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The German Society for Contemporary Theatre and Drama in English (CDE) is pleased to announce its 30th Annual Conference:

June 23-26, 2022

Hosted by RADAC, the Sorbonne, University of Gustave Eiffel, Avignon, and Le Mans, the conference will be held at the Cité Internationale and the Sorbonne in Paris.

Theatre and the City”

As the role of traditional theatre spaces in the city has declined, the city has emerged as a performance space in and of itself. While often facilitating the creative empowerment of entire communities, this conflation of theatre spaces and the enhanced performativity of city life also inevitably implicates theatrical practices in the systemic injustices of urban architectures and their dramaturgies. This conference invites investigations into all aspects of how contemporary Anglophone theatre and performance reflect, resist, and interact with the city.

With the percentage of the world’s urban population soaring past the 50 percent mark, the complexities and inequalities of city ecologies are at the forefront of our social dilemmas. The increasing popularity of the site-specific and the participatory indicates a distinct shift in the politics of theatre, notably in how its urban demographics are constituted. Anglophone theatre, in particular, has witnessed a proliferation of genres and techniques instigating an exodus from the theatre building since the 1960s, with performances invading city roof-tops and other urban spaces to meet their audiences. Yet the city has also re-entered theatre by way of elaborate staging (immersive sets) and dramaturgies. As these practices keep evolving, theatre and the city continue to transform one another (Anne Hamburger’s En Garde Arts site-specific productions in New York, or Deborah Warner’s The Angel Project throughout London and New York and others; for more references, see longer version of the CFP.)

Hybrid forms have thrived by mixing technology with ambulatory theatrical explorations, re-engaging with earlier dramaturgical traditions. Playwrights have explored cities as processes forming a complex urban landscape throughout national territories and have penned the difficulties of urban communities from segregation to the death of the working class while developing new voices to convey these plights.

Tracking all these changes is at the heart of this conference in order to investigate how theatre and the city are productively embroiled and particularly how contemporary Anglophone theatre has redefined the rich and complex meanings of urbanity, blurring borders between centre and periphery, street and stage, performer and spectator. How, then, are urban theatrical communities created today in the context of global and cosmopolitan cities? How do the walls of both cities and theatres rise and fall in today’s theatrical practices?

Call for papers

“Pumpkin: I love it here in Black Bottom. I don’t never wanna leave

Silver: That so? Why’s that?

Pumpkin: Got roots here. And purpose.”

1949 -Paradise Blue, Morisseau

 “I believe that in a great city, or even in a small city or a village, a great theater is the outward and visible sign of an inward and probable culture.”                                                                       

    Laurence Olivier

As the role of traditional theatre spaces in the city has declined, the city has emerged as a performance space in and of itself. While often facilitating the creative empowerment of entire communities, this conflation of theatre spaces and the enhanced performativity of city life also inevitably implicates theatrical practices in the systemic injustices of urban architectures and their dramaturgies. This CDE conference proposes to question the tensions between theatre and the city anew in light of contemporary challenges.

Following Marvin Carlson’s categorization of urban spaces (after Kenneth Lynch and Roland Barthes) as composed primarily of pathways and hubs, we can see how both a city’s thoroughfares and its congregational spaces have historically been used for processional as well as on-site performances in equally significant ways. Today, with the percentage of the world’s urban population soaring past the 50 percent mark and continuing to climb, the complexities and inequalities of city ecologies are at the forefront of our social dilemmas. This conference invites investigations into all aspects of how contemporary Anglophone theatre and performance reflect, resist, and interact with the city.

The increasing popularity of the immersive, the site-specific, the promenade, and the participatory in recent years indicates a distinct shift in the politics of theatre, notably in how its urban demographics are constituted and recognized (Harvey, Martin, Schipper). For example, the etymology of the city derives from the Latin word civis (for citizen), something refugee theatre, for one, firmly opposes by claiming the right to a place on the stage despite a lack of citizen status. Such investigations seem particularly relevant to contemporary Anglophone theatre which has witnessed a proliferation of genres and techniques operating an exodus from the theatre building. Contemporary performances have developed in and outside of designated theatre spaces since the 1960s, invading city roof-tops (Trisha Brown), city streets (Bread and Puppet Theater and today’s Critical Mass etc.), and other city spaces (London Bubble Theater, the TKTS booth in Times Square, Asylum (Red)’s use of public parks in San Francisco) to meet its audiences. Yet the city has also re-entered theatre by way of elaborate staging that places cities at the heart of their dramaturgy (musicals such as In the Heights and Rent) and also thanks to immersive and technological stage techniques (Complicité’s The Master and Margarita, National Theatre’s VR piece Home Aamir).

In addition, hybrid forms have thrived by mixing technology with ambulatory theatrical explorations (Punchdrunk, Blast Theory), re-engaging with earlier traditions such as environmental theater, experimental dance, and the early use of screen on stage. As these practices keep evolving, theatre and the city continue to transform one another (from Schechner’s 1960s performances to site specific events such as Anne Hamburger’s En Garde Arts productions and Tina Landau’s Stonewall: night variations at the New York Pier in 1994, or Deborah Warner’s The Angel Project throughout London in 2000 and New York in 2003). Moreover, the continual displacement of ‘experimental spaces’ exemplifies such mutations due to gentrification and the rise and fall of experimental neighborhoods (in New York from the West to the East Village and the Lower Eastside, see Mahmoud; Carr; Rivera-Servera; Shank).

These performative dialogues between urban and theatrical spaces have also been more traditionally explored by conventional drama from Restoration Comedy to 19th century melodrama and then in 20th-century (Churchill’s Serious Money, 1987) and 21st-century (Gabriel Bisset-Smith’s Whitewash, 2019) theatre as a source of satire, local colour, and social reflections (Harvie). If London and New York are central in these developments, many other types of cities such as Los Angeles (Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight, 1993)are theatricalized to expand the vast network of significations linked to urbanity. More recently, playwrights have tackled, for instance, the issue of urban black communities (Roy Williams’s Fallout, 2003 or Dominique Morisseau’s The Detroit Project, 2018) from segregation to the death of the working class (Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, 2015). These explorations of cities as processes forming a complex urban landscape throughout national territories have enabled the development of new voices to convey these plights.

Tracking all these changes is at the heart of this conference in order to investigate how theatre and the city are productively embroiled and particularly how contemporary Anglophone theatre has redefined the rich and complex meanings of urbanity, blurring borders between centre and periphery, street and stage, performer and spectator. How, then, are urban theatrical communities created today in the context of global and cosmopolitan cities? How do the walls of both cities and theatres rise and fall in today’s theatrical practices?

The following questions might be taken into consideration:

  • How, then, are urban theatrical communities created today in the context of global and cosmopolitan cities?
  • How do the walls of both cities and theatres rise and fall in today’s theatrical practices?
  • How does ecological awareness foster new urban configurations of theatrical projects?
  • How has the digital revolution affected the meanings of theatre and the city?

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers in English – as well as more performative formats experimenting with the conference topic (such as immersive or interactive presentations, etc) in line with the philosophy of the CDE and its intention to promote research and teaching in the area of recent and contemporary theatre and drama in English. In addition, special proposals for a collaborative, 60-minute deambulatory presentation, performance, or workshop as participants walk the 3.7 km distance through the city from the conference site to the Sorbonne are also welcome. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Urban dramaturgies: from the flâneur (Situationism) to the theatrical archiving of cities (spatialization of knowledge and history and the social production of space: Foucault, Lefebvre, Harvey)
  • Immersive theater and the blurring of boundaries between stage and street
  • Smart cities and stages in the light of environmental crises
  • Social change through intersectional representations (Queer practices, Black Lives Matter) and “utopian performatives” (Dolan); Cultural and ethnic communities
  • Resisting urban politics through theatrical dissenting practices: stand up, street theater, performance art against gentrification (paradoxes of artist and urban renewal: Schulman, Mahmoud)
  • Digital theater in the context of Covid; The rise of virtual theater, “extended reality” (XR) and the end of physical space; A return to street theatre (Lincoln Center outdoors, Restart Stages program) and the proliferation of hybrid forms (NYC Next)
  • Global urbanity (the “new world city”); Political theatre and performance; Refugee and migrant theater; Minority theater; Urban accessibility awareness

In accordance with CDE’s constitutional policy, papers should deal exclusively with contemporary (i.e. post-1989) theatre and drama in English.

Abstracts: Abstracts (300 words) for papers or performative lectures should be accompanied by a short biographical note and full address and institutional affiliation.

Deadline:  30 November 2021

  • NB: Only paid-up members are eligible to give papers at CDE conferences. Membership subscriptions may be taken out or renewed during the conference. For details, please contact CDE’s treasurer Martin Riedelsheimer (martin.riedelsheimer@philhist.uni-augsburg.de).

To submit your abstract, please visit the submission page on Scienceconf.org. We will accept submissions only through the Scienceconf.org dedicated page.

Bibliography

Aronson, Arnold. American Avant-garde Theatre: A History. London & New York: Routledge, 2000.

Auslander, Philip. Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1999.

Carlson, Marvin. Places of Performances: The Semiotics of Theatre Architecture. Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell UP, 1989.

Carlsson, Chris, ed. Critical Mass: Bicycling’s Defiant Celebration. Edinburgh: London and Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2002.

Carr, Cynthia. On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century, Wesleyan University Press, New England, Hanover, 1993.

Dolan, Jill, Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theater, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 2008.

Hamidi-Kim, Bérénice. Les cités du théâtre politique en France depuis 1989. Montpellier : L’entretemps, 2013.

Harvie, Jen. Theater & City. London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009

Hopkins, D.J., Shelley Orr, and Kim Solga. Performance and the City. Performance Interventions Series. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Mahmoud, Jasmine, “Brooklyn’s Experimental Frontiers, A Performance Geography”, TDR 58:3 (T223), Fall 2014, 97-123.

Martin, Carol, ed. “Performing the City”, TDR 58:3, (T223), Fall 2014.

Morisseau, Dominique. The Detroit Project. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2018.

Nottage, Lynn. Sweat. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2017.

Puchner, Walter, Ed. Theater and the City. Special Issue of Parabasis: Journal of the Department of Theatre Studies of the University of Athens. Vol 12.1 (2014)

Rivera-Servera, Ramón H. Performing Queer Latinidad: Dance, Sexuality, Politics. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2012.

Schechner, Richard, Environmental Theatre, New York: Applause, 1973.

Schipper, Imanuel, “City as Performance,” TDR 58:3 (T223), Fall 2014, 18-26.

Schulman, Sarah. The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.

Shank, Theodore. Beyond the Boundaries: American Alternative Theatre. 1982. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 2005

Whybrow, Nicolas, Ed. Performance and the Contemporary City: A Reader. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. 

Keynotes

Anne Hamburger

Anne HamburgerAnne Hamburger founded En Garde Arts in 1985 and is widely credited with pioneering the development of site-specific theatre in New York. From 1985 through 1999, En Garde Arts produced ambitious, large scale theatrical work using the city as its stage transforming such unlikely spaces as four square blocks of the meatpacking district for Reza Abdoh’s Father Was A Peculiar Man, the courtyard and façade of a former cancer hospital called the Tower’s Nursing Home for Chuck Mee’s Another Person is a Foreign Country, directed by Anne Bogart; the intersection of Wall and Broad Streets in the financial district for a new musical by Jonathan Larson called JP Morgan Saves the Nation; and a twisted metal pier jutting out into the Hudson River for Chuck Mee’s Orestes directed by Tina Landau. The arrival of twins led Hamburger out west to found and run Creative Entertainment, a global division for Disney, for nearly nine years, but with the conclusion of this chapter, she returned to New York to relaunch En Garde Arts. It’s second incarnation began in 2014 and continues today. Her missioned broadened to include work in theatres; including the multi-media shows BASETRACK Live, a show about the impact of war which toured to 40 cities around the country and premiered at BAM; and Wilderness, co-written by Hamburger, about teenage mental health issues, which premiered at prestigious venues including the Kennedy Center. It was published by Dramatists Play Service.

All the shows that have been created not only focus upon what stories are told but on how they are told, where they are told and to whom. En Garde’s work has lifted up under-represented voices with the development of work focusing upon the salient social issues of our time. In 2020, En Garde produced Fandango for Butterflies and Coyotes by an all Latinx team about undocumented immigrants, that was shut down due to covid and returned to New York in 2021. En Garde’s most recent production created in May, 2021 during the pandemic was A Dozen Dreams, an immersive theatrical production, co-created by Hamburger with John Clinton Eisner and Irina Kruzhilina, that brought the pandemic dreams to life of a dozen women playwrights through sets, lights, video and sound. It was created in an empty store at Brookfield Place in downtown Manhattan and played to sold out audiences and critical acclaim. Its physical structure accommodated covid regulations with only two audience members at a time experiencing each of the dozen rooms created. Hamburger has been the recipient of a Lee Reynolds Award and En Garde Arts has received OBIES, Drama Desk and Outer Critic’s Circle Awards.

Jen Harvie

Jen HarvieJen Harvie is Professor of Contemporary Theatre and Performance at Queen Mary University of London. Her research explores how theatre and performance artists make their work, and the cultural politics of performance, focusing especially on urban inequalities, gender, and sexuality. Her publications include: two books with queer artists, Scottee: I Made It and The Only Way Home Is Through the Show: Performance Work of Lois Weaver, and the monographs Fair Play – Art, Performance and Neoliberalism, Theatre & the City, Staging the UK, and the co-authored Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance. She co-edited Making Contemporary Theatre: International Rehearsal Processes and three special issues of Contemporary Theatre Review, on feminisms, the cultural politics of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and globalisation. She has published several articles on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. She is currently co-editing The Cambridge Companion to British Theatre Since 1945 and writing a monograph on how gendered inequalities in housing, care, and employment are manifested in and addressed by recent feminist performance in the UK. She co-edits the book series Theatre &, now with Bloomsbury (formerly Palgrave Macmillan), and releases open access interviews with performance makers on her podcast Stage Left (soundcloud.com/stage_left). https://www.qmul.ac.uk/sed/staff/harviej.html.

(Photo credit: Juju Vail)

Immanuel Schipper

Imanuel Schipper is a senior lecturer for Contemporary Performance & Dramaturgy at the Theatre Academy/Uniarts Helsinki and a scholar for Dramaturgy, Cultural and Performance Studies at the CityScienceLab at HafenCity University Hamburg. His research covers contemporary concepts of dramaturgy, performance studies and digital cultures, socially relevant functions of art and concepts of spectatorships. In his career as a Dramaturg (Theatre, Dance, Opera) he collaborated with William Forsythe, Jérome Bel, Luk Perceval and others. He has a long-term working relationship with Rimini Protokoll. 
Publications include: – Rimini Protokoll 2000-2010 (2021, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König) – Rimini Protokoll: Staat 1-4: Phänomene der Postdemokratie (2018, Theater der Zeit)- Performing the Digital. Performance Studies and Performances in Digital Cultures (2017, in collaboration with Timon Beyes and Martina Leeker, transcript).

Andrew Todd

Andrew Todd is the Managing Director of Studio Andrew Todd since its creation in 2004 and has been in independent practice as an architect and theatre consultant since 2001.

He studied English at Cambridge where he was director of the touring European Theatre Group, and was awarded a high first for dissertation work on Tennyson. He qualified as an architect in 1995 at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied with Ivan Illich, Joseph Rykwert and David Leatherbarrow.

Upon graduating he moved to Paris where he gained professional experience in Jean Nouvel’s office; at the same time he was a correspondent for Giancarlo de Carlo’s review Space and Society. In 1996 he met the legendary director Peter Brook, who invited him to collaborate on a research project which became the book The Open Circle – Peter Brook’s Theatre Environments (published by faber and faber in 2003). Todd has subsequently published a second book of essays on scale, conviviality, domesticity and ecology: Common Sense – Building a World to Share (RightAngle International, 2016).

Andrew remains active as a researcher, writer and teacher.

He has written for The Guardian, Financial Times, Architecture d’Aujourd’hui, Architectural Review, The Enthusiast, Tracés and Parametro, and has appeared as a commentator on BBC World News and Today, France Culture and France Inter.

He has taught and lectured throughout Europe, North America and in India and Japan. He is currently engaged in book-scale research projects on trees, on rhythm, on Shakespeare and on the theatre paradigm in contemporary architecture; he is a jazz drummer playing and recording at professional level.

He is familiar with many of the leading global creators in the performing arts and music, and works regularly with them on research, discussion, debate and design projects. His closeness to the sector and the possibility to listen intimately to its concerns deeply informs his creative work as an architect.

In 2011 he was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture Frederick Mitterrand, for his services towards the synthesis of the arts.

Contact

The organisers, Cyrielle Garson, Xavier Lemoine, Anna Street, and Julie Vatain-Corfdir can be contacted here: cde2022paris@sciencesconf.org.

Julie Vatain-Corfdir