New To IFTR?

New To IFTR?

If you are new to the IFTR and the Annual Conference, then read this ...

The International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR) exists to promote collaboration and the exchange of information between individuals and organisations concerned with theatre research. To this end the Federation supports conferences and publications and assists its members in such activities and projects. Our Working Groups (see below) regularly engage in projects leading to scholarly publications. Published by Cambridge University Press, Theatre Research International is a major, peer-reviewed, quarterly journal affiliated with our organisation.

The Federation’s annual conference allows all those who attend to meet others with common interests from different countries and regions and to share research methods. We also host transregional conferences and workshops. For emerging scholars, referred to as New Scholars (see below), the conference affords an opportunity to encounter theatre researchers who are seminal to their field of chosen study. This is an opportunity to engage with them first-hand: to watch them in action in the working groups, the panel presentations, or keynote lectures!

Membership of IFTR

There is an annual fee to become a member of IFTR. Rates are banded according to country category, with subsidised fees for students, unwaged, contingent, and retired members. Membership includes online access to the Federation’s quarterly journal, Theatre Research International (TRI). Access to TRI includes both current issues and the archive. Members who wish to opt for print copy of the journal can do so for an additional fee. Becoming a member of IFTR also grants you full access to the online content of the Federation’s website; places you on the distribution list for our emails; and entitles you to discounted conference registration. (Please note that conference registration fees are separate to the annual membership fee, see below under Conference Programme.) To present a paper at any IFTR conference you need to be a registered member.

Every year IFTR holds an annual conference in a different country

Our annual conference coheres around a theme which inspires most of the presentations. If you wish to present a paper you must send in your abstract by the date listed on the conference website (usually in January of the year in which the conference is to be held) and carefully follow the submission guidelines. If you cannot afford to attend because your institution or country cannot support your research activities, then you can apply for an IFTR bursary – usually by 1 December of the year preceding the conference.

What happens at an IFTR annual conference?

An IFTR conference usually lasts for at least five days. The conference structure consists of:

  • Keynote Lectures
  • General Panels
  • Working Group Meetings
  • New Scholars Forum Panels and Workshops
  • Theatre Visits, Book Launches and Social Events
  • Farewell banquet

Each of these elements and how they intersect at the conference is explained below. And to give you an overall idea of what is involved in an IFTR conference here's a link to a video about the 2013 IFTR Conference held in Barcelona.

Keynote Lectures

Keynotes are sessions in which all delegates gather to listen to a lecture given by theatre scholars who are research experts on the conference theme. Good keynote speakers set a high standard for all those presenting at the conference and often spark debates on aspects of the theme that last for the duration of the conference.

General Panels

General Panels usually consist of three to four speakers each of whom speaks for a maximum of 20 minutes. After all speakers have completed their papers there is a 30- minute discussion; this is an opportunity for audience members to ask panellists about issues arising from their papers. Papers in a panel are usually organised around a focal topic which is moderated by a Panel Chair. Given the size of our conferences, many panels run concurrently, so you should read the conference programme carefully and choose those panels you consider most helpful to you. You are encouraged to ask other conferees what Panels they have attended or would recommend. Please note that all delegates can only present papers once during the conference, either within a General Panel, a Working Group Meeting, or the New Scholars Forum.

Working Group Meetings

Working Group Meetings are sessions during which members of Working Groups gather (each in their own designated venue) to work on their selected research focus for up to ten hours during the conference. IFTR has the capacity for a maximum of 24 Working Groups that fall into five categories:

Drama in/and Performance: Samuel Beckett; Translation, Adaptation & Dramaturgy 

Methodologies: Historiography; The Theatrical Event; Digital Humanities in Theatre Research; Embodied Research

Performing Practices: Performance-as-Research; The Creative Process; Choreography and Corporeality; Performance in Public Spaces

Stage Forms: Music Theatre; Scenography; Theatre & Architecture

Theatre and Cultural Studies: Intermediality in Theatre & Performance; Queer Futures; Political Performances; Performance, Religion & Spirituality; Popular Entertainments; Arabic Theatre; African and Caribbean Theatre and Performance; Feminist Research; Asian Theatre; Performance and Disability

When you attend your first IFTR conference you might choose to sit in on sessions of one or more Working Groups, provided you have obtained their permission in advance. You can also hear what Working Groups are discussing by attending their public panel presentations which are scheduled during the General Panels. Over time, the academic richness of your IFTR conference experience has a lot to do with finding the right Working Group for you.

At the point at which you decide you are interested in joining a Working Group, in the first instance you should approach the respective convenor(s) via email. Any IFTR member – New Scholars included - can join a Working Group (although please bear in mind that there are certain years when a Group might be working on a long-term project that doesn’t allow for immediate joining.) You may join only one Working Group. 

New Scholars

New Scholars are defined as either graduate students or post-doctoral researchers whose PhDs have been completed less than three years previously. Researchers without PhDs who have been in an academic post for less than three years also qualify as New Scholars. IFTR runs two annual essay competitions for the New Scholars' Prize and Helsinki Prize.

New scholars present in specific panels called the New Scholars Forum. Up to five scholars present for 10 minutes each and then there is 30 minutes or more for discussion of all the papers. These panels are usually chaired and attended by senior scholars who also comment on and contribute to the discussion. It is a valuable learning opportunity.

It is important to note that as a New Scholar you do not have to present on the conference theme. You can present on your current programme of research (e.g. doctoral or post-doctoral studies). New Scholars also get to elect their own representative to IFTR’s Executive Committee, the body responsible for managing the Federation’s affairs and finances; this committee is convened annually at the conference.

Additionally, there is a New Scholars welcome event organised by the student representative. This is often held on an evening at the start of the conference week. Also, there are usually two New Scholars’ Workshops in which senior scholars offer mentorship on career-related matters, such as 'how to get published'.  

Social Events * Theatre Visits * Book Launches * Book Displays

On the conference website each year, tourist outings before and after the conference are offered to all delegates (for a reasonable fee). So are theatre visits to performances and events, as well as at least one social gathering such as a cocktail party or closing party. Book launches are usually held at lunch or teatime and there are several book displays with publishers in attendance. This means you have opportunities to browse, order books, or talk to a publisher about a book you propose to write.

Farewell Banquet

The Farwell Banquet takes place near the end of the conference week and involves food, drink, dancing and invariably a lot of fun as conferees relax and unwind after a busy week. There is an additional charge for the banquet; like the membership fees the cost is discounted for students.

The Conference Programme

Conferences are very busy and very full; they run all day every day for at least five days.

Conferences begin with registration where you must go and register for the conference and pay your registration fee – if you have not already done so online – and collect your conference pack.

On the first day there is usually an opening ceremony that introduces you to the conference hosts, schedule, and IFTR leadership.

Thereafter the next four or five days are devoted to sessions of usually 90 minutes, interspersed by morning and afternoon refreshment breaks and a lunch hour. Sessions are allocated to Keynote Lectures; General Panel Presentations; Working Group Meetings; New Scholars Forum Panels and Workshops, as outlined above.

In short, you spend five days dashing from place to place, hearing and participating in many discussions! Most of the sessions allow for and invite discussion; many use audiovisual aids. Some include performance and a few are studio workshops where you are on your feet participating. Whether you experience the latter will depend upon the choices you make about what to attend.

Key points to remember…

  • Wear your conference badge so that people can address you by name and engage with you on a friendly basis.
  • Keep your programme book, including the map of the conference venue and your laptop or smartphone, safely with you at all times so that you know what is happening when, and you know where to go.
  • Make a backup of your own presentation on a flash drive and ideally a cloud server such as Dropbox, and send it to yourself on email, as well as in hard copy, in case of loss.
  • Arrive punctually at all sessions so you don't lose the thread of a discussion.
  • Speak slowly so that other speakers and all listeners can understand and follow you in a forum that consists of international participants.
  • Ask for help from the Reception desk personnel, the IFTR leadership to whom you have been introduced, or from any other conferee who is probably having just as hard a time fitting in as you might be!
  • Eat and drink regularly to maintain your energy levels during long days involving intellectually challenging sessions.
  • Introduce yourself to anybody to whom you might want to talk. They are probably just as keen to get to know new people as you are.
  • Finally, and most importantly, enjoy yourself!


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