TaPRA 2019, Exeter, Directing & Dramaturgy WG CfP: On Strangeness

Deadline: Tuesday 16 April 2019

  Directing & Dramaturgy Working Group, TaPRA (Theatre & Performance Research Association)

Annual Conference: University of Exeter (4-6 Sept. 2019)


Call for Contributions: On Strangeness

      Since its inception, theatre has been preoccupied with strangeness. Greek Tragedy’s obsession with the barbarian underpinned its interrogations of the boundaries determining what belongs in or out of the polis, and the age-old potency of ‘strangeness’ –with its roots in the Latin extraneus (foreign, external, from without) –continues to be harnessed by political agents who build consensus by maligning society’s ‘others’ and escalating tensions between the familiar and the ‘foreign’. Practitioners have also long paid self-reflexive heed to theatre’s oddity as a medium –its strange liminality, with all the ambiguity and disorientation it can produce. Art has a rich history of instrumentalising strangeness: from Victor Shklovsky’s elaboration of ostranenie (making foreign) in ‘Art as Technique’ (1917) there extends a long line of artistic practice that makes objects unfamiliar to emphasise the process of perception as an aesthetic end in itself (e.g. dada), or to advance a new politics of seeing (Brechtian Epic Theatre, postmodern irony or pastiche). But in our increasingly polarised political cultures, where breaks with convention and daily disruptions are the new normal, what purchase do strategies of estrangement have today? Extending from the Working Group’s discussions around dramaturgies of crisis and the monstrous, we offer the notion of ‘strangeness’ as a point of departure for our conversations, that might give rise to pivotal questions about the entanglements of theatre, aesthetic form, identity and community.

For this call we are interested in proposals for 15-minute papers, provocations or sessions that re/consider directing and dramaturgy, understood in their broadest senses, in the light of strangeness. We hope to engage a wide variety of scholars and practitioners and welcome proposals that think imaginatively about–and might even estrange –traditional formats.

Potential points of entry:

  • The Stranger and Identitarian Politics: In her seminal text Strangers to Ourselves, Julia Kristeva posits the ‘stranger’ as central to the European conception of the Self: ‘The image of hatred and of the other, a foreigner is neither the romantic victim of our clannish indolence nor the intruder responsible for all the ills of the polis….Strangely, the foreigner lives within us: he is the hidden face of our identity’ (1991, 1). How is the figure of the stranger/foreigner produced? How is the notion of the stranger used in directing and dramaturgy to reconfigure the borders of personal, national and cultural identity?
  • Dealing with Strangeness: How do processes of translation and adaptation ‘nativize’ the practices, cultures and languages they address, or work to preserve the ‘strangeness’ of the source material? How is oddity or foreignness marked and/or marketised?
  • Spectacles of Strangeness: David Hare’s infamous pronouncement that British theatre is ‘being infected’ (The Guardian, 29 Jan 2017) by radical European staging fuelled antagonisms between a beloved national theatre and ‘strange’ practices of mise en scène on the Continent. What role do ‘national theatres’ and ‘nationhood’ play in producing notions of the strange?
  • Becoming Estranged: Reece Jones argued presciently that globalisation isn’t undermining the position of the state; instead, ‘as the movement of people threatens their ability to control resources and populations, states around the world have responded by hardening borders [in a] rearticulation and expansion, not a retreat, of state power’ (2016: 68). What role do transcultural and transnational practices play in resisting political projects of estrangement?
  • Making Strange: Practitioners have long made the familiar strange in order to provide new perspectives (cf. Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt). In his essay ‘What is Epic Theatre?’, Walter Benjamin describes the moment when a stranger appears at the door during a family row as the interruption that exposes the processes and conditions of bourgeois life: Suddenly,‘There exists another point of view [Es gibt aber einen Blick]’ (1939, 534-5). What are the strategies and ambitions of dramaturgies of estrangement? What political purchase can they have today, given that interruption is the new normal?


Submitting a Proposal

  Please send a 300-word (max) proposal and short biography (in a Word doc.) via email to the Directing and Dramaturgy Working Group convenors by the deadline of Tuesday 16th April 2019.

Cara Berger, Clare Finburgh Delijani & Benjamin Fowler: directinganddramaturgy@tapra.org

Please also include precise details of your resourcing needs, for example, any audio-visual technology, or a particular type of space (e.g. drama studio) that you will need to make your presentation. Please note that TaPRA does not accept simultaneous submissions to multiple Working Groups).

If you would like to be considered for the TaPRA Postgraduate or Early Career Researcher Bursaries scheme please indicate this in your proposal. To check if you are eligible to apply, please consult the criteria as outlined on the TaPRA website: http://tapra.org/bursaries/. There will be a separate call for the PG Bursaries later in the year.  

Please note: only one proposal may be submitted for a TaPRA event. It is not permitted to submit multiple proposals or submit the same proposal to several Calls for Participation. All presenters must be TaPRA members, i.e. registered for the event; this includes presentations given by Skype or other media broadcast even where the presenter may not physically attend the event venue.

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