JOAN GWENDOLINE MILLS
is a theatre director, voice practitioner and educator who has directed and created a wide range of theatre projects, plays and workshops over the past 40 years, from new writing to theatre in education, classical text to music and image based performances. Throughout her career she has combined her professional work with undergraduate and post-graduate teaching within the field of theatre and performance. Her practice is influenced by her understanding of voice in performance from a wide range of cultures, particularly since 1980, through her research for Project Voice and from 1990 by her experience of directing the international voice project Giving Voice, at the Centre for Performance Research.
Joan began her career as the Director of the Royal Court Young People’s Theatre Scheme and was the originator of its highly successful Young Writer’s Festival. When Joan was appointed Artistic Director of Theatr Powys, she moved to Mid-Wales, later developing her freelance directing career until appointed Head of Physical Skills at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, where she worked for eight years, until she left to become a Senior Lecturer at Dartington College.
After moving from Cardiff with the Centre for Performance Research to collaborate with the Theatre Film and Television Department of Aberystwyth University in 1995, she founded the community choir Heartsong and with colleagues at CPR has created a number of projects which contributed to the development of community choirs throughout Wales. She continued to work freelance as a director and voice practitioner until she was appointed Fellow in Voice and Performance at the TFTS Department of Aberystwyth University in 2002 where she contributed to the development and teaching of a wide range of undergraduate theatre and performance modules including: acting; directing; voice in performance; devising theatre; theatre skills in the community; applied theatre and advanced production projects. Throughout her career Joan has led workshops and coached performers within a wide range of contexts: for theatre professionals, students and communities, in voice, singing, acting, devising and play-writing in the UK, Europe and the USA.
Joan’s working methods are influenced by her contact, training and friendship with many key international practitioners developed through her research for Giving Voice and through collaborations with singers and performers from around the globe. Her voice work is inclusive and playful: she aims to encourage those who work with her to develop the confidence to explore the full range and creative possibilities of her/his voice and to embody, explore and expand the emotional and technical limits of her/his unique sound, whether through speaking, singing or the vocal spaces in between.
She has recorded 3 CDs which are collaborations with Frankie Armstrong, one with her own ensemble Bright Field as well as creating 2 teaching CDs. A great enthusiast for a cappella traditional singing, particularly Georgian Polyphony, Joan is the editor of the 99 Georgian Songs collection by the renowned ethnomusicologist Edisher Garakanidze, published by the CPR’s Black Mountain Press, and recently prepared a revised and extended second edition. Having left Aberystwyth University in July 2014, Joan’s recent freelance work includes being a guest practitioner/ lecturer for Falmouth University Academy of Music and Theatre Arts from autumn 2014 to spring 2017, leading voice and performance workshops and curating 2 new editions of Giving Voice in 2015 and 2016. The latest, 14th, edition was a collaboration with the Grotowski Institute and Theatre Zar in Wroclaw for European Capital of Culture.
Joan is currently co-leading Georgian singing workshops and the choir K’ak’ali (Walnuts), teaching voice in a variety of contexts, and co-editing issue 24.1 ), ‘On Song’ for Performance Research Journal, to be published in spring 2019. She is also working on ideas for a 30th anniversary edition of Giving Voice in 2020.
Joan was born in Yorkshire but grew up mainly in rural Shropshire, then later, as a teenager in Solihull, Warwickshire. As a child she sang in the local church choir, and later, with her school choir, frequently recorded for BBC radio. She taught herself guitar and from the age of 15 sang in local folk clubs and with a madrigal choir. She graduated from Hull University with a BA Hons in Drama and American Studies and then gained a PGCE.
She taught in London for a year before being appointed as Director of the Young People’s Theatre Scheme and her career as a theatre director steered her interest in voice towards actor training. When she became the Director of Theatr Powys in mid-Wales she began to further develop her own approach to voice work for the company but also was able to revive her own love of singing. With other Theatr Powys members she helped start and organise a Brecon Folk club, singing as the ‘house band’ each month.
Her love of exploring the voice and the joy of sharing the pleasure of singing with others has been consistent throughout her career ever since and her work with the Centre for Performance Research in particular, has given her the opportunity to develop ideas about voice training, sharing, and participation on an international scale and at an interdisciplinary level.
Joan is married to Richard Gough, Professor of Music and Performance at the University of South Wales, and has one daughter who is an art psychotherapist, writer and artist.
Ceredigion and Cardiff
01974 202577 or 07590 566032