Philip Parsons Prize for performance as research
ADSA invites entries for the Philip Parsons Prize for Performance as Research. ADSA was formed in 1977 at the instigation of the late Dr Philip Parsons, senior lecturer in drama at the University of New South Wales. To commemorate his lifelong interest in making connections between theatre scholarship and the professional stage, ADSA has established an annual Philip Parsons Prize for a senior student (honours or postgraduate) undertaking a Performance As Research (PAR) project. The Prize consists of a $500 financial award. Winning entrants will also have their work featured on the ADSA website. The winning entrant will be announced at the annual ADSA conference.
To be eligible for the award candidates must:
While candidates may have produced several creative works as part of their research, the PPP judges ask that candidates select one performance output as an exemplar of their research that can be judged for the prize. Applicants who are current members should refer to the discussion paper on Performance as Research available on the ADSA website. Members should refer to the Performance as Research Guidelines in the application link below for information on the criteria used to judge entrants.
Judges for the 2023 prize will be Sarah Peters (Flinders University), Linda Hassall (Griffith University), and Alyson Campbell (University of Melbourne).
Dr Philip Parsons
Philip Parsons, AM, PhD (Cantab) was a senior lecturer and eminent teacher in Drama at the University of NSW, who influenced a generation of students on the value of the performing arts, especially the classics. While at the University of WA, Parsons took the opportunity to test his theories of Elizabethan performance practice, especially that the text’s punctuation was there to assist the actors, not the readers. Parsons was involved in the planning of the university’s New Fortune Theatre, the first attempt to replicate the dimensions and characteristics of an Elizabethan playhouse anywhere in the world. He was co-founder in 1971 of Currency Press, the performing arts publisher, which pioneered the publication of Australian drama. In 1977 Parsons was instrumental in forming what is now the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies (ADSA),
Kerryn Palmer (Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington), Child's Play: Devising Intergenerational Collaborative Theatre with and for Young People in Aotearoa-New Zealand.
Kerryn Palmer’s project is a thoughtfully informed and highly creative response to research questions interrogating practical strategies for engaging young audiences in the process of making work and intergenerational models which embed agency and empowerment for all participants. The practice-led project has adopted a sound methodology of Arts Research (AR) and an autoethnographic framework to interrogate these research questions. In the development of the creative work a rigorously devised intergenerational model for co-creation and collaboration — which emphasises relationship building, play, shared ownership and a reciprocal knowledge model - has been applied, resulting in a sophisticated performance outcome. Moonlight, a play for 5-6 year olds, includes dynamic scenographic elements, is visually striking, and the musical component evidences a level of complexity often under-explored in theatre in this field. The submitted creative outcome offers contributions to knowledge around the use of ‘language-lean’ devising conventions, and impressive conceptual narrative frameworks. The technical aspect of the work is of a high standard and supports the investigation of theme alongside the visual aesthetic. The impact of Kerryn’s work is affirmed by the strong appraisals in support of her application.
Past Recipients of the Award
2021 Michael Metzger (Deakin University)
Michael Metzger’s The Killing Shed: Building Performance from Pieces of Self is a sophisticated, thoughtful and comprehensive response to the question ‘how might theory be employed as a dramaturgical strategy to make queer autobiographical theatre?’. Michael has engaged widely with the canon of New Zealand theatre, clearly identifying a gap in both the field of performance works that explore gay rural identities, and in queer theatre making processes. His inquisitive composition of theory and practice has been robustly documented, enabling an insightful analysis on the ways that theatre can be made, how the process of making can be reflected in the final form, and how this process may be shared with others. Michael has made a strong case for his selected methodology, which employs Performance as Research framed within autoethnography. Drawing on the Foucauldian concept of heterotopia, Michael provided a thoughtful theoretical framework, and he successfully used the theory as a dramaturgical strategy. Further, Foucault’s ideas were used to inform the various stages of his project design, enriching the iterative process of the project. The rigour of Michael’s project, both in his creative output and theoretical framework is highly evident, and this is affirmed by the strong appraisals in support of his application.
2020 No award.
2019 Margi Brown Ash (Griffith University)
This year, the Philip Parsons Prize judges are pleased to announce Dr Margi Brown Ash as the winner, for her project titled “House of Homes: Theatrical Explorations of Home and Belonging”. Margi sought to explore, reimagine and problematise the concept of ‘home and belonging’ through contemporary performance, using a postmodern therapeutic scaffold. Through Practice as Research, and guided by the theoretical frames of Social Constructionism, Home Theory, and Mythology, Margi interrogates the concepts of belonging, un-belonging and belonging in transition. One outcome of this research project is a trilogy of professional productions of high artistic merit; the first, Home, uses the technique of direct and active audience engagement to generate an understanding of the nature of home as a place of belonging. In addition, Margi has developed a new approach to working in the rehearsal room, called the Relational Impulse Cultural (RIC) process. This methodology has since been adopted in actor training programs both nationally and internationally. This is a highly sophisticated and rigorous project deserving of the award.
2018 Alex Tálamo (University of New South Wales)
The judges agreed that Alex Tálamo’s Performance as Research Honours project, “Remembering Argentina: The imprint of disappearance and its effect on live performance”, was well-deserving of the 2018 Philip Parsons prize. Alex sought to articulate an embodied experience of disappearance, focusing on the Argentinian-Australian identity and its cultural and historical links to the Argentinian military dictatorship (1976 – 1982). The intersections of postcolonial theory, post structural theory and autobiographical performance are made manifest in Alex’s project design and in the performance itself. The panel all felt that the durational performance, 30,000 Steps, where Alex re-performed the protests of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo by walking in a circle around a monument for 12 hours, was courageous and evocative, and spoke strongly to the research. As Caroline Wake attests: ‘Taken together, the performance and exhibition were both timely in the sense that migration is front of mind for many across the globe, and timeless, in the sense that it tapped into older, longer artistic histories. To respond to and represent disappearance is always difficult; to do so through performance—itself so often theorised as a disappearing art—is doubly so and yet Tálamo pulls it off’. Through her project, Alex makes a significant contribution to knowledge by offering the concept of ‘imprint’ as ‘absence of evidence’.
Honourable mention: Kerry Loughrey (Monash University) for her PhD project, 'What is a Poem Worth?'. The judges feel that Loughrey deserves an honourable mention for the rigour and complexity of her project, along with the level of artistic skill.2017 Joint Winners: Lynne Bradley (Queensland University of Technology) and David Joseph (University of New England)
2016 Suzie J. Jarmain (University of New England)
The judges were unanimous in their awarding Suzie Jarmain's Masters of Applied Theatre Studies at the University of New England and her practice-led research project, 'Faking It For Real: the phenomenology of Elizabeth Taylor is My Mother', the Philip Parson's Prize for 2016. The imbrication of the project's phenomenological theoretical frame with Suzie's application of methodology, derived primarily from Michael Chekhov's theories of Psychological Gesture, provided a unique and excellent example of Practice as Research. The theatrical performance at Melbourne's La Mama Theatre was a powerful, confronting precisely performed and highly dramatic outcome. Suzie's investigation into the liminal space between self and character in the performance of an autobiographical text allowed for an ambitious and rigorous probing into the very heart of acting processes. Suzie has been able to articulate an acting methodology that explores complex character and physicality resulting in a highly effective approach to developing contemporary performance.2015 Natasha Budd (Queensland University of Technology)
Natasha Budd's PhD Thesis is entitled, 'Staging childhoods: Experiments in authentic theatre making practice with children'. Her creative work in which she is the writer, director and producer is called, 'Joy Fear and Poetry' and was staged at La Boite Theatre in its 2013 indie program. Natasha Budd's work offers a unique contribution to practice-led research resulting in an intervention in children's theatre, which allows the repositioning of children as co-creators of the performance. It is thoroughly researched, contextualized and practiced. The strength of Budd's research is in her examination of conventional theatre for young people and her sociocultural constructivist approach allowing an extension of concepts of empowerment and identity for her cast of young performers and her audience. In addition to her creative practice and model of working Natasha Budd also “examines historical and contemporary representations of children in performance and details some of the techniques employed by artists working with child performers”.
2014 Emily O'Connor (University of New South Wales)
Emily O’Conner’s Performance As Research (PAR) project explores an understanding of mimicry as a mutual exchange in which both organism and environment are altered in form, rather than simply understood as the impersonation of one thing by another. O’Conner’s research and conceptual ideas were developed and ‘tested’ through the creative project Dinghy Drag, which comprised a live intermedial performance that was presented at IO Myers Theatre in September 2013. Dinghy Drag comprised a live performance and a video installation. The video installation documented the performer dragging a six-foot dinghy across the desolate ‘landscape’ of a dried-up lake in NSW. The video was projected across three large white screens hung in a dark cavernous theatre space. The live performance utilized excessive drag make-up and slow movement as the performer repeated the action of dragging the dinghy through the performance space. Drawing on Caillois’ mimesis theory and Grosz’s work on the interrelation between body and space, the PAR project set out to understand the body and environment as built from malleable particles – each influencing the physical formation of the other. Described by the creative researcher as a ‘performance of spatial dis-order which drew its force from the spectral being made visceral’ (O’Conner, ‘PPP Application’, 2014, 2), the creative component created what was described as a ‘field of sensation’ for audiences, resulting in numerous resonances ‘stretching from an encounter with the sublime’, to ‘a more literal take on contemporary eco-politics as well as a place for ghosts, lone […] wanderers and half-known histories of settler violence’ (Bryoni Trezise, ‘Examiner’s Report’).
The outcomes of the creative exploration were subsequently theorized and documented in the exegesis Performing the Phyllia Moth: Constructing a Creative Practice in the Relations Between Organism & Environment submitted as part of Honours degree at the University of New South Wales. The inquiry draws on the metaphor of mimetic insects such as the Phyllia Moth that was explored both in the written exegesis and in the live performance project to investigate the nexus between bodies and their environments and how this produces the notion of ‘landscape’ and vice-versa (O’Conner, ‘PPP Application’, 2014, 5). The idea of the Phyllia Moth and the conceptual territory for the PAR project was informed by the writings of theorist and entomologist Roger Caillois and Australian Feminist theorist Elizabeth Grosz. These were applied within the thesis and practical performance in order to ‘better understand the body and environment as built from malleable particles – each influencing the physical formation of the other’ (O’Conner, ‘PPP Application’, 2014, 1). This conceptual territory was also augmented by performance theory such as Anthony Howell’s The Analysis of Performance Art (1999). O’Conner’s understanding and approach was also informed by Yvonne Rainer’s movement piece Trio A (1978) along with a number of performances within avant-garde film, popular and queer culture to consolidate understandings of body-space cohesion. In developing research capacity around the notion of mimicry as a mutual exchange in which both organism and environment are altered in form, the PAR project offers interesting and genuine contributions to knowledge that draws on and consolidates a wide range of theoretical, conceptual and artistic sources.
2013 Teresa Izzard (Curtin University)
Teresa Izzard's PhD Performance as Research project explores and identifies a process of theatrical direction that the researcher terms 'Somatic Theatre Praxis'. Izzard identifies six key ways that somatic movement education and Laban movement studies can support and extend directorial practice and this remains an original contribution to knowledge that can potentially inform further scholarship in the field. Using Haseman's practice-led methodology, Izzard allowed the practice to formulate her research questions. With a clear project design she has been able to create five stages of dramaturgically based reflection and action, identifying her process as 'neo-directorial practice'. The resulting creative work, The Yellow Wallpaper, documented by video is of a very high standard with excellent attention to detail in the set and mise en scene. The performers are all capable and engaging, demonstrating good vocal and physical expression. The video demonstrates an attention to the physicality of the performers, underscoring the heightened sense of embodiment that Izzard's research explores and illustrating the ‘compelling’ quality of ‘embodied’ performance that her research enabled.
Honourable Mention Lucia Guiffre (University of New South Wales
2011 Rachel Swain (Melbourne University)
The 2011 Philip Parsons Prize for Performance as Research is awarded to Rachel Swain from Melbourne University for her PhD entitled “Ways of Listening: Dramaturgy as Deep Mapping in Intercultural-Indigenous Performance’” encompassing the performance project Burning Daylight. The project developed by the intercultural performance company Marrugeku, and co-conceived by Swain with Dalisa Pigram, explored the transcultural transactions of Asian and Indigenous experience of Broome in Western Australia . Working within an indigenous framework of cultural production, the project applies the term ‘intercultural-indigenous’ to describe the performance-based research responding to the cultural specificity of Broom’s history and pearling industry which has produced and sustained a mixture of inter-racial stories connections and experiences between the traditional Aboriginal, Malay, Chinese, Indonesian and Japanese communities. The central question that the research project investigates is how to consider and develop a hybrid intercultural performance dramaturgy developed in Indigenous contexts that responds to the site-specific ecology of place. In responding to this inquiry the Burning Daylight performance project demonstrates the importance of indigenous storytelling as a form of embodied knowledge that is connected to landscape and develops and articulates a new model of dramaturgy termed ‘listening to country’. The inquiry adopts research methodologies that attempt to expose, document and archive the practitioners material thinking in the process of making a new piece of dance-theatre. Beginning in 2003 with preliminary research in Broom with Indigenous and community elders, the project involved multiple stages of development involving ongoing community liaisons and discussions guided by senior Yawuru Law man and traditional owner Patrick Dodson. The performance project culminated in the premier of a contemporary dance theatre production staged as part of Broom’s Shinju Masturi Festival in 2006, a performance season of the work staged in Zurich, Switzerland at the Zürcher Theatre in 2007, followed in 2009 by a five-week national tour of the production to Broome, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart. The dissertation was submitted in 2010 . The research also culminated in the publication and distribution of Burning Daylight: Place, History and Community - a book that includes an interview with Patrick Dodson, essays by Ian Maxwell, Jacqueline Lo and Kerrie Schaefer, and a DVD containing full documentation of the 2009 production shot by acclaimed indigenous film-maker Warwick Thornton. Measured simply by the impressive list of research outcomes, the project sets a new benchmark for what can be achieved by performance as research projects. The contribution to knowledge that the project makes is also measured by the new model of dramaturgical practice that the research has uncovered which will no doubt guide future investigations in the field and which has also laid the ground-work for articulating the development of new and innovative forms of Indigenous-Intercultural dance and performance.
Honourable Mention: Bert Van Dijk for "Towards a New Pacific Theatre"
2010 No Award
2009 Ben Knapton (Queensland University of Technology) for Gaijin
2008 Leah Mercer (Queensland University of Technology) for Complementary and the Uncertainty Principle as Aesthetic Principles. The Practice and Performance of The Physics Project.
2007 David Fenton (Queensland University of Technology) for 'Unstable Acts' A practitioner's case study of the poetics of postdramatic theatre and intermediality
2006 No Award
2005 Liza-Mare Syron (University of Wollongong) for EPHEMERA: Aboriginality, Reconiciliation, Urban Perspectives
2004 Julie Robson (Queensland University of Technology) for Songs of knowledge: the Sirens in theory and performance
2003 Amanda Lynch and Neal Harvey (University of Queensland)
2002 No Award
2001 No Award
2000 Michael Noble (Murdoch University) for A body in 22 cycles
1999 No Award
1998 Sandra d'Urso (La Trobe)
1997 Cracka Theatre Company - Nigel Pean, Mary-Ann Hunter, Stacey Callaghan, Steph Kehoe (University of Queensland) for Boneless Chicken Brecht
1996 Stacey Callaghan (University of New England) for still raw
1995 Tim Benzie (University of Queensland) for Personal Fictions