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Zoomed rehearsals produce Australian premiere Fishskin Trousers

An eleventh-hour scramble to return home before borders closed left a Canadian theatre director in the opposite hemisphere to her Australian cast.

“The impact of COVID-19 on live theatre production has been significant but as a director I never imagined rehearsing a play via Zoom,” theatre director and University of Tasmania PhD candidate Josephine Christensen said.

For her PhD, Ms Christensen has been leading a practice-as-research project that utilises the Michael Chekhov acting technique in rehearsal and performance. The technique was developed by Russian American actor and director Mikhail Aleksandrovich "Michael" Chekhov, who in the 1930s, established the Chekhov Theatre School in England.

“The Michael Chekhov technique favours the actor’s intuition and instinct over the intellect and restores humour and spirit to the rehearsal process,” Ms Christensen said.

“Through my own training I found that the technique provided the most immediate and imaginative route to embodying performance.”

Ms Christensen moved across the world to Tasmania, Australia to immerse herself in the practice and research of the Michael Chekhov technique.

“I chose to study at the University of Tasmania because the School of Creative Arts and Media shows a genuine desire to introduce the Michael Chekhov technique to its theatre and performance majors. The technical and research expertise of the theatre staff was also a major attraction,” she said.

University of Tasmania students majoring in theatre and performance – the ‘Michael Chekhov Collective’ – will perform the play Fishskin Trousers as part of Ms Christensen’s research.

Fishskin Trousers is written by award-winning English playwright Professor Elizabeth Kuti. It is a monologue play which interweaves myth, folklore and magic as it unfolds the experiences of three characters on the mysterious Island of Orford Ness.

”It has been a wonderful opportunity for our undergraduate students to immerse themselves in the Michael Chekhov technique under the guidance of an expert practitioner, and for Ms Christensen to test her skills and her knowledge in the field of actor training and directing using the Chekhov approach,” University of Tasmania Head of Theatre and Performance Dr Jane Woollard said.

“Cooperation and communication are essential for any outstanding performance, so in these challenging long-distance circumstances, a special thank you goes to our theatre technician Chris Jackson who has brought Ms Christensen’s vision of Fishskin Trousers to the University’s Annexe Theatre.”

The Michael Chekhov Collective will stage four performances of Fishskin Trousers from Wednesday 21 October to Saturday 24 October at the Annexe Theatre, University of Tasmania’s Inveresk campus, Launceston. Audience numbers will be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. Tickets can be booked online at trybooking.com.

The Saturday performance will be livestreamed. People intending to watch the livestream must register in advance by emailing CAM.Inveresk@utas.edu.au. A link will subsequently be provided to those who have registered.

Photo: University of Tasmania theatre and performance students Paige Kruger, who plays Mab, and Alexandra Chatwin-Dalgleish, who plays Mog, in the play Fishskin Trousers.

Published on: 19 Oct 2020 11:26am