What has theatre ever done for us? A bastard theatre against nation

by Dr Jonas Tinius (Minor Universality ERC, Saarland University)

Wednesday 4th May

Soft start at 18:30 BST with a presentation starting at 19:00 BST via Zoom and in-person in RR2 in ArtsOne on QMUL campus.

For in-person, book on bit.ly/qm0405ip

For online, book on bit.ly/qm0405o

In this talk, I will reflect on more than ten years of engagement with the Theater an der Ruhr, a public-private theatre founded in the early 1980s by the Italian philosopher, actor, director, and clown Roberto Ciulli and two companions, the dramaturge and philosopher Helmut Schäfer and the late stage designer Gralf-Edzard Habben. Since its outset, the theatre has reacted against the aesthetic and political overdetermination of artistic production by a statist cultural logic. This theatre formed labour conditions and a proto-universal stage philosophy of a bastard theatre without fatherland and mother tongue.

Jonas Tinius is a socio-cultural anthropologist and associate member at the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage (CARMAH), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. He is currently a scientific coordinator and postdoctoral researcher in cultural anthropology in the ERC project, Minor Universality. Narrative World Constructions After Western Universalism. After studying archaeology and anthropology, he received his PhD (University of Cambridge, 2016) for an ethnography of German theatre and migration. Together with Margareta von Oswald, he is the editor of Across Anthropology: Troubling Colonial Legacies, Museums, and the Curatorial (Leuven University Press, 2020, open-access) and Awkward Archives. Ethnographic drafts for a modular curriculum (Archive Books, 2022).

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Notes on Gesture, Response-ability, and the Interstice

by Professor Rebecca Schneider (Brown University)
Wednesday 13th April
Soft start at 18:30 BST with a presentation starting at 19:00 BST via Zoom.
Book your free ticket on bit.ly/qm1304o

Thinking about media such as film, performance, and photography as gestural, Schneider draws on Black Feminist Through and materialist phenomenology to consider flesh as responsive materiality, given to transposition — the viscous, reverberant, and interstitial substance of our ongoing afterlives in the age of bioeconomic Man. Among artworks and actions addressed may be Glenn Ligon’s Hands, Carrie Mae Weems’s Monument, Laura Aquilar’s Grounded #111, and Schneider’s own daily walk while white to her office through a Triumphal Arch on unceded Narragansett territory. The talk is incomplete, composed of incommensurable parts, and pitched towards discussion. 

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Astonishing Feats with Willful Things: Strongman Performance

by Broderick D. V. Chow (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama)

Wednesday 23 March
Soft start at 18:30 GMT with a presentation starting at 19:00.
The event will be held in RR2 room in the ArtsOne building on Queen Mary University of London campus and streamed online via Zoom.

In-person booking: bit.ly/qm2303ip
Online booking: bit.ly/qm2303o

On the 19th March, professional strongmen Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson and Eddie Hall will take to the ring for “the heaviest boxing match in history”, an event they have been teasing for the past two years to settle their long rivalry. The proposed spectacle of these two giant men, top of the strength game but amateurs in the boxing ring has all the hallmarks of a “stunt”, a word we use to describe, as Kirstin Smith (2017) argues, a performative act that is both “act” and “selling machine.” The combination of theatricality and self-publicity in the strongman’s performance, might be seen as a way of understanding the populist resurgence in strongman politics, at a time of increased interest in strongman as a form of fitness training by the wider general public.

But what is it, exactly, that a strongman or strongwoman performs? What are the mechanics and materials of their acts? In this presentation, I draw on extensive archival research to investigate the embodied practice of strongman, which emerges in the nineteenth century as an exceptionally inventive practice of working with objects on stage, but which has largely been forgotten by theatre history. I argue that strongman performance is a practice of misusing objects through techniques that are contrary to their natural or accepted affordances, and I argue this practice can be seen as a way to work out other questions of labour, craft, precarity and financialization. I will also explore how this kinetic-conceptual nexus has been adopted and adapted as a training method in the historical present. In contrast to the triumphal trappings of strongman as spectacle, modern strongman, by attempting to reassert the “willfulness” of things, embodies an interruption of ideas of transformation, use, and exchange.

Broderick D.V. Chow is Reader in Theatre, Performance and Sport at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. At Central he is Director of Learning, Teaching and Inclusion within the college’s senior leadership team. He is co-editor of Performance and Professional Wrestling (Routledge, 2016) and Sports Plays (August 2021). His forthcoming book Dynamic Tensions explores the origins of men’s fitness practices in UK/US popular theatre and is the outcome of a two-year AHRC funded Leadership Fellows project. He also has research interests in Philippine commercial theatre and popular music, economies of theatre, and anti-racist and anti-colonial pedagogies. With Eero Laine, he is currently working on a co-authored book called Bros: Obvious Masculinity and Homosocial Performance.

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T.MUDD. A Performance-Lecture on Messianic Themes

A talk by Brandon Woolf, Associate Professor of Dramatic Literature at New York University.

Wednesday 9th February
Soft start at 18:30 GMT with a presentation starting at 19:00 GMT via Zoom 
Tickets are free but RSVP on bit.ly/qm0902o


For a few years now, I’ve been reading and re-reading six particular pages of the Babylonian Talmud, which confront some confounding questions of messianism. I’m not a scholar of Talmud; I really have no business digging around in this foundational tome of rabbinic Judaism. And yet, these six pages persist in their invitation – again and again – to consider catastrophe, caesura, mourning, and morning joe via dialogue, debate, parable, mathematical calculation, geopolitical commentary, conspiracy theory, and seemingly dadaist non-sequitur. T.MUDD is a performance-lecture with new music that moves back and forth between these varying Talmudic registers and modes of address in the hopes of moving us just a little bit closer to (or perhaps way further away from) answering the persistent questions: Just what are we waiting for? And what should we do while we wait – for the end without end?


Brandon Woolf is a theater artist and clinical associate professor at New York University, where he directs the Program in Dramatic Literature. Over the past decade, Brandon co-founded and co-directed three ensembles — UC Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP), Shake im Park Berlin, and Culinary Theater — all of which work to explore performance’s potential as both civic practice and public provocation. Institutional Theatrics, his book on the entanglements of contemporary performance and cultural policy in Berlin, was published by Northwestern University Press in 2021. Postdramatic Theatre and Form, a volume he edited collaboratively with Shane Boyle and Matt Cornish, appeared with Bloomsbury Methuen in 2019. 

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