Theatre & Performance

Theatre and Performance Studies at UNSW is a hub for research in both Australasian and European performance. Our discipline has these particular research strengths:

Contemporary Theatre & Performance

Our research on theatre and performance in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries investigates all aspects of performance, including rehearsal, production and reception. We research in the areas of: Australian drama and theatre, multimedia performance, performance art, political performance, post-dramatic theatre, live entertainment, refugee theatre, and theatres of the real. Our publications look at artists as diverse as theatre-makers Antonin Artaud and Bertolt Brecht, choreographers Pina Bausch and Trisha Brown, companies Back to Back, Dumb Type, and Rimini Protokoll, and performance artists Mike Parr and William Yang.

Interdisciplinary Performance

We research multimedia theatre and performance, new media dramaturgy, the relationship between dance and film, and the curation of performance in galleries and museums. This work has been published in a wide variety of formats and outlets, ranging from scholarly monographs to online databases. We place our articles in journals associated with theatre, performance and dance studies as well as digital media, cultural studies, legal studies and more.

Creative Practice-as-Research

We are well suited to support creative practice as and alongside scholarly research, with strengths in movement and screendance (Brannigan), dramaturgy and devising (Wake, Trezise) and performance writing and collaborative practices (Schmidt). We frequently undertake research projects in collaboration with artists. The School is well-resourced by the UNSW Creative Practice Lab, a production unit with an extensive creative team and facilities to support teaching, practice-led research at postgraduate and Honours levels, and artistic residencies.

Performance Archives

Our research engages with archival practice and documentation in the performing arts. Theatre and Performance Studies at UNSW is a founding partner of AusStage, the online resource for researching Australian performance. We have published on digital humanities, data visualisation and network analysis in theatre research. Our archival research connects with Performance SpaceGriffin Theatre Company and other organisations in Sydney. We are also working on the Dennis Wolanski Library collection through the Performance Memories Project in conjunction with the UNSW Library and the Wolanski Foundation.

Our research has been funded by the Australian Research Council, the Australia Council for the Arts, and the State Library of NSW, among others. Our scholars have been awarded grants in Contemporary Theatre, New Media Dramaturgies and Experimental Humanities.

We play a significant role in the dissemination of research through our considerable contributions to national publishers, press and journals. Our researchers co-edit Performance Paradigm, an interdisciplinary refereed journal that reflects contemporary performance research across a range of cultures and contexts. We also write for the national performance publication RealTime, and are represented on the editorial board of journals such as Contemporary Theatre ReviewPerformance PhilosophyPerformance ResearchThe Brecht Yearbook and Theatre Research International.

Performance Memories Project

In 2017 UNSW Sydney became the caretaker for the Dennis Wolanski Library collection. The collection was originally part of the Sydney Opera House performing arts library. It consists of 1,600 archive boxes, holding an estimated 4 million pages of information about the performing arts in Australia from 1789 to 1997. The boxes contain press clippings, programs, correspondence, discographies, CVs, invitations, funeral service programs, program notes, publisher blurbs, press releases and a card index of 80,000 entries.

UNSW Sydney is looking after the collection in three ways. First, we are creating a digital list of the research files. Second, we are working towards converting the card index and scanning the programs for input into AusStage. Third, we are developing two research projects around the archive. Our aim is to improve access to the Wolanski collection. We welcome the performing arts and research communities of Australia to join us.

The Dennis Wolanski Library collection of research files, programs and press clippings is a collection of national significance. The partners are working on systems and services to manage and provide access to the collection. In the meantime, you can download our working lists of the research files, performing arts index and Australian drama index.

  • Research Files: 80,000 files with information on the performing arts in Australia and overseas 1789-1997
  • Performing Arts Index75,000 entries on research files, clippings, programs, articles, photos and other items
  • Australian Drama Index5,000 entries on Australian playwrights and their work

UNSW Library
One of Australia’s major research libraries, with extensive information on the performing arts. The library is providing temporary remote storage facilities to house the Dennis Wolanski Collection.

The Wolanski Foundation
A supporter of the Dennis Wolanski Library collections since 1973, the foundation is interested in the history of the performing arts and its management by libraries, archives, museums and cultural institutions.

With data on almost 100,000 live events over more than 200 years, AusStage is the world’s largest performing arts database. Founded in 1999, AusStage is funded by the Australian Research Council, led by Flinders University, and managed by a consortium of Australian universities and other partners.

Contact Jonathan Bollen for more information on the project.

Contact Paul Bentley for access to the collection.

Visit the Wolanski Foundation for more information on the Wolanski collection.

Organisational units