Performance Practice

Phillip is the founding Artistic Director of The Llanarth Group. He is internationally known as a director and performer, and for training actors through a pre-performative/psychophysical process using Asian martial and mediation arts. Phillip is also widely known as an award winning author. He maintains a private studio in West Wales (Tyn-y-parc CVN Kalari/Studio) where he holds annual intensive psychophysical training, and rehearses productions with The Llanarth Group.

Phillip’s recent directorial work includes …semblance…sequel…specter: Beckett’s Footfalls and Play, in association with The National Theatre Company (Costa Rica) and Collective Escenico Dragon (2017); world premiere of Kaite O’Reilly’s Cosy (Wales Millennium Centre, 2016); Kaite O’Reilly’s the 9 fridas with Mobius Strip (Taipei) on invitation at the Hong Kong Rep International Black Box Festival (2016; original production as Guest Director at Taipei Arts Festival in 2014); The Llanarth Group’s Told by the Wind on limited UK tour (2016; premiered 2010); Ota Shogo’s The Water Station for Nordland Teatre (Norway, 2015); and playing ‘the maids’—co-created by The Llanarth Group, Gaitkrash, and Theatre P’yut (2015). 

In addition to teaching at the Tyn y parc studio, Phillip regularly conducts residencies and workshops throughout the world including at ITI (Intercultural Theatre Institute, Singapore) and the Norwegian Theatre Academy (Fredrickstad, Norway). He has also conducted residencies/workshops throughout the world including: Gardzienice Theatre Association (Poland); Helsinki Academy of the Arts (Finland); KNUA (Seoul, Korea); National Theatre of Greece; Athens/Epidavros Festival (Greece); Taipei Arts Festival; as part of BEYOND project with Emio Greco and Co (Netherlands), etc., as well as at many university professional actor-training programmes.

Phillip is also noted for his work with Indian dancers/choreographers. He collaborated with bharatanatyam dancer/choreographer Gitanjali Kolanad to create two major solo performances which have toured internationally--Walking Naked / The Flowering Tree --both premiered in Chennai and toured internationally to Mumbai, London, Seoul, Toronto, and other locations. With Artistic Director/Choreographer Stella Subbiah of Sankalpam, in the UK Phillip directed The Dance of the Drunkun Monk and …sweet…dry…bitter…plaintive, part of Corpo-realities 2. Both toured nationally in the UK and included performances at the London South Bank Centre or Laban Theatre in London.



Gurukkal Govindankutty Nayar: photo from 1976 in the CVN Kalari, Thiruvananthapuram. The Lion Pose. Phillip Zarrilli's primary teacher.

Gurukkal Govindankutty Nayar: photo from 1976 in the CVN Kalari, Thiruvananthapuram. The Lion Pose. Phillip Zarrilli's primary teacher.

Phillip is the first Westerner to seriously study kalarippayattu--the South Indian martial/medical art. He began his training in 1976 under the guidance of Gurukkal Govindankutty Nayar of the CVN Kalari, Thiruvananthapuram. Between 1976 and 1993, Phillip lived in Kerala for a total of seven years, with each trip devoted to undergoing intensive training in kalarippayattu. In 1988, he was gifted the traditional pitham (stool) representing mastery by Gurukkal Govindankutty Nayar. When the new CVN Kalari Sangham was founded in 2004, the Tyn-y-parc CVN Kalari in Llanarth, Ceredigion, Wales (UK) was certified as an official kalari of the Sangham under Phillip's guidance as gurukkal. Inaugurated in 2000, the Tyn-y-arc CVN Kalari was the first traditional kalari operating outside of Kerala. In addition to his primary long-term training under Gurukkal Govindankutty Nayar, Phillip also studied extensively under C. Mohammed Sherif (Kerala Kalarippayattu Academy, Kannur) and Raju Asan (adi-murai). Phillip authored the first authoritative study of kalarippayattu, When the Body Becomes All Eyes: paradigms and practices of power in kalarippayattu, published by Oxford University Press (1998/2000). Just as importantly, he also trained in Wu-style taiqiquan with AC Scott and teaches taiquiquan alongside kalarippayattu and yoga in training actors. His training in yoga took place in Kerala alongside his training in kalarippayattu.

Phillip also received beginning training in kathakali dance-drama in 19761977, under the guidance of M.P. Sankaran Namboodiri at the Kerala Kalamandalam. It was his study of kathakali preliminary training processes that led Phillip to kalarippayattu: the source of kathakali's preliminary training exercises and massage.

Phillip received his B.A. summa cum laude with honours in Philosophy from Ohio University (1969). He then studied religion and theology at McCormick Theological Seminary (M.Div. 1971). Phillip went on to receive his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Theatre and Drama from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Awarded a Fulbright Fellowship as a theatre director, he travelled to Kerala, India where he undertook practical research through immersion in the practices of kathakali dance-drama training and kalarippayattu in order to write his Ph.D.--a reflection on the potential for these embodied practices in the training of the contemporary actor. While still in the US he received major awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, SSRC, AIIS, etc.


Research & Publications

Mandarin translation of Zarrilli's award-winning book, Psychophysical Acting. Bookman Press, Taipei (2014).

Mandarin translation of Zarrilli's award-winning book, Psychophysical Acting. Bookman Press, Taipei (2014).

In addition to his professional artistic work, Phillip maintains a relationship with the Drama Department at Exeter University (UK) where he taught from 20002015. He is now Emeritus Professor of Performance Practice. He was Director of the Asian-Experimental Theatre Program within the University of Wisconsin, Madison (USA) for many years, and has also taught throughout the world including NYU Department of Performance Studies and Northwestern University. His numerous books include Acting (Re)Considered (editor, 1995, 2002), When the Body Becomes All Eyes (1998, 2000), Kathakali Dance-Drama: Where Gods and Demons Come to Play (2000), and Martial Arts in Actor Training (ed., 1993). Psychophysical Acting: An intercultural approach after Stanislavski, Zarrilli's long-awaited book on the process of training actors through a psychophysical approach based on Asian martial arts and yoga was published in 2009 by Routledge. The book includes a DVD-ROM by Peter Hulton. It was awarded the ATHE 2010 Outstanding Book of the Year Award at the ATHE convention in Los Angeles. He is at work on a new sole-authored book, '(toward) a phenomenology of acting' under contract with Routledge Press. For a complete list see PUBLICATIONS section of WORK.