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Playing Involuntarily

Interdisciplinary Conference on July 3 and 4 at Freie Universität Berlin, Institute of Theater Studies

№ 170/2015 from Jun 12, 2015

A conference will be held on July 3 and 4, 2015, at Freie Universität Berlin to address theater work in prisons, schools, hospitals, companies, and other hierarchical organizations. At the conference entitled "Playing Involuntarily – Shaping Subjectivity in a Theatrical Society" experts from the fields of theater studies and various other humanities subjects will examine the potential of the performative arts to shape and change personalities. They will discuss which theatrical techniques are used for which purpose in the work with inmates, patients, schools, or employees. The aim is to allow a meeting between different directions of a political, ethical, and aesthetic critique of involuntary theater. The conference is being organized by members of The Aesthetics of Applied Theatre group, which is funded by the European Research Council (ERC). The conference is public, and admission is free.

The highly regarded performance theorist and author of the influential work Perform or Else: From Discipline to Performance Jon McKenzie (University of Wisconsin-Madison) will open the conference. His performance talk will be given in English, and all of the other presentations will be in German. Among others, the dramaturge Carl Hegemann will address the paradoxes of subject identity, the Berlin-based theater studies scholar Janina Möbius will talk about passion plays in the youth prison of Mexico City, Fabian Lempa and Florian Evers will give an introduction to seminar drama in human resources development, and the Zurich-based literary critic Sylvia Sasse will address performative censorship under state prohibition and prevention actions in the Soviet Union and Russia.

Marianne Flotron's Multi-channel Video Installation Work

During the conference "Unfreiwillige Spiele - Involuntary Games" the multi-channel video installation Work (2011) by Swiss artist Marianne Flotron is going to be shown to the public in Seminarraum II of the Institute for Theatre Studies.

The video installation Work is the result of bringing the Theatre of Oppressed to the employees of a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands.

The Theatre of Oppressed is a form of participatory theatre originally invented by Augusto Boal in the 1960’s in Brazil with the intention to unmask totalitarian political strategies of the Brazilian dictatorship and to develop ways of resistance. By using different theater techniques, participants start to detect and understand strategies of oppression and learn through acting the first steps of resistance and change.

For WorkMarianne Flotron invited the Columbian Theater of Oppressed director Hector Aristizabal to work for one week with the employees of an insurance company in the Netherlands. He set up a forum theater play (a form of the Theatre of Oppressed) at the company’s premises helped by several actors and employees of the company. In the contemporary labor society where most of the subjects identify themselves through work, the project tried to bring up the idea of a possible democratization of work. The video installation/ video "Work" emphasizes the way the capitalistic economy forms behavior and influences mentality by employing knowledge of social science.

You are most cordially invited to experience the installation, and also join in for an artist talk with Marianne Flotron taking place on Saturday, July 4th, at 7 p.m. where Work and other works will be discussed with the audience.

Further Information

Time and Location

  • Friday, July 3, and Saturday, July 4, 2015
  • Institute of Theater Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Lecture Hall, Grunewaldstr. 35, 12165 Berlin; subway and S-Bahn station: Rathaus Steglitz (U9, S1) , Bus X83


Fabian Lempa, ERC Project "The Aesthetics of Applied Theatre," Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-50990, Email:

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