London Theatre Seminar
Thursday, 26 February 2015, 6.30-8.30pm
Senate House, Room G37 (ground floor)
Theatre and performance scholars are increasingly attuned to what work today shares with performance. But in what ways did the performing arts themselves contribute to the restructuring of the labor process in the postwar period? My talk approaches this topic by considering how the Mitbestimmungstheater movement in 1970s West Germany helped transform workplace relations within industrial factories. Mitbestimmungstheater is well known for having been a crucible for many of the directors, actors, and designers who would go on to shape Germany’s rich Regietheater and postdramatic traditions. This paper, however, examines a broader social legacy of the Mitbestimmungstheater movement and its effort to reform theatres according to a mode of collective self-management, or Mitbestimmung.
The term Mitbestimmung came to theatre from industry, where it was a cornerstone demand of workers looking to increase control over factories. While scholars point to Mitbestimmungstheater as evidence of the influence labor movements had on political theatre of the time, this talk insists that theatre experiments with Mitbestimmung also profoundly shaped factory struggles. I explore how public controversies around early examples of Mitsbestimmungstheater, like Peter Stein’s 1971 West Berlin production of Die Mutter by Brecht, heightened the term’s antiauthoritarian cachet at a time when the actual implementation of Mitbestimmung in factories proved more effective at taming militancy than empowering workers. This paper reevaluates celebrations of the connection between worker and performance movements in 1970s Western Europe, by asking how West German theatre helped the demand for worker self-management in industry retain rank-and-file support even as union compromises emptied it of radical content.
Shane Boyle teaches in the Drama Department at Queen Mary, University of London, where he is Lecturer in Theatre and Performance and director of the MA in Theatre and Performance. He received his PhD in Performance Studies from UC Berkeley and is presently at work on a book titled The New Spirit of Performance: Antiauthoritarian Aesthetics and Resistance to Work in Postwar West Germany. His research focuses on the use of performance in political movements, the relationship between performance and labor, and theatre historiography–mostly in Germany and the United States.
‘A Theatrical Journey: Reflections on Transferring Tim Crouch’s The Author to Turkey’
In this presentation, I explore the aesthetics and politics of intercultural theatre practice with reference to my production of Tim Crouch’s The Author in Istanbul (January 2015). Beginning with an overview of the modernization of Turkish theatre and the place of British new writing in recently rising experimental theatre scene in Istanbul, I outline the reasons why The Author is an appropriate play for the Turkish theatre culture. Following this, I investigate the processes of this artistic flow from Britain to a culturally and politically different land – a place currently facing radical political upheaval – and examine what happens to Crouch’s play in the context of Turkey’s current socio-political conditions. By addressing certain sensitivities in Turkey, I will discuss how formal and critical components of The Author are appropriated to Turkish theatre and culture to generate a form of theatrical translation that gathers the specificities of both source and target cultures. In doing so, this paper aims to ignite conversations about the shifting meanings of the source culture and the role of cultural appropriation in intercultural theatre practice.
Seda Ilter is a lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her research interests include theoretical and aesthetic implications of new media in theatre, contemporary British theatre, new writing and dramaturgies (multimedia, postdramatic, intercultural). Seda is also a freelance translator (of British plays into Turkish) and a theatre director. She recently directed her translation of Tim Crouch’s The Author in Istanbul.