The project funded by the European Research Council aims to systematically explore an entire field of current forms of theatre, which despite its outstanding cultural and political significance has so far largely been ignored by theatre studies. Over the past two decades, notwithstanding intense competition from television and electronic media, theatre has been able to reassert and even reinforce its relevance in many different parts of the world and in widely diverse cultural fields (politics, business, social work, development aid, health care, and education). This renewed relevance originates not in traditional, experimental, or commercial theatre but rather among the many different types of applied theatre, which set in motion constructive social processes while upholding theatres aesthetic claim. Theatre with clear social, political, or economic aims is experiencing an unprecedented boom. The study will analyse this cross-cultural trend against the background of new theories of the aesthetics of performances and rehearsal processes.
This theatre studies approach promises precise insights into the aesthetic forms of applied theatre, which constitute the (hitherto barely researched) foundation of its political effects. It will furthermore bring to light the ethical issues of applied theatre: intense aesthetic experiences often linked with risks when it comes to performances do not readily fit in with the claim to restore children, youngsters, patients, and other target groups to health, integrity, and self-confidence through theatrical practice. The project aims to show how aesthetic, political, and ethical aspects interact in the practice of applied theatre.
Investigations will focus on carefully selected case studies in Africa, Europe, the USA, the Middle East, and Latin America, whose comparison will make it possible for the first time to capture the worldwide landscape of applied theatre in its full diversity, but also in its overarching structures and interrelations. The Aesthetics of Applied Theatre is headed by Matthias Warstat.