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Arts and culture | Symposium

Actio! Actio! Actio! European Acting Techniques in Historical Perspective

Monday 5 December 2022 - Wednesday 7 December 2022
Telders Auditorium (Academy Building), livestream available on this page

Actio! Actio! Actio!

The story of Demosthenes’ transformation from a much-mocked to a much-admired orator is well-known: he emerged from his ‘subterranean study’—after dedicated and rigorous physical training—a master of delivery. His diligence was spurred by the realization that a performance that was not only powerful, but also graceful and dignified, ‘could carry all before it.’ The pre-20th-century actor’s moving, declaiming body, flashing eyes and graceful hands hearkened back to the ancient Greek’s good example, for as Gilbert Austin re-told the tale in his Chironomia (1806): ‘When Demosthenes was asked, what was the first requisite in speaking, he answered, that delivery was the first, that it was the second, and that it was the third.’ Actio! Actio! Actio!

This symposium reflects on issues of propriety, emotion and virtuosity on the European stage, both past and present. Through lectures and performance, we address historical texts as thespian provocations; we see words not as mere thoughts, but as catalysts to histrionic display. While proposing a return of art and artifice to the actor’s craft, we welcome debate: can we revive a démodé, brightly-feathered, sweet-song’d (and sometimes double-tongued) tradition—a tradition that stretches back to Demosthenes—whose wings have been clipped by the modernist shears of 20th-century naturalism?

And if we can…should we do so, just because we can?

Symposium Schedule

Please find the complete schedule here.

December 5 Telders Auditorium, Academiegebouw

13:00-14:30 Session One: Tools and Craftsmanship

Chair: Terry F. Robinson

João Luís Paixão (University of Amsterdam): The Actor’s Passion as Instrument: Ideas Toward Artistic Research into 18th-Century Acting

James Harriman-Smith (Newcastle University): Cultivating Macklin’s Garden: An Acting Lesson from the Eighteenth Century

14:30-15:15 Tea and Coffee

15:15-16:45 Session Two: At the Edges of ‘Authenticity’

Chair: David Wiles

Wojciech Klimczyk (Uniwersytet Jagiellonski w Krakowie): Embodying Psychotic Modernism: Some Notes on a Reenactment of Nijinsky's Last Performance

Jed Wentz(Universiteit Leiden): On Not Performing David Bispham’s The Raven

17:00-18:30 Reception (by invitation only)


December 6 Academiegebouw, Telders Auditorium

10:00-11:30 Session Three: Bridging Media and Genres

Chair: Tiffany Stern

Amanda Eubanks Winkler (Syracuse University): Making the Case for Pysche

Hayley Bradley (The University of Manchester): Gesture and Movement Across Mediums: Victorian Technique from Stage to Early Silent Film

11:45-12:45 Keynote: On Decolonizing Acting

Tracy C. Davis (Northwestern University)

12:45-13:30 Lunch 

13:30-15:00 Session Four: Performance Issues

Chair: Wojciech Klimczyk

Magnus Tessing Schneider (Syddansk Universitet): The Operatic Scream: Traetta, Gluck, Mozart

Tiffany Stern (University of Birmingham): Walking, Seeing and Hearing Genre on the Early Modern Stage

15:00-15:30 Tea and Coffee

15:30-17:00 Session Five: Feeling and Being

Chair: João Luís Paixão

David Wiles (University of Exeter, Emeritus): Acting, Self and Identity: A Historical Perspective on the Problem

Terry F. Robinson (University of Toronto): Focalizing the Passions: Garrickian Acting and Its Truth Effects

19:30 Conference dinner

December 7 Telders Auditorium, Academiegebouw

10:00-11:30 Session Six: Imagery

Chair: Anne Smith

Laila Cathleen Neuman (Universiteit Leiden): Staging Proserpina: Attitudes, Movement and Costume in Goethe/Eberwein's Melodrama of 1815

Martina Papiro (Schola Cantorum Basiliensis): The Dramaturgic Role of Scenery in Metastasio’s Didone abbandonata

11:45-12:30 Wrap-up and discussion: João Luís Paixão


The symposium is free but we do kindly ask you to register:



Unable to attend in person? The three-day symposium Actio! Actio! Actio! European Acting Techniques in Historical Perspective will also be livestreamed on this page. The dates and times of the livestream are listed below.

  • 5 December: 13.00h - 16.45h
  • 6 December: 10.00h - 12.45h and 13.30h - 17.00h
  • 7 December: 10.00h - 12.30h
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