Pure Research

In December 2007 Nick Carpenter and I conducted a three day theatre research experiment with twenty actors.


We were wondering: Can the twenty person show be the new one person show?

Nightswimming Theatre and the University of Toronto Graduate Centre for the Study of Drama funded our research.

Here’s an excerpt from THE CHORAL REVOLUTION, the final report and a detailed analysis of our findings from this research:

“You are going to direct a one-person show. You audition twenty actors. You select an agile, accomplished artist whom you are convinced will carry the part. But instead of contacting the actor yourself, you delegate to your Stage Manager. Your Stage Manager delegates to his shy, teenage assistant, who missed the production meetings because of a high-school basketball tournament. Instead of calling the one actor who got the part, the hapless ASM, unclear on the task, calls all twenty on the audition list…and tells them all they got the part!

So on the first day of rehearsal, they all show up. You are confronted with 20 confused actors who thought this was a solo piece. At first you are at a loss, furious, overwhelmed. But then you have a thought. The thought turns into a question…a good question: Can a one-person show be pulled off indeed enhanced, by 20 actors working as a chorus?

This is the question upon which most of our exercises and experiments over the course of our three days with Pure Research, were founded.

We imagined ourselves the director caught in the above scenario. What would we want to know about choral work heading into such a situation? What knowledge would help us know where to begin? Can a chorus of twenty create and communicate the concerns and agendas of one character as effectively as one solo performer? What is spoken choral unison and when do we tire of it? When and how does clarity break down? How is dramatic momentum sustained or impeded by a chorus? When is a chorus just too much fat? What methods, vocabularies and choral effects might we hit upon (on purpose and by mistake) over the next few days that we may carry into future rehearsals with future choruses? What ‘mistakes’ can we make now that will save time in the future? What knowledge will help us streamline future rehearsal processes?

To download the full 20 page report please click here

The research participants involved in this experiment were: Anousha Alamian, Sarah Bezansen, Jay Bowen, Leanna Brodie, Anna Chatterton Jayne Collins, Diana Donnelly, Megan Dunlop, Megan Flynn, Shawn Hitchins, Elva Mai Hoover, Noah Keneally, Earl Pastko, Freya Ravensbergen, Julian Richings, Katherine Sanders, Derek Scott, Jonathan Seinen, Seife Tesfaye, and Norman Yeung.

Lead Researchers: Rebecca Singh, Nick Carpenter

All photos by Derek Dugas

To listen to archival sound clips of THE CHORAL REVOLUTION please click here

“This brief collection of theatrical choruses offers some unconventional and tantalizing uses of multiple voices in performance…. The result is also a uniquely organic amplification with intriguing effects of delay harmony and dissonance…. These exercises in group performance harness a fascinating use of multiple voices and offer practical as well as artistic potential for the actors.” – Michael Sheely, performance poet