The Institute of Theatre Studies (ITW) was founded in February 1992, and is still the only such institute in Switzerland today. It is dedicated to the study of theatre and dance, and examines scenic processes of the past and present. It uses historical and theoretical knowledge to address dramaturgical and analytical issues.
Our teaching and Research in different fields of study – history, theory and dramaturgy / performance analysis – serve to promote a more differentiated, proficient public discourse about theatre and dance.
The main focus areas of our study programme are the history of European theatre and dance and contemporary theatre and dance activities, both regional and international. We do not aim to offer a programme geared to any specific profession; instead, the competencies we promote apply to the whole field of cultural endeavour including journalism, audio-visual media, culture management etc.
In 1995 we began working on a comprehensive Encyclopaedia of theatre in Switzerland (German) which was published in 2005 and contains 3,600 entries in the four national languages. The results of our research are published in the book series Theatrum Helveticum (German) and Materialien des ITW Bern (“Materials of the ITW Bern”). Since 2014, itw : im dialog (German) has been publishing the results of our research into contemporary theatre, and aims to establish a transdisciplinary network for discussion and research.
When did human beings begin to make theatre, and why? What theatrical forms emerged in history, and who shaped them? Questions such as these are the subject of theatre history, which is a significant component among the four that comprise the field of theatre studies. The second component is theatre theory, which adopts a philosophical perspective to investigate the characteristics, aesthetics and functions of the many different forms of theatrical practices. In dramaturgy, we develop a specific vocabulary for writing, for creating texts, and for the processes involved in choreographic and scenic productions. Lastly, performance analysis engages with scenic creations, procedures and events. It provides the fundamental skills of theatre studies – observing, describing, analysing and interpreting the concrete manifestations of theatrical practice.
Since 2007, students can also enrol in theatre studies with a focus on dance; here, dance is understood as an integral component of theatre culture. With its four study areas – history, theory, dramaturgy and performance analysis – theatre and dance studies play a fundamental role in enabling a more differentiated, proficient public discourse about theatre and dance in a regional, national and international context.
Only theatre studies as a university discipline provides the scholarly training needed by dramaturges and theatre and dance critics; and only theatre studies provide the necessary support for these professions, whose prerequisite is a precise knowledge of contemporary theatre and dance forms.