Devising Theatre & Performance: Curious Methods

Sample exercises

From Practice Based Research Workbook – Autoethnography


Devising Theatre & Performance: Curious Methods
By Leslie Hill and Helen Paris
Published by Intellect Books, Sept 2021
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In this book we offer a smörgåsbord of creative prompts and pathways enriched with critical thinking tools and questions, a hybrid approach we call ‘Curious Methods’. Curious Methods derives from the name of our performance company Curious and from the artist-scholar/research-creation cultures we work in. At its core, all our work combined modes of inquiry, experimentation and reflection or curious methods.

This book is open to adaptation by a wide range of interdisciplinary practitioners who value studio/field/lab work in its many guises, whether you are working solo, in collaboration or using this book as a resource for your teaching.

As we write we imagine ourselves in the studio with you, not only giving you exercises and workshop ideas and instructions but sharing the philosophies which inform them. We imagine this as a convivial space. As artists, we know some of the walls we hit when making work. As teachers we understand some of the challenges students face in finding their voices, owning their stories.

Some of the assignments in this book are fully-fledged exercises that are designed to be followed instruction by instruction, others are offered more as invitations or prompts for you to experiment with, including a few provocations to challenge boundaries or performance anxieties.In curating this creative-critical collection, we are inviting you on an artistic journey fuelled by curiosity, propelled by experimentation and navigated by contemplation.

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“Curious’s methods are at once tender, lyrical, soul-stirring, and politically charged. To practise their methods with them is joyous and inspiring.”

Jen Harvie, Queen Mary University of London

“This is an essential resource for both artists and scholars and I can’t think of anyone better placed to make this offering than Helen and Leslie and their incurably curious minds.”

Lois Weaver, Artist, Activist, Split Britches

“This inspiring, energizing, and curiosity-inducing collection of exercises, lessons, and prompts will activate performance-based artists at all levels. Whether building a daily creative practice or making a performance, readers of Curious Methods will quickly become participants in Hill and Paris’ generous and generative project.”

Stacy Wolf, Princeton University

“One of the most compelling aspects of the book is Hill and Paris’s offer of “companionship” – encouragement to test out, to dream, to fail spectacularly, to seek out and be receptive to deeply personal discoveries with these generous, vibrant, and compassionate artists.”

Laura Levin, York University, Toronto

“A deep dive into creative practice, Curious Methods makes available a generative range of excellent ideas, prompts, exercises, and inspirations for bringing forth performance as research, as experience, as finely crafted art form, as surprise. Working with this book, whether alone or with others, will help harness the power of the impulsive and open doors marked non-linear to expand the boundaries of creative possibilities in as yet unimagined directions. This is an invitation to your own artistic journey! Pack light. Hill and Paris help you find what you need all along the way.”

Rebecca Schneider, Brown University

“This beautifully executed and crafted book is the ideal companion for anyone working in the field of contemporary performance and theatre-making. This is a very generous offering of a resourceful and inventive toolbox from one of the most prominent performance duos working in Live Art. I can very easily imagine delving into it on a regular basis to feed my practical pedagogy as well as my own creative processes.”

Chloé Déchery, University of Paris 8, France

“What a gorgeously tasty, seductive, and inventive set of invitations to create new performance fill this remarkable book. The “curious methods” of Leslie Hill and Helen Paris help us follow our noses into the myth and memory that live loud in devised work. An invaluable user’s manual for being human!”

Tim Miller, solo performer and author of A Body in the O

“For the student/teacher/creator of performance practice, this work is a gift from the gods. The original gods – the muses – where creation takes shape from within the body and the body politic (the necessary “I” and “we” of it). If you imagine you don’t need this book, you especially need this book. The very reading of this text brings the reader’s body into being and we are suddenly prompted to get up and create in response. The best advice: “Start with a question.” This, the first step, in the journey of original work that Paris and Hill invite us to return to with every new day as artists and scholars; and, they have created a compelling cartography of design to guide us along the way. I am deeply grateful for their wisdom.”

Cherrie Moraga, University of California Santa Barbara

“Curious Methods offers an invaluable resource that brings insights, at once practical and profound, into methods of performance making. The pragmatic wisdom that illumines this book is vital for anyone making creative work, from the beginner amateur to the seasoned professional. The thoughtful and meditative quality of these exercises will enrich not only your creative work, it will also attune you to glimmers of everyday redemption and enable you to cultivate a joyful ethic of practice.”

Jisha Menon, Stanford University