Ms Deborah Pearson

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Research interests

My research interests are several.  My PhD focusses on approaches to dramaturgy and narrative in contemporary performance, and I have also written on the value of intimacy and relational theatre, the tensions between the term "theatre" and "live art," and artist-led curation through Forest Fringe, an organisation I co-direct with Andy Field and Ira Brand.  

I was recently awarded a practice based PhD interrogating the question, “In what unique ways can contemporary performance address our preoccupations with narrative?"  My PhD research addresses narrative preoccupations from the unique position that contemporary performance occupies in an arts ecology, posited between theatre and visual art, allowing artists to implement narrative conventions while questioning the fundamental nature of the audience’s desire for these conventions on a philosophical level.  The thesis identifies and discusses three central preoccupations: i) Representation, ii) Conflict, and iii) Endings. 

The practice-based element of my thesis consisted of twenty-seven versions of the script The Future Show, in which I continually rewrote and performed an account of the rest of my life, starting from the end of the performance.  Descriptions of my immediate future would “expire” as soon as I spoke them aloud, meaning the concept required constant rewrites of text. Three past scripts and a score for the performance were published together as a book entitled The Future Show by Oberon in 2015.

An additional practice-based element of my research is a one-on-one relational piece Drifting Right in which, as an avowed left wing voter, I take right-wing voters on a canoe ride on open waters and invite us to engage in a political conversation with that is not an argument. This piece has been performed at the Next Wave Festival in Melbourne, Australia, and as part of the ImPossible Futures Festival at Vooruit in Ghent, Belgium.  I have written about this piece in the Guardian and Canadian Theatre Review.



Personal profile

As a practitioner I am interested in creating formally inventive work which asks difficult and often existential questions using the discourse of live performance. I am always trying to find the right form for an idea, and my concept of theatrical form is flexible.  I have made an immersive audio dance walk in a mental health facility, an overheard conversation in a kitchen, a narrated home movie in a video store, an installation in a library, a ride in a canoe, and several studio shows. I won a herald angel for my first solo show “Like You Were Before” and was shortlisted for a Total Theatre Award for Innovation and an Arches Brick Award for this same show.  I tour my work throughout Europe, Asia and North America, having performed in 14 countries.  

In 2007 I founded Forest Fringe, and since 2008 have been co-directing it with Andy Field and Ira Brand.  Forest Fringe is a collaborative project between Andy, Ira and I which focusses on community, context and curation.  We have run a “venue” in several guises at the Edinburgh Festival for ten years, and we have presented work with artists in Tokyo, Austin, Bangkok, Athens, Lisbon, Dublin and throughout the UK.  Some of the artists we work with include Tim Etchells, Daniel Kitson, Action Hero, Dickie Beau, Sharon Smith, Tim Crouch, Ant Hampton, Silvia Mercuriali, Tania El Khoury, and Brian Lobel. Forest Fringe have won two Herald Angels, a special Fringe First for curation, the Peter Brook Empty Space Award, a Total Theatre Award for Significant Contribution, and in 2010 and 2016 the co-directors made the Stage List of the 100 most influential people in UK theatre. In 2016 we published a composite of essays and texts entitled Forest Fringe: The First Ten Years with Oberon.


I am an associate artist with Volcano in Toronto, for whom I have worked as a playwright with Tabletalk (2009) and a librettist with A Synonym for Love (2012) which was recently nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award for outstanding new musical/opera.  Through Volcano I created and lead InForming Content, an annual three day creation lab at the University of Toronto Centre for Ethics, the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto, and the Theatre Centre in Toronto.  InForming Content pairs performance practitioners with researchers, thinkers and academics, creating site specific pieces based on academic research.


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