Pure Research Submission Process
Pure Research Reports:
'Kinesthetic Transference in Performance'
by Erika Batdorf, Kate Digby and Denise
'The Unsuspecting Audience'
by Moynan King & Sherri Hay
by Moynan King & Sherri Hay
by Cathy Nosaty, Laurel MacDonald & Philip Strong
'Voice, Music & Narrative'
by Martin Julien
Sound, Voice and Connection'
by Heather Nicol
'Beneath the Poetry: Magic not Meaning'
by Kate Hennig
'Exploring the Land Between Speaking
by Guillaume Bernardi
by Lois Brown & Liz Pickard
by Shadowland Theatre
Read Brian's article on Pure Research from the Canadian Theatre
Pure Research Report - December
The Choral Revolution
by Rececca Singh and Nick Carpenter
Can the twenty person show be the new one person show?
That question still burns in our minds after a blisteringly intense
three day research period with a chorus of twenty of Canadas
finest and most generous actors.
Rebecca Singh is a performer and Canadian independant theatre practitioner
and founded a company called The Montreal All Star Cheerleaders.
From 2002-6 she experimented with cheerleading as a theatrical form
and wrote and interdisciplinary Kabarett-inspired political-satire
driven plays and sketches for a growing legion of devoted fans.
In collaboration with the company and playwright/musician Nick Carpenter,
a new theatrical form, The Cheer Theatre was born.
In 2007, Rebecca and Nick joined forces with Nightswimming to conduct
a research experiment on the broader choral form. Inspired by the
sucess of Cheer Theatre, we wanted to examine the role a chorus
could play in non-classical theatre.
But before we guide you through our results, some background. Why?,
why choruses? and why now?
In creating works of Cheer Theatre we often used music and choreography
and employed new and existing text that alternated between solo
and choral speech. This got us thinking about the origins of theatre,
choral speech, and and its effect on audience and story.
Rebecca turned a keen investigative eye onto Dithyramb, a form of
Greek choral lyric poetry, from which some say tragedy sprang. In
her investigations she discovered that in the western theatre tradition,
choral speech originated with groups of mourners at funerals who
would ritualistically sing in chorus. Over time this tradition moved
into theatres and colosseums , and the lyrics, spoken by a 50 man
chorus, became storied celebrations of the popular culture of the
day. In fact, presenting these poems got so popular it was regarded
as a competitive sport; poets competing fiercely for the popular
vote; a sort of Ancient Greek YouTube or Choral Idol, as it were.
So having marinated in Cheerleading and the Greeks, we were thrilled
to have the opportunity to further explore Choral Performance theories
with a group of twenty actors.
We found it invaluable to approach this research from a practical
standpoint. The following scenario, a directors nightmare,
was presented to the participants on Day One:
Twenty people have auditioned for a one person show that you are
going to direct. The play is a personal, inherently political oeuvre
requiring an agile accomplished storyteller. You make your selection,
choose one actor you are convinced will carry the part. But instead
of calling this actor yourself, you delegate to your Stage Manager.
Your Stage Manager delegates to the Assistant Stage Manager who
is still in high school and pretty green and missed the production
meetings because of exams. The hapless ASM misunderstands and instead
of calling the one actor who got the part, calls all twenty on the
audition list...and tells them all they got the part!
So on the first day of rehearsal, they all show up. You are confronted
with 20 actors raring to go. At first you are at a loss, furious,
overwhelmed. But then after some deep breathing, you have a thought.
the thought turns into a question...a good question: Can a one person
show be pulled off, indeed enhanced, by 20 actors working as a chorus?
This is the question upon which most of our exercises and experiments
were founded. This is the story that gave us a point of departure
as we planned our three day lab with Nightswimming.
We imagined being in the shoes of the director of the little fiction
above. And we wondered what we would need to know about choruses
to effectively tell the story. Furthermore, what type of theatre
magic could be created with this chorus to tell the story- what
possibilities lie in the choral form? We wondered what methods,
vocabulary and choral effects might we hit upon (on purpose and
by mistake) over the next few days that would help us streamline
the rehearsal process? And finally what effect would this have on
our audience- what would happen to the spectators experience of
watching this intensely personal text delivered by a forty legged
twenty headed actor? We embraced all of these questions with open
minds, decided a solo show can be performed successfully by 20 people
and set about getting ourselves and the chorus into shape for "The
We hired twenty Toronto based professional actors. We selected a
diverse and dynamic group of mixed gender (half men, half women),
vocal quality and age.
We had people come in to fulfill the audience role. Our volunteer
listeners included MFA students of the U of T Centre for Study in
Drama, theatre practitioners, academics and the theatre going public.
The chorus members were: Anousha Alamian, Sarah Bezansen, Jay Bowen,
Leanna Brodie, Anna Chatterton Jayne Collins, Diana Donnelly, Megan
Dunlop, Megan Flynn, Shawn Hitchins, Elva Mai Hoover, Noah Keneally,
Earl Pastko, Freya Ravensbergen, Julian Richings, Katherine Sanders,
Derek Scott, Jonathan Seinen, Seife Tesfaye, and Norman Yeung.
Texts used in this research included:
Excepts from Come Good Rain, a play by George Seremba
Except from Cadence, a performance poem by Jem Rolls
Except from, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Song of a Citizen, a poem by Czeslaw Milosz
Come Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen as arranged by Nick Carpenter
and various short rhymes and jokes.
Our full report on the research conducted during the Pure Research
sessions can be downloaded at the following site, complete with
Also: see Canadian Theatre Review CTR 135 for Rebecca's related article.
Sound clips from came the archival recordings are on the Pure Research
section on Rebecca's website which you can find here.
The intention in posting the archival sound clips (a discussion
about jokes, and a small sampling of the sounds we made) is to better
illustrate the experiment and report and get others excited about
choral theatre - so tell your friends!
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