Robert convenes the MA Musical Theatre and the new BA Musical Theatre course and teaches in the areas of musical theatre history, dramaturgy, performance praxis and modern American drama. Robert uses a combination of teaching modes and strategies from lectures to practical workshops, being particularly interested in the use of creative practice as a way of stimulating student-centred learning. His recent scholarly and creative work on musical theatre has fed directly into his teaching, and he is at present working with Bloomsbury to edit two collections of unpublished libretti of British musicals.
Robert began his career as a professional actor in South Africa before coming to work in the UK. Before joining Goldsmiths, he was Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway College. He has taught at the University of Kent, been Visiting Professor in Theatre at Duke University, the State University of New York at Binghamton and at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. For a number of years he was Director of the University of London International Graduate Summer School and has taught acting and performance theory for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the Actors' Centre, the Drama Studio, the Natal Playhouse, South Africa, as well as a directing course at the British Theatre Association. At various times, he has directed revivals of seldom-performed works, including musicals, as well as being involved in the development of new theatre pieces as dramaturg, director and writer. Robert is a member of the editorial board of Studies in Musical Theatre and has given keynote addresses at a number of international conferences, as well as regularly presenting papers and panel presentations on musical theatre and postcolonial approaches to Shakespeare.
His practice-based research on 'Space, Place and Performance' was a joint project with the theatre designer Dr Kiara Pipino. As director of the prize-winning Postcards from a Journey at the Borga d’Autore in Liguria in 2002, he devised and directed a site-specific production of Calvino’s Le Citta Invisibile, a bilingual production promenading through thirty locations in Rapallo, as well as adapting and directing the first stage version of Barrico’s Novecento at the Teatro della Clarisse.
Musical theatre has been the chief focus of Robert’s recent practice and scholarly research. The interdisciplinary symposium he convened on Stephen Sondheim: Collaborator and Auteur (2005) contributed towards his editorship of The Oxford Handbook of Sondheim Studies (2014). In 2017, he convened two National Theatre Education Days on Sondheim as well lecturing on Sondheim for the South Bank Centre. He is joint editor of The Oxford Handbook of the Global Stage Musical (forthcoming 2020) and is currently writing The Musical Theatre of Kander and Ebb.
Much of Robert’s research has focused on the dialectical relationship between practice and critical reflection, utilising his experience as an actor, playwright and director in South Africa, Britain, Ireland, the USA and Italy as a laboratory to experiment with semiotic and phenomenological approaches to mise-en-scène. The Purpose of Playing: modern acting theories in perspective (University of Michigan Press, 2006) is a critical study of methodologies of Western performance from the late-nineteenth century to the present day, which aims to provide the first comprehensive typology of the major categories of modern acting.
Robert has written essays and articles on modern British theatre (Pinter, Stoppard, Gray, Orton, and Rattigan), Wilde, Congreve, Strindberg and Pirandello, as well as critical monographs on Tom Stoppard and Harold Pinter. Robert’s research in the field of South African theatre began in 1985 with his play about South African women under apartheid, Red Earth, produced by Magna Carta and has continued to the present day with essays on Arthur Miller and post-colonial Shakespeare productions in South Africa and a current PaR project on Decolonising Shakespeare, which focuses on Shylock and Caliban in the context of anti-Semitism and slavery.
Robert’s research interest in Shakespeare and racism was evident in his role as Principal Investigator on the Pinter Centre’s three-year AHRC-funded research project, Beyond the Linear Narrative (2009-11), which aimed to map the post-colonial fracturing of narrative across literary and performative modes and genres. With Helen Carr, Blake Morrison and Osita Okagbue as co-investigators, the project presented four conferences as well as a three-year series of seminars in addition to a wide range of publications and theatre productions, including a European tour of his production of Pinter: In Other Rooms.
As a founder member of the British Musical Theatre Research Institute, he has been involved in a number of initiatives to promote new scholarship in the under-researched area of British musicals and to make teaching materials and critical books available to the growing numbers of musical theatre students and teachers. To this end, Robert has co-written British Musical Theatre Since 1950 (2016) and is co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of the British Musical (2016).
Areas of supervision
Robert has supervised a large number of PhD theses to completion and currently welcomes applications in the areas of musical theatre and performance praxis.
Gordon, Robert J. and Peimer, David. 2011. Shylock’s Ghosts: The Afterlife of Shakepeare’s Jew. In: "9th World Shakespeare Congress", Jewish Museum, Prague, Czech Republic.
Gordon, Robert J.. 2012. Fugard, Kani, Ntshona's The Island: Antigone as South African Drama. Comparative Drama, 46(3), pp. 379-399. ISSN 0010-4078
Gordon, Robert J.. 2006. The Purpose of Playing: Modern Acting Theories in Perspective. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 9780472068876
Gordon, Robert J.. 2018. All That Jazz: the difficult journey of Chicago from stage to screen. In: George Rodosthenous, ed. Twenty-First Century Musicals: From Stage to Screen. London: Routledge, pp. 34-52. ISBN 9781138648890
Gordon, Robert J.. 2016. ‘Kept Alive by Amateurs: White Horse Inn in Britain’. In: Nils Grosch and Carolin Stahrenberg, eds. Im Weissen Rössel: neue kulturgeschichtliche perspectiven 1930-2015. 19 Munster; New York: Waxman, pp. 179-194. ISBN 9783830933557
Gordon, Robert J.. 2009. Iago and the Swart Gevaar: The Problems and Pleasures of a (Post)colonial Othello. In: Graham Bradshaw; Tom Bishop and Laurence Wright, eds. South African Shakespeare in the Twentieth Century. 9 Farham, Surrey, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, pp. 131-151. ISBN 9780754669166
Gordon, Robert J.. 2007. Guilty secrets and cultural blind spots: Miller's plays in South Africa. In: Enoch Brater, ed. Arthur Miller's Global Theater. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp. 66-76. ISBN 9780472115938