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 ‘Genealogies of Actor Training’ which seek to identify, 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 has written a book section with Mark Evans on the director Jacques Copeau, and the contribution of Bing to his practice, in The Great European Stage Directors, Vol. 3 (Bloomsbury, 2018) and is Co-Editor, with Evans, of a special edition of Theatre, Dance and Performer Training: ‘Against the Canon’ (11.3, Routledge, September 2020).
Cass is the Founder and Co-Director of The Chekhov Collective UK an organisation that fosters collaborative exchange between practitioners and practice-based researchers across arts disciplines and stages of their career that are drawing on Chekhov’s techniques in different ways. She was lead researcher on the long term, multi-institutional practice research project that led to a book: Michael Chekhov in the Twenty-First Century: New Pathways, which she edited with Tom Cornford (Bloomsbury, 2020). In June 2020 she will be the Scholar in Residence, with Roanna Mitchell, at the Michael Chekhov Association in the USA where they will explore: The ‘Third Space’: Chekhov Technique in Pedagogic, Applied, Therapeutic and Community Contexts.
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, dramaturgs 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 Modernisms and Post-Modernity and convenes Questions of Performance and The 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, Flaming Theatre and The Chekhov Collective. 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. She is a senior associate at Michael Chekhov UK and a Board Member of Michael Chekhov Association (USA).
- Fleming, C. Founder and Co-Director of The Chekhov Collective UK (2013 – ongoing)
- Fleming, C. and Cornford, T (Principal Investigators) Michael Chekhov in the Twenty-First Century: New Pathways Research Project (2013-2016) and Praxis Symposium (2016). A long term research project involving a large research team from Goldsmiths, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Queen Mary University of London, University of Kent, Bazooka Arts, Michael Chekhov UK and The Chekhov Collective UK. You can read the research project report here.
- Fleming, C and Cornford, T (eds.) Michael Chekhov in the Twenty-First Century: New Pathways, (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2020).
- Evans, M and Fleming, C. The Great European Stage Directors, Vol. 3 (Bloomsbury, 2018)
- Fleming, C and Evans, M (eds.) Theatre, Dance and Performer Training: ‘Against the Canon’ (11.3, Routledge, September 2020).
- Fleming, C and Mitchell, R. The ‘Third Space’: Chekhov Technique in Pedagogic, Applied, Therapeutic and Community Contexts. Scholar LAB Project, MICHA USA (June 2020)
- 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. 2020. Playing outside the frame: revealing the hidden contributions of the women in the French tradition of actor training. Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 11(3), pp. 353-369. ISSN 1944-3927
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. 2020. Introduction Chekhov Technique: Past, Present and Future. In: Cass Fleming and Tom Cornford, eds. Michael Chekhov in the Twenty First Century: New Pathways. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. ISBN 9781474273183
Fleming, Cass. 2020. Theatre of the Future: Chekhov Technique for Devised Theatre and Catalyst Directing. In: Cass Fleming and Tom Cornford, eds. Michael Chekhov in the Twenty First Century: New Pathways. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. ISBN 9781474273206
Fleming, Cass and Cornford, Tom. 2020. Cross Currents and Conclusions. In: Cass Fleming and Tom Cornford, eds. Michael Chekhov in the Twenty First Century: New Pathways. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. ISBN 9781474273206
Fleming, Cass and Evans, Mark. 2018. 'Jacques Copeau' in The Great European Stage Directors, Vol 3, Copeau, Komisarjevsky and Guthrie. In: Jonathan Pitches, ed. The Great Directors. 3 London: Bloomsbury Methuen. ISBN 9781474254113
Evans, Mark; Fleming, Cass and Reed, Sara, eds. 2020. Special Issue Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 'Against the Canon', Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 11(3). 1944-3927
Conference or Workshop Item
Fleming, Cass; Mitchell, Roanna and Cornford, Tom. 2015. ''Michael Chekhov in the Twenty First Century: New Pathways Research Project''. In: Performance Research Forum Dis-Play. Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom November 2015.
Fleming, Cass. 2014. 'Genealogies of Actor Training: The work of Suzanne Bing'. In: QUORUM. Queen Mary, University of London, United Kingdom 26 February 2014.
Fleming, Cass and Cornford, Tom, eds. 2020. Michael Chekhov Technique in the Twenty-First Century: New Pathways. London: Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 9781474273183
Fleming, Cass. 2013. A Genealogy of the Embodied Theatre Practices of Suzanne Bing and Michael Chekhov: The Use of Play in Actor Training. Doctoral thesis, De Montfort University