Dr Elyssa Livergant
Teaching Fellow (Transition, Retention, and Professionalisation)
I am an artist, scholar and community organiser. I originally joined the Department to undertake doctoral research funded by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of London on the relationship between labour, community and industry in the live art sector in London. Since completing my PhD I continue to teach in the Department while contributing to the development of Limehouse Town Hall, a co-operative undertaking that seeks to offer an alternative model for a cultural institution in London.
I grew up in Toronto and joined the actor’s union at the age of six. As a child, I worked in musical theatre, film and television alongside my school studies. After graduating from an acting conservatory in New York in my late teens, I returned to Toronto where I worked as a performer, director and administrator in the independent theatre sector alongside commercial work in film, television and voice-over. I moved to London in 2002 and received an MA (distinction) at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama focused on ensemble devised practice and dramaturgy. Before joining Queen Mary, I held temporary appointments at several London universities, including Goldsmiths and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama alongside working on my own and collaborative performance projects across the UK and Europe.
I continue to selectively make performance work for theatres, galleries, public spaces and clubs. My research and practice is shaped by my commitment to mutual aid and my diverse, extensive and ongoing relationship with theatre, performance and the cultural sector.
I have taught on:
- DRA117: Practices
- DRA120: Interventions
- DRA220: Making Contemporary Theatre
- DRA346: Livelihoods
- Space, practices of community and cultural industries
- Intersections between gentrification, social justice and activism
- Histories of experimental performance practices and pedagogy
- Administration, dramaturgy, management and maintenance
- Cabaret, burlesque and clown
- Release-based somatic practice
In my research, I critically and creatively explore the social, economic and political relationship between space, communities and cultural production in independent and, often, marginalised sectors of arts and culture. My current project focuses on ideas of maintenance and experiences of the erotic in creating spaces for commoning. My previous research centred on the ambiguous cultural and labour politics of the communal space of workshops with a focus on the ‘new work’, live art and experimental theatre subsector of the cultural industries in the UK.
I am also concerned with histories of experimental theatre and performance groups whose practices I explore through questions around space, participation liberalism and capitalism including Belarus Free Theatre, Shunt and the Space Hijackers.
As an artist-researcher and certified yoga teacher I also have a keen interest in the interrelationship between somatic experience, memory and meaning making.
‘Limehouse Town Hall and the Living School’, The Living School Pamphlets. ed. Brandon LaBelle (Berlin: Errant Bodies Press, 2018), pp. 54-65
‘Belarus Free Theatre, Labour Mobility and the Cultural Politics of the Border’, Contemporary Theatre Review, 26.2 (April 2016): 241-257, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10486801.2016.1143818?journalCode=gctr20
‘The Passion Players’, New Left Project (January 2013), http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/the_passion_players
‘Learning to stand together: Elyssa Livergant interviews Precarious Workers Brigade’, Interventions: Contemporary Theatre Review, 27.2 (June 2017), https://www.contemporarytheatrereview.org/2017/precarious-workers-brigade/
Rev. of Tactical Performance: The Theory and Practice of Serious Play by L.M. Bogad. TDR: The Drama Review, 61.4 (Winter 2017), 174-176
Through my practice-based research work at Limehouse Town Hall, a self-organised cultural centre and work space in East London experimenting with forms of direct action and mutual aid, I undertake a diverse range of public engagement activities and projects. The Town Hall is a shared project made up of a diverse range of participants. A grade II listed former town hall building, and one-time national labour history museum, Limehouse Town Hall is a place where artists and cultural producers, audiences and communities in Tower Hamlets, and beyond, are supported to share ideas, try out new things, and imagine a better here and now. Currently self-sustaining, the Town Hall seeks to offer an ethical model for cultural production, one that brings together arts, activism and alternative grassroots forms of civic participation.
Selected recent projects and activities include:
- Making Spaces: Limehouse Town Hall, funded through an HSS Collaboration fund focusing on the development of sustainable creative collective models for the production and social reproduction of Limehouse Town Hall, a cultural workspace and institution in East London
- Taking the Stage: a series of contemporary performance projects focused on gentrification with young people from Locksley Estate in Limehouse.
- Planning the future: a series of creative and critical workshops focused on local planning, urban development and housing in E14.
I have presented solo and collaborative performances nationally and internationally across installation, theatre, live art and sound including Wapping: Audio (2005-ongoing) and A Kiss from the Last Grey Squirrel (2008-2011).
In the past I have worked as a dramaturge and director for individual artists and companies. I have been a part of various activist-arts groups in London, including the Space Hijackers.
When I’ve been making performance of late, its usually for queer clubs.