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ISL: Researchh


Research in cognitive linguistics (Johnson & Lackoff; McNeill; Zlatev), acting theory (Kemp; Lutterbie), and second language education (Haught & McCafferty; McCafferty & Stam) points to the importance of the connection between language and body. 


In turn, theatre scholars have only recently started paying attention to the growing significance of multilingual dramaturgy, i.e., an informed and complex understanding of the effect of employing two or more languages in one stage production and the questions those language-related choices may produce within a multicultural and multilingual context. Multilingual dramaturgy, wide spread in Europe and French Canada (Carlson, Nolette), still remains a very rare phenomenon in English Canada (Silver), and specifically in Toronto, despite the city’s persistent claims for multicultural and multilingual diversity.


This research is a practice-based exploration of both stage multilingualism and the work of a multilingual actor. Through a creative artistic process, it aims


1. To explore the possibilities and limitations of embodied multilingual dramaturgy through constructing and reflecting upon the process of construction a devised performance which will be thematically and aesthetically centred on multilingualism.


2. Within the framework of the devised multilingual performance, to explore the mono- and multilingual actors’ process of performing (and/or learning to perform) in more than one language.


Research Process

To collect the verbatim material, we will conduct interviews starting with each other and proceeding to a close circle of our friends, who are more likely to open up to us and share stories that otherwise might not be shared with anyone. Later, we will expand our circle of interviewees to reach people who, despite being Toronto residents, might have views, stories and histories very different from our own or those of our friends. 


On completion of the first phase, instead of exploring notions of the ‘real’ (as in ‘based on real events’ or ‘derived from the interviews with real Toronto residents’), we will attempt to disrupt attachments of the ‘real’ to the collected verbatim data. Rather, we will encourage the creative team (dramaturge-performers) to search for the ‘imaginary’ in the construction of stories, characters, identities and discourses. Subverting stereotypes and increasing the level of theatricality of performance, we are hoping to draw attention to the theatricality of life, to the intimate and reciprocal dynamics between the real and the imaginary, the exciting and the desired, the lost and the gained. Our experiments with the ‘real’ may include, but not be limited to:

  • Changing linguistic and cultural identity of a character in the middle of a scene/monologue or/and performing the same story by the actors of different L1/L2s , cultural, racial or gender identities

  • Generating a physical score complementing or counterpointing the linguistic performance

  • Switching the language of performance and exposing parts of the audience to the linguistic alienation a number of Toronto residents have to go through every day

  • Encouraging performers to perform in their L2 (performers with English as their dominant language to perform in their L2 or L3 and performers who are more comfortable with performing in languages other than English to perform in English).


Through these processes, we will create a project that will invite everyone involved (story authors, actors-dramaturges and audiences) to reflect on the subjectivity of voices of Toronto residents, and on the subjectivity of their own voice and perception.

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