TaPRA 2023, Theatre and Performance Histories Working Group: Collaboration and Co-Creation in Theatre and Performance Histories

Deadline: Tuesday 11 April 2023

Theatre and Performance Histories Working Group
Collaboration and Co-Creation in Theatre and Performance Histories
TaPRA 2023, 30 August – 1 September, The University of Leeds

In Allure of the Archive (1989), Arlette Farge paints a picture of the historian at work in the archive – the place that is perceived to be their natural environment. Farge’s ‘insider’s account of how historians practice their craft’ (xiii) presents them as exotic and eccentric creatures that ‘could not be described in any ethnography’ (51). They work alone – slowly and silently – often leaning over huge old tomes or rifling through boxes filled with flaking papers and yellowed prints. They might make an occasional sound of surprise as they find something of interest in their materials or a sound of disgruntlement when the hush is broken by a coughing reader on the other side of the room. In ‘An Invitation to Theatre History’ (2022), Esther Kim Lee equates the theatre historian with older white men dressed in tweed, wearing thick-rimmed glasses as they examine a Restoration prompt book.

In the twenty-first century, these creatures seem to be almost extinct, but their image continues to influence how theatre and performance historians and their work are perceived. Although many present-day theatre and performance scholars practice history and historiography, they resist the label because they do not see themselves as that kind of historian. Lee argues that theatre historians and their work need a ‘rebrand’ and that our discipline needs to unite ‘to re-imagine theatre history together’. This will be the mission of TaPRA’s retitled Theatre and Performance Histories Working Group over the next five years.

Arguably, one of the most significant misconceptions about today’s theatre and performance historians is that they are solitary creatures. This could not be further from the truth. They regularly work with others on collaborative research projects, sometimes in small teams, and they often co-author their histories. Throughout their research projects they liaise with archivists, curators and a range of other professionals who have the mutual aims of recovering, preserving and disseminating histories. Now, more than ever, theatre historians share their research with the general public, sometimes partnering with community groups and volunteers to co-create histories through citizen scholarship practices.

The theatre and performance historian might at first seem far removed from creative practice, but many of them are intimately familiar with the rehearsal room. Their expertise has been called upon to aid the creation of new works: from revivals of canonical plays to theatrical reconstructions; and from the making of documentary theatre to the development of shows based around their specialist areas of research. They have also been asked to contribute to radio and TV shows and for programme notes to accompany productions.

We invite 15-minute papers that respond to any aspect of this CFP from scholars who work in any period of theatre and performance histories, from the twenty-first century to ancient times. We are particularly interested in papers that consider how theatre and performance historians approach collaboration and co-creation. Beyond the examples given, this might include discussing:

  • the relationship between theatre and performance historians and museums, galleries, conservation groups or heritage organisations.
  • engagement with a particular venue, theatre company or performance artist to write their history.
  • pedagogical work, where students have contributed to theatre and performance histories.
  • our relationship to practice-based projects, including those which require translating historical stories and documents for the contemporary stage.
  • projects requiring multidisciplinary approaches, such as working closely with colleagues across different specialisms or across different regions or countries.
  • examples of surprising or unusual collaborations from the past.
  • historical research that has resulted in conversations with policy makers.

During this year’s conference we will be hosting a shared panel with the Performance, Identity and Community Working Group and are particularly keen to find papers that respond in some way to the interests of both groups for this session. If you would like to be considered for this panel, please make this clear when submitting your abstract.

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.

Farge, Arlette, The Allure of the Archive, trans. Thomas Scott-Railton (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015).

Lee, Esther Kim, ‘An Invitation to Theatre History’, conference paper originally presented at ASTR in November 2022. https://estherkimlee.com/an-invitation-to-theatre-history/ (Accessed: December 2022).

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 at theatrehistory@tapra.org by 23.59 on 11 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.

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.