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TaPRA Directing and Dramaturgy : ‘Performances of Labour: Endurance, Time’

Call for participation: TaPRA Directing and Dramaturgy

TaPRA Conference at University of Worcester, September 2015

Group convenors: Jacqueline Bolton, University of Lincoln,  Kara Reilly, University of Exeter

The Directing and Dramaturgy TaPRA Working Group is pleased to announce ‘Performances of Labour: Endurance, Time” as its theme for the annual TaPRA conference.

Nicholas Ridout has pointed out that the theatre is a place where one person’s leisure is always another person’s labour. But the labour of the dramaturg is mostly invisible, and that of the director often misunderstood. Once asked how he had contributed to a play, dramaturg Mark Bly replied: ‘if you stuck a knife in that play, I would bleed’. We invite colleagues to consider the labour of directing and dramaturgy through the conceptual lens of endurance, survival, affect, time, and failure.

Endurance/ Time

In 1980-81 artist Tehching Hsieh punched a time-clock every hour on the hour for a year in a time-based performance of endurance. While typically categorized as ‘live art,’ Hsieh’s work invites us to interrogate time in a capitalist society as our medium for survival. Following on from this, we ask: how are directing and dramaturgy time-based practices, and what are their costs? Many shows are rehearsed and put up in four to six weeks-time Fordist/ Taylorist model but what happens when this model is abandoned? Also, while much of theatre happens onstage between 7:30-10pm, increasingly audiences are asked to endure longer performances and at alternative times of day (Elevator Repair Service’s Gatz, Hotel Medea, The Neo-Futurists’ Strange Interlude, Rift Theatre’s all-night Macbeth, and the remount of Einstein on the Beach). It is almost as if spending more time attending theatre might serve as a small act of resistance to an ever-faster culture (what Paul Virilio has labelled the culture of speed).

There are opposite models too: culture jamming, détournement, the five-minute play. How does time impact dramaturgy? Moreover, what are the costs of dramaturgical labour, expansively considered? What are the effects/affects of often invisible and imperfectly understood behind-the-scenes labour? We may equate duration with (negative) endurance but what of craft, evolution, deliberate contemplation? How can we afford to ‘go slow’ or when, conversely, must we work fast due to economic pressures?

Focal areas for discussion include but are not limited to:

  • Performances of endurance for the dramaturg, the director, or the spectator.
  • The valuation/evaluation of the dramaturg’s work: When does it begin? How does it proceed? When does it end? How is it remembered?
  • Performances that produce ‘dis-ease’ in the spectator and must be ‘endured’
  • Performances that disrupt expectations of timing, duration and/or dramatic rhythm
  • Labour of making performance (Fordism, Taylorism, concepts of labour in and of performance)
  • Performances for survival and performances of failure

We invite members and potential members of the working group to submit 200-word abstracts or statements of intent to the conference convenors, Kara Reilly ( and Jacqueline Bolton (

Papers can take the form of 10 minute provocation as a basis for group discussion at the conference or a 3,000 word essay that must be pre-circulated to colleagues by Monday 24 August. Please let us know which kind of paper you propose upon submission. If you have any questions about the format, please feel free to get in touch with the working group convenors.

Deadline for abstracts: 17 April 2015


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