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Shakespeare without Chairs

This module used to run as a pathway called "Shakespeare Without Chairs" on the module "Shakespeare and Selected Dramatists of his Time". The manifesto below was written by the module's originator, Professor Carol Chillington Rutter. The philosophy that Carol outlines below remains the underpinning ethos of this module.


Prof. Carol Chillington Rutter

A Manifesto for Shakespeare Without Chairs

A Philosophy of Learning – or – What We’re Doing in Shax sans Seats

Taught (normally) in the Rehearsal Room at Millburn House (or in studio space elsewhere) and using teaching methods that explore open space and enactive learning, ‘Shakespeare Without Chairs’ takes an innovative approach to re-imagining the standard academic seminar. We work in a rehearsal room, in shared space where conventional hierarchies (teacher/student) are dismantled to be replaced with the idea, borrowed from the theatre rehearsal room, of the ensemble. We operate democratically as a group of collaborators to investigate Shakespeare’s texts on our feet, in three dimensions. ‘De-throning’ standard academic authority – the academic in the rehearsal room is an authority but not in authority – we work through experiment, creative offer, and play, taking risks by establishing intellectual, physical, and creative trust. Simultaneously, we empower the learner. Our workshops aim to tackle ‘threshold concepts’ and ‘troublesome knowledge’. We ask: how do we, as continuous learners, embolden ourselves to cross over thresholds and encounter the troublesome, especially when such encounters inevitably mean a ‘loss of previous certainties’ and involve a ‘reconstitution of the self’? How do we take risks as learners? And how do we make creative use of failure? (We take it as understood that failure must be admitted as a productive aspect of learning. Like the actor rehearsing or the writer redrafting, the student must be permitted to fail in order – as Beckett has put it – to ‘fail better’.)

Seminars run as Workshops: are weekly and run for two and a half hours. As in a rehearsal environment, you are expected to arrive on time and ready to start work. You should wear clothes you can move about in freely and either soft-soled shoes or bare feet. Each workshop will begin with a physical and a vocal warm-up, led by members of the workshop. You should bring your text: either a Complete Works or, more conveniently, a single-play edition. You will be expected to have read the week’s play in detail before the workshop, and to be prepared to work actively and collaboratively. Remember: the workshop is not about acting or performing; it’s about working on text.