Maria Shevtsova

Maria Shevtsova

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2011/12, 2012/13

Maria Shevtsova holds the Chair of Drama and Theatre Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London, having previously held professorships at the Universities of Connecticut and Lancaster (Founding Chair). She was founding director of European Studies at Sydney University and has held visiting professorships and similar positions at, among others, the Teatro Ateneo in Rome, Oslo University, the Academy of Theatre Arts in St Petersburg and the Grotowski Institute. She is the author of over one hundred journal articles and chapters in collected volumes, and her books, other than the three cited below, include the co-authored/co-edited Directors/Directing: Conversations on Theatre (Cambridge University Press, 2009) and Fifty Key Theatre Directors (Routledge, 2005). Her publications have been translated into Korean, Chinese, Persian, Russian, Romanian and Polish. She is co-editor of New Theatre Quarterly, and on the editorial team of Critical Stages of the International Association of Theatre Critics and the editorial Board of Polish Theatre Perspectives.

Research Project

Studio-Laboratory Practice and Utopian Communities: Focus on Teatr ZAR (Wroclaw) and Anatoli Vassiliev with the School of Dramatic Art (Moscow)

My research on the song theatre of Teatr ZAR led by Jaroslaw Fret and the ‘ludic structures’ developed by Anatoli Vassiliev since the 1990s is embedded in the broader framework of studio-laboratory practice and what I call the ‘utopian communities’ of the early twentieth century. The latter include the Tolstoyan- and Dukhobor-inspired endeavours of Leopold Sulerzhitsky, who followed Stanislavsky’s principles of the ethics and art of ensemble acting. This crossed cultures to Poland through Juliusz Osterwa (1919) and reached Grotowski. ZAR is part of several generations of group-elaborated montages of song, music, movement, image and text, all drawing on disparate cultural provenances and all sharing the spiritual impetus behind studio-laboratory collectives. Vassiliev recovers this spiritual dimension in part through Grotowski, adding to the tapestry of cultural, thus also religious, interconnections across time and space.

This project involves identification and contextualisation of the generic interweave of ZAR’s compositions, not least the polyphonic song of the Svaneti people in Georgia and among Armenian communities, together with their links to Byzantine Orthodoxy; Vassiliev’s liturgical modes sustained by Orthodoxy, on the one hand, and the Platonic Ideal, on the other; the pedagogy of laboratory practice and its embodiment of new cultural-performance forms; ‘utopian communities’ as sociologically defined groups whose performance practice is constitutive of their social practice. Research, here, is steeped in the sociology of the theatre and of performance, which is necessarily interdisciplinary.

Selected Publications

  • Shevtsova, M., Sociology of Theatre and Performance, Verona: QuiEdit, 2009.
  • Shevtsova, M., Robert Wilson, London and New York: Routledge, 2007.
  • Shevtsova, M., Dodin and the Maly Drama Theatre: Process to Performance, London and New York: Routledge, 2004.
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