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Directing and Dramaturgy Working Group: Tragedy and the Dramaturgy of Ruins 

Following the Directing and Dramaturgy Working Group’s Interim Event at the Citizens Theatre Glasgow on the theme of Tragedy and the Contemporary, we are happy to present Tragedy and the Dramaturgy of Ruins as the focus for the main TaPRA conference.

The conceited man

With his lofty scheme

Ruins himself

And everybody near him (Aeschylus, The Oresteia)


Tragedy might be described as a dramaturgy of ruins. Tragedy presents a theatre of conflict, collision, discord and disruption. For Marxist theatre-makers and theorists such as Brecht, Lukács and Adorno, tragedy’s emphasis on ‘fate’ and ‘predestination’ can make the genre seem politically ineffectual. Terry Eagleton, however, points out that the very notion of the tragic relies upon hope and struggle, since these are the qualities that are ruined within tragedy. Tragedy can also be perceived as an affirmative force since its characters often reduce authority and order to ruin, transgressing limits, and embodying revolt and self-affirmation. Finally, as Jenny Hughes highlights in Performance in a Time of Terror (2011), dramaturgies of ruin, waste, wasted life and broken form do not attempt to fix worlds by displaying fictions of truth and order; instead, they more modestly create a possibility for survivability and resilience. Whether tragedy is considered to be reactionary or progressive, questions of power, morality and society have, since its Ancient Greek origins, bound it closely to the polis, and to questions of politics.

In his essay ‘A Future for Tragedy?’ (2013), Hans-Thies Lehmann proposes that today, theatre and performance can be politicized further by abandoning conventional Aristotelian dramaturgies, or what he terms the ‘museum of tragedy’. He foregrounds postdramatic performance, which for him ruins fictional representation and deconstructs the distinctions between art and the non-artistic world of politics and society. For Lehmann, postdramatic forms become political because, by ruining cultural expectations and by pushing the limits of intelligibility, they require a new dramaturgy of the spectator.

Interventions are welcome on the following areas for discussion, as well as on other themes related the idea of Tragedy and the Dramaturgy of Ruins:

  • Dramaturgies of, and directorial practices of, conflict, collision, discord, disruption.
  • Dramaturgies of, and directorial practices of, disaster, suffering, self-destruction.
  • Tragedy as a transgression and transcendence of order and authority.
  • Tragedy in performance art, Live Art and postdramatic performance.
  • Tragedy and new dramaturgies of the spectator.
  • Tragedy and the posthuman.
  • Tragedy, survivability and resilience.
  • Tragedy, ritual and reality.
  • Tragedy as a means to make, unmake and remake worlds.

We invite members and potential members of the Working Group to submit a 200-word abstract or statement of intent the WG convenors by 18 April 2016. Papers can take the form of a 10 minute provocation as a basis for group discussion or a 3,000- word pre-circulated essay. Please let us know which kind of intervention you propose. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the working group convenors.

Clare Finburgh, University of Kent:

Sam Haddow, University of St Andrews:


Only one proposal may be submitted for the TaPRA 2016 Conference at the University of Bristol. It is not permitted to submit multiple proposals or submit the same proposal to several Calls for Papers. All presenters must be TaPRA members, i.e. registered for the conference; this includes presentations given by Skype or other media broadcast even where the presenter may not physically attend the conference venue. If your paper has been accepted, yet you have not registered for the Conference by the final registration deadline of 8th August 2016, we will deem you no longer intend to participate and present at TaPRA 2016.

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