ISTR Conference 2021 – Schedule

Hard Graft: Performance, Labour and Value

Queen’s University Belfast | May 28th and 29th, 2021 

The annual conference of the Irish Society for Theatre Research considers the intersection of performance, labour and value. How is labour valued in theatre and performance scholarship and practice? Whose labour gets recognised, and whose labour remains invisible? The conference considers these questions along two interrelated tracks: the external, societal/institutional values placed on performance practices, texts, artists and research; and the value systems in operation within theatre and performance practice and scholarship.

Keynote Speakers and Featured Artists:

  • Dr Mojisola Adebayo (Queen Mary, University of London/University of Potsdam)
  • Dr Broderick Chow (Central School of Speech and Drama)
  • Janie Doherty (Dance Artist, Northern Ireland)
  • Joan Davis (Dance Artist, Ireland)
  • Dr Royona Mitra (Brunel University)
  • Dr Aoife Monks (Queen Mary, University of London)
  • Paula O’Reilly (Dance Artist, Northern Ireland)
  • Professor Brian Singleton (Trinity College Dublin)
  • Dr Mary Wycherley (Dance Artist, Ireland)


Non-presenters can avail of a reduced rate (without ISTR membership): £20 for Students/PGRSs/Unwaged/Precarious Employment or £60 for those in full-time employment. Conference fees are used to cover honoraria for artists and to support ISTR conference student bursaries.

FRIDAY 28th May

10.00– 10.30 Conference Welcome and Presidential Address

Marie Kelly (UCC, ISTR Co-President), Aoife McGrath (QUB, ISTR Co-President, Conference Convenor), Shonagh Hill (QUB, Conference Co-Convenor)

10.30-11.30 Panel Session 1

Panel 1: (In)Visible Performances of Socio-Economic Statuses: Tracing Representations of Women’s Labour and Class on Irish Stages (curated panel)

Chair: Rhona Trench (IT Sligo)

  • Salomé Paul (TCD), Labour and Class as a New Pattern to Tragedy? Marina Carr’s By the Bog Cats…
  • Fiona Charleton (UCD): The Invisibility of Women in the Workplace in 1930s Ireland: Frustrated lives. Teresa Deevy’s Katie Roche.
  • Clara Mallon (NUIG): (De)Constructing the Gendered, Classed and Laboured Body in Pat Kinevane’s Underneath

Panel 2: Audiences and Theatrical Form

Chair: Shonagh Hill (QUB)

  • Moonyoung Hong (TCD), The Spatial Politics of Site-Specific Theatre in ANU’s The Party to End All Parties (2020)
  • Ciara Murphy (NUIG), “You Can Leave At Any Time” – Interrogating the Invisible Labour in Co-Creating the Audience-Performance Contract.
  • Emma Bennett (UCD), Narrative Accounting and Theatrical (Self) Worth in Oisín McKenna’s Admin.

11.30 – 11.45 Tea break. Screening of Paula O’Reilly/Tinderbox, Tea (2019).

11.45 – 12.45 Panel Session 2

Panel 3: Socially Engaged and Applied Practice

Chair: David Grant (QUB)

  • Michael Finneran (MIC, UL), Grafting hard in socially applied practice: Locating labour within an ecology of Irish theatre
  • Courtney Grile (TCD), Applied Drama: Working toward an Ideology of Applied Drama
  • Aisling McCormick (QUB), Mothers’ (E)motion: dance as intervention to restore and improve maternal health .

Panel 4: Empathy and Emotional/Affective Labour

Chair: Mark Phelan (QUB)

  • Harrison McCallum (UU), ‘Utopian Performatives’ for Peace: A Radical Approach to Evaluating the Value of Documentary Theatre in Northern Ireland
  • Jesse Weaver (UCC/Abbey Theatre), Invisiturgy: The Hidden Labour of the Dramaturg and Playwright Relationship in Processes of New Play Development and Production.
  • Eva Urban-Devereux (QUB), The value of performing labour solidarity against reification: 1932: The People of Gallagher Street

12.45 – 14.00 Lunch. You have 2 options:

  1. Social lunch open to all: partners, family members, flat mates, children, pets – all welcome in the frame!
  2. 12.45 – 13.15 New Scholar’s Lunch: Senior Scholar Q&A with Dr Fintan Walsh (Birkbeck), Senior Editor of Theatre Research International (CUP). Hosted by ISTR Postgrad Reps Moonyoung Hong (TCD) and Claire Keogh (TCD).
    Followed from 13.15-14.00 by the general social meeting for all Postgraduate and ECR members and delegates.

14.00 – 15.00 Keynote 1: Dr Aoife Monks (Queen Mary), ‘Costume is a Crime: Wastefulness, Women and Backstage Labour’

15.00 – 15.15 Coffee Break

15.15 – 16.15 Panel Session 3

Panel 5: Digital Transformations during the Global Pandemic

Chair: Kurt Taroff (QUB)

  • Fintan Walsh (Birkbeck), The Work of Mourning in Pandemic Times
  • Ann White (Michigan State University), U.S. Actors’ Unions and “Theatre” in a Pandemic: SAG-AFTR Vs. AEA 2020
  • Fiona Fearon (DKIT), Reflections on an Online Year of Performance – the Simple, Mass and Socially Distanced Audience

Panel 6: Navigating Precarious Employment

Chair: Ciara Murphy (NUIG)

  • Annalies Van Asche (Ghent University), A Thin Line. Balancing Autonomy and Precarity in the Symbolic Economy of the Arts
  • Emily Goodling (Stanford) and Lianna Mark (Kings College London), “Be Yourself, Inasmuch As It Suits the Job”: The Labour of ‘Authenticity’ at Berlin’s Maxim Gorki Theater and London’s Royal Court

16.15 – 16.30 Coffee Break

16.30 – 17.30 Keynote 2: Mojisola Adebayo (Queen Mary University of London/University of Potsdam), Broderick Chow (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London) and Royona Mitra (Brunel University, London): ‘Weather, Whiteness, Work’

20.00 – 21.15: Performance Event. Screening of In the Bell’s Shadow (2015), a film by Mary Wycherley and Joan Davis.

Time, labour, craft, and the celebration of a life’s work in dance, In the Bell’s Shadow is a collaboration between screendance director Mary Wycherley and contemporary dance pioneer Joan Davis. ‘In the Bell’s Shadow weaves body and symbol through vast and intimate landscapes in a sensuous interplay of humanity and nature. Poetic turns and abstract narratives intensify as this surreal episodic journey vividly explores cycles of life and decay in a world defined by the senses. […] Audiences will be transported to another world for the 75 minute duration of this exquisite work.’


Film Director and Editor: Mary Wycherley
Movement Director/Co-ordinator: Joan Davis
Producer: Niamh Mac Cárthaigh
Soundscape and Composer: Jürgen Simpson
Cinematographer: Eleanor Bowman
Art Director: Sonia Haccius
Costumes: Martina Garner

Performed by Joan Davis, Maggie Harvey, Henry Montes, Mary Nunan, Simon Whitehead and Nicholas Twilley


10.00 – 11.00 Working Group Meetings

  1. Applied Theatre
  2. Gender Working Group

11.00 – 11.15 Tea break. Screening of Paula O’Reilly/Tinderbox, Tea (2019).

11.15 – 12.15 Panel Session 4

Panel 7: Labours with the Past

Chair: Siobhán O’Gorman

  • Amanda Finch (UU), Authenticity, experiments and radical new perspectives: complex relationships of value in 21st century cross-gender Shakespeare
  • Sharanya Murali (Brunel), File Room: Archival labour as performance in Dayanita Singh’s Museums
  • David Clare (MIC, UL) and Nicola Morris, The Transnational Roots of Key Figures from the Early Years of the Gate Theatre, Dublin

Panel 8: Precarious Working Conditions

Chair: Marie Kelly (UCC)

  • Miriam Haughton (NUIG), Theatre57: ‘Female, Mid-30s, No Children, College-Educated, €512 on rent’
  • Ali Fitzgibbon (QUB), The devaluation of the artist in professional theatre as a devolution of policy: A study of the separation of theatremaking from theatre business
  • Carole Quigley (MIC, UL), Artist or Engineer – who created the iPhone?

12.15 – 12.30 Coffee Break

12.30 – 13.30 Panel Session 5

Panel 9: Invisible Labour and Value

Chair: Trish McTighe (QUB)

  • Kate McCarthy (WIT) and Jennifer Mahoney (WIT), Framing the ethics of “invisible labour” in performance practice and research
  • Eimer Murphy (Abbey Theatre), On making a ceramic vagina prop for This Beautiful Village
  • Martin Kenny (NUIG), “We’re not willing to destroy ourselves” – rendering queer labour visible/invisible in production

13.30 – 14.00 Social Lunch / Ex Comm Lunch Meeting

14.00 – 14.30 Book Launch Celebration

Celebrating recent publications of ISTR members.

  • Shonagh Hill, Women and Embodied Mythmaking in Irish Theatre, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.
  • Marie Kelly, Siobhán O’Gorman, Áine Phillips (eds.), ‘Performance and Ireland’ – Special Double Issue – Scene, Volume 8, No. 1 & 2.  (Intellect, 2021).
  • Kelly Freebody and Michael Finneran, Critical Themes in Drama: Social, Cultural and Political Analysis, London: Routledge, 2021.

14.30 – 15.30 ISTR A.G.M and 2021 Awards Announcement

15.30 – 16.00 Coffee Break / Movement Workshop

16.00 – 17.00 Keynote 3: ‘States of Play: an interview with Professor Brian Singleton (Samuel Beckett Chair of Drama and Theatre, TCD) on labour and value in the neoliberal university’

20.00 – 21.00 Performance Event. Performance Artist and Choreographer, Janie Doherty (Derry), in Conversation with Tanya Dean (TU Dublin). Including screened excerpts from Doherty’s work Politics of Comfort (2020).

‘Politics of comfort is inspired by all women who are caregivers. It is a multimedia performance using film, sound score and live performance. It is inspired by Northern Irish culture and how we give comfort in a post conflict society. It is a close-up examination of the women who held it together as life was falling apart.’

Participation Note: We realise that some of you may be in a caring role working from home, and that babies and children, or other people being cared for, may need to be in the frame for this online conference. All caring “extras” are very welcome! Breastfeeding and bottle feeding are very welcome, and please feel free to turn your camera off for feeding, or any other caring duties, if you prefer – whatever is most comfortable for you.