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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Cultural Memory the Excluded Imaginary

Jade McCutcheon.

Somewhere in our cultural memory we tabooed a connection to the 'spiritual' beyond the dogma of the church. We lost our ability to surrender and to be possessed by the forces of nature surrounding us. We know from history books that 'hearing voices', 'having visions', 'dancing under the moon' and 'channeling' are all fairly well taboo in our Western Culture. One wonders how this came about and what effect this has had on the way we perceive 'Spirit' and how this affects our construction of self. Possibly the imaginary zone we have excluded is this site of 'connectedness', our connection to the land, to the forces and to the wiser god-like voices within. The exclusion of a shamanic voice in our cultural memory can and does affect the act of theatre.
Historical traditions of actor training have excluded the 'receptive other' whilst at the same time searching for a way into those excluded spaces. As a result the actor has not been encouraged to enter into the inner realms beyond those of the body, the emotions and the mind. Onstage, the actor is often in the position of surrendering to the character they constructed during rehearsal - sometimes to the point of being possessed by the character, beyond rational thought and beyond representation.


Jade McCutcheon  (United States)
Visiting Professor
Department of Theatre and Dance
University of California, Davis.

is an Australian director and scholar with extensive experience in the Australian theatre industry. She began her career in 1980 as a member of International Research Theatre Group KISS in Holland, where she studied Grotowski's actor training methods, toured Europe and Australia and played at La Mama in New York. During this period she also performed with members of Cunning Stunts and Circus Oz at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and worked as a sound engineer, musician and sound designer for video, film and live performance. After graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, Australia's most prestigious actor and director training institution, McCutcheon worked as a freelance director in Sydney for several years before turning to academic pursuits and an ongoing investigation of actor training techniques. Her directing credits include productions at the University Theatre, Woollongong; Theatre South; NIDA Theatre; the Adelaide Festival; Bay Street Theatre; Wharf Theatre; Sydney Theatre Company; The Australian Opera; Crossroads Theatre; and the Lookout Theatre Club. McCutcheon developed a shamanic approach to acting as part of her doctorate from University of Technology, Sydney, and has presented workshops and papers on her work at conferences around the world. A lecturer at Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, New South Wales, she has also directed and devised numerous productions for local and regional theatres, youth theatres, and educational institutions. A Visiting Scholar at the Tisch School of the Arts in 1996, she is currently co-convenor of the Theory and Practice of Performing working group for the International Federation of Theatre Research. Among her publications are articles in Consciousness, Literature and the Arts and The Media and Cultural Review.

  • Actor training.
  • Spirit.
  • Cultural Memory.
  • Excluded imaginary

(Virtual Presentation, English)