TaPRA 2021, 6-10 Sept, online & co-hosted by Liverpool Hope University, Directing and Dramaturgy CfP: Inside

Deadline: Friday 9 April 2021

In Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1895 play Intérieur, translated by Caryl Churchill as Inside, we watch two men charged with delivering terrible news. They hesitate outside a house, looking inside at the family innocently unaware of how their lives are about to be transformed. The first audience for the play sat inside, watching people outside watch people inside. Today, the voyeuristic logic of the fin-de-siecle staging with its Naturalistic domestic interior set within a Symbolist outside frame has taken on a further dramaturgical reverberation. The theatres are dark. We watch each others’ lives staged and framed within windows on our computers and phones. We ourselves remain inside. Maeterlinck’s layered spaces indicate nineteenth-century theatre’s obsession with new kinds of theatrical insides, from its renewed investigation of bourgeois and psychological interiority; its opening up of society’s hidden spaces and social secrets; to its new deployment of the hidden spaces of language through the emergence of subtext. But engagement with the risks, politics and aesthetics of the interior were not new. In the sixteenth century the threat to the household, the microcosm of the state, was anatomized in domestic tragedies (Arden of Faversham, for instance) that afforded voyeuristic scrutiny of the inner workings of household affairs and marital relations but on the open air stage. In fifth-century BCE Athens the open air amphitheatres made use of stage architecture (the skēnē) to show bodies moving between the polis and the oikos, the public and the private sphere. Theatrical spaces themselves often present complex negotiations of inside and out, producing thresholds between foyers, anterooms, compartments, trapdoors, wing spaces and backstages to create yet further insides. Even the metaphors we use to describe theatre – at least since the emergence of alternative theatre in the 1960s – draw on topographical images of outsiderliness against a constructed inside, positioning off-, fringe, or underground theatres as exterior to mainstream forms of practice let ‘in’ by cultural gatekeepers. Theatre has come under scrutiny for its divisions between insiders and outsiders, its inclusivity and exclusivity. Who is inside the theatre and who is left outside in the cold? What is at stake in the insides that theatre constructs? The global pandemic has imbued these terms with other resonances as borders closed, nations issued ‘stay at home’ orders, and the risks of the domestic – what happens behind closed doors – became starker, more violent and more hidden. Lockdown has seen a totem figure of the “ghost light” keeping the insides of the now empty theatres lit in expectation of return. Meanwhile, the insides of other theatres, requisitioned and temporarily repurposed by the Ministry of Justice as “Nightingale Courts”, host different directors, dramaturgies and audiences. The guts of the theatre, usually tucked deep backstage, spilled onto the streets of the cities to make a visceral point about livelihoods and loss as stage managers rolled flight cases down the main streets of Manchester and London in July 2020 for #WeMakeEvents. The digital streaming of theatre productions accelerated during lockdown and performances played in a wider range of homes for a wider range of ticket prices and on a wider range of devices in private, domestic contexts than ever before. The Royal Court asked us to keep our cameras on (My White Best Friend), and we watched each other watching the show from our kitchen tables, sofas, beds and bean bags. We turned our bathrooms into swimming pools to participate in individual participatory performances (Mercurali’s Swimming Home). We had plays told by letter or email delivered through our letterboxes and email inboxes. New forms of theatre sought to engage with the intimate interiors of our lockdown lives. We welcome 15-minute papers on the theatrical and performative dimensions of the Inside that speak to directing and dramaturgy in their broadest possible senses. We invite considerations of historic, current and future Insides and/at the theatre. Among the topics that papers may consider are:

  • The insides of the body
  • The secrets of the self or society
  • Interior spaces
  • Psychological interiority
  • Hidden meanings and subtext
  • Imprisonment, confinement, lockdown
  • The public and the private
  • The nation and the international
  • Hospitality (come inside)
  • Thresholds and borders, gatekeeping
  • Emptiness and plenitude
  • Safety / Threat
  • Contagion
  • Ventilation

Process for submitting a proposal

Proposals must be submitted to directinganddramaturgy@tapra.org by 23.59 on 9th April 2021.

Please email all abstracts (no more than 300 words in length), an additional few sentences of biographical information and precise details of the audio-visual technology you will need to make your presentation.

Please include an optional 2nd choice of Working Group (this can also include the TaPRA Gallery, where appropriate). If we are unable to accept your proposal, we will then pass it on to your 2nd choice for consideration. Your proposal will not be less likely to be accepted by our Working Group if you indicate a 2nd choice.

Please note: You may only submit a proposal to one working group (or else the PaR Gallery) for this conference, proposals submitted after the deadline will not be considered.  


We will inform you whether or not your proposal has been accepted as quickly as possible, and will offer brief summary feedback to all proposals that could not be accommodated. If we have passed your proposal on to your 2nd choice of Working Group, we will let you know this as well. Please note that putting together a full draft schedule for the conference is a complex process, and therefore your patience while this process is ongoing, and prompt responses to acceptances are much appreciated. Convenors will have completed their draft schedules by 17th May 2021.

TaPRA Conference 2021 Registration Prices

Full Price Early Bird: £65 + £35 (TaPRA membership) = £100

Concession Early Bird: £33 + £17 (TaPRA membership) = £50

Full Price Standard: £85 + £35 (TaPRA membership) = £120

Concession Standard: £43 + £17 (TaPRA membership) = £60

The registration costs above will pay for digital infrastructure and administrative support for the conference, alongside fees for the keynote speaker and artists contributing to the programme.

Please note: All presenters must be TaPRA members, i.e. registered for the event.

Concession definition:

Concession rates apply to all postgraduate researchers, unwaged, unaffiliated, and retired researchers, and staff on contracts of either less than .6FTE or else fixed for less than 12 months. These categories apply to the attendee’s circumstances on the first day of the conference.


There will be up to 10 bursaries available for postgraduate researchers and unaffiliated presenters/contingent faculty. These are highly competitive and so we would encourage everyone who is able to secure institutional support where possible. Each bursary includes a conference fee waiver and one year of TaPRA membership. There is also a separate discretionary fund towards access costs such as digital access, key materials, childcare and so forth. You must submit your application for a bursary at the same time as your proposal to the Working Group (within the same document as your abstract/bio) If applying for a bursary, please include the following:
  • Whether you are applying as a postgraduate researcher OR unaffiliated presenter/contingent faculty
  • A statement of up to 100 words explaining why you are applying for the bursary
  • An indication of any access needs for which you would like to apply to the discretionary fund: what they are and an indication of costs
Decisions about bursaries will be made by Friday 7th May and notifications will be issued by this group shortly after. The criteria for awarding bursaries are:
  1. Quality and strength of submitted abstract.
  2. Strategic case made by the WG conveners outlining the significance of the applicant’s contribution to the WG sessions (connection to advertised theme, methodological approach, expected outcomes).

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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