The TaPRA Outstanding Research Contribution Prize

This prize is for exceptional research and is made to a distinguished scholar of international standing who has made a significant contribution to the development of theatre and performance as a scholarly field through a body of work.






James Thompson

Nomination statement from Applied and Social Theatre working group: 

James Thompson was a founder (with Helen Nicholson) of TaPRA’s Applied and Social Theatre Working Group and has been editor, reviewer and contributor to RiDE: Journal of Applied Theatre many years. He has offered a significant contribution to the field, spanning over three decades.  Thompson has defined a criticality in applied theatre, enabling academics and practitioners to approach work with both confidence and caution. His impressive oeuvre of published scholarship is matched by his enriching and dynamic presentation style. His contribution to scholarship is both ambitious and grounded. He is an inspiration to the field.

Thompson’s research has had a significant influence on theatre scholarship and debates, highlighting themes of affect, care, and challenges to instrumentalisation in participatory practice. His In Place of War project has had substantial impact on civil society and cultural life worldwide by documenting, analysing and enhancing the work of war zone theatre practitioners. His work serves as a great model for how research with a global reach can respect the contribution of all participants. 

Defining the field
Thompson has set the tone and parameters of the field’s early discourse with his book Applied Theatre: Bewilderment and Beyond (2003); along with Taylor (2003) and Nicholson (2005), this has been a foundational text for the field. This new area of thinking brought together previously separate areas of practice for analysis and created a rich community of scholarship. His article with Schechner (2004) was an important positioning of applied theatre with performance studies. Prior to this, he co-founded TiPP, and his book (1998) was significant in theorising and raising the profile of prison theatre.  

Leading the field: affect  
Thompson introduced the ‘affective turn’ to applied theatre practice and research, focusing attention on the experiential, emotional and beautiful, rather than instrumental, measurable and Euro-centric ideas of “progress”. Performance Affects (2009) is a highly cited work and Thompson is credited with having ‘undertaken a rebalancing of the dialectic between politics and poetics through his assertion of the significance of affect over effect’ (Prentki 2020). ‘Incidents of Cutting and Chopping’ (2009: 15-42) had significant influence across Theatre for Development as well as applied theatre, calling upon practitioners to fearlessly interrogate the ethics of their praxis.  

Leading the field: care  
Thompson has also directed praxis and research towards an ‘aesthetics of care’. His 2015 article is well cited, even beyond the immediate field, in journals such as Cultural Trends, Educational Research and Gender and Education. The Performing Care research project, led by Thompson and Stuart-Fisher, is a rich offer, positioning ideas of care in dialogue with ethics, performance theory and practice. Consolidated in Performing Care (Stuart-Fisher & Thompson 2020), it challenges existing debates by rethinking the caring encounter as a performed, embodied experience. He has recently received a £1M grant from the AHRC to research Care Aesthetics.  

Selected outputs:
• Thompson, J. (2003) Applied Theatre: Bewilderment and Beyond. Peter Lang  
• Thompson, J. (2009) Performance Affects: Applied Theatre and the End of Effect. Palgrave Macmillan 
• Stuart Fisher, A. & Thompson, J. (eds) (2020) Performing Care: new perspectives on socially engaged performance. MUP. 
In Place of War:

Nicholson, H. (2005) Applied Drama: the gift of theatre. Palgrave Macmillan. 
Prentki, T. (2020) ‘Introduction to the Poetics of Representation’ in Prentki, T. & Abraham, N. (eds) The Applied Theatre Reader, 2nd ed. London: Routledge.  
Stuart Fisher, A. & Thompson, J. (eds) (2020) Performing Care: new perspectives on socially engaged performance. MUP.
Taylor, P. (2003) Applied Theatre: creating transformative encounters in the community. Greenwood Publishing.
Thompson, J. (2015) ‘Towards an aesthetics of care’, RiDE: Journal of Applied Theatre, 20:4, 430–441.  
Thompson, J. (1998) Prison Theatre: Perspective and Practices. Jessica Kingsley.  

Thompson, J. & Schechner, R. (2004) ‘Why Social Theatre?’ The Drama Review. 48:3, 11-16.   



Only current TaPRA members can submit nominations for our awards or elections. Each nomination requires a seconder, who must also be a current member.

TaPRA 2023 at Leeds

Our 2023 conference will be hosted in partnership with the University of Leeds.

TaPRA 2023 at Leeds

Our 2023 conference will be hosted in partnership with the University of Leeds.

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