TaPRA 2023, Applied and Social Theatre Working Group: Borders and Boundaries: crossing contested spaces in applied and social theatre

Deadline: Tuesday 11 April 2023

Applied and Social Theatre Working Group
Borders and Boundaries: crossing contested spaces in applied and social theatre
TaPRA 2023, 30 August – 1 September, The University of Leeds

We invite contributions to discuss, debate and dissect the complex issues of borders and boundaries in applied theatre practice and research.

In applied and social theatre, border- and boundary-crossing is a site for necessary examination, as we navigate the limits and ethics of our praxis. We cross spaces and liminal zones that are full of power and pain. We work with people who have profound experiences of the limits to their own movement: geographically, socially and psychologically. We examine our own boundaries and the roles we inhabit or try to break free from. We may ask ourselves what borders and boundaries need to, or indeed not to, be in place to cultivate what Elliot Leffler describes as ‘creative intimacy’ (2022: 48). The delivery of applied and social theatre practice is set up within bordered spaces, even as we consider how to break down barriers to inclusion. In this year’s conference, we wish to explore this contested and critical terrain, which our practices navigate. Building on our last conference, where we examined ‘Power in Praxis: Issues of Access, Participation and Inclusion’, this year we seek to move the conversation towards how we approach the borders and boundaries in and around our praxis.

When applied and social theatre practitioners enter a community or context within which they do not normally belong, they ‘undertake an act of border crossing’ (Prentki 2020). As Kim Kenlip-Harvey describes, ‘too often non-Indigenous people are showing up to communities expecting us to endure the oppression and explain it to you as well (in Sadeghi-Yekta & Prendergast 2022). ‘[I]ntentions to work across borders to create networks and foster solidarity can maintain unintended hierarchies’ (Smith 2020: 591). For geographers, Prem Kumar Rajaram and Carl Grundy-Warr, operating in the border zone is a ‘vibrant space of engagement and intercontamination’ (2004: 34). Throughout our practice, we often have to negotiate this tripartite mesh of engagement, vibrancy and contamination.

Drawing from these reference points as a framework, at this year’s conference we invite your responses to this theme. Proposals may wish to discuss:

  • the impact of institutions on the boundaries and limits of practice;
  • the exclusionary politics of the border and border justice;
  • applied and social theatre practice in conflict zones;
  • digital spaces and the facilitation of participation;
  • identity borderlands and intersectional practice;
  • inclusive or exclusive pedagogies working transnationally, and/or with refugee, asylum or migrant groups/individuals;
  • spaces of resistance, dismantling limits and impositions;
  • role-related boundaries and care for self and others;
  • models of practice for positive boundary-setting;
  • history, legacy and the borders of time.

Questions could include:

How do we work across global borders?
How can drama, theatre and performance enable participants to feel less ‘bordered’?
Can we challenge pejorative views of the border zone through creative practice?
Through what mechanisms does applied and social theatre include marginalised groups in fraught border zones? What are the most flexible and sensitive strategies?
How do we as academics, researchers and practitioners enforce, negotiate or break down boundaries?
How can performance elements/tools/strategies – such as puppetry, somatic practices, music, dance, mime – facilitate the crossing of real or imagined boundaries?
Are the margins always a space of ‘radical openness’ (hooks 1989); what does it mean to work in the ‘margins’ now?

We invite diverse modes of sharing research, including, but not limited to: short provocations, practice demonstrations, performative presentations, formal papers, etc. Please indicate your preference of format clearly in your proposal, with a specific breakdown of any technical requirements. We will endeavour to accommodate all requests, but please be aware that we are working within finite resources and we may need to suggest alternative formats.

hooks, b. (1989) ‘Choosing the margin as a space of radical openness’, Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media, 36, 15-23.

Leffler, E. (2022) Applied Theatre and Intercultural Dialogue: Playfully Approaching Difference. Springer International Publishing.

Prentki, T. (2020) ‘Introduction to border crossings’ in T. Prentki & N. Abraham (2nd ed) The Applied Theatre Reader. Routledge.

Sadeghi-Yekta, K. & Prendergast, M. (2022) Applied Theatre: Ethics. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Smith, B. (2020) ‘Conclusions/provocations: applied theatre and global/ sustainable/development’, Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 25:4, 590-592.

Conference structure

The 2023 annual TaPRA conference at the University of Leeds will be a hybrid event, facilitating participation by online delegates alongside those attending in-person.

Since our conference in 2021, we have been able to experience many benefits of online conferencing, such as increased opportunity for international presenters, lower financial costs to participate, greater accessibility for those with caring responsibilities etc. The 2023 conference at Leeds 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, Kate Massey-Chase, Matt Smith, Cathy Sloan and Riku Laakkonen, at appliedandsocial@tapra.org by 23.59 on 11th April 2023.

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. You can, however, include an optional second 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 second choice for consideration. Your proposal will not be less likely to be accepted by our Working Group if you indicate a second choice.


Working Group Convenors will inform you whether or not your proposal has been accepted as quickly as possible and by no later than 3 May 2023. 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 2023.

Conference costs

The early bird registration fee will be:

£220 standard in person attendance
£120 concession in person attendance
£88 standard online attendance
£48 online concession online attendance

Prices will increase to the following after 23 June 2023:
£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 30 August 2023.

​On-campus ​conference accommodation will cost £58 per night.

Please note: All presenters must be registered for the conference by 14 July 2023; this includes those presenting online.

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.


These financial awards support presenters who are postgraduate researchers or unaffiliated/contingent faculty. One award is available for each working group (14 total). Awards can support individuals or teams (i.e., co-presenters). The awards cover:
  • Conference fee waiver;
  • One-year TaPRA membership; and
  • Access to a discretionary fund (maximum £300 per award*) to cover expenses and access costs, such as: travel; accommodation; sustenance; digital access; childcare etc.

These awards are highly competitive and we encourage everyone who is able to secure institutional support where possible. Applications for bursaries must be made at the same time you submit your proposal to the Working Group. This must be within the same document as your abstract/bio.

If applying for a bursary, please include the following:

  • Whether you are applying as a postgraduate or unaffiliated/contingent faculty member;
  • Whether you are applying for an individual or joint award*;
  • A statement of up to 100 words explaining why you are applying for the bursary; and
  • An outline of any expenses/access needs for which you would like to apply to the discretionary fund – including details of expected costs.
Application criteria:
  • Quality and strength of the submitted abstract; and
  • Strategic case made by the WG convenors 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 application 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 by 12 May. Notifications will be issued shortly thereafter.

* The discretionary fund of £300 is available per award, whether the application is to support an individual or a team. I.e., an award made to a team of two presenters means they have access to £300 between them, not each.

TaPRA at the University of Leeds

TaPRA 2023 will be held at the University of Leeds, 30 August – 1 September. The conference will take place on the university campus, with working group sessions and keynote talks held in the Michael Sadler Building, named after a notable figure in the history of modern art in Britain. The main plenary will take place in live streaming enabled Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre, with additional sessions taking place in breakout rooms across the grade II listed, art deco Parkinson building. Performances will make use of a variety of dedicated performance spaces including the Workshop Theatre, Banham Theatre and stage@leeds.

The conference dinner will be held in The Refectory, a beautiful contemporary venue at the heart of the main campus famous for its musical history. The Rolling Stones, Elton John and Bob Marley have all graced this venue with their presence and perhaps one of the most famous live recordings ever made, The Who Live at Leeds, was recorded here. On campus, accommodation is available during the conference at our flagship residence, Storm Jameson Court. Offering a 24 hour reception and access to a large social space this is an ideal place to stay. Guests of Storm Jameson are also able to make use of the on campus gym and pool facilities at the recently renovated Edge Gym.

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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