Origins & Aims

In 1955 the British Society for Theatre Research took the initiative in calling an international Conference to which delegates from twenty-one countries responded, including, from outside Western Europe, Japan, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia and (attending as an observer) Yugoslavia: the decisions which emerged during the discussions, held between 17 and 23 July at the British Academy in London, were to lead to the creation of the International Federation for Theatre Research.

This was a remarkable step; researchers from all over the world with an interest in the history or theory of the theatre, who had previously been working in isolation and with little recognition from institutes of higher education, had taken the decision to collaborate together, to exchange information and to discuss common problems and methodology - in short, to establish an international base for the development of the relatively new discipline of theatre studies.

A provisional Executive Committee was formed, composed of Ifan Kyrte Fletcher (Great Britain), Giorgio Brunacci (Italy), Rose-Marie Moudouès (France), Edmund Stadler (Switzerland) and Andre Veinstein (France), who represented SIBMAS (International Society of Libraries and Museums of Performing Arts), founded at Zagreb in 1954. This Committee met in Berne in 1956 and, in collaboration with the Centro Ricerche Teatrali, Rome, organised a second Conference, which took place in July 1957 at the Cini Foundation in Venice, with the participation of seventeen countries. Here IFTR was formally established and drew up a Constitution with the following aims (essentially unchanged throughout the history of IFTR):

  1. to promote, in all countries, international liaison between organisations and individuals devoted to theatre research;
  2. to assist in organising societies for theatre research;
  3. to organise international Conferences and symposia;
  4. to encourage interdisciplinary studies involving theatre research by promoting appropriate relations with other research organisations and institutes;
  5. to obtain facilities in libraries, museums, etc., for theatre research workers of all countries;
  6. to submit to the authorities of all countries the desirability of creating and maintaining courses, institutes and chairs of theatre research;
  7. to assist members in obtaining grants for their work from foundations, trusts and other grant-making bodies;
  8. to facilitate the wide distribution of works of scholarship, technical works, and any important popular works in the field of theatre research, and to encourage an interest in the subject by means of books, periodicals, radio and television programmes, and other methods of communicating and storing information;
  9. to organise and facilitate exhibitions devoted to theatre research;
  10. to undertake and to encourage its members to collaborate in undertaking works of international theatre research; and
  11. to aid in every way all other projects to foster theatre research in all countries.

True to its spirit as a non-governmental organisation, IFTR has always sought to enable scholars to work together irrespective of the political systems of their countries; and its artistic and intellectual concerns have always had a worldwide scope. The Federation is an association confirming to articles 60 - 79 of the Swiss Civil Code and has its headquarters in Berne, Switzerland; and its official language is English.

The President of the Federation is elected to serve for four years and is supported by two Joint Secretaries General (one dealing with the Federation's administration, the other with the Federation’s communications) and a Treasurer. The officers are answerable to an Executive Committee of around fifteen members, which meets at least once a year. A General Assembly consisting of all members of the Federation meets at least once every four years. Each individual member shall have one vote. The General Assembly establishes the broad outlines of the International Federation's policy, ratifies its accounts and has final control over the Federation's Constitution.

Past Achievements

The following deserve mention in this brief account:

the Federation's Journal, which has appeared three times a year since 1959, first under the title Theatre Research / Recherches Théâtrales, with articles in French and English, and more recently under the title Theatre Research International, published in English; and

the active part played by the Federation in the establishment of theatre research as a recognised university discipline.

Conferences & Colloquia

1. Every four years the Federation organises a World Congress, a major international event in which, in addition to the usual Conference activities and supplemented by a programme of theatre visits, the Federation takes the opportunity, through its General Assembly, to take stock of its recent achievements and consider its policy for the future.  The 2018 World Congress will be held in Belgrade, Serbia.

2. In the years between the World Congresses, Conferences, built around a specific theme, are organised: the 2017 Conference was held in São Paulo, Brazil, with the theme of “Unstable Geographies: Multiple Theatricalities”.


The benefits of membership include the right to attend all Conferences and meetings organized by the Federation and to receive the journal Theatre Research International (with the exception of the fourth category).

In 1997 the IFTR had a membership of 389, of whom 69 were Institutional Members and 320 Individual Members. 41 separate countries were represented in the Federation. In 2001 we had at the moment a total of 400, from 40 countries. Of this 306 were individual, 72 are institutional, 12 associate, 4 student and 7 honorary. They were from 40 different countries. The Federation today boasts a membership of over 1000 individuals from more than 63 countries.

Future Perspective

The number of countries anxious to participate in the work of the Federation, and make their distinctive contribution to the study of theatre in all its manifestations, is continually increasing. From beginnings which were inevitably "eurocentric", IFTR has become truly international, with delegates attending recent Conferences from all continents. These developments open new challenges and opportunities for theatre and performance research and emphasise the continuing need for comparative, cross-disciplinary studies.

Past Presidents

Elaine Aston, Lancaster (2019)
Jean Graham-Jones, New York (2015)
Christopher Balme, München (2011)
Brian Singleton, Dublin (2007)
Janelle Reinelt, Irvine, California (2003)
Josette Féral, Montréal (1999)
Erika Fischer-Lichte, Mainz/Berlin (1995)
Willmar Sauter, Stockholm (1991)
Wolfgang Greisenegger, Wien (1987)
William Green, New York (1983)
Rolf Rohmer, Leipzig (1979)
James A. Arnott, Glasgow (1975)
Kalan Filip Kumbatovic, Ljubliana (1971)
Frantisek Cerny, Praha (1967)
Frithjof W.S. van Thienen, Amsterdam (1963)
Alois M. Nagler, New Haven (1959)
Ifan Kyrle Fletcher, London (1955)


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