Cass Fleming originally worked as an actor before transitioning to directing and teaching. She trained at WAC, Goldsmiths, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and wrote a PhD on the use of play in actor training addressing the work of Michael Chekhov and Suzanne Bing.
Over the past thirty years Cass has trained in a broad range of embodied performance and acting practices including: Michael Chekhov Technique and the French play-based traditions, including the techniques developed by Bing, Lecoq and the post-Lecoq tradition. As a trained teacher, she has a life-long commitment to the teaching and nurturing of young artists from all backgrounds.
Cass' specialism is play-based actor training, directing and theatre making methods, specifically the work of Suzanne Bing, Jacques Copeau and Jacques Lecoq, Joan Littlewood’s work with Theatre Workshop, and Michael Chekhov. After training in the French tradition in the mid-1980s, Clive Barker introduced Cass to the work of Littlewood in the mid-1990s; she began using Chekhov Technique in 1998.
Cass' theoretical research explores how relational play-based practices can increase creativity, provide agency to artists, and lead to alternative performance making and directing processes. This strand of her pedagogy and research also connects to what she has come to term as ‘Genealogy of Actor Training’ which seeks to identify, use, analyse and promote methods developed by artists who have been marginalised or over-looked in dominant actor training histories and practices. This includes the work of Suzanne Bing and other women in the French play tradition in the early and mid-twentieth century. Cass is currently developing a related publication and has a forthcoming book section written with Professor Mark Evans that addresses the way in which Suzanne Bing collaborated with Jacques Copeau.
Much of Cass' work is based on Michael Chekhov Technique and she is a Senior Associate of Michael Chekhov UK. From 2013-2016 she led the major multi-institutional research project, Michael Chekhov Technique in the Twenty First Century: New Pathways, with Dr Tom Cornford and a large team of international researchers and practitioners. This research project made important contributions to both practice-based and scholarly research in the UK and internationally. Cass is now Project Director of the next phase of this project Michael Chekhov Technique: New Pathways in Community, Therapeutic and Health Contexts. Artistically, she is the Director of The Chekhov Collective, which fosters collaborative exchange between practitioners and practice-based researchers.
- PhD Performing Arts, De Montfort University
Supervised by Professor Ramsay Burt and Mike Huxley
- MA Performance Studies (practical/theoretical), distinction
Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
- BA Hons. Theatre Arts and English
Goldsmiths, University of London
Cass' students are always at the forefront of her work; developing them is her inspiration. Over 25 years, Cass has built an extensive portfolio of teaching, coaching and mentoring actors, directors, dancers, theatre-makers, dramaturges and pedagogues. She has worked with a broad range of students in the community and at Foundation, BA, MA, MPhil and PhD level in drama schools such as Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and Rose Bruford, and in various universities. In the professional sector, Cass has also taught Michael Chekhov Technique at Royal National Theatre Studio and The Young Vic Genesis Programme.
At Goldsmiths, Cass has managed and taught 15 different practice-based courses, options and final productions. For undergraduate students in Theatre and Performance, she developed the bespoke Personal and Professional Development Programme and established the BA Professional Alumni Network. Currently, she teaches on theoretical modules and convenes the three Processes of Performance modules: The Ensemble; Encounters with Space; and Politics of Play, Plays and Playing.
Prior to becoming a teacher and lecturer Cass worked as a performer, assistant director, assistant choreographer and subsequently a director with companies such as Second Stride, Rubicon Performance and Flaming Theatre. As a director, she has adapted plays and other texts, devised embodied theatre, mime and dance-theatre. Before working for many years in ENO Baylis (English National Opera’s Education, Community and Outreach team) Cass had a spell working in television. She has also worked as an academic consultant and external examiner, is a frequent referee for Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, and is on the advisory board of a number of research projects.
- 2013-2016. Co-Project Director. Michael Chekhov in the Twenty-First Century: New Pathways
- Knowledge production, exchange and transfer events 2013-2016 culminating in a conference and research events at Goldsmiths University of London, September 2016
- Forthcoming Book Publication: Fleming, C and Cornford, T (eds.) Michael Chekhov Technique in the Twenty First Century: New Pathways, Bloomsbury Methuen Drama (2018).
- A multi-institutional research project that involved Goldsmiths University of London, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Queen Mary University of London, University of Kent and the professional organisations Michael Chekhov UK and The Chekhov Collective. This innovative, international, and interdisciplinary project brought together professional practitioners and scholars to investigate new uses of Michael Chekhov Technique both within and beyond the theatre and produced new critical discourse.
- 2017 – ongoing. Project Director. Michael Chekhov in the Twenty First Century: New Pathways in Community, Therapeutic and Health Contexts.
- Knowledge production, exchange and transfer events 2018-2020
- Report and practitioners’ toolkit 2020
- A multi-institutional practice-as-research project that involves Goldsmiths University of London, Queen Mary University of London, University of Kent, Bazooka Arts, The Chekhov Collective and a team of therapists, clinical psychotherapists and cultural psychiatrists. The lead researchers are Zoe Brooks, Martin Sharp, Dr Cass Fleming, Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey and Dr Roanna Mitchell.
- 2013 – ongoing. Director of The Chekhov Collective.
The Chekhov Collective fosters collaborative exchange between practitioners and practice-based researchers across different arts disciplines and career stages. The workshops and events explore new developments in arts practices, their application within and beyond the context of theatre and performance, and foster lively critical debate.
- 2018 – forthcoming. Evans, M and Fleming, C. ‘Jacques Copeau’ in The European Great Directors, Volume 3: Copeau, Komisarjevsky and Guthrie, Bloomsbury Methuen Drama (2018)
- Play in actor training and theatre making. In particular the techniques developed by Michael Chekhov, Suzanne Bing, Jacques Copeau, Jacques Lecoq and Joan Littlewood
- Michael Chekhov Technique
- Clown, mask and mime practice in the French tradition (Bing, the Dastés, Barrault, Lecoq, post Lecoq)
- Embodied / Physical Theatre practice and history
- Devised performance practice and history
- European directorial practices of the twentieth and twenty first century
- Radical pedagogy in actor training and theatre making
- Practical research methodologies
- Cross-arts performance
Michael Chekhov in the Twenty First Century: New Pathways Project
This is a tri-institutional research project that involves Goldsmiths, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and the professional organisation Michael Chekhov UK.
The research team for this project includes:
Dr Tom Cornford (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London), Graham Dixon (MCUK), Dr Cass Fleming (Goldsmiths, University of London), Sarah Kane (MCUK), Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey (Queen Mary, University of London), Dr Roanna Mitchell (University of Kent), Sinéad Rushe (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London), Martin Sharp (MCUK) and Daron Oram (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama).
This innovative project builds on current experiments and aims to bring together professional practitioners and scholars from various disciplines to investigate new uses of Chekhov’s techniques both within and beyond the theatre in the twenty first century. The project seeks to explore how Chekhov’s techniques can now be used in contexts other than actor training designed for the interpretation of existing dramatic literature.
The New Pathways Research and Training Group based at Goldsmiths was launched in 2013 to start to explore these areas and various practitioners have been involved since this time.
The outcomes of this project will be discussed in the forthcoming publication Michael Chekhov Technique in the Twenty First Century: New Pathways, Methuen Drama (2017).
Areas of supervision
Cass' particular interests in supervising are: actor and director training; play in actor training, direction, and theatre making; Michael Chekhov Technique both within and beyond the theatre; the work of Suzanne Bing, Jacques Copeau, and Jacques Lecoq; the work of Joan Littlewood and the Theatre Workshop; radical pedagogy, play and performance; alternative feminist and queer genealogies of performer training and theatre making; embodied and devised theatre practice and history; clown, mask and mime practice; European directorial practices of the twentieth and twenty first century; dance-theatre practice; and new developments in the field of applied performance.
Fleming, Cass. 2013. ‘The Michael Chekhov Centre UK Past, Present and Future: an Inter-Generational Dialogue.’ An edited selection of interviews with Sarah Kane, Graham Dixon and Martin Sharp. Co authors: Tom Cornford, Cass Fleming and Sinéad Rushe in Franc Chamberlain and Andrey Kirillov (eds), ‘Michael Chekhov in the Twenty-first Century: New Sources, New Contexts, New Perspectives.’. Theatre, Dance & Performance Training, 4(2), ISSN 1944-3927
Fleming, Cass. 2013. ‘Michael Chekhov’s Embodied Play’ in Franc Chamberlain and Andrey Kirillov (eds), ‘Michael Chekhov in the Twenty-first Century: New Sources, New Contexts, New Perspectives.’. Theatre, Dance & Performance Training, 4(2), ISSN 1944-3927
Fleming, Cass. 2018. Michael Chekhov in the Twenty First Century: New Pathways. London: Bloomsbury Methuen.
Fleming, Cass and Evans, Mark. 2018. 'Jacques Copeau' in The Great Directors, Vol 3, Copeau, Komisarjevsky and Guthrie. In: Jonathan Pitches, ed. The Great Directors. 3 London: Bloomsbury Methuen. ISBN 9781474254113