TaPRA 2022, 12–14 September, University of Essex, Directing and Dramaturgy Working Group CfP: Outside

Deadline: Friday 1 April 2022

Following on from last year’s theme (Inside), Directing and Dramaturgy heads Outside. ‘Light abandons us and a darkness replaces it’, is the opening stage direction of Appropriate by Branden Jacobs Jenkins. ‘Instantly a billion cicadas begin trilling in the dense, velvety void [. . . moonlight] seeps in through an upstage window and just barely reveals a large and very disorderly living room in an old plantation home somewhere in Arkansas.’ Seated in the darkened auditorium the audience see someone break in from the “outside” through this window and onto the stage. The metatheatrical debate staged in this play about whose ‘house’ the theatre industry really is, who is allowed in and who is construed as an ‘outsider’, is underscored as the woman reassures this ‘intruder’: ‘You have a right to be here. This is your house too…’. Theatre has long been obsessed with the dichotomy of inside and out and its transgressions. In another play, now firmly ‘within’ the Western theatrical canon, Aeschylus’s Oresteia, a watchman on the roof of the House of Atreus, half-within, half-without, opens the play apostrophising the open sky and stars, revealing what has been happening ‘outside’ in Troy and ‘inside’ in the House of Atreus, events that are about to collide. Arriving back from Troy, Agamemnon discovers there are outsiders within; murdered by his wife, his entrails are thrown outside, his corpse exposed. Unlike Appropriate, the Oresteia was written to be performed outside, the audience gathered in daylight in the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens on the south slope of the Acropolis. The event’s outdoor-ness was part of this theatre’s civic, public character and function. The Oresteia and Appropriate both navigate material and ideological insides and outsides, exposing them to their outdoor and indoor, outsider and insider, audiences for judgement and response. Both are suggestive for how our theme, Outside, might interact with directing and dramaturgy understood in their widest senses. The Covid-19 global pandemic has seen theatre, and other arts and civic functions, head ‘outside’, where the ‘outdoors’ is safer. The RSC and the Arcola, perhaps the most prominent amongst other theatrical festivals and organisations to have embraced this move, erected purpose-built outdoor venues in 2020. Once loaded with associations of the ‘amateur’ and ‘seasonal’, of ‘heritage’ and ‘family-friendly’ work (where such claims to accessibility and inclusivity may themselves deter or exclude other audience communities) the outside took on a different function and set of associations in the theatre industry in 2020-21. What are the directorial, dramaturgical, material, political, ideological issues at stake in theatre outside? Has the establishment or re-establishment of outdoor theatre served to reconnect the industry with theatre’s wider civic – even its activist – role? What has become newly visible in this moment of the affordances, accessibility and risks of performance outside? The Oresteia, performatively and textually connected to the natural environment, repeatedly demanding care of the earth that it might propitiate goodness for us, gathers fresh resonance in a world grappling with climate catastrophe. How do theatre-makers interrogate the relationship of their craft to the great outside? How has this dovetailed, or not, with the large-scale outdoor climate-oriented performance work of Extinction Rebellion, and other longer-standing outdoor theatre work by WildWorks and Outdoor Arts UK, The Minack Theatre, visited by then Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden in 2021, or Shakespeare’s Globe, for instance? How might the dramaturgy of the streets, of activism, fit within this consideration of Outside, when both London’s Notting Hill Carnival and the Carnival in Trinidad have been suspended for two years now and when the government seeks to curtail and reduce the gathering of protestors? Are there wider outsides to consider here and their imbrication in the theatrical, directorial and/or dramaturgical, through wider temporal or seasonal scales and wider scopes of climate and galaxy? Does looking at the theatrical outside and theatrical outsiders open up an important new horizon? We invite proposals for 15-minute contributions, from individuals or collaborators, that speak to the theme of theatre and ‘outside’. Topics might include:

  • Outdoor venues, risk and health and safety
  • Outsiders (the marginal, the excluded, the unrepresented)
  • Appearances (rather than ‘reality’); style (rather than substance)
  • Masks, externalised intention and emotion; character as surface or persona
  • The natural landscape/the urban outside
  • Festival performance/touring
  • The complexities of representing outsides in indoor playhouses
  • The complexities of representing insides in outdoor or open-air playhouses
  • The implicit real world ‘outside’ the theatre
  • Concentric circles around performance, the hinterland of it, the outside of it
  • The histories of the place of the outside in theatre
  • Street theatre, carnival, occupations, protests, activism
  • Theatre and the weather, the seasons
  • Theatre and animals
  • Site-specific theatre

Conference structure

The 2022 annual TaPRA conference at the University of Essex will be a hybrid event, facilitating participation by online delegates alongside those attending in-person. The 2021 TaPRA conference demonstrated the many benefits of online conferencing; increased opportunity for international presenters, lower financial costs to participate, greater accessibility for those with caring responsibilities etc. The 2022 conference at Essex aims to retain the wider opportunities for engagement that online platforms offer, whilst also creating a space for in-person engagement and social interaction. In the event of a cancellation of in-person conference activities due to, for instance, COVID restrictions, the event would run entirely online and all registered in person delegates would be offered the opportunity to attend as online delegates, with the difference between in-person and online registration fees refunded.

Process for submitting a proposal

Please email abstracts (no more than 300 words in length), and an additional few sentences of biographical information to the Working Group Convenors (directinganddramaturgy@tapra.org) by 23.59 on 1 April 2022. IMPORTANT: Please indicate at the point of submission if you intend to attend the conference in person or online. This information is vital so that the conference organisers can effectively plan the infrastructure for the event and Working Group Convenors can schedule panel sessions effectively. You should also indicate if you have any specific requirements relating to space or AV technology as part of this submission. 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.


Working Group Convenors will inform you whether or not your proposal has been accepted as quickly as possible and by no later than 22nd April 2022. Convenors will offer brief summary feedback to all proposals that could not be accommodated. ​​Please note that putting together a full draft schedule for the conference is a complex process, particularly as all sessions will need to be accessible to delegates attending in person and online. Therefore your patience while this process is ongoing, and prompt responses to acceptances, are much appreciated. Convenors will have completed their draft schedules by the end of May 2022.

Conference costs

The early bird registration fee will be: £220 – standard in person attendance £120 – concession in person attendance £88 – online attendance £48 – online concession attendance Prices will increase to the following after 24th June 2022: £250 – standard in person attendance £150 – concession in person attendance £100 – online attendance £60 – online concession attendance All of the above conference fees include TaPRA membership for one year (£35 standard / £17 concession) starting 12th September 2022. ​On-campus ​conference accommodation will cost no more than £55 per night. The conference dinner will cost £45. There will also be an opportunity to donate towards a conference dinner fund for unwaged/unaffiliated colleagues and postgraduate researchers. Please note: All presenters must be registered for the conference by 15th July 2022; this includes those presenting online. Numbers for in-person attendance will be more limited in 2022 than previous years so we advise early booking. If you have registered for in person attendance and find yourself unable to attend you will be able to access the conference as an online delegate but will not be eligible for a refund. Concession definition: Concession rates apply to all postgraduate researchers, unwaged, unaffiliated, and retired researchers, and staff on contracts of either less than 0.6FTE 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 14 bursaries (one per working group) 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 expenses and access costs such as travel, accommodation, digital access, childcare and so forth up to a maximum of £300 (justified and costed) per applicant. 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 outline of any expenses/access needs for which you would like to apply to the discretionary fund: what they are and costs
Decisions about bursaries will be made by 6th May and notifications will be issued 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). Conveners in each working group will consider applications according to the criteria above and will nominate one applicant to put forward for a bursary. Final decisions about awards, including requests for expenses and access costs, will be made by the TaPRA Executive Committee.

TaPRA at the University of Essex

For the 2022 conference, the Working Group sessions and Keynote talks will be located in the Essex Business School (EBS) on the Colchester campus; the UK’s first zero-carbon business school building, which features an indoor winter garden (https://www.eventessex.co.uk/portfolio/the-essex-business-school/). Working Group sessions will take place in Zoom-enabled lecture-room and classroom spaces in EBS, with live-streamed keynotes delivered from two large cutting edge Lecture Auditoriums. Live performance will be hosted at Essex’s on-campus Lakeside Theatre (https://lakesidetheatre.org.uk), which also has facilities to stream performances for those attending online. While the Practice-as-Research Gallery will be hosted in Essex’s iconic brutalist building, The Hexagon (https://www.eventessex.co.uk/portfolio/the-hexagon/), which sits in the heart of the University’s Green Flag Award-winning campus (https://www.essex.ac.uk/news/2021/10/13/green-flag-award-2021). The conference will have technical support from Essex’s AVS team, with training sessions provided for Working Group convenors in advance of the conference to support the delivery of blended WG sessions to mixed rooms of in-person/online delegates. For those in-person delegates who wish to attend the conference meal, food will be served in the Garden Suite of Wivenhoe House, a beautiful 18th Century four-star hotel on campus (in walking distance of the Essex Business School). This hotel/restaurant is near the quayside village of Wivenhoe, and minutes away from Britain’s oldest recorded town, Colchester (https://www.wivenhoehouse.co.uk). The meal will be followed by a live DJ set after dinner.

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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