Redefining Theatre

Fr28Mai(Mai 28)13:30Sa29(Mai 29)16:00Redefining TheatreTheatre and Society in TransitionVeranstaltungsartKonferenz


The online conference will be held at the Freie Universität Berlin via Webex on May 28-29, 2021. 

The recent coronavirus pandemic has yet again shown us the strength of theatre’s interrelation with the society and just how easily theatre’s social relevance can shift at the time of a profound social change. The relationship between theatre and the society is indeed one of the key issues in Theatre Studies and this perspective had been growing in gravity and prevalence even before the pandemic. In the recent decade, theatre scholars have been paying particularly close attention to theatre’s relation to the public sphere and to the multilayered power relations in theatre and its social and political contexts. 

In what ways can we reflect on theatre in both institutional and aesthetic terms in times of societal transition? What happens to theatre when the public spheres are being fundamentally reshaped? Or, conversely, how can theatre influence comprehensive societal changes? Which power relations become the most relevant in theatre and its political, institutional and social frameworks when societal transition is taking place? And what means do we possess to articulate the re-definition of theatre’s social function and relevance?

Taking a European perspective, the interrelation between theatre and societal transition can be particularly well investigated on the example of the post-1989 transformations in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc. These processes were arguably the most fundamental societal transition to have occurred in Europe in the past thirty years. During the 1990s, countries like the former East Germany, Poland and the Baltic states experienced sweeping political and social changes, yet the influence such transformation exerted over theatre has not been systematically examined. Theatre historians have tended to label the 1990s as the time of “theatre crisis” but the period is yet to be surveyed to a greater depth.

How was theatre’s social function redefined in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc after the fall of the communist regimes? How can we comprehend and articulate the relationship between theatre and the gradually consolidating, reshaped public spheres during the 1990s? How was theatre’s attitude to the political redefined? And how did the theatre aesthetic respond (or failed to respond) to the changing political and social contexts in different “Eastern” European countries? 

The conference will focus on theatre in times of societal transition both in general terms and with a specific focus on the post-1989 transformations in Central and Eastern Europe. 

The event is a part of the EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie research project “Redefining the Agency: Post-1989 Crisis of the Czech and Former East German Theatre” (abbreviated as ”Theatre ReDefined”) conducted by the Principal Investigator Dr. Radka Kunderová at the Institute for Theatre Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Follow the conference on Facebook!  Redefining Theatre Online Conference, FU Berlin


(updated on April 26, 2021)

Friday,  May 28

13:30 – 13:40 WelcomePanel I: Theatre and Social Crisis

Chaired by Radka Kunderová, Freie Universität Berlin

13:40 – 14:10 Christopher Balme, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

                       Theatre, Corona and Crisis: Scenarios

14:10 – 14:25 Discussion

14:25 – 14:55 Andrea Tompa, Babes-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca

                      From Social Change to Social Drama: or How the Present Expropriates the Past 

                      (The Case of Hungarian Theater after 1990 till the Present)

14:55 – 15:10 Discussion

15:10 – 15:30 Coffee breakPanel II: West-East Transitional Dynamics in Theatre

Chaired by Tony Fisher, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama London

15:30 – 16:00 Anneli Saro, University of Tartu

                      Turn to the West: Dynamics of Theatre in Transition

16:00 – 16:15 Discussion

16:15 – 16:45 Tanja Bogusz, Hamburg University

                       Two Cultures, One Institution

                       East-Western Entanglements at the Volksbühne Berlin after 1989

16:45 – 17:00 Discussion

17:00 – 17:15 Coffee breakPanel III: Redefining Institutions and Identities

Chaired by Janelle Reinelt, University of Warwick

17:15 – 17:45 Brandon Woolf, New York University

                       Considerations on the Berlin Theater Situation: 30 Years Later

17:45 – 18:00 Discussion

18:00 – 18:30 Jana Wild, Academy of Performing Arts Bratislava

                      Redefining Shakespeare

18:30 – 18:45 Discussion

Saturday, May 29

Panel I: Theatre and the Changing Public Sphere

Chaired by Jan Lazardzig, Freie Universität Berlin

10:00 – 10:30 Paweł Sztarbowski, Theatre Academy in Warsaw and Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw

                       Spectres of Communism

10:30 – 10:45 Discussion

10:45 – 11:15 Matthias Warstat, Freie Universität Berlin

                       Berlin 1989: Theatre and Street Protests

11:15 – 11:30 Discussion

11:30 – 11:45 Coffee break

11:45 – 12:15 Radka Kunderová, Freie Universität Berlin

                       Redefining the Political Theatre?: Czech Theatre in the early 1990s

12:15 – 12:30 Discussion

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch breakPanel II: Potentialities of (Political) Theatre

Chaired by Radka Kunderová, Freie Universität Berlin

14:00 – 14:30 Meike Wagner, Stockholm University

                       Performing Citizenship around 1800

Utopian Performatives of Early Bourgeois Theatre

14:30 – 14:45 Discussion

14:45 – 15:00 Coffee break

15:00 – 15:30 Tony Fisher, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama London

                       The Politics of Displacement Effects

                       Althusser’s ‘Brecht’ and the Present Conjuncture

15:30 – 16:00 Discussion + closing remarks

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28 (Freitag) 13:30 - 29 (Samstag) 16:00

Freie Universität BerlinHabelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin