specifics of their own being-in-the-world did not have a place or function when working on the floor in rehearsal or on stage. Instead, performers often felt they should always start with a kind of neutrality, (and neutral is never politically neutral) in order to reach for certain parameters to do with the world of the play, and should follow a methodology that did not call for individuality.
I recognised that this was a pedagogical issue; that is, that the actors that I was encountering arriving in rehearsal rooms had simply not been taught to embrace their cultural context, or given permission to do so in the course of their training.
So, in my early investigations and work in this sector, I was trying to facilitate the creation of a pedagogy that would allow teachers and directors to feel confident in playing with and through the diverse cultures of their rehearsal rooms, and to embrace cultural difference and diversity instead of seeking to ignore it.
To empower the engagement of all students, I advocate an intracultural training practice, which embraces“the diverse social and ethnic groups inhabiting one’s own public space” Bharucha (2000:2) . Through embracing difference in theatre arts training, all students can be empowered to perform to their full potential, regardless of their heritage and identity—and indeed because of the power of each student’s unique cultural context. An intracultural training practice is predicated on playing with difference: on engaging with rather than disavowing the cultural context of the actor. For individuality to flourish, teachers and trainers need to develop an understanding of how to embrace and play with difference in rehearsal and teaching, settings and to move their focus away from a “one approach fits all” mentality. This is crucial in the culturally pluralist training environment.
Bharucha, R. (2000). The Politics of Cultural Practice: Thinking through theatre in an age of globalisation. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press.