The Narrative Turn in Contemporary Theatre

17 November, 2015

Call for Papers

The Narrative Turn in Contemporary Theatre

An International Conference in Homage to

 Distinguished Professor Marvin Carlson

TANGIER/TETOUAN, MOROCCO 15, 16, 17, 18 September 2016


The return to a narrative-centred tradition after the anti-narrative stance of naturalism has already started with Piscator and Brecht. In the wake of decolonization, strategies of storytelling from African and Asian performance cultures have also become visible in the works of Wilson, Brook, Mnouchkine among others. Nowadays we witness an unprecedented burgeoning of narrative performances and monological plays worldwide.Narrativisation is returning to theatre, whereby monologue takes precedence over dialogue and shakes up dramatic illusion. However, such a return is less a return to the story and more to the very act of telling the story. It seeks a new relationship with theatrical representation far away from the return to the ‘drama’, “one in which stories can be told, while the modes of telling, the tellers and even the stories themselves may be suspect, ambiguous and multiple”. (Turner & Behrndt, 187) As an artistic means of ordering the world, narrative “might be back with a vengeance.” (Claudia Breger, 2012, 3) The questions which arise in the context of our reflections highlight the complexities surrounding the overlapping between a ‘narrative” and a “performative turn”. If narrative refracts rather than represents reality, the “performative turn” has likewise contributed “to the dissolution of boundaries within the arts and between art and non-art.” (Erika Fischer-Lichte, 2004, 182)

The performance of autobiographical stories and actuality in various contemporary theatres exemplifies the potential of a narrative theatre. Personal stories are employed onstage for various reasons: as symbolic witnesses to the past, as political counter-agents to official historiography renegotiating its versions and exclusions, as a source of an authentic presence... The Swiss German theatre collective Rimini Protokoll’s various collaborations with ‘experts of the everyday’ (Experten des Alltags) reveals the political through private narratives, where reality invades the theatre. The increasing body of contemporary performances that deal with autobiographical material, including the works of the British ensemble ‘Forced Entertainment’, the ‘scenic essays’ or ‘performance lectures’ of Rabih Mrué, focuses on the notions of dislocation and paradox, on the imaginative or the playful (as well as emotional) aspects of historical narratives to emphasize the interplay between reality and fiction not only in performative displays of individual memories but also in the nature of historiography itself. Hans Thies Lehmann’s discussion of contemporary narrative-based performances is also relevant in the present context. He argues that “the principle of narration is an essential trait of the postdramatic theatre; the theatre becomes the site of a narrative act. (2006, 109)

            More often, the return to monologue in post-Arab spring theatres is occasioned by a crushing crisis in the life of the monologist, a bitter sense of embattlement, or a resounding defeat in confronting the rotten state. As such, the monologue becomes a carefully chosen fragment of retrieved personal (as well as collective) history narrated in retrospect with a will to vengeance and recovery. The monologue has come a long way, and its journey from the early Greek period to our globalized world and the innovative ways in which it was exploited is a testimony not only to the elasticity of the genre but also to the growing pluralistic character of our world. More than simply a conventional form of confessional discourse, the monologue in recent Moroccan plays such as Dmue Bel Khul and Hadda is more a critique of contemporary conventional assumptions about subjectivity and truth. Hadda is also “a solo show which uses the personal memories and recollections of Hadda, a woman who comes from an extremely poor economic background, to open up a larger canvas of political, social and religious questions.” (Elaine Aston, 2014)

            Inspired by our previous discussions, we propose a double-edged dialogue which is artist-driven and research-oriented. The conference also seeks to tease out some of the complexities related to the narrative turn in contemporary theatre and dance. It is a call for more critical attention to narrative events that interrupt the realm of the ordinary, and that have become so visible also in Arabo-Islamic contexts. We invite scholars from around the world to join the debate and offer elements of reflection on the various problematics related to the following proposed panels:

vNarrative Turn/ Performative Turn

vThe Aesthetics of narrative Performance

vNarrativization of Real Events/ Actuality

vDance as Narrative: The interaction of the “speaking body” and “moving text”

vBody as Memory and Site of Agency: staging a body of memories to reveal memories of the body

vPerforming Testimonies of the Moroccan ‘years of lead’


Simultaneous Interpreting in all Panel Sessions











Keynote Speakers


  1. Gabriele Brandstetter is co-director of the International Research Centre "Interweaving Performance Cultures" and Professor of Theatre and Dance Studies at Freie Universität Berlin since 2003. She is also vice-president of „Heinrich-von-Kleist-Society“, a member of „German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina“and a jury member for „art history, musicology, Theatre-, film- and media-studies“of the DFG. Her research focus is on: History and aesthetics of dance from the 18th century until today, theatre and dance of the avant-garde; performance, theatricality and gender differences; concepts of body, movement and image. In 2004 she was awarded the “Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz-Prize” by the DFG, and in 2011 the Federal Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Among her numerous book publications: Tanz-Lektüren. Körperbilder und Raumfiguren der Avantgarde (1995); ReMembering the Body (2000, co-ed. H. Völckers); Bild-Sprung. TanzTheaterBewegung im Wechsel der Medien (2005); Methoden der Tanzwissenschaft. Modellanalysen zu Pina Bauschs ‚ Sacre du Printemps‛ (2007, co-ed. G. Klein); Schwarm(E)Motion. Bewegung zwischen Affekt und Masse (2007, co-eds. B. Brandl-Risi, K. van Eikels), Tanz als Anthropologie (2007, co-ed. C. Wulf), Prognosen über Bewegungen (2009, co-eds. S. Peters, K. van Eikels); Improvisieren. Paradoxien des Unvorhersehbaren. Kunst - Medien – Praxis (2010, co-eds. H.-F. Bormann, A. Matzke)


Title of the Keynote Address: "Dance and the break of narratives"


  1. Stephen Barber is a former Fellow of the International Research Centre ‘Interweaving Performance Cultures’ at the Free University Berlin and a Professor of Visual Culture in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at Kingston University, London. He is currently the holder of a Major Research Fellowship of the Henkel Foundation. His most recent book is Performance Projections (Chicago UP/Reaktion), 2014.


(Other Keynote Speakers to be announced later)


The Narrative Turnis a signature event that brings together delegations of eminent practitioners and scholars from around the globe: Round Tables with guest speakers from the field of performance and academy// Performances// Installations// Music Concerts// Workshops (to be announced later)…

The conference is part of the International Festival “Performing Tangier” now in its 12th edition. The theme was carefully chosen as a follow up of our previous international conferences, with the expectation that it would be sharp enough to elicit diverse intellectual contributions from distinguished experts and colleagues from many parts of the world and in many areas of research. Besides academic panel sessions, the conference program will be nourished by a rich artistic public agenda with workshops, exhibitions, book launch, and diverse performances and artistic interventions relevant to the narrative turn, plus receptions and gala dinners to be announced after opening.

Proposals:The organising committee welcomes abstracts and proposals strictly on the above issues. A 250-WORD abstract, along with a ONE PARAGRAPH curriculum vitae, should be submitted electronically (preferably in Word or Rich Text format) by 31 March 2016 to the scientific committee care of Professor Khalid Amine (Conference Convener). Acceptance, however, unfortunately does not include any financial support - participants are responsible for their own funding (i.e. securing grants, etc.) to pay for travel and lodging expenses. Selected conference papers will be published in a special volume upon the approval of the scientific committee. Submitters of accepted proposals will be notified within two weeks of the above deadline and all decisions of the scientific committee are final.


Important dates & Deadlines:

  • Abstract Submission Deadline: 31 March 2016.
  • Notification of Acceptance/Rejection:  30 April 2016.
  • Final Paper Submission Deadline: 01 June, 2016 (included). (The paper must have a sound methodology reflecting the features of real scientific research.  It must be 10 up to 14 pages of A4 format using Times New Romans size 14 in text and size 10 in the margins.
  • The conference will be held on 15, 16, 17, 18, September 2016.
  • Abstracts and completed research papers should be sent to the following emails: /


New Scholars’ Panel:The conference is also a home for graduate students and new scholars from different parts of the world. The establishment of an emerging Scholars’ panel invites new voices to join the debate (provided that their contributions must be relevant to the theme of this year). Up to FIVE participants will be selected for this panel, and each panelist will have ten to fifteen minutes to deliver her/his paper. Graduate students whose papers are accepted will receive free conference registration, free admission to conference luncheon, and a one-year membership in ICPS. Who is eligible? Scholars who meet the definition of ‘new scholars’ are postgraduate students writing up their PhD dissertation or post-doctoral researchers whose PhDs have been completed less than three years.

Registration Fee: 150 Euros payable in advance via Bank transfer (le centre international des études de spectacle, Banque Populaire, Tanger Ain Ktiout: 164 640 2121490077510009 61). Registration includes 2 Gala Receptions, conference pack, tickets for any public concerts or site-specific performances within the conference’s public agenda, free guided tour of the Kasbah Museum, and one of the books of published proceedings from previous conferences. Since the conference is again pulling a very international public, registered attendees, participants from past conferences, and friends of ICPS will be most welcome to attend too. Women and underrepresented minorities are especially encouraged to apply.  ICPS is an Affirmative Acting/ Equal Opportunity Organization.


Conference Location:Faculty of Letters at Abdelmalek Essaâdi University (Tétouan), the University of New England Campus in Tangier, the Kasbah Museum (Tangier), Sahat El Kasbah, Chellah Hotel…


The Scientific Advisory Board (2016)

  • Erika Fischer-Lichte (Head of DFG Collaborative Research Centre "Performing Cultures" and Director of BMBF International Research Centre "Interweaving Cultures in Performance", Berlin, Germany
  • Christel Weiler, Professor at Institute for theatre science of the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  • Maria Shevtsova (Chair Professor of Drama and Theatre Arts, Co-editor of New Theatre Quarterly (Cambridge University Press), Director of Sociology of Theatre and Performance Research Group, University of London)
  • Marvin Carlson (The Sidney E. Cohn Professor of Theatre, Comparative Literature and Middle Eastern Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York)
  • Zohra Makach (Professor of Theatre at Ibn Zohr University of Agadir. She holds a PhD degree in Theatre Studies from Paris III)
  • Omar Fertat (Professor of Theater in the Arab World, Department of Oriental Studies and the Far East and the Department of Performing Arts, Université Michel de Montaigne, Bordeaux 3)
  • Marwa Mahdi (Theatre Scholar, Egypt/Germany)
  • Mohammed Samir Al-Khatib  (Professor, Ain Shams University, Egypt)
  • Muhamed Sef (Distinguished Arab Artist and Scholar, Iraq/ France)


Conference Supporting Committee:

  • Mohammed Saad Zemmouri(Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at AEU)
  • Mohammed Kaouti(Independent Playwright, Morocco)
  • George F. Roberson, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Geography Human Dimensions Research Cluster, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, USA
  • Richard Gough, Senior Research Fellow and Artistic Director of the Centre for Performance Research, Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Wales
  • Carol Malt (Museum Curator, Adjunct Professor at the University of West Florida, and Ex-Director of the Art & Culture Center of Hollywood, USA)
  • Marjorie Kanter  (Author of short literary and poem-like pieces, USA)
  • Said Karimi (Professor, Faculty of Errachidiya, Moulay Ismail University)
    • Noureddine Chemlali(Director, King Fahd School of Translation)
    • Mustapha El-Ghachi(Vice Dean, Faculty of Humanites, AEU, Tetouan)
    • Mohamed Bahjaji(Playwright and journalist, Morocco)
    • Abdelmajid El Hawass (Artist, ISADAK, Morocco)
    • Redouan El Ayadi(Professor, Abdelmalek Essaadi University)
    • Mohammed Taqqal(Regional Director of the Miniustry of Culture)


Conference Convener:

Khalid Amine (President of ICPS)

Conference Co-Convener:

Younes El-Assad Ryani(Professor of Cultural Studies, Abdelmalek Essaadi University)

Conference Assistants:

Jaouad Radouani (Theatre Scholar, member of ICPS)

Badreddine Charab (Administrator, ICPS)

Abdelaziz Khalili (General Secretary, ICPS)


Conference Organizing Committee:

(ICPS members & volunteers/ to be announced later)


Contact information:

Khalid Amine, Conference Convener, Residence Al Andalous  N° 11, Rue  Birr Anzaran, Tanger 90 010, MarocAdresse: E-mail:, Tél/Fax: (212) 539330466, Portable: 0664596791/ Web: /              

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