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28. CDE Tagung Graz 2019

28th Annual Conference of the German Society for Contemporary Theatre and Drama in English (CDE)

From June 20 through 23, 2019, approximately 50 participants met at the Bildungshaus Mariatrost for the 28th annual CDE conference entitled “Theatre of Crisis: Aesthetic Responses to a Cross-Sectional Condition.” On the evening before the conference, a well-attended opening event at the Grazer Kunstverein focused on the issue of climate change and theatre.  On behalf of the CDE, this year’s conference was hosted and organized by Prof. Dr. Nassim Balestrini (Department of American Studies und Centre for Intermediality Studies in Graz), Prof. Dr. Maria Löschnigg (Department of English Studies) und Dr. Leopold Lippert (Department of English and American Studies, University of Vienna).

Speakers from seven different countries discussed the aesthetic dimensions of theatrical works that respond to and depict life under the burden of a sense of perpetual crisis. The playwrights Mojisola Adebayo (London) and Chantal Bilodeau (New York/Montreal) presented thrilling keynotes describing how they convey topics such as racism and climate change on the stage. Lynette Goddard (University of London) illustrated how black female playwrights aesthetically implement short dramatic forms to address crises. Erin Hurley (McGill University) elucidated how theatre productions from the English-speaking minority in Quebec have evolved since the early 1900s; she also compared them to francophone theatre and the overall trends in Canadian theatre. Wendy Arons (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh) discussed the term Capitalocene as an alternative to the term Anthropocene, using the example of a contemporary Canadian drama that takes place in the Arctic and that covers a time span of about 500 years. Sibylle Baumbach (University of Stuttgart) examined how some British plays present the crises of other people in such a manner that a strange sense of fascination is produced. She argued that the theatre audience’s perception is, in turn, manipulated to the effect that borders between reality and fiction become blurred and the seemingly safe position of the audience member becomes destabilized. In five different panels with additional speakers, English-language theatre from Australia to Africa, to North America and Europe was discussed. All panels included lively discussions in which scholars, artists, and students exchanged ideas about innovative theatre aesthetics.

The conference participants also attended a performance of Ayad Akthar’s The Who and the What in the Schauspielhaus, after which they enjoyed discussing the play and the performance with Graz theatre professionals.  Additionally, the Pennyless Players performed a short dramatic piece penned by Phil Cain especially for the conference. The conference closed with a communal reading from Mojisola Adebayo’s short piece on Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland was a 28-year-old African American who was forced out of her car due to unjustified reasons, abused, imprisoned, and found dead three days later in her jail cell in Texas in 2015. The end of the conference thus demonstrated how the close relationship between the continuous state of crisis and the aesthetic experience in the theatre can be brought home in diverse ways.

Conference Team:

Nassim W. Balestrini, Maria Löschnigg, University of Graz
Leo Lippert, University of Vienna


Zentrum für Intermedialität / Centre for Intermediality Studies in Graz (CIMIG)
Attemsgasse 25/II, 8010 Graz
Telefon:+43 (0)316 380 - 8210


Mo. - Fr. 9.00 - 12.00 Uhr

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