Tate Modern Course

Rehearsal: Words and gestures in motion

John Stezaker, ‘Third Person’ 1988–9
John Stezaker, Third Person 1988–9. Tate. © John Stezaker

In what ways is the performer’s body a dynamic set of rules and signs? Can we read gestures as a language? How are the territories of performance and theatre blurred through the site of the gallery and how does this impact on the ‘image’ it creates?

Taking the work of Austrian novelist and playwright Peter Handke as a point of reference and inspiration, this performative workshop invites you to actively engage with different modes of delivering a script through gestures, movements, and dialogue. Using the format of a rehearsal for a play, this is an opportunity to participate in a creative process of exploring the relationship between art and theatre in the context of a public gallery setting. This event is a creative collaboration between theatre maker and director Katie Mitchell and visual artist Kate Tiernan. Brought together by their shared passion for the writings of Peter Handke, this is a unique opportunity to explore together with you the worlds of art and theatre.

Handke's fascination with the philosophy of language, the mind, faith and notions of miscommunication are influenced by the German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. For this workshop, we work with a section from Handke’s Voyage to the Sonorous Land or The Art of Asking (1996) translated by Gitta Honegger, which writes of leading a group of characters to the hinterland of their imaginations, where they search not for the right answers but for the right questions.

Across the two hours, Kate and Katie guide you step-by-step through the processes involved in an open rehearsal set up, inviting you to engage with the script through physical exercises, visualisations techniques, small group activities and discussion. The workshop becomes the process of a rehearsal for a performance rather than a performance itself, questioning when and where is an act on stage and off stage. You learn to take the text off the page and embody Handke’s work through time, place, circumstances, events, intentions, characters and tempo. This will always be in relationship to one another and the space. Handke takes us on a voyage to what he calls “that place for seeing”, questioning the means by which text is performed.

This workshop is open to anyone interested in the practical aspects of theatrical rehearsals. No previous experience of acting required.

Please note that due to the exposed nature of the Turbine Hall Bridge where the workshop will be set, we recommend that you wear warm and comfortable clothing on the day.


Peter Handke (born in 1942) is an avant-garde Austrian playwright, novelist, poet, essayist and political activist, one of the most original German-language writers in the second half of the 20th century. His body of work has been awarded numerous literary prizes including the iconic International Ibsen Prize in 2014. The dominant theme of his writings is that ordinary language, everyday reality, and their accompanying rational order have a constraining and deadening effect on human beings and are underlain by irrationality, confusion, and even madness. Key works include the play Kaspar (1968) and Offending the Audience (1966) My Foot My Tutor (1969) and novels include The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1970) and The Left-Handed Woman (1976).

Director Katie Mitchell has been described as 'the closest thing the British theatre has to an auteur' and is known for her experimentalism and the diversity of her work. Her theatre productions include: The Cherry Orchard (Young Vic); A Sorrow Beyond Dreams (Vienna Burgtheater); Lungs, The Yellow Wallpaper, Fraulein Julie (Schaubühne, Berlin); The Rest Will Be Familiar To You From Cinema, Happy Days (Schauspielhaus, Hamburg); Night Train, Rings of Saturn  (Schauspielhaus, Cologne/Avignon Festival); Women of Troy, Three Sisters, Waves (National). Opera includes: Trauernacht (Aix-en-Provence Festival); Le Vin Herbe (Staatsoper, Berlin); Written on Skin (Aix-en-Provence Festival/Royal Opera House). Katie has been an Associate Director at the RSC, National Theatre and The Royal Court Theatre. She was awarded an OBE in 2009 for services to Drama.

Kate Tiernan is a London based artist, writer, and actor. She studied Fine Art and Critical Theory at Goldsmiths and MA in Text and Performance at RADA and Birkbeck. Her performance practice based research explores spatial relationships and philosophical conundrums through public/private encounters with various objects and built environments. Over the last ten years she has worked with Arnolfini, Tate, V&A, The British Museum, BFI, University West England and Goldsmiths. Kate lecturers at Sotheby’s Institute and contributes to arts publications including Studio International and Zoo; recently writing a play titled Freight previewing in 2016. Her piece Considering This a verbatim performance about cognitive empathy and catharsis was performed at RADA, The Arts Theatre Upstairs and Hornsey Town Hall. 

Tate Modern

London SE1 9TG
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Date & Time

31 October 2015 at 11.00–13.00