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"Utopia has nothing to do with the future. Utopia is now. The act of making theatre is already utopian because art is an act of resistance against circumstances. If you are making theatre now, you have already successfully achieved utopia."


Anne Bogart, A Director Prepares


Inner Landscapes: A scenographic approach to creating a Performance about Trauma

Vertebra Theatre's artistic practice is strongly embedded and derived from current research in the fields of Performing Arts and Arts In Health.

The Lead Artist of the company, Mayra Stergiou is currently undertaking a research project at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in partnership with CNWL NHS Trust that explores the social impact of expanded scenography and the integration of dramatherapy processes with avant-garde theatre practices (ex. Embodied Dramaturgy of Thomas Prattki and the Method of Theodoros Terzopoulos) that are rarely employed in a therapeutic context and vice versa. The project aims to play an integrative role within the medical humanities with an emphasis on ‘mutual recovery’. The project aims to address issues critical to the implementation of an innovative way to develop, transform and enrich community growth in arts in health and challenge the understanding of trauma in performance making. 

The project will result into a series of performances in 2022-2023. This has Inlcuded the experimental digital performance 'An Ice Thing to Say' and Electra: untitled (venue tbc)


Professor John Sloboda​

Professor John Sloboda is Research Professor at the Guildhall School, where he is founding director of the Institute for Social Impact Research in the Performing Arts.  He is also Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded project "Music for Social Impact: Practitioners' contexts, work, and beliefs". He is Emeritus Professor at Keele and was a staff member of the School of Psychology at Keele from 1974-2008, where he was Director of its Unit for the Study of Musical Skill and Development, founded in 1991. John is internationally known for his work on the psychology of music. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and has been President of both the Psychology and General Sections of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as President of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, where he has served on the editorial board of its journal Musicae Scientiae. He is currently serving a 3-year term as founding President of, an international platform for research into the Social Impact of Making Music. He was the recipient of the 1998 British Psychological Society's Presidents Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychological Knowledge, and in 2004 he was elected to Fellowship of the British Academy. At present he is the first and only Fellow working in the UK conservatoire sector. In 2018, he was awarded an OBE for his services to psychology and music. His books include Handbook of Music and Emotion (co-edited with Patrik Juslin), and Exploring the Musical Mind, both published by Oxford University Press.

Professor Dominik Havsteen-Franklin

Dominik Havsteen-Franklin is a Professor of Practice (Arts Therapies) at Brunel University, with a Ph.D. in Art Psychotherapy and Metaphor. He is also head of the International Centre for Arts Psychotherapies Training (ICAPT) for Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, Vice President for the European Federation of Art Therapy and a member of the Council for the British Association of Art Therapists. His research focuses on applying empirical methods to investigating and evaluating the use of arts to facilitate changes in health conditions. His recent research has centred on co-designing and investigating Arts-based Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy (ADIT) for depression, Creative and Resilience Engagement (CaRE) for frontline healthcare workers, developing arts-based psychosocial practice in South Africa, and is a co-applicant for an NIHR funded large scale RCT (ERA) investigating the effectiveness of arts therapies for heterogenous groups in mental health services. Dominik supervises PhD students from a range of arts disciplines. He also continues to work as a consultant, an art psychotherapist and a clinical supervisor for the National Health Service.  

Dr Simon Donger

I am a scenographer and researcher who trained in sculpture and scenography in Canada and the UK. My practical research explores provocative yet mindful intersections of materials, media and bodies. I have published texts and books concerned with Posthuman critiques of Humanism. 

I joined Central in 2005. In 2010, I co-created the MA/MFA Scenography at Central School of Speech and Drama with Joanna Parker and became its Course Leader in 2012.

My practice is deeply influenced by my experience of working with the Italian company Societas Raffaello Sanzio in 2004 for the entire process of creation of their performance Tragedia Endogonidia. In 2016, I was awarded a Golden Mask Best Light for Musical Theatre for the lighting and projection design of the Bolshoi Ballet’s Hero of Our Time. 

Polly Teale

Polly Teale was Artistic Director of theatre company Shared Experience, with productions she wrote and directed regularly transferring to the West End and touring internationally. These included the award winning trilogy: Bronte; Jane Eyre and After Mrs Rochester (winner Best Director Evening Standard Awards, and Time Out Best West End Production). She also wrote and directed Mine, Speechless and Mermaid as well as directing productions in the West End, at the Royal Court, National Theatre, Traverse and Young Vic. Her plays continue to be performed nationally and internationally and are available from Nick Hern books. Her work is on the school syllabus. Polly has an MA in Arts Psychotherapy from the Institute for the Arts in Therapy and Education (Distinction). She works in drama schools and believes that psychological understanding can deeply enrich the student's practice, as well as supporting creative freedom, personal growth, and resilience. Her work encourages students to value difference by becoming curious about how we are shaped by our own history, culture and by bigger systems. This empathic understanding is brought to the rehearsal process encouraging psychologically informed, deeply embodied character exploration.

Mentors: Theodoros Terzopoulos, Savvas Stroumpos

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