Shaun May’s research appears in The New York Times

Dr Shaun May, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Drama and Theatre, has featured in The New York Times site this week as part of an article on comedy and autism.

The New York Times is an American newspaper with a digit reach of 2.9 million.

The piece, titled ‘What’s So Funny About Autism?’ by Michele C. Hollow, was published on 18 June 2019 and explores how those with autism experience – and write – comedy.

The article cites Shaun’s research publication ‘Autism and Comedy’ from the journal Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance (2017, Issue 3, pp 436-455), which challenges the myth that people with autism lack a sense of humour.

‘Just because you or I might find things funny, it doesn’t mean we have more or less of a sense of humour,’ explains Shaun in the piece.

For his research Shaun interviewed the comedy group ‘Asperger’s Are Us’, who recently featured in the HBO series, On Tour With Asperger’s Are Us.

To read the full article, please see The New York Times page here:

GOLKK Theatre to perform in Pisa

GOLKK Theatre, one of the Graduate Theatre Companies sponsored by the School of Arts, will be performing their show ‘Peeking in the Portrait’ at the Festival of Academic Theatre (FAcT), held in Pisa, Italy this week 12-14 June 2019.

The festival is organised by the Scuola Normale Superiore, a university based in Pisa and Florence. It provides the opportunity for five university theatre groups to perform Pisa. GOLKK have received additional funding by the School of Arts at Kent.

‘Peeking in the Portrait’ creates a world where four people and a camera have no limitation to where they will end up. The work is inspired by the life and works of Lady Clementina Hawarden, one of Britain’s first female photographers. The show, developed by GOLKK on the MA in Physical Acting, explores what it means to exist in a world where we are simultaneously witnesses and the witnessed.

The show will be performed at 9pm (CET) on 14 June at the Teatro Lumiere.

Paul Allain to deliver keynote address

Paul Allain, Professor of Theatre and Performance in the School of Arts and Dean of the Graduate School, will give a keynote address at an international theatre forum and conference in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, held between Friday 10 and Sunday 12 May 2019.

The conference is titled ‘Out of the Frame’ and will explore street/open space theatre, its funding and role in society. The conference is organised by the Shoshin Theatre Association and the Committee on Theatrical Sciences of the Regional Committee of the Magyar Tudományos Akadémia [Hungarian Academy of Sciences].

Paul will be delivering the keynote address on Saturday 11 May, with a paper titled ‘Space Invaders or Alien Friends? Close Encounters of a Theatrical Kind’.

Paul’s talk will briefly trace key aspects of a theatre history which depicts the movement of certain key experimental theatre directors and groups from cities into the countryside, across Europe and in Asia too. The list is long, but Polish company Gardzienice and Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki stand out. Paul will ask what made these pioneers move to the country, what they sought, and what lessons we might learn from them for theatre-making today. How did other spaces and ‘new natural environments’ change training and acting, group dynamics, understanding of and encounters with an audience? Are such Romantic models still desirable and do artists still have such a choice? Or has choice now become urgent need in this age of mass migration?

The conference is part of the Rural Inclusive Outdoor Theatre Education 2 (RIOTE2) project, co-founded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union.

More information about the conference can be found here:

Margherita Laera wins funding for theatre translation education resource

Dr Margherita Laera, Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre in the School of Arts, has just won Follow-On Funding for Public Engagement and Impact from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for a budget of £77k to fund a project on foreign-language plays in translation, targeting secondary school students and teachers.

This project will address the issue of under-representation of cultural difference in the British secondary school drama curriculum by creating an open-access educational website of video resources to engage secondary school children with foreign-language plays. By targeting young drama students and their teachers, the project will provide training for future theatre-makers and audiences to appreciate stories from diverse contexts and empathise with culturally distant others.

Increasing representation of non-English languages and cultures on English-speaking stages is of paramount importance to foster understanding among communities in multicultural societies, such as the UK, but also in the US, where translations of foreign-language texts tend to be rare and immigration high.

The website will include newly commissioned filmed extracts of five plays in the original language and two English translations, in order to highlight how translation strategies can have an impact on the production. The videos will be entirely new and curated for the project, featuring a professional cast. The site will also include film interviews with key practitioners working in the field; extensive contextualisations of the plays by academics and theatre- makers; and teaching resources clarifying how to integrate the resource into the GCSE, A-Level, BTEC and IB curricula.

To learn more about AHRC Follow-On Funding for Public Engagement and Impact, please see the page here:


History of Art PhD student publishes major biography of Edgar Wind

Bernardino Branca, a PhD student in the History and Philosophy of Art in the School of Arts, has published a major new intellectual biography of the philosopher and art historian Edgar Wind, entitled Edgar Wind, filosofo delle immagini. La biografia intelletuale di un discepolo di Aby Warburg (Milan and Udine: Mimesis Edizioni, 2019).

Edgar Wind (1900-1971) was a German art historian who specialised on the survival of the ancient art of the Renaissance, and was and close collaborator of art historian Aby Warburg. In 1933, after the rise of Nazism in Germany, moved to London and became involved in the Warburg Institute and finally became Oxford University’s first Professor of Art History.

Based on extensive archival research, the volume is the first book-length study of Wind’s extraordinary life and significant contribution to scholarship, and makes an important contribution to our historical understanding of the Warburg tradition of art history.

Bernardino’s own PhD project is on ‘Edgar Wind, The Warburg Circle and the Renaissance’, under the supervision of Dr Ben Thomas and Dr Grant Pooke.

For further details, please see the publisher’s page (in Italian) here:

Maurizio Cinquegrani on the depictions of Nazi war criminals in Latin America

Dr Maurizio Cinquegrani, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Film, will be presenting a paper at the International Congress on Visual Culture: Latin America from the Image, the Historical Narrative and Visual Culture, to be held in San Juan at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico on Monday 15 April 2019.

Maurizio’s paper is entitled ‘Ratline Escapees and the Cinematic Landscapes of Post-War Latin America’. From Frederick Forsyth’s thriller The Odessa File (1972) to George Steiner’s philosophical novella The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. (1981), where Adolf Hitler is found alive in the Amazon jungle over thirty years after the end of the war, and to the Führer’s brief appearance in ‘Bart vs Australia’ in The Simpsons (S06E16), where he is seen struggling with his car phone in the Buenos Aires of the 1990s, the afterlife of the Third Reich has continuously been narrated or reinvented on film, literature and other media.

Based on a chapter from a monograph that Maurizio is currently writing, his paper focuses on the ways in which the presence of Nazi war criminals in Latin America, following their escape across the so-called ratlines after the war, has been portrayed on film since 1946. It explores a diverse range of case studies including classical Hollywood cinema and Latin American films, spanning across different genres including dramas, espionage, and science fiction. Two main tensions are going to be identified throughout his study: on the one hand there is vague Latin-American topography used in films exploiting post-war events to fabricate a generic cinematic space with no ties to historical accuracy; on the other, a group of films focusing on the escape and capture of Adolf Eichmann see the unfolding of a more coherent cinematic landscape.

These films will be made to dialogue with documentaries and archival footage on Jewish migration to Latin America before and after the war. Case studies include Notorious (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1946), Gilda (dir. Charles Vidor, 1946), Operation Eichmann (dir. R.G. Springsteen, 1961), They Saved Hitler’s Brain (dir. David Bradley, 1969), Boys from Brazil (dir. Franklin J. Schaffner, 1978), Algunos Que Vivieron [Some Who Lived] (dir. Luis Puenzo, 2002) and Wakolda (Lucia Puenzo, 2013). Additionally, the paper is based on Maurizio’s study of archival footage held at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

To find out more about the congress, please see the page here:

Call for papers: ‘Performing Multilingualism in Europe and Beyond’

Dr Margherita Laera, Senior Lecturer in Drama in the School of Arts, and Professor Peter Boenisch from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, are organising a conference entitled ‘Performing Multilingualism in Europe and Beyond: Migration, Globalisation, Utopia’ with the participation of Gintersdorfer / Klassen and Maxim-Gorki-Theater, Berlin. The conference will feature Professor Yana Meerzon (University of Ottawa) as keynote speaker, and will be hosted by the School of Arts on Friday 13 September 2019.

In an increasingly inter-connected world characterised by flows of people, goods and capital, multilingualism has become a feature in many social environments, highlighting the importance of translation in human communication. Whether enforced by financial waves, mass movement, tourism, education systems or colonialism, speaking multiple languages has become a feature of increasing importance in our societies. How do theatre and performance makers deal with multilingualism?

In the UK, the population is made up of 13.5% foreign-born and 8.9% non-British citizens (Migration Observatory, 2015). Still, multilingual theatre and performance in the UK is rare and mostly confined to the fringe theatre sector. Experiments such as those by Nina Raine (Tribes, 2010), Simon Stephens (Three Kingdoms, 2012) and Katie Mitchell (The Forbidden Zone, 2014) remain few and far between.

Elsewhere, particularly in continental Europe, Canada and Asia, the genre of multilingual theatre has gained new currency in the context of globalization, international mobility and movements of migration. Practitioners like Luk Perceval, Jan Lauwers, Anestis Azas, Michel Tremblay, Krzysztof Warlikowski, Robert Lepage, Lola Arias, Angélica Liddell, Fausto Paravidino, Ong Keng Sen, Robert Wilson and others have experimented with multilingualism. Under the artistic directorship of Milo Rau, National Theatre Ghent’s 2018 manifesto proposed ten commandments for a ‘theatre of the future’, where number six prescribes that at least two languages must be spoken in any given production. A number of European theatres, such as the Maxim-Gorki-Theater Berlin, had started long before the refugee situation of 2015 to foster cultural diversity and multilinguality within their ensembles, integrating exile artists from Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan and elsewhere (not all of them refugees), and allowing multiple languages to interweave in performance. In the work of these artists, multilingualism can perform both ideas of inclusivity and exclusivity, and signify both utopian and dystopian worlds.

Meanwhile, scholarship on multilingual theatre has been intensifying in recent years, but the field is still very much under-researched. Marvin Carlson’s Speaking in Tongues (2009) prompted colleagues to think about these practices, their histories and development in contemporary theatre. Since then, special issues of Linguistica Antverpiensia, New Series. Themes in Translation Studies (2014) on multilingualism in film, theatre and opera, and the special issue of Modern Drama (61.3, 2018) on multilingual theatre in major world cities have advanced the horizons. Linguistic diversity in the arts and everyday life is the focus of ‘Creative Multilingualism’, a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council-sponsored research project based at the University of Oxford, part of Open World Research Initiative. ‘Creative Multilingualism’ has co-founded this conference and the research project of which it is part, headed by Prof. Peter Boenisch (co-I, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London, and Aarhus University, Denmark) and Dr Margherita Laera (PI, University of Kent, UK).

This conference seeks to stimulate an exchange between UK theatre makers and theatre artists from overseas, who engage with multilingual performance practices in the field of theatre dramaturgy, playwriting and performance-making. Our objective is to begin to chart the ‘state of the art’ of both advanced creative practice and academic discourses on multilingual theatre, and to map out core issues and problems for future research. We are interested in hearing the perspectives of artists, scholars and audiences alike.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Multilingualism in rehearsals
  • Multilingualism and performers
  • Multilingualism and dramaturgy
  • Multilingualism and audiences
  • Classifications and new trends of multilingual performance
  • Multilingualism and ideology
  • Multilingualism and migration
  • Multilingualism and post-colonialism
  • Multilingualism and/as Utopia/Dystopia

The organisers invite the submission of 300-word proposals for 20-minute papers by 6 May 2019.

Please send your proposals to:

Image credit: Heiner Müller, Hamletmachine, dir. Sebastian Nübling, Gorki Exil Ensemble, prem. 24 Feb. 2018 © Ute Langkafel

Call for papers: ‘Pro-Social Play’

Professor Nicola Shaughnessey, Professor of Performance in the Department of Drama and Theatre and Dr Dieter Declercq, Assistant Lecturer in Film and Media Studies, along with Dr Chiao-I Tseng from the University of Bremen, are organising an international conference entitled ‘Pro-Social Play! Storytelling and Well-being across Media Borders’. The conference will be hosted by the School of Arts from Thursday 17 October to Saturday 19 October 2019.

Plenary speakers include Charles Forceville (Media Studies, University of Amsterdam); Tobias Greitemeyer, Social Psychology (University of Innsbruck; Anja Laukötter, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin); and Harry Yi-Jui Wu, (Medical Ethics and Humanities, Hong Kong University).

The conference will also include a screening of Dark River (2017), followed by a round table discussion with Clio Barnard, the award-winning director and Reader in Film in the School of Arts, as well as workshops by artists at the arts charity People United on prosocial performances.

This truly interdisciplinary and international conference brings together scholars of  empirical and theoretical research as well as practitioners working on narrative arts for promoting pro-social behaviours and mental well-being across different media. To date, the pro-social narratives have often been studied with a focus on testing people’s media exposure and pro-social effects. Nevertheless, as explicitly pointed out by most of these studies, we also need to investigate how the narrative factors are designed, structured and mobilised in a specific coherent way to effectively achieve the intended prosocial and mental health purposes. Hence, it is crucial to advance the theoretical link between the design choice of narrative, media technological features for engaging people in difficult topics and their pro-social response. Establishing the link is precisely the main objective of this conference. This includes, but is not limited to, the following topics:

  • Narrative factors for evoking people’s empathy, achieving educational purposes
  • Link between prosocial behaviour and mental health
  • Storytelling, practical application and mental health
  • Narrative medicine​
  • Technology features of different media platforms that afford, strengthen or constrain the pro-social, persuasive functions of narratives
  • Impact of social cultural conventions on different narrative designs
  • Historical perspectives of pro-social storytelling
  • Transmedia comparison of pro-social messages, for instance, across film, TV, comics, video games, games, literature, etc.
  • Pro-social storytelling in social media
  • Pro-social storytelling through live performances and live interaction
  • Balance between emotional engagement and message credibilities
  • Empirical evidence of pro-social, persuasive functions in storytelling across media
  • Pro-social narrative designs for children and adolescents

Submissions may take the form of research papers on these themes, or workshops by artists, designers, health professionals and other practitioners working on pro-sociality and storytelling.

Please send abstracts of 300 words max. along with a short biography of 100 words max. in PDF or Word format to by Sunday 30 June 2019.

For more details about the conference, please see the page here:

Performing multilingualism workshop with Anne Berelowitch

Postgraduate students are invited to apply for a workshop on performing multilingualism in practise and performance with French writer, translator, and stage director Anne Berelowitch, as part a research project led by Dr Margherita Laera, from the Department of Drama and Theatre in the School of Arts.

The workshop will run from Monday 8 to Friday 12 July 2019, 10-6pm, at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (RCSSD), University of London. The workshop will consist of specific improvisation exercises, designed to experience and understand the dramaturgical value of bi/multilingual performance, and the strategies that are needed for multilingual performances for monolingual audiences.

Participants will be invited to co-design and perform multilingual versions of existing scripts: authors and scenes will be chosen in accordance with the group’s linguistic competencies, so that the language mix is as rich and meaningful as possible. The workshop will culminate in a work-in-progress showing on Friday for an invited audience.

The workshop is part of the AHRC-funded project ‘Performing Multilingualism for Monolingual Audiences: Creative Strategies and Practices in Contemporary European Theatre’, for which Margherita is co-PI alongside Professor Peter Boenisch (RCSSD).

Applications are welcome from postgraduate students in acting, directing, dramaturgy and playwriting who have at least two years of training. Performing experience is not necessary, but all participants will be asked to take part in some of the improvisations. Applicants should submit a 1-page CV, indicating their skills and language competencies. Participants must commit to their availability during the entire week of the workshop.

The deadline for applications is 8 March 2019. To apply, please email Dr Margherita Laera at:

A workshop with Greek theatre director Anestis Azas is also planned for April, see call for applications here:

Sophie Quirk interviewed on USA National Public Radio

Dr Sophie Quirk, Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre in the School of Arts, has featured on Morning Edition, broadcast on National Public Radio in America, yesterday 20 February 2019.

Morning Edition is the most popular news radio programme in the United States.

Sophie was interviewed for an item called ‘The Other Side of Anger’, which explored how comedy can be a cathartic way of expressing anger. The piece particularly focused on comedian Mo Amer, who has used comedy to explore his experiences as a Kuwaiti-Palestinian man in modern-day America. The topic coincides with Sophie’s research interest in the social and political impact of contemporary stand-up comedy performance.

‘There are some comedians who I actively want to see when something happens that makes me angry, say, politically,’ explained Sophie, ‘because they have had the same experience of current events, and they are going to talk about them. And the people around me are going to be expressing through their laughter and their groans a real empathy with what I’m feeling.’

The broadcast can be heard online here, with Sophie featuring 4’30” into the programme: