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Emeritus Professor Baz Kershaw

Emeritus Professor

Tel: +44 (0)24 765 23020
Email: baz dot kershaw at warwick dot ac dot uk

About

Prior to his retirement Baz Kershaw was Professor in Theatre and Performance Studies at Warwick and formerly held the Foundation Chair of Drama at the University of Bristol, where he was also Director of the five-year research project PARIP (Practice as Research in Performance). He trained and worked as an electro-mechanical design engineer before reading English and Philosophy at Manchester University and gaining higher degrees from the Universities of Hawaii (MA English) and Exeter (PhD Drama), so he missed out on A-levels. Yet he has been fortunate enough to teach in several colleges and universities representing a wide spectrum of UK higher education, whilst combining that with professional theatre/performance work plus scholarly research and writing projects.

He is author of The Politics of Performance (Routledge 1992), The Radical in Performance (Routledge 1999) and Theatre Ecology (Cambridge University Press 2007), editor of The Cambridge History of British Theatre, Vol 3 – Since 1895 and co-editor of Engineers of the Imagination (Methuen 1983, 2nd ed. 1990), Practice-as-Research in Performance and Screen (Palgrave 2009) and Research Methods in Theatre and Performance (Edinburgh University Press 2011). He has published many articles in international journals and essays in edited books, as well as entries in reference texts such as the Dictionary of Literary Biography and Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance. His writings also have been republished in several international Readers and translated into Spanish, German, Chinese, Indonesian, Arabic and Turkish.

Baz has presented over 100 papers and 40 workshops at research and pedagogical events in more than 25 countries on five continents. His international conference work has included many keynote lectures and co-founding the Practice as Research Working Group of the International Federation of Theatre Research. He has undertaken extended creative/research and pedagogic projects as visiting researcher with universities in Australia, South Africa, Scandinavia and the USA. In the UK his teaching has always included international and multicultural theatre and performance practice studied for its radical cultural, political and ecological potential. He worked extensively with a very diverse community of several hundred undergraduates plus a highly dedicated and extended group of PhD students and postdoctoral research fellows. He created and taught on two international MA programs, in Cultural Performance at Bristol (in partnership with Welfare State) and in International Performance Research at Warwick (with Janelle Reinelt). He was co-initiator and founder member the UK Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA), serving on the Executive Committee as first co-Convenor of Working Groups. In 2011 he was awarded Lifetime Membership of TaPRA in recognition of outstanding contributions to theatre and performance research internationally. He also received similar honours from the Irish Society of Theatre Research and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture/Cairo International Festival of Experimental Theatre.

He gained extensive experience in experimental, radical and community-based theatre/performance, having written, directed and co-devised over 40 professional productions and projects, and founded the first Rural Touring Community Arts Group (Medium Fair C. A. 1976) and first Reminiscence Theatre Company (Fair Old Times 1978). High-profile events have included shows at the legendary Drury Lane Arts Lab in London, community plays with Ann Jellicoe's Colway Theatre Trust in Dorset and site-specific/celebratory spectacles with Welfare State International in various venues. More recently he produced eco-events on the Bristol heritage ship the SS Great Britain and at Bristol Zoological Gardens before setting-up the Devonshire-based Earthrise Repair Shop, an experiment in performance diversity and conservation for mending broken imaginings of Earth.

Research interests

  • Performance/theatre ecologies
  • Performance compulsion/addiction
  • Performance/theatre radicalism and politics
  • Performance as research
  • Multi-media performances live and digitised
  • Performance/theatre history, esp. twentieth-century British theatre
  • Performance/theatre theory and analysis
  • Performance/theatre research methods
  • Pedagogies of performance/theatre research

Recent selected publications/performance events

Books

Theatre Ecology: Environments and Performance Events, Cambridge University Press, 2007; paperback issue 2009.

Practice-as-Research in Performance and Screen, co-editors Ludivine Allegue, Simon Jones, Angela Picinni, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. (includes DVD multi-media catalogue of PaR practitioners)

Research Methods in Theatre and Performance, co-editor Helen Nicholson, Edinburgh University Press, 2011.

Chapters in books

“Performance Practice as Research: Perspectives from a Small Island,” and “Environment,” in Mapping Landscapes for Performance as Research: Scholarly Acts and Creative Cartographies, eds Shannon Rose Riley and Lynette Hunter, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, p. 3-13/134-6.

“Nostalgia for the Future of the Past: Technological Environments and the Ecologies of Heritage Performance,” in Performing Heritage: Research, practice and development in museum theatre and live interpretation, eds Anthony Jackson and Jenny Kidd, University of Manchester Press, 2010, p. 123-43.

“Dancing with Monkeys? On Performance Commons and Scientific Experiments”, in Readings in Performance and Ecology, eds Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, p. 59-76.

“Biting Tongues” in Out of Silence: Censorship in Theatre and Performance, ed. Caridad Svitch, Roskilde: EyeCorner Press, 2012, p. 76-82.

Articles

“Biopoligraphy: a life of radical practices”, Playing Politics: About Performance, eds Gay McCauley and Paul Dwyer, University of Sydney Press, 2009, p. 149-167.

“Performance ecologies, biotic rights and retro-modernisation”, Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, eds Dee Heddon and Sally Mackey 17:2, 2012, p. 265-87.

“‘This is the way the world ends, not …?’: On performance compulsion and climate change’, Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts, 17:4, 2012, p. 5-17.

“Impact”, Contemporary Theatre Review – Alphabet: A Lexicon of Theatre and Performance (Special Issue), 2013, p. 31-6.

Creative events

The Iron Ship, SS Great Britain, Bristol Floating Harbour, May 2000. Six performance heritage ship spectacle of hidden histories, 50 performers, audience 900.

Green Shade, Wickham Theatre, University of Bristol, May 2004. Two performance nine-hour non-stop global warming survival installation, 18 performers, audience 350.

Being in Between, Bristol Zoological Gardens, May 2005. Three performance seven-hour durational dance/walkabout collaboration with animal/human primates, 2 performers, audience c2500.

A Meadow Meander, Earthrise Repair Shop, Devon, England, 2011. Two months continuous participatory land art cum performance environment pathway, 25 invited visitors/users.

A Meadow Meander, St Georges Field, University of Leeds, for LUDUS Arts Festival & Performance Research international annual conference 2012. Five days continuous participatory land art cum performance environment pathway in former city cemetery, 250 visitors/users.

A short parade of books

Theatre Ecology: Environments and Performance Events

Cambridge University Press 2007

What are the challenges to theatre and the purposes of performance in an ecologically threatened world? Is there a future for theatre as an ethically and politically alert art through environmental action? How might ecological understandings refigure the natural virtues of theatre and performance?

‘Kershaw continues to inspire generations of students and scholars … this book is a richly provocative work.’ New Theatre Quarterly UK 2009

‘… a valuable book from a master analyst of performance which theatre folk and environmentalists and all in between should read.’ Performance Paradigm Australia 2010.

The Cambridge History of British Theatre Volume 3 – Since 1895

Cambridge University Press 2004

The collection presents an exciting evolution in the scholarly study of modern British theatre history, skilfully demonstrating how performance variously became a critical litmus test of the great aesthetic, cultural, social, political and economic upheavals in the age of extremes.

‘… the most valuable resource on British theater for some time to come. Essential.’ Choice USA 2005

‘In short, the volumes are excellent … they offer provocative readings and revisionings of standard historical narratives … collectively demonstrate a lucid grasp of the history of theatre as a history of performance…’ New Theatre Quarterly UK 2007.

Nominated for the Theatre Book Prize 2005

The Radical in Performance: Between Brecht and Baudrillard

Routledge 1999

The Radical in Performance investigates the crisis in contemporary theatre, and celebrates the subversive in performance. It is the first full-length study to explore the link between a western theatre which, says Kershaw, is largely outdated and the blossoming of postmodern performance, much of which has a genuinely radical edge. In staying focused on the period between Brecht and Baudrillard, modernity and postmodernism, Baz Kershaw identifies crucial resources for the revitalisation of the radical across a wide spectrum of cultural practices.

‘…the success of Kershaw’s book rests on its skilful manipulation of the larger general divide between modernism and postmodernism into a specific, long overdue reconsideration of the concept of radical performance.’ Theatre Survey, USA 2000.

The politics of Performance: Radical Theatre as Cultural Intervention

Routledge 1992

A detailed analysis of oppositional theatre as radical cultural practice through its various efforts to subvert the status quo. It demonstrates how oppositional theatre may have had a significant impact on social and political history.

“Thank goodness Baz Kershaw has written this book!’ New Theatre Quarterly, UK 1993.

Engineers of the Imagination: The Welfare State Handbook

Methuen 1982; rev. ed. 1990

Since its foundation by John Fox in 1968, Welfare State International has developed a unique form of celebratory theatre that reaches popular audiences through remarkable combinations of archetypal and contemporary imagery. This is first and foremost a practical book rather than an academic treatise. It is a book to get thumb-marks and glue on.

‘Undoubtedly the greatest value of Engineers of the Imagination…is its enthusiastic and intelligent espousal of a theatrical vision … of art that is more vitally integrated with the life of the community.’ Theatre Journal, USA 1985.

 

Book cover - Theatre Ecoologyw

Book cover - Cambridge History of British Theatre

Book cover - The Radical in Performance

Book cover - The Politics of Performance

Book cover - Engineers of the Imagination