Playing outside the frame: revealing the hidden contributions of the women in the French tradition of actor training

Fleming, Cass. 2020. Playing outside the frame: revealing the hidden contributions of the women in the French tradition of actor training. Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 11(3), pp. 353-369. ISSN 1944-3927 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article explores the seminal work of Suzanne Bing. It considers her close collaborations with three other women: Margaret Naumburg, Marie-Hélène Dasté and Jessmin Howarth. To reveal this network of women an alternative form of historiography is developed which dismantles the patriarchal ‘Master Teacher’ narrative of the French lineage of actor training from Jacques Copeau, Michel Saint-Denis and Jacques Lecoq. It presents a feminist (her)story of the collaborative work of these women that does not seek to locate pure origins, or engage with notions of singular ownership, but rather argues their work is better understood as a complex map, akin to a Foucauldian genealogy and Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the rhizome. The analysis focuses on the centrality of play and progressive pedagogy in the training developed by these women, and how this underpinned the early strands of modern mime and devised theatre in France. These women existed outside the dominant male frameworks of power, and the gendered expectations of women of their time, but their use of play challenged existing conventions and approaches to hierarchy, established new processes of teaching, directing and making theatre, and was much more radical than previously acknowledged.

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Identification Number (DOI):


Genealogy, Feminist her-story, Rhizome, Play, Progressive Pedagogy, Modern Mime, Devised Theatre, Suzanne Bing, Margaret Naumburg, Jessmin Howarth, Marie-Hélène Dasté

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


10 September 2020Published
9 January 2020Accepted

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

17 Jan 2020 17:28

Last Modified:

10 Mar 2022 02:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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