TaPRA 2018, Aberystwyth, Directing and Dramaturgy WG: “Serious Entertainment: Audience Enjoyment, Politics and the Intellectual”

Deadline: Friday 20 April 2018

DIRECTING AND DRAMATURGY WORKING GROUP THEATRE AND PERFORMANCE RESEARCH ASSOCIATION ANNUAL CONFERENCE. ABERYSTWYTH CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS   “Serious Entertainment: Audience Enjoyment, Politics and the Intellectual”. Entertainment, enjoyment, pleasure. Placer et docere.According to the seventeenth-century French fabulist Jean de La Fontaine, an author must both instruct, and please. Closer to today, and to theatre, the mid-twentieth-century French theatre-makers, Jean Vilar, founder of the world’s largest theatre festival the Festival d’Avignon, championed theatre that was accessible and enjoyable, and at the same time intellectually complex and challenging: “an elitist theatre for everyone”. Equally, during the middle of the twentieth century Bertolt Brecht aimed for theatre that would “develop an object of instruction from the means of enjoyment”, drawing from the German comic cabaret writer Karl Valentin and the silent films of Charlie Chaplin, just as much as he did from Shakespeare and the politics of Karl Marx. In the UK, the post-Brechtian British director Joan Littlewood and her artistic partner Cedric Price had grand designs to construct a “Fun Palace”, a “university of the streets”, that would offer art, entertainment and education in which the general public could participate. However, what the Frankfurt School cultural critics Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer describe as the “entertainment industry”, can threaten to “infect[…] everything with sameness”, rather than enable a pluralisation of thought and creativity, and a grounds for political or social contestation. More recently, French philosopher Bernard Stiegler has warned that this homogenization of culture is leading the entertainment industry to its own destruction. Even Jean Vilar was criticised, towards the end of his career, of using entertainment to eclipse the political potential of theatre to critique, interrogate and ultimately transform society.  Is it possible, then, for theatre to provide enjoyment, without becoming complicit in the “entertainment industry”? The question of the relationship between “seriousness” and “entertainment” is all the more timely today, in a world where politics is becoming ever more reliant on soundbites and circuses, and the viral sharing and “trending” of social media, and increasingly distanced from actual policyIn addition,  anti-intellectualism is now a now common trope not only in entertainment, but also in much popular and political discourse. Intellectualism in everyday life has been condensed into formats such as TED talks, blogs and chat shows. But what exactly is “the intellectual”? According to philosopher Julia Kristeva’s essay “A New Type of Intellectual: The Dissident’, the intellectual can either represent a conservative force, if s/he poses as the “guardian of supposedly universal thought”; or as a subversive energy, if s/he insists on the supposedly “unproductive elements of technocratic society”, namely the arts, humanities, individual expression, and enjoyment, or jouissance. The Directing and Dramaturgy Working Group intends to examine, discuss and debate what Vilar calls the “difficult equilibrium” between entertainment, politics and the intellectual. How can practices of directing and dramaturgy in theatre maintain the delicate balance between pleasure and political or social awareness-raising, between entertainment and the intellectual? Should these distinctions actually be maintained? Do they exist? We are happy to receive works-in-progress, new thinking and discussion topics, as well as more formally structured papers. We invite proposals for 15-minute papers/provocations/sessions on any themes related to how directorial and dramaturgical practices engage with the theme, “Serious Entertainment: Audience Enjoyment, Politics and the Intellectual”. Theme may include, but are not limited to:

  • Ways in which practices of directing and dramaturgy act as regulators of thought, through producing enjoyment, fun and pleasure.
  • Reconsiderations of the Frankfurt School’s attacks on the “Culture Industry” in directing and dramaturgy.
  • Representations in theatre and performance of “Intellectual” figures such as scholars, pundits, philosophers, scientists, activists etc.
  • Directorial or dramaturgical theatre or performance practices which engage with tropes drawn from the entertainment industry.
  • The overlapping of politics and entertainment.
  • The restaging of “real life” as entertainment.
  • Considerations of the relationship between the intellectual and entertainment in directing and dramurgy beyond Europe.
Please send a 300-word (max.) proposal and a short biography in a Word document to the Directing and Dramaturgy Working Group convenors by the deadline of Friday  20th April 2018: Cara Berger: cara.berger@manchester.ac.uk Clare Finburgh: c.finburgh@gold.ac.uk Sam Haddow: jsfh@st-andrews.ac.uk Please note: only one proposal may be submitted for the TaPRA 2018 Conference. 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 you are an Early Career Researcher, then you are eligible to be considered for a TaPRA ECR Bursary. Please follow this link for more information, and please indicate on your proposal whether you fit this criteria and wish to be considered for the bursary scheme: http://tapra.org/bursaries/

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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