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After her first degree, Deborah Middleton worked freelance in theatre before going on to doctoral research at the University of Hull. Whilst completing her doctorate, she continued to make work as a theatre practitioner, and to develop experience as a part-time lecturer in higher education. In 1993, she took up a full-time academic position in Drama at the University of Huddersfield.
She was Subject Area Leader for Drama from 2004 to 2012, before stepping down to pursue research and practice.
Middleton's performance background is in the European Laboratory theatre tradition. Her early work was concerned with physical theatre, ensemble, and improvisation structures. Her PhD explored relationships between mind and body in the performer, and opened up her later research and practice in the fields of psychophysical actor-training and ritual theatre.
In 1993, Middleton met Nicolás Núñez of the Taller de Investigácion Teatral (Mexico City) and began an enduring research relationship which has involved her participation in numerous 'High-Risk Theatre ' projects in Mexico, Ireland, Spain and the U.K. She was the first British-based practitioner to be given Núñez's authority to practise the training form, Citlalmina, and has since trained two further practitioners who are also now qualified to teach the form.
Since 1999, Middleton has studied the Alexander Technique with Dr. Don Weed of the Interactive Teaching Method of the Alexander Technique (Bristol, UK). Alexander's ideas underpin all of her teaching and practice.
In addition to her work in theatre, Middleton is a writer of short creative fiction, and performs her story-poems with musician, Chris Coe, as 'Bespoken'. As an Associate Lecturer at the University of Manchester in 2001, she first developed her Buddhist-inspired 'Writing as Practice' module. Since then she has run summer schools, research projects, and workshops in aspects of Enhancing Creativity, and has taught in the United States, Mexico and Beijing.
Since 2009, Middleton has focused on bringing together her long-standing interest in Buddhist philosophy, psychology and practice with theatre and creativity pedagogies through Contemplative Education. She practises shamatha-vipashyana meditation and Kripalu Yoga. In 2013, she received her Kripalu Yoga Teacher certification, and is currently developing a programme of workshops in Yoga for Creativity, both in and beyond the University.
Dr Middleton's research, practice and scholarship is concerned with issues of personal change, transformation, cultivation. Since her PhD research into relationships between mind and body in the performer (1993), she has consistently studied models and understandings of psychophysicality through examples of actor-training practices and the work of F.M. Alexander. Her research has extended beyond the specifics of the actor's work to pedagogical questions of enhancing creativity more generally. As a long-term meditator, her research is informed by Buddhist thought and practice, and is increasingly located in the emerging fields of Contemplative Studies, and Contemplative Education.
From 2006 to 2009, Middleton directed a University-wide, TQEF-funded 'Research into Practice' project in Building Creative Capacity. Along with colleagues from Drama, Middleton ran workshops for staff, and developed teaching strategies and resources for students, including 'performed lectures' on aspects of creative process. As part of the dissemination of this project, Middleton and colleagues ran workshops at the National University in Mexico City.
In 2010, Middleton was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Contemplative Education at Naropa Univeristy. She has presented papers on contemplative approaches to creativity at conferences of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education.
Middleton is the initiator and a co-director of the Centre for Psychophysical Performance Research, and has published academic papers on aspects of psychophysical performance and training. She is a co-Editor of the Journal of Performance & Spirituality (University of Toledo), where she initiated a section dedicated to first person accounts of practice.
Middleton, D (2012) ‘Arriving with Others: A Contemplative Approach to Ensemble Creativity’. In: Fourth Annual Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education Conference Contemplative Approaches in the Diverse Academic Community: Inquiry, Connection, Creativity, and Insight, 21st - 23rd September 2012, Amherst, MA, USA
Middleton, D. and Chamberlain, F. (2012) ‘Entering the Heart of Experience: First Person Accounts in Performance & Spirituality’ Performance and Spirituality , 3 (1). ISSN 2157-4049
Middleton, D (2012) ‘Cultivating change: personal challenge in psychophysical training’ Theatre, Dance and Performance Training , 3 (1), pp. 41-54. ISSN 1944-3927
Middleton, D (2011) ‘Towards A Contemplative Creativity’. In: Third Annual Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education Conference: The Contemplative Campus, 11th - 13th November 2011, Amherst, MA, USA
Middleton, D (2011) ‘"Sacralidad secular" en el teatro ritual delTallerde Investigacion Teatral de la UNAM [Secular sacredness]’. In: Jerzy Grotowski. Miradas desde Latinoamérica. : Universidad Veracruzana. . ISBN 978-607-502-079-2
Middleton, D (2009) ‘From Poland to Huddersfield via Mexico’. In: British Grotowski Conference 2009: 'Grotowski: Theatre and Beyond', 11th - 14th June 2009, University of Kent
Middleton, D (2008) ‘Secular sacredness in the ritual theatre of Nicolas Nunez’ Performance Research , 13 (3), pp. 41-54. ISSN 1469-9990
Britton, J., Elliott, H., Middleton, D. and Moss, T. (2008) ‘Writing the Body, Dancing The Mind’. In: 'Writing the Body, Dancing The Mind workshop, July 2008, National University of Mexico
Middleton, D (2007) Electrical Kites and Fire in the Head [Video]
Middleton, D. and Moss, T. (2007) Cowboy Manifesto: A Writers Guide to the Wild West [Video]
Middleton, D (2004) ‘Precious’. In: Lost found time. Manchester: Apple Pie. . ISBN 978-0953936724
Middleton, D (2004) Electrical Kites and Fire in the Head [Performance]
Middleton, D (2001) ‘At play in the cosmos: the theatre and ritual of Nicolas Nunez ’ The Drama Review , 45 (4), pp. 42-63. ISSN 1054-2043
Middleton, D (2000) ‘Flight of the Heart’ Total Theatre Magazine , 12 (4). ISSN 0960-6106
Middleton, D (1996) ‘Theatre in the Cosmos’ Total Theatre Magazine , 8 (3). ISSN 0960-6106
Middleton, D (1996) ‘Foreword’. In: Anthropocosmic Theatre: Rite in the Dynamics of Theatre. Amsterdam: Harwood. p. xiii-xv. ISBN 9783718657100
Deborah Middleton is happy to supervise research students (MA by Research, MPhil, PhD) in the following broad areas:
Deborahs current research students are conducting projects on: Concepts of Neutrality in Actor Training (Karoliina Sandstrom); Principles of Rhythm in Actor Training (Eilon Morris); Proprioception in Physical Theatre Training (Laura Haughey); Performance Magic (Nik Taylor); Movement Improvisation as a Performance Site of Generative Possibility (Hilary Elliott).
Deborah has previously successfully supervised a PhD exploring Ritual Aspects in the Performance Art of Hermann Nitsch and Genesis P. Orridge.