Vulnerability in a crisis: Pedagogy, critical reflection and positionality in actor training

Jessica Hartley

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There is a crisis in traditional Conservatoire Actor Training. Large-scale bad press about institutional racism, sexism, harassment and ablism is creating a new market for smaller more bespoke training programmes with individual identity placed at their heart. The impact of contemporary digital culture means that it is no longer necessary for actors to go to the ‘big name’ institutions of the past: aspiring actors can make their own work, and train themselves with readily accessible masterclasses and technology; market themselves on social media, create their own platforms on YouTube and access massive audiences. In this keynote I call for trainers to ‘lean in’ to their precarity by questioning their positionality, their own training, their bias and their politics. I utilise two case studies of students I have trained to antagonise some of the hierarchical systems that disempowered particular students. I argue that through a practice of critical reflection and radical mentorship, teachers and trainers might begin to reformulate training in the image of their students. By placing a care-driven pedagogy at the heart of our work, we might reawaken training, inspire new communities to work with us and focus on the sustained wellbeing of all the actors who wish to train.


Inclusion; Vulnerability; Equality; Neurodiversity; Race; Shame

To cite this keynote address

Hartley, Jessica. “Vulnerability in a Crisis: Pedagogy, Critical Reflection and Positionality in Actor Training.” Fusion Journal, no. 17, 2020, pp. 6-19.

First published online: April 2020

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