Student Stories

Anya Gibian and Performers

Anya Gibian


ILR International Experience Grant


I did not know what to expect from either the Physical Theatre Lab or the Conference “Theatre Between Tradition and Contemporaneity” when I registered, however I hoped to learn as much as I could in the short week.  I also hoped to make meaningful connections with performers from all over the globe, and to learn from their perspectives and experiences. Looking back at the week of training and presentations, I have found that I learned an incredible amount about performing arts training and styles, and that my thinking about my own performance and creative projects has evolved and changed because of my time at Retzhof Castle in Austria with all of the other participants.  In addition, I have continued to be in touch with the people I met, and we have continued to share our projects and ideas with each other.  This has widened my interests in international collaboration and what I thought was possible.

The Physical Theatre Lab was what I was most interested in because of my current project, an immersive, promenade, site-based piece using minimal text and relying on physicality (dance, stage combat, movement, etc) to tell the story.  I was hoping to learn something in the Physical Theatre Lab that I could use in rehearsing and creating that piece, even one new thing either to build ensemble or create a group movement or something.  I learned more than one new thing.  I came back to my work on this piece with many inspirations and tricks in my bag for rehearsing and creating.

Anya Gibian and Performers

The conference presentations, “Theatre Between Tradition and Contemporaneity” were all so different and unexpected, and yet I learned something new in each one because they were on subjects that I have little experience with.  Catherine Rand’s presentation on teaching was wonderful and surprised me in how much of it I related to and took away from it.  I have taught workshops and camps for youth performers before, and her presentation solidified and expressed what I had been trying to achieve as a teacher in those situations.  It also provided me with ways to become a better teacher and how to work to inspire those I teach with what inspires me.

The Conference provided me with a new understanding of different training programs in different aspects of theatre and performance from all over the world. Harris Jahim’s presentation on the training program he runs was wonderful, and so different from the theatre program at Cornell University that I am familiar with. The students in Singapore learn martial arts, drumming and gamelan, and Latin dance as well as the more traditional things like acting, voice and scene study. Yet all of the different training components help his students in their acting and performing.

Anya Gibian and Performers

The other wonderful part about the conference that went beyond my expectations was the people I met from all over the world, all of them brilliant artists.  I was not expecting the wide range of nationalities and people that I was able to connect with, nor was I expecting to become this close to them in a short week.  I learned about contemporary circus, improvisational techniques, juggling, modern dance, dance films, and so many other things I now find so interesting that I was not aware of before.  I hope to work internationally in my career, and I now have an idea of the wonderful things that can come out of collaboration between people from all over the world who have different backgrounds and experiences.  They have provided me with many links to explore from what they are working on or what they are interested in.

The practical experience of the workshop, along with the close connections I was able to form with people from all over the globe have supplemented my ILR studies by bringing abstract ideas into practice, as well as being able to hear firsthand of the experiences of international performers and artists, and to compare the different structures of the industry and the skills needed in other countries.  I have returned with a deeper and broader understanding of the performing arts world, and more global sense of collaboration and creation.

Overall, the Physical Theatre Lab and Conference “Theatre Between Tradition and Contemporaneity” provided me with so many lessons and points of inspiration, that it has changed the way I view my work and my artistry.  I have refocused my physical training to keep my instrument in good shape and to keep learning more about my physicality.  I have exercises for my actors to help them build ensemble, build connections and train attention, create dance pieces, hone improvisational skills, create an inner life from a physical movement or set of movements and to create a group dynamic for our show.  I also have many more points of reference and new companies and art forms to explore from the new people I met and connected with. I am thankful and lucky that I was able to attend the IUGTE Conference as a result of receiving the Cornell University ILR International Experience Grant.