Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Winchester
Unit of AssessmentMusic, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media, Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
Summary of the impact
This case study refers to the work of Synne Behrndt and stems from
publications on `Dramaturgy' and her practice as a dramaturg. The impact
of Behrndt's practice and research is threefold: firstly it has raised
awareness of a little known area and professional role in theatre
production. Secondly, it has empowered dramaturgs in their work by
providing emerging and professional dramaturgs with a language to describe
and articulate their work, role and relationship to collaborators. Above
all the publications have articulated the nature of their job and the
skills and qualities that dramaturgs bring to a creative process. Thirdly,
Behrndt's research has made a difference to professional theatre companies
by introducing new dramaturgical approaches and models of critical
dissemination to their process. Her collaboration with theatre directors
has impacted on their companies' working practices, and has led to
dramaturgy and the dramaturg becoming a fully integral part of their
creative process and dissemination.
Behrndt's research combines her professional practice as a dramaturg with
publications on dramaturgy and the practice of dramaturgs, a profession
that was at the time of her first publications still relatively unexplored
within UK and (some) European contexts. In her work as a dramaturg she
seeks to embed conceptual and research-based reflection in the practical
process, in order to enhance the creative and critical potential of the
performance. Behrndt's research is therefore driven by an interest in
transferring knowledge between different contexts (the academy and
professional theatre making): thus dramaturgical practice can be
understood as a bridge between reflection and practice.
Her book Dramaturgy and Performance (2008) (Ref 1) and the
co-edited journal `New Dramaturgies' (Contemporary Theatre Review
20:2 2010) (Ref 2 &3) were published together with Dr Cathy Turner.
The aim of Dramaturgy and Performance was to further an
understanding of dramaturgy through a historical and analytical
perspective whilst also highlighting the dramaturg as a creative and
valuable role within theatre production. While the book introduced
discussion of case studies that documented professional dramaturgs' work,
the authors also acknowledged the importance of distinguishing between
dramaturgy and the dramaturg arguing that a conflation of the two would
limit an understanding of dramaturgy itself. The argument follows that
dramaturgy exists even without the presence of the dramaturg.
While dramaturgy is traditionally linked to theatre and drama, the book
also made a case for a flexible and expanded application
of the term and practice. Dramaturgy was posited as a flexible, open and
slippery term that can be used differently depending on the context and
field of study; for example, the book highlighted dramaturgy's application
to other disciplines such as sociology and architecture.
In a guest-edited volume of Contemporary Theatre Review these
ideas were developed with a focus on expanding the application of the
term. Behrndt's own article discussed how dramaturgy's introduction into
dance studies has invited a re-examination of the implication of
dramaturgy, thus arguing that dramaturgy signifies a process of
interpretation and not a rigid method. The article also examined the
reasons why dramaturgy and the dramaturg are often aligned with the
presence of external authority and authoritative interpretation. This was
done in order to challenge the view that the dramaturg would restrict and
censor the artist in their creative endeavour (Ref 2&3).
Since 2003 Behrndt has worked with UK directors and devising companies
(Ref 6). In this context she functions as a production dramaturg and
participates in the project from its conception through to final
production. Her role is to assist the director with research, and to
translate theoretical concepts and research into creative performance
material. In this role she transfers knowledge from the academic discourse
to a practical art context. An integral part of her role in these
processes has been to produce, write and edit documentation. This
documentation functions as a critical extension of the performance,
providing a discursive context for the work and evidencing the research
and dramaturgical discussions underpinning the performance, and it is made
available to a wider audience through the company. (Ref 4&5).
References to the research
1. Behrndt, S. and Turner, C. (2008) Dramaturgy and Performance.
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
2. Behrndt, S. (2010) `Dance, Dramaturgy and dramaturgical thinking'. Contemporary
Theatre Review (Special Issue: New Dramaturgies), 20.2. pp. 185-196.
3. Editorial (Co-authored with Cathy Turner) `New Dramaturgies' CTR
4. Behrndt, S. (2011) Seven Portraits of Time and Change. In: Behrndt, S.
and Harradine, D (eds.) On Ageing: Reflections. London and
Winchester: A Fevered Sleep Publication made possible by the University of
Winchester: pp. 10-21.
5. Behrndt, S. (2011) `Shaping a Dramaturgy', in Behrndt, S. and
Harradine, D. (eds.) Invisible Things. Documentation from a Devising
Process. London and Winchester: Fevered Sleep and the University of
6. Behrndt worked as dramaturg on the following projects:
• Fevered Sleep/David Harradine. An Infinite Line: Brighton. The
Basement, Brighton. 5-21 May 2008.
• Fevered Sleep. On Ageing. Young Vic, London. 27 September - 9
• Transport Theatre in collaboration with New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich.
Invisible Premier and Tour 13th October 2011 - 28th Jan
Fevered Sleep. Above me the Wide Blue Sky. Lancaster. Live at
LICA: 22-23 February 2013. Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry: 27 February-2
March 2013. Young Vic, London: 7-28 March 2013.
Details of the impact
Following the original English edition, which has sold over 2,300 copies,
Dramaturgy and Performance has contributed to international debates
about dramaturgy and the role of dramaturgs. Informal conversations with
freelance dramaturgs and graduates who are developing careers as
dramaturgs together with a statement by the dramaturg at Slovene National
Opera Theatre (SDR) (Ref 6) suggest that the book has empowered and helped
them assert a sense of professional identity and that it has enabled them
to articulate their own contribution to the theatre production process.
Dramaturgs' role within this process is rarely talked about and thus the
role of dramaturgs can be somewhat invisible. This is certainly the case
in UK theatre practice where the role is almost non-existent and rarely
credited, though Behrndt's research is referred to on several web blogs
While the book was intended for a UK and US readership, it has made a
critical contribution to highlighting dramaturgical practice in other
countries (Ref 1). DR commented that the translation of Dramaturgy and
Performance into Slovenian was `a gift' for `theatre practice in
this small country', and goes on to call the book `an important step
forward in the theory and practice which unites our visions of the
professions' future and an important tool of communication between
professional dramaturges, theatre researchers and performing art in
general' (Ref 6).
Behrndt's research has offered ways of articulating dramaturgical
processes beyond the so-called text-driven theatre. In a statement curator
and artistic director of `Prague Quadrennial` (PQ) remarks that Behrndt's
`research is quite crucial for my work as a dramaturg and a curator. Her
articles, presentations and of course Dramaturgy and Performance
have been an important support in my own research and performance-making.
First of all Behrndt's work combines practical and theoretical aspects of
dramaturgy that is often not text-based and thus hard to define and write
about.` Lotker concludes that `the work has been highly inspiring but more
than anything helpful in defining what I'm actually doing` (Ref 5). In
2012 Behrndt was invited to co-convene PQ's practitioner Platform at
Prague's Archa Theatre, focussing on highlighting dramaturgy's role in
devising and experimental theatre. This event facilited exchange between
artists and dramaturgs from all over the world (Ref 5).
A key theme in the impact of Behrndt's research is knowledge transfer
and combining academic reflection with practical know-how. The book's
publication has led to invitations to speak at events to mixed delegations
of international artists, practitioners, dramaturgs and academics (Ref 2).
However, it has also helped underpin a project that explores new models of
creative producing at the Basement, Brighton. In his invitation to
contribute to the venue`s international project on dramaturgical mentoring
of emerging artists (2012 and onwards) director of Development at the
Basement in Brighton describes the collaboration as an `exciting
opportunity to link up this practical, professional research with academic
research in the same area` (Group Ref 2).
Behrndt's impact as a dramaturg is noted through her collaboration with
professional theatre companies that hitherto did not work with dramaturgs.
The Artistic Directors for Fevered Sleep (FS) and Transport Theatre (TT)
both emphasise the critical knowledge transfer aspect of Behrndt's role.
FS remarks that Behrndt `played a central role in the conceptualisation,
development and creation' of their work and that she had been
`instrumental in the development of a dramaturgical framework for these
projects, which allowed the work to emerge through this mesh of research'.
TT acknowledges the importance of the knowledge transfer remarking that
Behrndt brought a `wealth of expertise and knowledge to the rehearsal room
which had a profound influence on the formation of the piece'. TT explains
that the dramaturg helped facilitate `objectivity and as a practitioner to
forge new ground (...)' (Ref 4).
This knowledge transfer has enabled the directors to be conceptually
ambitious and to consider new ways of approaching structure, content as
well as the documentation of their work. The documentation that Behrndt
has produced with FS has enabled the company to reflect upon their work
and to disseminate their work to a wider audience and promote their work
Behrndt's integration of dramaturgical practice and reflection into
professional theatre practice has made a difference to the way in which
the companies approach their work and has meant a positive engagement with
a critical and questioning audience perspective. FS remarks that Behrndt's
involvement with the company's work 'has made it possible for the company
to be more ambitious in terms of scale and complexity of its projects. It
is beyond question that Synne's involvement has had an impact on the reach
and success of the company's work' (Ref 3). `Synne exposed me to new
perspectives which enable me to develop as a practitioner' (Ref 4).
Sources to corroborate the impact
5. References to corroborate the contribution, impact or benefit
(Normally maximum of 10 references)
1. The translation rights have been sold to Egypt for the Arabic
translation. The Slovenian translation entitled `Dramaturgija in
Predstava' was published in 2011. Parts of the book has been translated
into Polish and was published in the Polish journal `Notatnik Teatralny'
(Zawód: DRAMATURG), 58-59/2010, trans. Artur Zapalowski, pp.132-147.
2. A grouped reference. Invitations as speaker as direct result
of publication of Dramaturgy and Performance.
i. 13/11/2008: Invited speaker at event `The Witness as Dramaturg',
organised by Amo&HancockKellyLive. Produced by Dance4 (UK) in
association with Critical Path (AUS), held at Toynbee Studios, London,
funded by Dance4/ArtsAdmin.
ii. 15-17/10/2010: Invited speaker to International Event `Dramaturgy —
between the Reality and Vision: Role of Dramaturgy', organised by Slovene
Centre ITI in association with Maribor Theatre Festival, funded by Slovene
Centre ITI, Ljubljana, Slovenia and Winchester University.
iii. 18-22/04/2012: Co-convenor for Symposium `Devised Dramaturgy: Shared
Space', held at Archa Theatre, Prague. Organised by Prague Quadrennial of
Performance Design and Space in association with Prague Academy of
Performing Arts, DAMU, HAMU a.o (Czech Republic). By invitation from
Artistic Director of Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space.
iv. Email from Tim Harrison from the Basement venue in Brighton to help
facilitate public event to discuss dramaturgical processes for their Arts
Council Funded project on `Creative Producing and Dramaturgical
processes'. (05.04.2012 email)
3. Artistic Director, Fevered Sleep - Statement 2013 (FS)
4. Director, Transport Theatre - Statement 2013 (TT)
5. Artistic director, Prague Quadrennial, Czech Republic - Statement 2013
6. Dramaturg, Slovene National Opera Theatre, Slovenia - Statement 2013 (SDR)
7. A grouped reference (web blogs): http://woyzeck.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2011/02/13/dramaturgy-performances-and-promenade-theatre/;
8. Harradine, D. & Behrndt, S.: Invisible Things: Documentation
from a Devising Process (2011), published by Fevered Sleep & the
University of Winchester. ISBN:978-0-9559082-1. Sold through booksellers
and the company.
9. Harradine, D. & Behrndt, S (2012) On Ageing: Reflections,
Conversations, Research, published by Fevered Sleep, with financial
support from the University of Winchester.