Dr Elyssa Livergant
Teaching Fellow (Transition, Retention, and Professionalisation)
I am an artist, activist and scholar. 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 have continued to teach in the Department while co-leading Limehouse Town Hall, a social practice artwork that offers an alternative model for the cultural industries 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.
In the 2017-18 academic year, I am teaching on:
- Space, community, contemporary theatre and performance
- Intersections between gentrification, social justice and cultural work
- Histories of experimental performance practices, pedagogy and artistic labour
- Administration, management and feminism
- 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 the complex relationship between precarious cultural work, urban development and civic participation in London. My doctoral research focused on the ambiguous cultural and labour politics 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 and am currently working on a project focused on Shunt, a leading experimental immersive theatre collective in London.
As an artist-researcher and certified yoga teacher I have a keen interest in the interrelationship between somatic experience, memory and meaning making.
I was a co-organiser of the interdisciplinary Seeing Like a City symposium, a three-day event held across the Geography and Drama Departments at QMUL to examine the relationship between theatre, performance and urbanism.
Limehouse Town Hall and the Living School’, Pamphlet 3: Self-Built, The Living School Pamphlets. ed. Brandon LaBelle. Berlin and London: Errant Bodies Press/South London Gallery, forthcoming 2018
‘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, forthcoming 61.4, Winter 2017
Through my practice-based research work at Limehouse Town Hall 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 projects and activities between 2015-16 include:
- Taking the Stage: a series of contemporary performance projects focused on sound and urban space 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.
- Ongoing organisational development and the facilitation of cross-collaborative events between the building’s creative residents, including Stitches in Time and the Boxing Club.
- Cabaret of C*NTS: an evening of feminist performance and activism in collaboration with QM graduates the Pussy Patrons.
I have presented solo and collaborative performances nationally and internationally across installation, theatre, live art and sound.
My solo performance A Kiss from the Last Red Squirrel has been presented at various venues between 2008-2010 including The British Performance Festival (Mainz), Spill National Platform (London), Belarus Free Theatre’s Performance Festival (Minsk), as well as a national tour of venues across the UK. This work was funded by the Arts Council of England.
Wapping: Audio is a site-specific sound piece I co-created in 2005 that has been featured in digital arts and public space festivals. This work was funded by the Arts Council of England
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
From 2018 to 2021 I will be creating a series exploring experiences of labouring, ageing and tender bodies.