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Call for participation: TaPRA Popular Performance Working Group

At this year’s conference we will be focusing on the histories and traditions of popular performance. We aim to explore forms that emerge at particular moments in history and ways in which stylistic conventions and methods employed by performers reflect historical contexts. We are also interested in forms such as commedia dell’ arte, pantomime and Punch and Judy that have persisted and indeed become reinvigorated in spite of the temporal distance that separates them from their origins. Ways in which practices associated with forms such as these have been reinterpreted, modified and redefined in response to changing historical conditions are of particular interest. Historical comparisons are also welcome and we invite papers that consider connections between forms associated with particular periods and their historical equivalents. There are for example similarities between the techniques currently employed by Watson and Oliver and those used during the nineteen-eighties by French and Saunders. Arguably this line could be traced further back in order to connect the work of Elsie and Doris Waters to contemporary practice. While it is possible to identify an informal relationship between these comedians, it is not untypical for artists working within a particular performance tradition to consciously and deliberately transfer repertoire and performance practices from one generation to the next: apprentices learn their craft by replicating the work of skilled practitioners; parents pass on their expertise to their sons and daughters. We are keen to investigate specific examples of processes such as these that enable traditions to become self-sustaining.

The ideas outlined here are merely provocations and we invite papers that respond to the themes of history and tradition and their influence on popular performance as broadly as possible. The group welcomes proposals for standard twenty minute papers and we are also keen to accommodate different presentation formats, including short performances, that represent the breadth of current research and practice in the field of popular performance. It is also hoped that we will have a joint panel with the History and Historiography Working Group this year. Their focus will be the role of place and space in theatre and performance history. A decision about the feasibility of this session will be made when we have received all the proposals.

Please send all abstracts (no more than 300 words) and further questions to both Adam Ainsworth ( and Oliver Double ( The deadline for the submission of proposals is 30 April 2014.

Only one proposal may be submitted for the TaPRA 2014 Conference at Royal Holloway University of London. It is not permitted to submit multiple proposals or submit the same proposal to several Calls for Papers. All presenters must be TaPRA members, i.e. registered for the conference; this includes presentations given by Skype or other media broadcast even where the presenter may not physically attend the conference venue. If your paper has been accepted, yet you have not registered for the Conference by the final registration deadline of 8 August 2014, we will deem you no longer intend to participate and present at TaPRA 2014.

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