Festivals and Institutional Change. Perspectives on transnational ways of working in contemporary theatre.

Project management: Ass. Prof. Dr. Alexandra Portmann

International theatre festivals shape the contemporary theatre landscape; however, festival formats are difficult to categorise. The variety of festival forms range from those organised around a specific theme or author, such as Shakespeare, to festivals of the independent scene, for example, the Impulse Festival, to festivals like Manchester International Festival, which only presents premieres of international co-productions. Transnational festival co-productions with globally operating artists and independent production houses appear to increasingly shape the festival repertoire. This research project asks how transnational ways of working in the festival sector have a lasting impact on local theatre systems.

Selected festivals in Switzerland, Germany and Great Britain are the starting point for this research. Professional transnational networks of artists, festivals and production houses are systematically examined and visualised. The project pursues three overarching goals: to develop a systematic historical perspective of transnational ways of working since the 1980s; to examine the interrelationship between the transnational event festival format and local theatre systems and show how these are interwoven through the practice of co-producing; and to outline an alternative to the person and institution-oriented history of theatre, making use of a historical perspective of specific ways of working. This project reappraises the international networking of the theatre landscape, which has so far been rarely documented in archives and collections.

The project contributes to current research into festivals and institutional change in the performing arts. Increasing internationalisation of the cultural sector has an impact on concrete working methods and aesthetics, as well as on cultural policy strategies. Accordingly, the project is also located in the context of contemporary cultural policy discourses.


Collaborators: PhD student - Anna Barmettler (M.A.), assistant - Dominik Kilchmann