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Dr Bryan Brown

Senior Lecturer


01392 726137

I am a specialist in performer training and collaboration with a primary focus on laboratory studies. I did my undergraduate degree at the New School for Social Research where I was taught by a heady and healthy mix of former Yale MFA graduates and existing faculty from NYU's Experimental Theatre Wing. Accepted into the presitgious MFA Dramaturgy program of Columbia Univeristy, I decided instead to cut my teeth in the experimental theatre world and the independent film of New York City. Working in every area from production assistant to dramaturg to actor to producer, I relished in the joy of ensemble-based film and theatre-making. While in NYC, I trained extensively with Stephen Wangh, Raina von Waldenburg and others in an American approach to the Polish Laboratory Theatre's psychophysical training which incorporated somatic and Overlie-based Viewpoints work. I then continued my training at RADA and in Poland with post-Grotowski practitioners from Singapore, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, and Poland.

I joined the staff at Exeter from Los Angeles where, together with Olya Petrakova, I spent nearly a decade developing a performance incubation house, Schkapf. While nurturing mutliple performance related companies and festivals, Schkapf's central mission was to develop a deeper understanding of the essential role of artistic and cultural venues in neighborhood cohesion and their necessity in civic planning. We continue this work in Exeter with the creation of the cultural laboratory, Maketank, which supports and mentors interdisciplinary artist and community-initiatives with the aim of developing cultural citizenship.

Ms. Petrakova and I also created ARTEL (American Russian Theatre Ensemble Laboratory), a company committed to the creation of our own training and devising processes, rooted in and inspired by the laboratory theatre tradition. The twin imperial nations (America and Russia) have deeply informed our work on the role of cultural practices in nation-building and citizenship. The 2022 full-scale invastion of Ukraine by Russia has furthered our own critical engagement with the implications of imperialism and I am currently working with Ukrainian theatre artists, culture makers and academics to resist the Putinist agenda and reconsider and reassess the place of Russian expansionist ideology in academia and the arts.

Alongside this work, other research I am developing revolves around plant performance, ecological imaginaries and what Timothy Morton calls 'the ecological thought'. 

I received my PhD from the University of Leeds. My thesis, and its reiteration in the monograph A History of the Theatre Laboratory has been called “the first honest effort in clearly defining the phenomenon of the laboratory, creating the history of the theatre laboratory, and relating it to other arts, and to science”. 

I have been a collaborator with the Laboratory Theatre Network organised by the Centre for Performance Research, and funded by the Leverhulme Trust. I have also worked as dramaturge and organisational consultant for the international physical theatre laboratory Studio Matejka and on the production of O Réjane with UNESCO-recognized Awake Projects.

I serve on the Editorial Board for Theatre, Dance and Performance Training and am co-editor of the journal's blog.

Research interests

Staging Other Russias: Orientating Resistance at Moscow's Gogol Center

BA/Leverhulme funded project

This project set out to study theatres of resistance in Russia with a focus on Moscow’s Gogol Centre, a theatre laboratory created and directed by Kirill Serebrennikov. By looking specifically at the Gogol Centre, the project aimed to show how a theatre based on interdisciplinary performance practices with a queer aesthetic might offer an alternative space for Other Russias - communities that do not align with the dominant Putinist ideology. However, the global pandemic, the largest protests in Belarus’s history and the Russian 2022 invasion of Ukraine all occurred during this research, provoking a new interpretation of resistance for the project’s research. The scope of the project expanded to include a broader definition of Other Russias, one that aimed to contribute to the decolonization of Russian studies and the fight for freedom in Belarus and Ukraine. Through participation in two worldwide play reading projects, this research helped establish an online platform and community of global theatremakers generating solidarity and awareness for the people of Belarus and Ukraine. As Russian theatre makers, including Serebrennikov and members of the Gogol Center, criticised the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the project used its findings from this global resistance movement to create a new queer and postcolonial intersectional analysis of the Center’s activities, its performances, and it’s artistic directors statements on the global stage. In so doing, it further examined the history of the theatre laboratory as originally framed by the Moscow Art Theatre – from which the Gogol Center emerged – in order to understand the complex mechanisms at work in these crucibles of culture. The project aimed to articulate how finances, power and politics all inform discourses of freedom and resistance, and further interrogate how a dead empire continues to operate even in the mentalities of those who claim to be against it.

Related Publications:

‘The Translation of Protest: The Worldwide Readings Project of Andrei Kureichyk’s Insulted. Belarus’, NTQ, Feb 2023

Conference Presentations:

“The Translation of Protest: from Belarus to the World” at IFTR, Galway (15 July 2021)

“The case of Kirill Serebrennikov” at IFTR, Rekyavik (June 2o22)

“Staging Other Russias: Reassessing the theatre laboratory in Putin’s regime”, Illiberal Regimes, Munich, Germany (Sept 2023)


The main areas of my research today include:

  • Performer Training with a particular emphasis on psychophysical coordination of body, image, and self
  • Pedagogy of Performer Training
  • Collaboration and its impact on Ensemble Creation & Devising Processes
  • Laboratory Studies
  • Russian, Ukrainian and Eastern European theatre
  • Magic, Esotericism and Performance
  • Plant Performance 
  • Ecological Imaginaries and the Ecological Thought


Research supervision

I am always keen to supervise new research projects in my areas of specialty (see research interests), and particularly invite proposals for practice research that expands understandings of training for performance and/or ensemble/collective creation processes, develops ideas of the cultural laboratory through applications of placemaking, emergent thinking and specific communities, contributes to conceptions of ecological imaginaries or the ecological thought, or engages with magic and/or esotericism, imagination and perforrmance. I would also welcome historical projects on pedagogies for performance training or projects focused on training places, such as Dartington, the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, Hellarau, Institute of Applied Theatre Studies Geissen, Lecoq, Black Mountain College, etc. Interested applicants might wish to send me a 500-1000 word outline and CV as a starting point for discussion.


Research students

I currently supervise:

Sarah Scaife's SWW DTP-funded practice research "Medicines of uncertainty: in a more-than-human world, how might polyvocal, practice-based performance methods reimagine spaces of hope following spells of illness?"

Howard Gayton's practice research "The Esoteric Fool: a practice-based pedagogical approach to modern fooling"

Mioara Tarzioru's practice research "The Fundamental Role Played by Eurythmy in Michael Chekhov’s Approach to Acting"

Carina Miles practice research "Understanding Objects: Devising, Anthropocentrism and Entanglements"

Ian Trafford's "Exploring the effectiveness and relevance of vocational training for actors in an over-crowded and evolving marketplace" (second supervisor)

Research through practice

Through my company ARTEL, I have a substantial practice-research base in the histories and creation of performer training and performance processes.  Most recently I have been lead researcher on The Black Hen Society.

The Black Hen Society was a collaborative adaptation by UK and North American visual theatre companies, ARTEL and Animal Cracker Conspiracy of Antony Pogorelsky’s influential nineteenth century Russian children’s story. A central aspect of the project led by myself was the elaboration of artistic collaboration towards what Timothy Morton has coined ‘the ecological thought’.

In so doing, The Black Hen Society examined how a production, through its structural and aesthetic processes, might not simply perform considerations and aspects of environmentalism, but actually do ecology. How, in other words, might the makers themselves tackle the complexity of climate change through reconsidering individual, group and local factors that inform the shared systems of being and knowing in our lived environments? Can collaboration itself become an ecological epistemology?

Mixing an object-oriented ontology with the fantastic imagination, the project examined a new conception of magical thinking that inverses the alchemical society motto “As Above, So Below” to “As Without, So Within”. Decoding the central themes of the original fairytale the project reoriented the gift of the story (a hemp seed that gave the protagonist magical powers of knowledge) into the contemporary problems of smartphone/nanotechnology, the moss tree that produced the central gift into the multiple lessons moss can teach humans about ways to navigate the current climate emergency, and how a betrayal of magical thinking can become the catalyst for ecognosis (a term Morton posits as a more complex way of knowing and being in co-existence with the more-than-human world).

The project took place between 2015-2019 and was funded and supported by a Network of Ensemble Theaters’ NET/TEN grant, the National Puppetry Conference at the O’Neill, Henson Workshop and Production grants, and the University of Exeter. Performances took place at the O’Neill, The Bike Shed Theatre (Exeter) and the University of Exeter.

Another strand of my practice research exmaines the organizational and collaborative structures of laboratories and other innovative creative companies. My article on the development and ambition of Maketank - 'Laboratories of Culture' - argues for the expansion of the theatre laboratory into the cultural laboratory, and posits such a laboratory has its own rich history.

External impact and engagement

Building upon my years of work in Los Angeles, I serve on the board of directors of a new cultural laboratory and interdisciplinary making space in Exeter called Maketank:

From my practice research, I have been working with the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center since 2017 to develop stronger international collaborations between our institutions. In so doing, I organised a public panel at RAMM entitled "Investing in the Arts & Culture" which provided the space for five very different panelists to offer short provocations on the current funding structures in UK and USA and how artists and communities value cultural work. I am also in the process of assisting the O'Neill in preserving and cataloguing their archive with a future view towards animating it through performative interventions.


Contribution to discipline

I am an Associate Editorial Board member of the journal Theatre, Dance and Perfromance Training and act as the curator of the "Comebacks" section for the journal's blog.  


The Theatre Laboratory, ExeTalk (2020)

Devising a Playground: ARTEL’s Strategies for Embodying Research and Text (2016) is part of larger article I am developing on the training and devising practices of ARTEL.

Enter into a Larger System: The Actor-Creator Pedagogy of Nikolai Demidov (2016) is a reflective review of a masterclass and seminar by Andrei Malaev-Babel on recovering the legacy and practice of Nikolai Demidov. This was held at Exeter University.

Practical Guide for Emergent Exchange (2015) as part of the Network of Ensemble Theatre's growing Shareback Library was the beginning of "The Black Hen Society" and a new research project on collaboration.

I co-wrote a review of the Laboratory Theatre Network's concluding conference (2015) for the Los Angeles online arts & culture space Stage Raw: One Hundred Years Of Fortitude: A long-view case for laboratory theater in L.A.


My teaching is informed by my own research into the histories of wonder and curiosity as much as it is by my own educational experience. I believe in creating the conditions that allow an individual to identify and pursue their own line of investigation, whether this be experiential studio based work or seminar-style conversation. I hope I challenge students to perceive their own habits and how those habits limit their perceptiive and critical abilities. I hope I inspire students to actively seek new ways of perceiving, sensing and being in the world. I approach all taught and research supervision as a collaboration in learning, an adventuring together towards more understanding of our relations with the world. I am indebted to my own teachers, Joe Foster, Arnold Amoroso, Henry Shapiro, Catherine Coray, Stephen Wangh, and Raina von Waldenburg to name a few.

I have been nominated for Teaching Awards at undergraduate level multple times since beginning at Exeter in 2015. 

I was short-listed for Outstanding Research Support (thank you postgraduate researchers!) in 2021.

Modules taught

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