Department of Theatre and Performance Studies News

Honorary Associate Gay McAuley wins the 2014 Rob Jordan Prize, presented by the Australasian Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies Association.

7 July, 2014

At the recent ADSA Conference in New Zealand (25-28 June), Associate Professor Gay McAuley, Honorary Associate in the Department of Performance Studies, was awarded the Rob Jordan Prize for her book Not Magic but Work: An Ethnographic Account of a Rehearsal Process (Manchester University Press, 2013).

The Rob Jordan Prize is awarded for the book deemed by the judges to have made the most significant contribution to drama, theatre or performance studies in the two years prior to the year of the Award.

The judges’ commendation is as follows:

“Through her program initiatives at the University of Sydney and in successive publications over more than three decades, Gay McAuley has consistently advanced Australian and international scholarship in Theatre and Performance studies. This includes leading a significant shift from the use of theatre semiotics as her preferred means of performance analysis to proposing and leading the extensive engagement with an ethnographic approach to the study of rehearsal interaction that now marks her own research, as well as many of the research endeavours of colleagues at her home institution and elsewhere

Not Magic but Work offers fascinating insights into the work process of a particular group of leading Australian professional theatre artists at a specific point in time. It also engages with debates in the field, articulates connections with recent developments in other research disciplines and contexts, and points out avenues for further enquiry. The approach is classically ethnographic, the result of dedicated immersion in a cultural process in all its richness and variety to produce both ‘thick description’ and critical theoretical reflections. Seamlessly interweaving detailed observation, theoretical insight and personal passion, McAuley provides us with her extended reflections as the solitary ‘outside’ participant observer of a single rehearsal process, in this case for the premiere production at Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre of a new Australian play, Michael Gow’s Toy Symphony directed by Neil Armfield.

Present for all sessions during the formal rehearsal process, most production meetings and several performances during the theatre season, McAuley’s engaged and illuminating account of the ‘hidden world’ of the rehearsal process takes up the bulk of Part I. In an introductory chapter ‘Writing about rehearsal: some preliminary observations’ and in the four connected essays that make up Part II, she teases out general and particular issues in the theorisation of rehearsal interaction and in observational method, drawing on recent developments in ethnography as well as demonstrating her deep knowledge of contemporary and classical theatre and performance theory, to the literature of which she has herself made a significant contribution. The last of these essays, ‘Rehearsal and interaction ritual’, reconnects Rehearsal Studies with contemporary ethnography and social theory to suggest ways in which lessons drawn from rehearsal interaction as a model of group creativity, might be applied in broader institutional contexts.

This is a book that sets a particular benchmark in its clarity of expression. While deeply scholarly, it is also immensely readable and should appeal to a range of non-specialist readers.”

Expressions of interest

Expressions of interest are now invited from performance practitioners for use of the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies' Rex Cramphorn Studio during 2015. The deadline for the current call for expressions of interest is Friday 8 November 2014. Please read the Studio's Conditions of Use, and download and complete an Expression of Interest form to apply. More information is available here (

CONGRATULATIONS to two of our recent graduates

At the recent launch of the Griffin Theatre's 2015 program we were delighted to see that two of our recent student graduates are involved in next year's program.

Nicholas Hope graduated with a PhD in Performance Studies in 2010. He has written and will now direct ‘Five Properties of Chainmale’ which previews 15-16 April, and it’s season runs 18 April – 9 May. You will hear more about this soon, as the cast will rehearse in the Rex Cramphorn Studio from the end of March 2015.

Dino Dimitriadis, a recent Honours graduate is the Producer for ‘The Dapto Chaser’ which runs 1-25 July 2015. We will contact Dino soon and interview him about this play, let Kirstin ( know if you’d be interested in having him come in to chat to us about what he’s doing.


Christopher Hay, a phd student with the department, has received a Postgraduate Teaching Fellowship from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences for 2013. These grants are very competitive and we congratulate Chris on his appointment and look forward to working with him this year.

Dr Paul in new play at Belvoir

Our own Paul Dwyer is in the new play Beautiful One Day, a collaboration between ILBIJERRI Theatre Company & version 1.0 and Belvoir St Theatre, created by Sean Bacon, Magdalena Blackley, Kylie Doomadgee, Paul Dwyer, Eamon Flack, Rachael Maza, Jane Phegan, Harry Reuben & David Williams - at Belvoir St - 17 Nov-23 Dec 2012.

Recent postgraduate Dr Kath Bicknell writes for new magazine

Recent DTPS graduate Dr Kath Bicknell not only tutors with the department but has just joined the staff of a new publication Flow Mountain Bike. Their first issue features an article by Kath on Australia's mountain bike representatives at the London Olympics, Bec Henderson and Dan McConnell. As Kath says: "On a geek note for students wondering 'what next' [with a degree in Performance Studies], ideas from phenomenology and embodiment often underpin my column writing, while rehearsal studies/ethnography [both a feature of the DTPS undergrad curriculum] carry over a lot when writing extended interviews and thinking about the sport from someone else's world of experience."

Check out the journal's website or Kath's blogg

Postgrad success at ADSA

DTPS postgraduate Janet McGaw was runner up in the Veronica Kelly Award for best postgraduate paper at the 2012 ADSA conference in Brisbane this July with her paper: "Nomads in a Strange Town: the role of itinerant professionals in NSW country drama societies". Katherine Johnson, also a DTPS postgraduate, received an honorable mention for her paper: "Sense(s) and Sensibilities: performing British identities in (multi)cultural landscapes."

Martin del Amo New Work

Honorary Artistic Associate Martin del Amo staged his newest work Anatomy of an Afternoon featuring dancer Paul White at the Sydney Festival this Januaary. For more details see Sydney Festival. Or see a 13 minute excerpt from the original development at Critical Path, and other snippets of work by Martin del Amo, filmed by Samuel James on

Where are they now?

Find out what graduates of Performance Studies are up to.

  • Director Anne-Louise Sarks, who has a BA Honours in Performance Studies, co-wrote and directed the smash hit Medea at Belvoir Street in October/November 2012
  • Recent postgraduate Dr Justine Shih Pearson is the Acting Director (2012/13) of Critical Path, NSW's dance research organisation at Rushcutters Bay.
  • Former Performance Studies student Catherine Daniel is in Kenya working with Vertical Circus on a social circus and music project. link to you tube to see short doco on latest show