CFP: Theatre’s New Publics in Central and East Europe and Russia

Deadline to Apply: June 1, 2019

Please consider submitting a paper proposal for a working group on Central and East European Theatre on the topic of “publics” hosted at the American Society for Theatre Research Conference from November 7-10, 2019 in Arlington, Virginia.

The working group format provides support, discussion and collaboration on work in multiple stages of development. Deadline for proposal submission is June 1st.


In Theatre and Performance in Eastern Europe: The Changing Scene (2008), Dennis Barnett and Arthur Skelton outline the ways in which the communist period was artistically and socially generative – despite heavy censorship and political constraints – as performers and audiences were able to develop a mutually understood symbolic code by which criticism of ruling authorities and statements of popular defiance could be communicated. Following this cue, this working group will investigate the heterogenous, public-making possibilities in the historical spectrum of Central, East European and Russian theatre, as an antidote to the global moment of rising nationalism, xenophobia, and digital censorship and misuse. These activating stagings range from Yiddish theatre’s multi-lingual, multi-ethnic Polish and Jewish audiences in interwar Warsaw to the epitomization of a transnational, censor-dodging public created through Belarus Free Theatre’s live-streamed performances. Their occurrences have allowed, and continue to allow, deeply political conversations to occur. We invite our working group participants to delve into historical and contemporary theatrical publics in the region, and ask what we can glean from performance to discuss (and combat) times as debilitating and polarizing as those we live in now.

Looking to Central and Eastern Europe and Russia as sites of research, our goal is to discuss the multiple angles from which pre-war through post-Soviet theatres have approached the question of the “public” in provocative ways. With this in mind, we invite abstracts on a range of topics that engage with the audience as public, including but not limited to:

– Use of symbolic language(s), allegory, and bodily gesture in theater to create publics
– Theatre that redefines or deliberately alters local identity through national narrative, language, or other, such as the work of Farma v jeskyni’s (Farm in the Cave)
– Theatre as public protest, for example Pussy Riot’s intervention in the 2018 World Cup
– Theatre and performance that engages with/creates public memory, such as Słobodzianek’s Nasza Klasa (Our Class)
– Audience as witness, such as the documentary-style work of Theatre.doc
– Theatre that draws political retribution, such as the imprisonment of Kirill Serebrennikov
– Festivals and other performances that themselves create a public, such as the guerrilla-style of Pomarańczowa Alternatywa (Orange Alternative)
– New perspectives on canonical theatremakers who engage in emancipated/activated audiences and performance, such as Bakhtin, Brecht, and Havel
– We welcome applicants working outside Eastern European theater studies, including the fields of Jewish Studies, Slavic Languages & Literatures, Translation Studies, Cultural Studies, History, and beyond.

In early September, 5-10 page paper drafts will be due, with a final paper version due closer to the conference date. One round of pre-conference discussion will be conducted via email prior to the final paper deadline. In Arlington, participants should bring an object specific to their paper that activates the idea of an audience as public. During our working session, we will discuss papers and objects, and conclude by discussing the possibility of a journal special issue in Theatre Survey, European Stages, or Contemporary Theater Review.

Potential participants should submit a 250-word abstract via the online submission portal:

For more information about the ASTR Conference:

For any specific questions, please contact the working group conveners Jacob Juntunen (jjuntunen[at], Rita Kompelmakher (marga.kompelmakher[at], and Rachel Moss (rmmoss[at]