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Messages from the Director

June 2010

What happened to winter?

I remember sitting in my office on the first day of the euphemistically named ‘spring term’ watching out the window four inches of snow settle in the car park. A message popped into my email inbox. From a colleague in Verona. Verona! The very idea of Italy saved my life as we all evacuated the University under a blizzard warning and struggled home.

I blinked. And now roses are blooming; students are sitting their final finals; CAPITAL-at-Millburn has celebrated its third anniversary; the contractors have finally cleared off the site; the gate connecting us to our sister CETL, the Reinvention Centre, now just across the road, is open; and a Pilgrim’s Progress of people have passed through our doors – as we’ve rushed in and out, occupied in a frenzy of activity aimed at ‘getting CAPITAL out there’ through dissemination and publication as we head towards our final months of HEFCE funding.

We went on lots of travels. Nick Monk, Jonny Heron, and Paul Prescott took a series of workshops demonstrating Open-space Learning on a tour of US campuses from North Carolina to California – and Paul later took the work to Taiwan and China. Carol Rutter gave the prestigious Ropes Lecture and practical workshops in Cincinnati, dropping in to Ann Arbor on her way, to deliver the 2010 University of Michigan Drama-in-Performance Lecture, actually a 3-hour Othello workshop. Jonny (detouring from his American travels, and with Carol in tow) led a fabulously successful practical workshop demonstrating CAPITAL’s ‘RePerforming Performance’ website for University teachers at the Shakespeare Association of America meeting in Chicago, then flew on to Venice to join Carol and Tom Cornford at the Renaissance Society of America for a panel, ‘Object/Archive/Script’.

We published our work. Essays from last year’s ‘“If you have writ your annals true’: Shakespeare and the Archives’ conference appeared in a special edition of Shakespeare Bulletin (28:1, Spring 2010). Nick submitted to Bloomsbury his first book manuscript, Open-space Learning: a Transdisciplinary Pedagogy that theorises the work of CAPITAL over the past three years, thinking about space, performance and their effect upon teaching and learning. In short, it’s a book about Warwick students. Heroically, too, he researched, compiled, analysed the data and wrote up CAPITAL’s final evalution report for HEFCE.

We performed our work. At the second New Work Festival organised by Jonny Heron and Fail Better@CAPITAL, students put in front of audiences a range of devised and new writing projects, including the Student Ensemble performing Fail Better’s Discords; students from Paul Prescott’s Faust project producing an installation; and our Creative Fellow, Lucy Cullingford, showcasing her practice-based research, The Renaissance Body. Meanwhile, Tony Howard (whose career as a playwright was interrupted thirty years ago when he dropped in to Warwick to teach for a bit) has returned to his vocation, writing his Robeson project into a play, I Have Done the State Some Service, which will get a rehearsed reading at the Sackler Centre in the Victoria and Albert Museum on July 17th, directed by Tom Cornford. CAPITAL's RSC Researcher-n-Residence Matt Collins has devised with Warwick students a response to the RSC’s Morte D’Arthur (written by Warwick graduate and friend to CAPITAL, Mike Poulton). The piece, titled ‘Other Arthurs’ , will play in The Dell (the RSC’s open air space) in Stratford-upon-Avon on 27th June (3pm), accompanied by an exhibition and further programme of events all devised by Matt. Our Playwright in Residence, Tarell McCraney, has directed the Young Person’s Hamlet for the RSC, on tour and at the Courtyard in September: not to be missed! In June, he held a 10-day workshop for writers at CAPITAL. We want to congratulate him on his triumph with The Brother/ Sister Plays and his invitation to join Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago with whom he’ll collaborate on a new play on the Book of Job.

Finally, with Rob O’Toole-the-E-Wizard’s help, we made our first movie. It’s called ‘Unpinning Desdemona’ and records a practice-as-research project, devised by Carol Rutter, directed by Tom Cornford, and played by Kelsey Brookfield (Desdemona) and Jon Trenchard (Emilia: yup – lads in early modern skirts!) on the stage at Shakespeare’s Globe. And our second movie project sets out some of CAPITAL's achievements and legacy.

Finally, finally: the amazing Dr. Brock has presided in the Control Room@CAPITAL, masterminding the whole campaign since January that is taking us to 31 July , the end of HEFCE CETL funding, and our metamorphosis, with our Reinvention colleagues, into a new Warwick Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

So as always – watch this space. There’s more to come.


October 2009

“Expect St. Martin’s summer, halcyons’ days”

That’s Joan la Pucelle urging the French to greatness in Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part 1 – and telling them that even the weather is going to smile on their projects. St. Martin’s summer is what we’ve been experiencing for the past month: blue skies, bright sun on leaves turning yellow and red, warm winds, just the best kind of weather to be moving back onto campus or into digs and to put a smile on everyone’s face at the beginning of term. By the way, I’m told that the other name for this gracious golden time – Indian summer – comes not from the east but the west. Indian summer kicked in when the North American native peoples called a truce in their wars against the European invaders and turned their attention to storing up provisions for the winter. I’m sure that one of Shakespeare’s more sententious characters (Fluellen, perhaps) could wrest a message for Warwick students out of that piece of information, but I’ll leave it there, just recruiting the brilliance and warmth of the weather to my present project of welcoming you freshers and returners to (or back to) the ‘bubble’.

This is CAPITAL’s final year of its life as a HEFCE-funded Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and so our priority, while sustaining all of our teaching initiatives, which foreground the student as producer, is to write up and publish our work in innovative pedagogy so that it can be disseminated across the UK and beyond. We are thrilled that we’ve just been awarded £193,000 to carry forward our work on Open-space Learning to embed our work across the university’s faculties over the next two years. To that end, over the summer we’ve presented papers and workshops at several conferences – the British Shakespeare Association; our own dissemination conference – and we’re going to several more: the Shakespeare Association of America has invited us to demonstrate ‘Shakespeare Without Chairs’ in Chicago, and the Renaissance Association of America wants us to present on Open Space Learning in Venice. Paul Prescott (on the back of organising a terrific conference on theatre reviewing in association with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Nottingham Trent), Jonathan Heron (Artistic Director of our resident company Fail Better), and Nick Monk are planning a tour of US university campuses to showcase CAPITAL’s work; Carol Rutter will spend a week in Ann Arbor and Cincinnati (where she’s been invited to deliver the Ropes Lecture and to offer several workshops to undergrads and post grads); and Susan Brock is going to Taiwan to contribute to a conference on theatre records and how to care for them. Nick, meanwhile, is responsible for writing up the final CAPITAL evaluation report (as well as editing an important collaborative e-publication – our first! – for Bloomsbury); Jonathan continues his fantastic work with the student ensemble; Paul will edit a special issue of Shakespeare: The Bulletin of the British Shakespeare Association that will gather papers from the reviewing conference); next summer’s Shakespeare Bulletin will be guest edited by Carol, to feature papers delivered in April at CAPITAL’s Shakespeare in the Archives conference. Other publications in the works include journal articles on our collaborations with Chemistry, Cultural Policy Studies, and Philosophy.

Talking of getting the news out about CAPITAL through publication: hot off the press is Peter Blegvad’s wonderfully illustrated and characteristically eccentric (well, ‘Blegvad’ and ‘eccentric’ are practically synonymous) Imagine, Observe, Remember: Part 1 of The Psychonaut’s Friend. It tracks a journey through an ‘impossible project’, supported by a CAPITAL Centre Fellowship in Creativity. Peter aimed, through a series of workshops, to ‘compare and contrast the three mental faculties with which we apprehend & fabricate our realities & fictions’. Some of us lucky people got to see Peter & Co’s ‘sharing’ last spring. Now the book of the project is available – and it’s a treat! So if you want to know about the ‘looking we do with the mind’s eye’ and discover some ‘practical exercises for the development of this mysterious faculty’, rush to get your copy of Imagine, Observe, Remember available from the CAPITAL Centre Office (£10; £5 for students).

Equally exciting: I’ve just seen page proofs for David Morley’s Dove Release: New Flights and Voices, an anthology he’s edited from his Practice of Poetry workshops last year that publishes some fifty young poets, most of them new names, some of them already winners of illustrious poetry prizes. CAPITAL funded the involvement of several practising poets and to scientists and natural philosophers. David is a former scientist, an ecologist, but as a poet and an academic directing the Writing Programme at Warwick, he’s still a scientist. ‘The natural world,’ he says, ‘makes the poetry of this planet.’ So for him, ‘the study of natural history is one way of looking at the earth’s poems.’ His poetry workshops have evolved over the years in collaboration with young poets ‘to reflect the ways we engage with the world’. This isn’t a book of science poems – but it is a collection many of whose contributions are informed by ‘live science’, discovering in science a terminology ‘gravid with metaphor’ that’s ‘constantly inventing new usages’: just the stuff the poet wants to get his hands on! CAPITAL is proud to have supported the publication of Dove Release and we congratulate all the young poets – Warwick students and veterans of CAPITAL – whose work is represented there.

But that’s just the beginning….

We’ve put together a brilliantly illustrated flyer listing up-coming CAPITAL projects. ALL OF THEM NEED YOU whether you are a student (undergraduate or postgrad) or a member of staff FROM EVERY DEPARTMENT across the University!

Darkling Images: a series of workshops for (theatre) photographers

New Plays in New Ways: a chance to work with CAPITAL’s latest Fellow in Creativity, the director, Lorne Campbell, to create three new theatre pieces. Deadline for applications 9th October.

ReCreating in Play: the RSC/Warwick International Playwright in Residence, the fabulous Tarell McCraney, leads a week-long workshop in the Spring Term to generate new work from Shakespeare’s King John

Play/Read Club: exactly what is says on the tin – get together on Thursday nights in February/March to read and play, hosted by Tarell McCraney. (If you leave Warwick without getting to know him, you’ll want to shoot yourself.)

CAPITAL Student Ensemble: is being expanded by Fail Better for new projects; auditions 14th October

Fail Better's New Work Festival: a chance in May to show work-in-progress and to experiment with new ideas through a series of scripted, devised and improvised projects.


especially for current students your own, your very own Student Performance Projects: an idea you want to explore by putting it on its feet.

So: get a flyer or visit\capital for more information.

Get involved! Get cracking! Inside the Warwick bubble, ‘Expect St. Martin’s summer’ until at least next July.


May 2009

Happy Birthday, CAPITAL. Our spaces at Millburn House are two years old this May – and we’re going global!

Not content with embedding open-space teaching and learning across the Warwick curriculum, including interdisciplinary work and shared modules with Law, Chemistry, Business, Medicine, Cultural Policy Studies, Philosophy, Mathematics, and English, CAPITAL is now reaching an international audience and partners.

In April to coincide with Shakespeare’s 455th birthday, ‘If you have writ your annals true: Shakespeare in the Archives’ assembled some of the most important scholars of performance studies, world-wide, for a conference that considered how we use theatre records to remember performance – and we launched our ‘Re-Performing Performance’ website. In June, we host the Fourth International Conference on Cormac McCarthy, organized by CAPITAL Research Fellow and McCarthy specialist, Nick Monk.

Meanwhile, Tony Howard has been touring his Paul Robeson exhibition around the UK; Paul Prescott has been in France and Norway delivering workshops on Romeo and Juliet and on Shakespeare’s soliloquies; Susan Brock is going to the National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan in November to speak about documenting performance and how these records can be used in research; Jonathan Heron and Carol Rutter are demonstrating CAPITAL-style pedagogy in a pair of practical workshop for the Shakespeare Association of America meeting in Chicago in April 2010; and they’ll follow that, joined by Tom Cornford, with a panel of papers – ‘Script/Object/Archive’ – on practice-based research-as-pedagogy for the Renaissance Society of America meeting in Venice. Heron will be running a summer school in July for Warwick’s International Gateway for Gifted Youth (IGGY) project and Nick Monk is planning a winter school for IGGY in Venice at Christmas – then he’ll travel on to the US to deliver a paper at the MLA meeting.

Even better, we’re now producing Warwick graduates who are extending our impact, taking the CAPITAL message and methodologies around the world. Here’s news just in from Julia Ihnatowicz (Class of 2007) from Saudi Arabia. She’s teaching English on the women’ campus of a university in Riyadh:

My students are all aged 19-20 but remind me more of myself at 14 than the Freshers at Warwick. Almost all women here, even my students (who are comparatively well-travelled), live extremely sheltered lives and never have to rely on themselves to do anything under their own steam. Self-reliance is a large part of what we are trying to teach them here. After weeks of asking “But, Teacher, how?” at every turn, the girls eventually realised that the only response this would elicit from me was “You tell me”. They have come an amazingly long way in their willingness to think for themselves.

Since I’m nothing if not ambitious, I’m hoping to venture into extra-curricular Shakespeare next semester. My students prove to me on a daily basis that arguing and performing are not only fun but stimulating and empowering. I am utterly convinced that, given the opportunity, they would respond to Shakespeare’s plays with imagination and creativity as well as an analytical and critical awareness that no other area of their studies or lives demands of them. I’ll have to be careful, of course. Theatre is not permitted in public spaces here, so this project must remain strictly within “Education”. I’ll need to steer clear of the culturally “sensitive” plays. Anything on pre- or extra-marital relationships is completely off limits - which rules out most of the comedies. War, murder and power-lust are fine. Every lesson is something of a mine-field since I’m contractually bound not to expose the girls to too much in the way of Western values. However, as with absolutely everything here, if you are determined and smart, there is always a way to get things done. Inshallah [god willing, as they say], CAPITAL’s principles and teachings will be helping young Saudi women in the very near future.

Whether we’re talking about Warwick undergraduates and post grads, or students in Saudi, for CAPITAL, changing teaching = changing lives.

January 2009

From the Director…

‘For his bounty, there was no winter in’t.’

That’s Cleopatra talking about the endless generosity, the endless magnanimity of Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.

Like Antony’s, Warwick’s bounty has ‘no winter in’t’.Have you noticed? We’ve jumped from Autumn Term, via the Christmas vacation, straight into Spring.That suits us at CAPITAL. We’re bursting with activity, much (but not all) of it produced by our Fellows in Creativity.

Some headlines: 

Tony Howard opens his exhibition, ‘A Slave’s Son at Stratford’, honouring Paul Robeson – actor, singer, political activist – on the 50th anniversary of his historic performance of Othello in Stratford-upon-Avon. Robeson was the first black actor in the 20th century to play the part. The exhibition is in the Theatre Bar at Warwick Arts Centre and at the University’s Modern Records Centre from 20th January to 7th February, alongside the RSC’s Othello at WAC. Patrice Naiambana, CAPITAL’s first Fellow in Creativity from the RSC, plays the Moor.

Tom Abbott, another of our Fellows, has launched the Warwick on iTunes U service. iTunes U provides access to free downloadable material (audio and video) from universities around the world. Users can use the service by accessing the 'iTunes U' section of the iTunes Store. CAPITAL has contributed to the first tranche of content:·

* Jonathan Heron interviewing David Johnson, translator of Garcia Lorca’s Play Without a Title (intercut with scenes from this play that had its world premiere at CAPITAL in November as part of its Fail Better residency).

* Carol Rutter in conversation with Perry Mills, director of the Dutch Courtesan/Boy Players project. Mills joins CAPITAL this term to continue the collaboration with Rutter and will stage Lyly’s Endymion and Middleton’s A Mad World, My Masters – both with all-boy companies- at the end of this term.

* Patrice Naiambana in conversation with Rutter about Othello and the black diaspora.

Peter Blegvad is putting his Fellowship project Imagine, Observe, Remember on its feet this term working with a group of students who are helping to create, "road test" and critique experiments and exercises with memory, observation, hypnagogic vision, dreams, automatic writing and drawing, improvisation. The result will be a multi-media performance at CAPITAL in the last week of term.

Claudette Bryanston is bringing together staff and students at Warwick’s Institute of Health and the School of Health and Social Studies with a freelance artistic team consisting of writer(s) and theatre makers on a project called ‘Passing On’ . It will explore the ‘cost’ of dying in terms of the experiences and dilemmas of health and social professionals, people approaching the end of life and their relatives in our contemporary society.

We have a new RSC/Warwick International Playwright in Residence: Tarell McCraney. His regular day at CAPITAL is Wednesdays and he’ll be contributing to modules and special events as well as office hours in the afternoon for students interested in writing for performance. Students who want to make appointments, should email Helen Neal


September 2008

Director's Chat September 2008

Part way through Ted Hughes's version of Euripides's Alcestis there's a 'knock knock' joke . Alcestis, Queen of Thessaly, has agreed to what no one else will do: Death has come to claim the life of her husband, Admetos, King of Thessaly, but he says he'll accept a substitute - if one can be found. Only Alcestis volunteers. Death takes her. Admetos is wild with grief. The whole nation plunges into mourning. Every servant, every surface in the palace is covered in black.

There's a knock at the door. Knock knock. Who's there? Heracles. Son of Zeus. Old friend of Admetos. Just dropped in on his way to his next labour - bit of bother out in Thrace; some man-eating horses that need to be snaffled. The black-dressed Chorus of palace servants greets him limply: 'Heracles! What brings you here? And today of all days?'

The thing is, of course, no one can tell him what's happened. Anyone who shows up at a Greek door is a guest - and Guest Right is inviolable. Turning Heracles away, making him feel unwanted, even when they have the best reason in the world: Admetos won't hear of it. He orders food and wine and the best rooms made ready for the guest and orders, too, that everyone conceal Alcestis's death. Make sure, he orders, that 'The business of the funeral/Comes nowhere near him.' When the Chorus objects, 'You cannot entertain a guest with one hand/While you bury your wife with the other', Admetos answers: not only does this man mean 'more to me than any other' but 'No, his arrival/Is a test of sorts'.

'A test of sorts.' This 'thing' that has happened strangely': what does it mean? The Chorus, left on its own, thinks the 'thing' over:

Is one of the sacred mysteries.
Accept what gift God gives -
Even the gift with an ugly wrapping.
Accept whatever befalls -
Even when it falls at a bad moment,
Accept it. Every accident
Is a gift, a test. Each misfortune
Bears an opportunity,
Cradles a benefit,
If it can be accepted, and favoured,
Generously, as a guest
As a welcome, noble guest.

There is a mystery in it.
Something is always being delivered
Out of the unknown. Often
Out of the impossible -
The hour's every moment, like a spring source,
Divulges something new.
A thought out of the heart.
A strange hand knocking at the door.

Alcestis ends happily. Over in the guest apartment, Heracles gets drunk and busts up the place. The Chorus, losing patience with their super-sized guest, blows Admetos's cover. So Heracles, sober, shocked at his blind stupidity, says, "right; I'm off". But where's he's off to is Hades - to take on Death. To get Alcestis back. To wrestle Hell and 'wrench Alcestis/Out of the grip of Death.' Which, being Hercules, he does. The end of the play is a dead wife restored.

At the CAPITAL Centre we've been thinking about Alcestis. Ted Hughes died 10 years ago this October, and we're remembering the life and extraordinary work of this poet.

But at the beginning of a new academic year, when we settle (again) inside the 'Warwick Bubble', doing life and work and friendship, wrestling with reading, struggling with writing and the challenges of creating and imagining, I'm also struck by how resonant that Chorus is, how profound in orienting us, instructing us, as, looking ahead, we face (and undoubtedly we will face) having to deal with ugly parcels we haven't asked for, negotiating accidents, misfortunes we won't welcome. The Chorus tells us every one of them is a gift and a test. The 'strange hand knocking at the door', the 'thought out of the heart' you didn't expect: the Chorus's advice is to give the guest a welcome.

Speaking of guests, at CAPITAL, lining the entrance hall, we have a gallery-ful of guests: fourteen images of Hamlet on loan from the Royal Shakespeare Company that constitute a history of theatre poster art from 1965 to the present. These days, so ubiquitous is it, you might think that the theatre poster had been around forever. But in fact, while the playbill - a printed notice advertising a theatre's repertoire that could be nailed to a post or pasted to a wall - has been around forever, the graphically designed theatre poster that we now see plastered on hoardings, papering underground tunnels, decorating bedrooms and offices, collected by groupies and academics, is of rather recent origin. It was the brainchild of John Goodwin at the RSC, collaborating with the RSC designer, George Mayhew. Head of Publicity in 1963 under Peter Hall (who was just then busy inventing the new-model Royal Shakespeare Company), Goodwin decided that the old-fashioned playbill that simply listed the season's work and the actors in the company needed a make-over. He took his cue from the day's pop-art (Hockney, Warhol, Glaser) and from youth culture's favourite forms (album covers, psychedelic collages, pin-ups of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones). The result: the stunning image that you can see in the CAPITAL foyer of David Warner as Hamlet at the RST in 1965, the very first RSC poster.

As I've written elsewhere: "1965 was the perfect moment to launch the theatre poster as icon: that summer, hordes of teenagers descended on Stratford, queuing for tickets to a Hamlet that was light years from Frank Benson's (or even Paul Scofield's): a lanky, surly, adolescent Prince, trailing a grubby college scarf, badge of every university student in the country, a Hamlet like them, who gazed at them, as they queued, from the theatre's hoardings. Printing 'Hamlet' in white on a red background, this original poster used two photographic shots of David Warner - in profile, head-on; shadowed, bleached out - Mayhew joining and manipulating them, bleeding them in to each other, 'theatricalizing' them, to produce the visual, slightly surreal correlative of Warner's performance - and Peter Hall's direction. Hamlet, Hall told his actors as rehearsals started, 'is one of mankind's great images. It turns a new face to a mirror which gives back the reflection of the age that is contemplating it.' Two faces, two minds, to-be-or-not-to-be: Mayhew's graphics gave 1960s youth culture a Hamlet who stared them down - and looked away" ('Shakespeare's popular face: from the playbill to the poster' in Robert Shaughnessy, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Popular Culture, 2007)

That original poster, as you'll see, set a pattern. When Hamlet looks at you from a theatre hoarding, it's Hamlet who's doing the looking - Hamlet played by Alan Howard, Ben Kingsley, Michael Pennington, Ken Branagh, Mark Rylance, Sam West, Alex Jennings. Oh - and David Tennant, the Hamlet who currently has teenagers standing at the crash barriers in Stratford upon Avon asking for autographs.

To help us interpret these theatre materials, we're lucky to have Andy Williams, Head of Graphic Design at the RSC, as a CAPITAL Creative Fellow from 1 October, Andy's project is titled 'Text and Message: exploring traditional and contemporary influence in classical theatre graphic design', and he'll be looking for student collaborators. WATCH THIS SPACE for further announcements. Consider Andy a gift - and a test.


June 2008

Message from the Director - June 2008

A couple of weeks back, CAPITAL’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Nick Monk, hosted a conference titled ‘Space, Performance and Pedagogy’ that aimed to ‘promote performance as a learning strategy, to consider the functions and use of teaching spaces in this context, and to foster further development of interdepartmental and cross-disciplinary collaboration.’ Basically, Nick wanted to know whether (and how) working in the kinds of open spaces we can provide at the CAPITAL Centre changes how we teach – and how students learn. He invited colleagues from around the university (and from further afield) to contribute examples of their own performance-aware teaching and to participate in a Shakespeare workshop (on Macbeth and the witches) that we’ve devised at CAPITAL. Nick writes:

There was a moment at CAPITAL’s first internal symposium on Thursday May 15th of this year when a few hairline cracks began to appear in the facades of the campus faculty bunkers. It was almost possible to detect the foundations shifting as senior representatives from eight departments (Medicine, Law, Theatre Studies, Mathematics, English, Institute of Education, Warwick Business School, and Sociology), and the administration of the University, found themselves offering tableaux of Macbeth’s “weyard” sisters in the CAPITAL Studio. For us this was a crucial moment in our development, and demonstrated conclusively the extent to which academics are, contrary to what many believe, open to methods of teaching and learning that will help students better understand their subjects.

By the end of the day there was a sense of new and reinforced commitment to enactive, or open-space learning, and a feeling that the methods are transferable to the most unlikely-sounding of departments. Confirmation of this comes in the request from Chemistry for workshops on the periodic table to be attended by all first year students. These will take place in The CAPITAL Centre Studio, which is rapidly becoming a laboratory for experiments in learning across disciplines. Indeed many would argue that it is precisely this kind of real interdisciplinarity that has been the holy grail of academe for many years now, and is something that Vice-chancellor Nigel Thrift, for one, continues to seek out as he demonstrated in his fascinating response to Joseph Roach on Tuesday in which he referred to “performance as laboratory”, and “structured failure at the heart of [that] laboratory system” – notions extremely close to the heart of CAPITAL’s mission.

I would stress, also, that this horizontal engagement across departments must be matched by a vertical one, and in the same week as the symposium CAPITAL offered its first session for postgraduate tutors on open-space learning. The session was attended by tutors from English, French, Italian, Sociology, History, The Centre for Translation and Comparative Cultural Studies, Cultural Policy Studies, and the Writing Programme, as well as representatives from the Learning and Development Centre. The success of the event has meant that CAPITAL now has an opportunity to work with the LDC to embed our methods in the training of postgraduate tutors and early-career academics across the University faculties.

Finally, in a busy week, we hosted the English Department’s “away day” for its senior members of staff, at which we were asked to offer a demonstration of the Centre’s methods. In some ways this was as important as either of the other two events for us as English is our “parent” department, and is where the ideas that underpin CAPITAL originate. It would be fair to say, also, that there has been a degree of trepidation about some of the work we are doing. We were delighted, therefore, that Jonny Heron’s workshop on Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was so well received, and that all those attending the away day participated. The outline of the workshop will be available online shortly for anyone who wishes to use it or adapt it for their own teaching.


A Birthday Message from the Director - April 23rd 2008

Happy birthday, Bill…444-years-old today!

Happy birthday, Us… 1-year-old and growing!

CAPITAL’s Research Associate, Jonny Heron, recently returned from a conference in Scotland where he delivered to an international group of top-level academics practical work that he’d developed with students in the ‘Shakespeare Without Chairs’ seminars at CAPITAL. The background was Loch Lomond. The physical workshop was on ‘Macbeth and the Witches’. He looked at text. And performance. And visual materials. And bodies in play. At the end, a Professor in Engineering from Hamburg remarked: ‘Why would you teach Shakespeare any other way?’ Then went on to ask: ‘Now, how can we learn to teach our own discipline like this?’

Addressing precisely those questions has been the business of CAPITAL in the past year. It’s our ‘birthday’: we moved into the CAPITAL Centre at Milburn House a year ago today on 23 April, that is, auspiciously, on Shakespeare’s birthday. From our first project – Patrice Naiambana’s week-long Othello workshop that explored orature of the diaspora (and, hauntingly, the question: ‘Can Othello ever escape alive from Shakespeare’s text?’) – the building has been heaving with creative work. Marcello Magni, Kathryn Hunter, Lenny Henry, Djanet Sears, Meredydd Barker, Richard Pasco, Jeffrey Dench, Harriet Walter, Barbara Leigh Hunt, Paul Allen: just a few of the actors, directors, writers, broadcasters who have collaborated with us in the past year. Students – from the moment the building opened – have ‘owned’ CAPITAL with robust self-assertion, staging their own writing (Little Thorns), producing theatre (Edward II, The Skriker, winner of several awards at Scarborough), devising new work (Crowskin) and collaborating with the RSC assistant director, Donnacadh O’Briain, on his Oedipus Project and Rob Clare on ‘Shakespeare’s Toolkit’. We’ve developed new modules; embedded new teaching methodologies on core courses; encouraged creative work for assessment; and started scoping a number of research projects around the creative use of performance archives. For RSC actors, CAPITAL is supporting their professional development through the Post Graduate Award, delivered in the Institute of Education. CAPITAL is also one who’s ‘Standing Up For Shakespeare’, collaborating with the RSC in its Learning Network for Schools.

And that’s just some of what we’ve been doing….

But here’s something more to think about. Jonny Heron also brought back from the Glasgow conference ideas that educational theorists were kicking around – ideas about ‘threshold concepts’ and ‘troublesome knowledge’. How do we, as continuous learners, embolden ourselves to cross over those thresholds and encounter the troublesome? Especially when such encounters inevitability mean a ‘loss of previous certainties’ and involve a ‘reconstitution of the self’? In short, how do we take risks? And how do we make creative use of failure? Anyone who knows Jonny knows that he has Beckett always on his lips: ‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ And: ‘To be an artist is to fail. As no other dare fail. Failure is his world.’ At CAPITAL we want to engage with ‘troublesome knowledge’. What we’ve learned in the studio and rehearsal room this year is that real learning takes us beyond the known, the comfortable, into a place of high risk. Risking, we recruit Beckett to our project: ‘To be a student is to fail…’ As Jonny puts it: ‘Learning about performance and its texts, the student must allow failure to be his or her world. Like the actor rehearsing, or the writer redrafting, the student must be permitted to fail in order to fail better… Cycles of trying and failing, finding and losing, are essential to performance and pedagogy.’

'Cycles of trying and failing': that could be a synopsis of any Shakespeare play. Or a title for my next year's EN301 syllabus.

Carol Chillington Rutter, Director CAPITAL

The CAPITAL project

"At Warwick University, we’re making new space for play. In the studio, rehearsal room, and writers’ room of our CAPITAL Centre, we have embarked with our collaborators, the Royal Shakespeare Company, in association with a number of other play-makers (Cheek by Jowl, Northern Broadsides, Warwick Arts Centre, Writers at Warwick) on projects that bring together students and actors, academics and theatre practitioners to share their artistic practice, to work on texts and performances, to produce, develop and perform new theatre writing, to devise practitioner-led theatre research projects, to record and capture performance for audio and visual archives, to develop the material arts allied to theatre (puppetry; photography; sound; costume design and manufacture), and to embody creative thinking, creative process. Quite simply, we are promoting the arts by giving our students opportunities to collaborate in the arts: to experience theatre, to work with theatre-makers, to become, themselves, makers of theatre. And for practitioners, we’re providing a laboratory for artistic work-in-progress.

"Our aim inside the university is to work a sea-change on literary studies. Starting with the core final-year Shakespeare module, we want to erase the boundary between academic ‘work’ and physical ‘play’, arguing that all writing is performance and that until it’s put on its feet and given a voice, the writing isn’t really ‘read’. But we aim, too, to work on the theatre. The RSC sees itself as a learning organisation, so we are making available to this learning-hungry company the kind of creativity that academics perform – thinking about theatre, writing about theatre, working at close quarters with language, history, and memory. Collaborating with the RSC (and others), we’re offering practitioners a free space for intellectual play where they can improvise, test out ideas, workshop their creativity, become, themselves, students learning through investigation."

Professor Carol Chillington Rutter
CAPITAL Centre, University of Warwick