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Kelli Zezulka

near Leeds, UK
Listening across silences in creative collaboration

Listening is an important skill for theatre and performance collaborators, and nowhere more so than during technical rehearsals, a high-pressure, creatively charged environment. Creative and production team members spend the technical rehearsal in a constant state of readiness (Hunt, 2015, p.17), continually processing and responding to the events occurring on stage and in their ears over the headset communication system; they are never simply passive observers or listeners. The majority of conversations take place on headsets with speakers not always able to converse face to face. Even if speakers are seated next to each other, their gaze is often fixed on the performance area rather than on their fellow interlocutor(s). Furthermore, there are often periods of silence of varying lengths during technical rehearsals. Unlike in most naturally occurring talk, where silences tend to be filled with “small talk” or other “filler”, silence in technical rehearsal talk is not usually regarded to be “problematic talk” (Jaworski, 2000). Indeed, this “listening silence” (Fiumara, 1990, p.97) is essential for building collaborative relationships. What is being said in the silences? What is not being said? How does this intersubjective, interdisciplinary experience of listening help to develop a shared vocabulary between collaborators? This paper will draw on my recent fieldwork, in which I observed theatre lighting designers, lighting programmers and directors at work during technical rehearsals.

Kelli is a postgraduate researcher in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at University of Leeds. Her research interests include lighting design and scenography processes, theatre design pedagogy, interpersonal pragmatics and creative collaboration. A practising lighting designer, she is also a non-executive director of the Association of Lighting Designers and editor of its bi-monthly magazine, Focus.