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I joined the Drama team at Huddersfield in 2005. Prior to that, I was a professional practitioner, working mainly in the area of Applied Theatre. Throughout that time, I delivered projects for Contact Theatre (Manchester), New Victoria Theatre (Staffordshire), Blaize Theatre Company, Bradford the Musical, Rochdale Council, One in Four Theatre Company and Calderstones NHS Trust. I also enjoyed spells as Artistic Director of Chrysalis Theatre Company (Oldham), Bury Theatre Works (Bury Met Arts Centre) and High Spirits Entertainment (Bradford).
From 1998 2003 I was Associate Director / Director of Theatre Education at Mind the Gap Theatre Company in Bradford. My main role involved creating and delivering training programmes in theatre and related processes to adults with learning disabilities, many of whom have gone on to work professionally in theatre, TV and radio.
In 2001, I joined The Pierrotters, the last remaining professional seaside pierrot troupe in Britain, adopting the alter ego Smiley Smacko.
Research & Scholarship
My main area of professional practice has been in the field of Applied Theatre, working in prisons, schools, day centres, hospitals and theatres, and with diverse communities including Deaf people, South Asian communities, users and survivors of the mental health system and the Jewish community.
Naturally, this background significantly informs my research. On a broad level, I am engaged in researching the ongoing purpose of Applied Theatre in an ever-changing world, alongside the relevance of specific approaches and techniques to particular communities. I am particularly interested in the value of non-dramatic theatrical forms, in contexts where notions of community, and even identity, have become fragmented.
Theatre and Learning Disability
My main area of expertise in Applied Theatre is work with adults with learning disabilities, where my research focuses on the creative, vocational, socio-political and therapeutic notions of this work. Locating it within the wider field of Disability Arts, I am also investigating the role of the non-disabled artist as facilitator / advocate / collaborator / director.
Another research interest is traditional British Street Theatre, focussing on forms that developed around the rise of the British seaside in Victorian times, and are now largely forgotten or overlooked. Such forms enjoyed a cross fertilisation with the rise of popular entertainment in the twentieth century, with a direct lineage through Music Hall and Variety Theatre to the Britpop explosion of the 1990s and Little Britain phenomenon of the current century.
The Rat Pack
I am also currently developing another strand of investigation, looking at the significance of The Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop). This research considers the importance of this act in both popular and wider history. It also has some crossover with my research and practice in the pierrot tradition, as both forms have roots in the traditions of blackface minstrelsy and commedia dellarte.
Publications and Other Research Outputs
Calvert, D (2013) ‘Book review: Drama, Disability and Education by Andy Kempe’ Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance , 18 (4), pp. 417-418. ISSN 1356-9783
Calvert, D (2013) ‘A person with some sort of learning disability: the aetiological narrative and public construction of Susan Boyle. ’ Disability and Society . ISSN 0968-7599
Calvert, D (2013) ‘Royal Pierrots and White Coons: the British Pierrot Troupe in the Racial and National Imaginary’ New Theatre Quarterly , 29 (2), pp. 107-120. ISSN 0266-464X
Calvert, D (2013) ‘From Pedrolino to a Pierrot: The Origin, Ancestry and Ambivalence of the British Pierrot Troupe’ Popular Entertainment Studies , 4 (1), pp. 6-23. ISSN 1837-9303
Calvert, D (2012) ‘The Rat Pack: Legacy and Influence’. In: University of Huddersfield Diamond Jubilee Lecture Series, 6th June 2012, University Campus, Barnsley
Calvert, D (2010) ‘Loaded Pistols: the interplay of social intervention and anti-aesthetic tradition in learning disabled performance’ Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance , 15 (4), pp. 513-528. ISSN 1356-9783
Calvert, D (2009) ‘Like the Special Olympics? The relationship of research to practice in theatre and learning disability’. In: TaPRA Conference 2009, 7th - 9th September 2009, Plymouth University
Calvert, D (2009) ‘Heavy Load: The Love Child of Johnny Rotten and Audrey Hepburn’. In: Applied Theatre, Aesthetics and Uncertainty, Friday 8th May 2009, Manchester University
Calvert, D (2009) ‘Re-claiming authority: the past and future of theatre and learning disability ’ Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance , 14 (1), pp. 75-78. ISSN 1470-112X
Calvert, D (2008) ‘Oh We Do Like To Redefine The Seaside’. In: Performing Heritage, 3rd - 5th April 2008, University of Manchester
I have previously sat on the Board of Trustees for Promenade Promotions (Bradford), START in Bury, and Huddersfields Chol Theatre. Currently, I am an Artistic Assessor for Arts Council England, with a particular focus on disability-related performance and street theatre.
Research Degree Supervision
I welcome enquiries from research students interested in contemporary Applied Theatre or Outdoor Performance, for supervision of MA by Research / MPhil or co-supervision of a PhD. I am particularly interested in theatre engaged with people with learning disabilities, and broader applications of theatre in a context of Disability.
Indicative (but not exclusive) areas for study might include:
- Learning disabled performance / performers
- The history of Disability Arts
- Theatre of the Oppressed
- The aesthetics of Applied Theatre
- The Pierrot tradition
- The Rat Pack and / or any of its individual members
I am the Course Leader for BA (Hons) Performance Top-Up, and act as Disability Co-ordinator for the Drama subject area. I sit on the Schools Accreditation and Validation Panel and Equal Opportunities Committee, and am also a Deputy Academic Conduct Officer. At the University level, I represent the School on the Extenuating Circumstances Panel and the Equality and Diversity Enhancement Group.
Teaching and Professional Activities
I am engaged in teaching across a range of modules covering both practical and theoretical areas of the course. I direct practical projects for Years 1 & 2, including devised work, text-based productions and applied theatre projects. I also contribute to the theoretical strand of Year 1, Models and Theories of Performance Practice.
As a Module Leader, I am responsible for the lecture / seminar series Models and Theories of Performance Practice 2, and the more specialist module In Context, both for Year 2 students. I also deliver the Applied Theatre strand of In Context, and teach / supervise workshop practice or projects that engage with the community.
For the 3rd Year, I am Module Leader for the Final Year Project, overseeing the Festival and supervising both performance-based and applied theatre projects. I also offer specialist areas for Practice and Research 3 which, in the past, have included The Rat Pack, British Youth Theatre and Mikhail Bakhtin.