TaPRA 2021, 6-10 Sept, online & co-hosted by Liverpool Hope University, Theatre History and Historiography Working Group CfP: Working with the past, operating in the present, looking to the future

Deadline: Friday 9 April 2021

‘To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history.’ (Cicero) In his 2004 article Thomas Postlewait ruminated on a ‘Disciplinary Mandate’ for theatre historians and considered the ways in which the field might develop in years to come, asking ‘How, then, will our discipline define itself tomorrow?’ Since the early years of this century theatre/performance historians have continued to explore the practice(s) of historiography, broadening the field of scholarship and study and adding to a body of knowledge and range of methodologies; such diverse approaches are found in works including Davis and Emeljanow (2001) Reflecting the audience; Taylor (2003) The Archive and the Repertoire; Davis (2007) The Economics of the British Stage; Bratton (2011) The Making of the West End Stage; Bush-Bailey (2011) Performing Herself: Autobiography and Fanny Kelly’s Dramatic Recollections; Schneider (2014) Theatre & History; Balme and Davis (2017) Cultural History of the Theatre; Gale (2020) A Social History of British Performance Cultures 1900-1939 and surveyed in publications including Zarilli, McConachie, Williams and Sorgenfrie (2006) Theatre Histories: An Introduction, Postlewait (2009) The Cambridge Introduction to Theatre Historiography, Wiles (2012) The Cambridge Companion to the Theatre History and Cochrane and Robinson (2019) The Methuen Drama Handbook of Theatre History and Historiography. As we enter the 2020’s and in a time of increasing precarity and urgency for Arts advocacy in education (and society) the Theatre History and Historiography working group would like to bring the question of our identity to the forefront as we consider the ‘foundational attributes which unite us’ as theatre historians and, as David Wiles has more recently queried, ‘the ways forward for our sub-discipline.’ As such we’d welcome papers that engage with theatre/performance history/ historiography in its past, present and future form(s) and examine our ongoing/contingent relationship to interpreting, reinterpreting, representing and reflecting the theatrical past. Where/what next for theatre/performance history and historiography? Please feel free to share what you’re currently working on and using that particular piece of work as a means/lens for opening up consideration and discussion of these questions/issues/threads. Topics could include (but are not limited to):

  • Research methods and methodologies
  • Contemporary debates and practices
  • Focus/objects of enquiry
  • Liveness – ‘then’ and ‘now’
  • Challenging existing models, approaches and narratives (and opportunities for ‘new’ alternatives)
  • The future of/for theatre history and historiography
  • Framing/reframing the past
  • The archive, records and evidence
  • Decolonisation and inclusivity
  • Relationship with the canon
  • National, International and Global theatre histories
  • Transmissions of knowledge – pedagogies, positionalities, perspectives

Process for submitting a proposal

Proposals must be submitted to theatrehistory@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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