Keynote Address (David Edgar) - 8th World Congress
Keynote Address (David Edgar) - 8th World Congress
Ist IUTA International Theatre Festival/Conference/Workshop in Manila (2011)
Ist IUTA International Theatre Festival/Conference/Workshop in Manila (2011)
FIT 2011
FIT 2011
Call for Chapter Proposals
Kathryn Mederos Syssoyeva & Scott Proudfit, editors


Women have played a central role in the development of collective creation—and collective creation, in the rise of many women theatre artists. The deep engagement of women in collectively generated performance remains under-historicized—but a list of prominent names is revealing: directors such as Ariane Mnouchkine, Judith Malina, Joan Littlewood, Elizabeth LeComte, Tina Landau, Anne Bogart, and Joanne Akalaitis; teachers such as Viola Spolin; companies such as Lilith, WOW Cafe Theatre, At the Foot of the Mountain, Spiderwoman Theater, Guerilla Girls, Omaha Magic Theatre, and Split Britches; choreographers such as Anna Halprin, Yvonne Rainer, Aileen Passloff, Trisha Brown, and Mary Overlie; playwrights such as Caryl Churchill, Deb Margolin, Muriel Miguel, and Megan Terry.

Building upon our two previous studies A History of Collective Creation, and Collective Creation in Contemporary Performance (Palgrave, 2013) this book will take up the rich and complex relationship between women and the collective creation movement from a historical, theoretical, and political perspective. In these first two books, we argued that modern collective creation, far from being a phenomenon of the 1960s (an anomaly within the history of modern European and American theatre practices), may be best understood as an ongoing, resistant tradition: emerging in its European and North American contexts circa 1900, almost immediately upon the rise of the modern director, and running throughout the twentieth century, counter to a theater of strict hierarchies and the dominance of the box office. It is a theatrical practice with deep ties to those movements for social change which characterize the fin de siècle, the thirties, the sixties, and, arguably, the present political era.

In this new volume we seek to broaden and deepen that historicization, by investigating the centrality of women to the development of collective theatre-making practices in the modern and contemporary period. A detailed treatment of the questions that frame our investigation follows below.

The book is currently in development by a team of British and American scholars. Anticipated manuscript completion: July 30, 2014.


Our project is two-fold: to historicize the enormous, ongoing contribution of women to collective creation; and to investigate questions about the relationship between gender, collaborative process, authority/authorship, and attribution.

We seek to fill particular gaps in our current structure. We are looking especially for chapters that address the following topics:

Women and collective creation in Europe

a major European woman director (e.g. Joan Littlewood) or playwright (e.g. Caryl Churchill), to have emerged from collective creation, ideally during the "second wave" (circa 1945-75)
European women theatre-makers' emergence broadly during this same period (a consideration of multiple companies, directors, or director/writer/company teams)
contemporary women theatre-artists in the field of collective creation, in countries other than France and England
contemporary women theatre-artists generating collective theatrical protest (preferably in countries other than France and England). We are particularly interested in work on collective feminist performative protest in Eastern Europe, such as Pussy Riot and Femen.

Women and collective creation in the North America

a major US woman director to have emerged from collective creation during the "second wave" (circa 1945-80) - eg, Judith Malina, Joanne Akalaitis, Elizabeth LeCompte, etc.
US, Canadian and/or Québecois women theatre-makers' emergence broadly during this same period (a consideration of multiple companies, directors, or director/writer/company teams)
the intersection of collective creation, gender and ethnicity in second wave or contemporary performance

Guiding Questions and Concerns - Including, but not limited to:

Emergence and Disappearance

When do collective creation practices lead to the emergence of women’s voices in the theatre? And, paradoxically, when do these practices result in the suppression of women’s voices? Have the creative contributions of women artists—writers, teachers, actors, directors, choreographers, dancers—been historically “buried” by the conflict between attribution and the complexities of collaborative process? (We might think of Susan Glaspell’s influence upon the early writings of Eugene O’Neill, or Elizabeth Hauptman’s engagement with the work of Brecht). Has this suppression occurred within the companies as well as within the histories of these companies? Conversely, what role has documentary theatre played as a kind of consciousness raising group--that is, what role does the personal story-telling aspect of some devising practice play in the emergence of women’s experience within artistic and institutional structures?

Attribution, Historiography, and Branding

Throughout theatre history we commonly find the disappearance of the individual identities of theatre makers within company narratives of group and leader. Arguably, this tendency been far more pronounced in histories of women in theatre. French scholar Raphaelle Doyon has argued that: “...In theatre history, unless women are ‘stars’ they are perceived most usually as an anonymous group. Men, on the other hand, are a company of individuals whose names are celebrated and recognised.” How has the collectivism inherent in collective creation and devising practice either resisted or exacerbated these historiographic habits? How has this problem of historical attribution played out with regard to histories of women’s collectives?

When women rise to prominence within a more or less collective structure, how is their authority framed by the critical community? (i.e., is the authority of Littlewood, Mnouchkine, or Bogart regarded differently than, say, the authority of Grotowski, Barba or Brook?)

Gender and Relationality

Is the relationship between gender and collaboration in some manner inherent? How do women collaborate and how do women lead? How do men collaborate and how do men lead? Do we find instances—for example, arguably, that of the Provincetown Players—of a gendered tension between group-centered process and the rise to prominence of individual authors and directors? Are these tensions the same when the prominent artist is female? What interdisciplinary evidence (empirical and anecdotal) do we find, for gendered-based analysis of institutional dynamics, and how do such studies and theories pertain to our study of collaborative and leadership dynamics within the theatre? What extra-disciplinary paradigms might we investigate--e.g., relational theory, notions of collectivism vs individualism, organizational theory that employs gender constructs to characterize types of institutional structure, and ethnographic considerations of the varying dynamics of collaboration across cultures--to enrich our understanding of the role of gender in theatrical collective creation practices? How might our studies of theatre practice contribute to and/or problematize the larger cross-disciplinary discussion on collaborative practices?

Gender and Economics

Has the impulse to work collectively been primarily rooted in a gendering of values and predilections, or in a reaction to the “glass ceiling” of the professional mainstream? Is the frequently amateur, marginal, and/or underfunded nature of theatrical collectives a factor in the high presence of women on this side of theatre practice? What kind of salaries are getting made in collective creation today? And what kind of salaries have been made in the past?

Mentorship and Transmission

Where and when do we find mentoring across genders leading to a transmission of authority over time? Where and when, in the history of collective creation, has mentorship, transmission of practices, and transmission / nuturing of women’s leadership, transpired between women? Has it happened with more or less frequency than mentorship/transmission between men and women? Has the precedent set by earlier generations of women in theatre, whose labor (unless they were star performers) was primarily behind the scenes or unacknowledged, led women in subsequent generations to seek out organizational structures which have permitted them to contribute without becoming the visible and central authority within a group of creators? Can the argument be made that we are currently witnessing substantive change in the area of mentorship of women theatre artists by women theatre artists, through the emergence of international networks (eg, the Magdalena Project?)

Gender and Labor

What kinds of work have women performed within collectives over the course of last century? Looking especially at women’s work in collectives from 1900 through the sixties, how have women’s presumed domestic skills shaped the nature of their contribution, their status, the time and freedom to devote to their individual artistic growth? What role has family and the dynamics of personal relations - fathers and daughters, sisters and brothers, sisters and sisters, friends, lovers, husbands and wives, husbands and mistresses, motherhood/fatherhood, etc - played in shaping women’s place, status, contribution, and individual growth within the collective? How much have these “historical” realities changed? Have the dynamics of women’s contributions to the collective, and the attribution accorded them, played out differently for lesbian couples working together within a collective than for heterosexual couples?

Cultural Diaspora and Genealogies of Praxis

A History of Collective Creation began the project of tracing “genealogies” of collective creation practice, looking at transmission of ideals and practices--aesthetic, political, and institutional--across space and time. Diaspora plays a central role in those transmissions. With this new work, within the framework of a focus on women, we aim to broaden this preliminary treatment of diaspora and expand our understanding of the multiple, often mutually informing, cultural forces which feed into contemporary collective creation practice.

Women and Protest

Something extremely exciting is happening in the world of women’s protest theatre and theatrical protest. From Pussy Riot (Russia) and Femen (which emerged in Ukraine, and spread throughout Europe) to the Magdalena Project (a global network of women’s theatre companies and artists, radiating out of the Odin Teatret--which, unlike other laboratory theatres directly deriving from Grotowski’s influence, has witnessed the emergence of an array of highly visible, influential women theatre makers and theoreticians, whose facilitating leadership / coordination is impacting developments in women’s theatre worldwide), there appears to be a surge of women’s theatres of protest, refusal, and repair. Equally remarkable is the impact and visibility of some of this protest, particularly in Eastern Europe, where radical feminist protester/street performers are making world headlines -- and serving prison sentences. In examining contemporary women’s political theatre collectives and networks, we might consider the relationship between individuals, collectives, and networks;; leadership, facilitation, cooperation;; the emergence of a new wave of feminist radicalism, for example, in Eastern Europe;; and historical prototypes of contemporary feminist theatrical protest, as well as women-led theatres of intervention and repair (here
we might think, for instance, of the suffragist pageants of the 1910s, which involved vast networks of protesters working together with performers, or of the theatre work conducted by settlement houses--eg, Henry Street and Hull House--and the role it played in nurturing worker’s theatres among the immigrant left, providing spaces for women’s creative, intellectual and political collaboration, and contributing to the development of art therapy, creative play, and progressive education, which would, in turn, feed back into the evolution of collective creation through the development of improvisatory theatre games as a technique of the avant-garde in France and the Unites States).



● Time frame: 1900 to the present

● Regions: North America, Europe and Russia, and Latin America

● Methodology: Interdisciplinary approaches and team authorship (or pairing/grouping of short articles) are strongly encouraged.

● Types of contribution sought:

case studies set in the context of one or more of the theoretical, historical and economic issues

proposed above;

broad studies looking across multiple regions or a broad span of time;

short write-ups of primary source research and/or data collection (making material available for further scholarship).

Timeline (anticipated dates)

● Deadline for submission of chapters: April 1, 2014

● Chapters returned to authors with editorial suggestions;; chapters circulated so that authors have

the option of incorporating references to one another's work: May 1, 2014.

● Deadline for submission of revised chapters: June 1, 2014.


● Chapter length: 5000-7000 words

● A solid foundation in current studies in collective creation is a necessary basis for this work. We have an excellent bibliography which we are happy to send on request.

● We view this new book as a contribution to a larger body of work that the working group has been developing since 2010 -- one which reframes the field. In consideration of this, familiarity with our first two edited collections (A History of Collective Creation, and Collective Creation in Contemporary Performance) is very important. You are free to depart from, interrogate or contest any of the models presented there -- as in those two works, we are interested in polyphony rather than consensus -- we only ask that you take into consideration the definitions, perspectives, and periodization articulated there as you formulate your own approaches.

Please send abstracts to by December 10 to: Kathryn Mederos Syssoyeva,