Marlis Thiersch Prize

Purpose of the award

This award is designed to recognise research excellence in English-language articles/book chapters anywhere in the world in the broad field of drama, theatre and performance studies. The winning article/chapter will be judged for its critical rigor, the quality and significance of the research, quality of written expression, and contribution to the field.


  • The Award is open to all financial members of ADSA. Authors must be members at time of publication and award. In the case of jointly-authored submissions, at least one author must be a member (in this case, the prize money is awarded to the member).
  • The publication period is January to December 2022.
  • There cannot be more than one article or chapter by an author nominated in a given year.
  • Authors who have previously won cannot win the prize again within a 3-year period.
  • The winner is announced at the ADSA conference.
  • The value of the prize is $500.


Nominations are invited by authors, journal editors and interested scholars, specifying full reference for the work nominated and accompanied by a digital copy of the journal article or book chapter.

Deadline: TBC

Marlis Thiersch

Dr Marie Louise Matilde (Marlis) Thiersch (1916-1992) was, with Philip Parsons, one of the co-founders in 1977 of the Australasian Drama Studies Association. She was born in Dusseldorf and lived in China before coming to Australia in 1939 to settle in Adelaide, where she gained her BA and MA, teaching in German Language and Literature at the University of New South Wales.

From 1974 until her retirement she taught in the Australian Theatre Studies Programme in the School of Drama, University of New South Wales, and was a committed promoter of Australian playwriting. From 1979 she was Director of the Australian branch of the international Theatre Institute where she worked selflessly to promote Australian theatre’s international contacts. From 1972 she became a foundation member of the Australian Playwrights Conference and organised nine annual conferences. Her tireless energy and her enthusiasm for promoting Australian theatre and communicating between the academy and the profession is commemorated in this research award by the region’s leading tertiary Theatre Studies association.

2023 Winners

Lara Stevens and Denise Varney, from the University of Melbourne, “The Climate Siren: Hanna Cormick’s The Mermaid" published in TDR.

This timely and poignant article confronts the realities of the climate crisis for theatre and performance practice and the implications of performing against the backdrop of a natural disaster, in this case the Black Summer bushfires of 2020, for the audience, event organisers and presenters, as well as artists. The article analyses Hanna Cormick’s The Mermaid, a performance about disability and climate activism that explicitly links the artist’s health, which is compromised by air pollutants, and the “mentality of limitless resource extraction” of the body as a source of energy to the climate crisis. In the performance, Cormick appears in a spectacular mermaid costume as well as a full-face respirator connected to an oxygen tank with a wheelchair parked behind her. Cormick’s health conditions put her at risk for seizures during the performance as a result of contaminated air, which was exacerbated during this Sydney Festival production by bushfire smoke. In addition to evocative performance analysis, Varney and Stevens situate The Mermaid in a well-established tradition of feminist performance involving risk or self-harm. The article makes an important intervention into this scholarship by asking what happens when the performer enacts this risk in a disabled body. The article also explores the position of spectators; as Stevens and Varney note, “a sign was posted at the entrance to the performance space that read: ‘If you are wearing perfume, cologne, deodorant, or makeup, please move to the back of the space.’” The audience as a result had to contend with how products they might wear every day could harm the performer. Here too, the article situates these choices in relation to a tradition of “offending the audience” while pointing to the Sydney Festival’s lack of emergency response to this environmental emergency to highlight how theatre and performance “will be increasingly imbricated in the wider framework for environmental catastrophes” foreseen by other industries.


Highly Commended:
Ryan Hartigan, 
from the University of Otago, “Breaking Bureaucracy: Law, performing chronopolitics and the logic of terror in Aotearoa-New Zealand’s Te Urewera 2007 raids” published in Performance Research.

Ryan Hartigan’s “Breaking Bureaucracy” analyses the State Terror Raids conducted by Special Tactics police throughout Aotearoa New Zealand on 15 October 2007, “with the brunt of that force falling most heavily upon Te Urewera homelands of Ngāi Tūhoe people,”  to consider “how biopolitical instruments of domination create, maintain and intensify state sovereignty.” The article highlights the role of bureaucracy in the biopolitical, arguing that these raids were not a singular event but, rather, part of an “ongoing pattern of repetition and re-enactment.” Extending this, he also argues that bureaucracy can be productively turned on itself such as when the Waitangi Tribunal, a “body with only advisory capacity and delegated bureaucratic powers,” was used to adjudicate a claim by Ngāi Tūhoe “in negotiations that preceded the State Terror Raids and then rippled in its wake” when the iwi “did not even sign the Treaty of Waitangi at all.” The Waitangi Tribunal, in Hartigan’s words, “turns bureaucracy upon itself and breaks and remakes it.” The committee was impressed by the ambition of Hartigan’s article, which ranges across law, performance, bureaucracy, and personal narrative.


Past recipients of the award

2022:  Chris Hay, from Flinders University, for his article: “Philip Baxter: Man in Search of the Nuclear (St)age,” published in the Journal of Australian Studies.

This elegant article sheds new light on Philip Baxter who, while a well-known public figure in Australia, has largely been treated as peripheral to Australian theatre history despite his central role in founding NIDA and establishing a national subsidized theatre. Hay’s meticulous and original historiography unfolds a compelling story about how this amateur theatre enthusiast turned to drama and playwriting to give expression to his not unproblematic social views; alongside, the author advances fascinating ways to think about the entwining of theatre history and nuclear science in Australia. This article is an excellent example of a contemporary approach to theatre history, which focuses on theatre’s intersections with infrastructure and institutions, and which reads different kinds of archives. The article’s three-act structure and engaging prose bring part of the institutional history of Australian theatre alive, demonstrating new avenues for research in the field.

Highly Commended:
Stuart Young, from the University of Otago, for his essay: “Making the Representation Real: The Actor and the Spectator in Milo Rau’s ‘Theatrical Essays’ Mitleid and La Reprise,” published in New Theatre Quarterly.

This article pursues close readings of two productions by Swiss director Milo Rau through the theoretical lenses of witnessing, metatheatricality, and the auteur’s self-reflexive strategies for representing testimony. Young’s engaging and evocative analyses carefully negotiate the ethical positionings of theatre-makers and spectators, and are underpinned by a thorough engagement with existing scholarship in the field.

Shortlist (in alphabetical order):

Molly Mullen, from the University of Auckland, for her article titled: “Holding It Together: Resilience and Solidarity in the Economies of Auckland Youth Performance Companies,” published in the journal Research in Drama Education. Engaging critically with theories of organizational resilience and grounded in sustained ethnographic research, the article investigates how two Auckland-based performance companies navigate economic precarity, and raises valuable questions for how funding structures and policy-making might develop to better support the youth arts sector in Aotearoa.

Madeline Taylor, from Queensland University of Technology, for her article: “Fitting Materials: Costume Flows, Intra-actions and Agency in and around the Fitting Room,” published in the journal Scene. In this essay, Taylor draws on new materialist theory to argue for the costume as a creative partner in the performance-making process. The author presents a nuanced intersection of critical analysis and practice-led research and offers new insights for both the academy and the industry. 

2021: Sarah Balkin from the University of Melbourne, for her article titled: "The Killjoy Comedian: Hannah Gadsby's Nanette," published in Theatre Research International.

Balkin’s nuanced analysis of Gadsby’s one-woman show titled Nanette draws on her first-hand witness of this multi-award-winning show in Melbourne, New York City, and on Netflix. Compellingly written and skilfully structured, the article pursues the central premise that Gadsby’s decision to quit comedy, and her articulation of that decision in the show, assist us to think about the opposing forces of comedy and humourlessness. The limitations and affordances of Gadsby’s account of comedy are central to Balkin’s analysis. This insightful work of scholarship develops several streams of analysis in support of the central enquiry. While paying close attention to the social and political contexts for Nanette, Balkin’s critical lens on Gadsby’s positionality, on personal trauma as a source of humour, and on the motors of comedy, turn in several directions. As she observes, “Gadsby’s show contributed to and benefited from a moment of special cultural attunement to the relationship between a performer’s actions and their work, and our responsibilities as audiences to that work.” Balkin’s critical approach to her subject is even-handed, sensitive, thorough, and insightful. Importantly, this article critically documents one of the most significant comedy events of recent times, but more than that, Balkin’s article makes a meaningful contribution to the fields of humour studies and identity studies.

Highly Commended:

Dr Emma Willis, from the University of Auckland, for her article titled: “No Exit: Performance Failure in the Global Mall” published in the journal Global Performance Studies. Using the concept of “capitalist realism,” and André Lepecki’s concept of choreopolicing, Willis’s critical enquiry focusses on shopping malls as sites of performance.

Associate Professor Jonathan W. Marshall from WAAPA, at Edith Cowan University, for his chapter titled “Traumatic Dances of “The Non-Self”: Bodily Incoherence and the Hysterical Archive,” which appears in the volume titled Performing Hysteria: contemporary images and imaginations of hysteria, edited by Johanna Braun. In this essay Marshall extends his long-running critical study of the medicalised body, hysteria, and Butoh.

2020: Sarah Thomasson, for “‘Too Big for Its Boots?’: Precarity on the Adelaide Fringe.” Published in Contemporary Theatre Review, 29:1, 2019, pp. 39-55.

Thomasson offers a fascinating investigation of the ways in which a creative precariat subsidises Adelaide’s mega- Fringe Festival. The article opens out from 2016 public complaints that, as the festival has grown, participants can barely hope to recoup costs, let alone return a profit for their artistic labour. Thomasson shows how the festival’s ‘open access’ model is both influenced and undercut by a Neoliberal growth agenda that shifts the main financial risks to artists, demanding of them entrepreneurial drive and slick marketing skills in addition to the ability to produce exciting performances. In such circumstances, Thomasson demonstrates how ‘open access’ is far from open. Instead, the model increasingly limits access to those with the wealth and cultural privilege to self-capitalise their shows and donate their labour. The article expands previous theorisation of the theatrical public sphere by integrating it with festivalisation discourse to point incisive analysis on systems and institutional structures. Thomasson argues persuasively that the open access Fringe Festival model is both unfair and unsustainable: with their free labour, artists subsidise significant economic and cultural gains which the Adelaide Fringe brings to the local government, tourist industry and businesses. The committee was impressed with the international scope of the piece and its compelling mobilisation of the data through a strong argumentative structure, engaging narrative and clear and elegant writing.  Thomasson’s skilful integration of economic and interdisciplinary approaches produces recommendations that could be applied to broader contexts including the academy and digital media landscape. The piece offers a particularly compelling read against the backdrop of 2020’s tsunami of cancelled performances and ensuing economic precarity of the world’s most prestigious arts institutions.

Highly commended:
Caroline Wake, for “Theatre of the Real with Resettled Refugees: Old Problems and New Solutions in The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe." Published in Performance Research, 24:8, 2019, pp. 20-30.

In this highly engaging essay, Caroline Wake argues that ‘theatre of the real’ techniques such as verbatim and testimonial performance are ‘part of the problem not the solution’ in staging works based on experiences of people from refugee backgrounds. Comparing two productions developed by Australian director Ros Horin, Through the Wire (2004) and The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe (2013/2015), Wake examines the dangers inherent in such projects of re-traumatisation and othering of participant refugees for the voyeuristic gaze of citizen spectators. Her lively comparative analysis evokes the rich, often joyous energy of the later production, giving her reader important insight to its award successes and positive critical reception and demonstrating how the work shifted focus from pitying victims to celebrating survivors. Nonetheless, she presents undeniable evidence that the human cost of employing Theatre of the Real techniques in such contexts may simply be too high.

2019  Diana Looser for "Theatrical Crossings, Pacific Visions: Gaugin, Meryon, and the Staging of Oceanian Modernities", published in Recherche Littéraire/Literary Research, 34 (Été 2018/Summer 2018). pp. 7-42.

Diana Looser’s article, “Theatrical Crossings, Pacific Visions: Gauguin, Meryon, and the Staging of Oceanian Modernities", stands out for the scope of the research, the quality of the writing, the significance of the research question and the contribution to the field of theatre studies.  Looser provides an expert and incisive close reading of Les Parfums du Silence by Jean-Marc Tera'ituatini Pambrun (Tahiti Ma’ohi) and Pasifika by Stuart Hoar (Aotearoa New Zealand) in order to unfold a larger argument about what she calls Oceanian modernity and the interweaving cultural currents that constitute it. The choice of plays--one by an indigenous writer, the other by a non-indigenous writer; one Francophone, one Anglophone; one censored, one receiving international festival staging; both addressing important modernist European visual artists (Gauguin and Meryon) while privileging indigenous epistemologies--allows her to contrast multiple perspectives on the constitution of contemporary identity in the Oceanic context. Looser convincingly argues for the cultural and intellectual significance of what theatrical analysis has to add to such conversations, particularly highlighting theatre’s ability to encompass complexity, contradiction and concurrency.

Highly commended:
Margaret Hamilton for "Genet's 'Rituals of the Oppressed' and the Main Stage: Benedict Andrews' The Maids at Sydney Theatre Company", published in Contemporary Theatre Review, 28:4, pp. 445-460 

Margaret Hamilton’s article provides an exemplary close-reading of a significant theatrical production of Genet’s dramatic text.  Hamilton applies a critical lens to the celebrity status of the two lead actors in the production to examine how the casting and production both complicate and at times undermine the politics of the play.  Hamilton provides nuanced layers of argumentative complexity as she unfolds her analysis. As the article draws to a close, the author moves from a specific focus on the Sydney Theatre Company production of The Maids to consider the broader questions of the political and social function of theatre in the contemporary era that it raises.  

2018 Gillian Arrighi (University of Newcastle) "The Controversial "Case of the Opera Children in the East": Political Conflict between Popular Demand for Child Actors and Modernizing Cultural Policy on the Child?," published in Theatre Journal, 69: 2, 2017, pp. 153-173.

A compelling and meticulous work of scholarship, Arrighi skilfully intertwines theatrical and social history, and tells us a great story in the process.  The article examines the ‘case of the Opera Children in the East’ a political and moral panic about the mistreatment of Australian child actors abroad, which resulted in significant legislative change.  Arrighi provides accreting layers of analysis that demonstrate the ‘dramatic’ conflict between the ways of thinking and behaving that facilitated the economies of child labour at the time (as well as informing the reception of these performances by audiences), and new modernizing concepts of the ‘child’, ‘childhood’ and ‘parenting.’  The article renders this comparison of old and new ways of thinking by vividly evoking the spectacle of full casts of children performing of adult roles in musical comedies and explains how and why these practices came to an end.  The research is the first study to address how companies of child actors contributed to the global popularity of touring musical, and a significant contribution to transnational theatre history.  Arrighi’s essay is both fascinating in its own right, and demonstrates how effective the analysis of theatrical histories can be in expanding our understanding of social and political history. 

Highly Commended: 

Nien Yuan Cheng, “Globalisation, Transgression, and the Call to Performance Studies,” published in About Performance, 14-15, 2017, pp. 261-84.

Cheng’s essay provides an arresting and thought-provoking account of the state of the field of performance studies by providing a unique cross-cultural global perspective.  This is a highly impressive response to the political state of the field by an emerging scholar, and Cheng’s challenges her readers to critically locate their scholarly practices, using her own research process as exemplar.  Cheng is rigorous in her extraction of essential phrases, strongly shaping the forward progress of her argument while always giving precise attention to counter-arguments.  The result is a beautiful piece of reflexivity in action with the brave, commendable, and well executed purpose of challenging the hegemony and heirarchy of a field which, as Cheng argues, stakes itself on is commitment to liminality, marginality, and radicality.

Glen McGillivray, “Rant, Cant and Tone: The Voice of the Eighteenth-Century Actor and Sarah Siddons,” published in Theatre Notebook, 71: 1, 2017, pp. 2-20.

“Rant, Cant and Tone,” is a rigorous piece of scholarship that is remarkably evocative of its subject: the actor’s voice.  With great care, McGillivray challenges historical assumptions about acting styles in order to tell a more nuanced story about what constituted ‘good’ performance in the 18th century.  The article is especially striking for the level of detail it offers in its analysis of a particularly difficult theatre history subject: what the actor sounded liked, and what affective responses his or her voice produced in their audience.  Through carefully building an account of Sarah Siddons voice and performance style, McGillivray is able to effectively deliver on proposition made at the outset, which is that historical performance styles need to be understood on their own terms, rather than in relation to later prevailing paradigms: that is, as he argues, actors haven’t gotten better over time, they have just become different.  The article has great scope for helping scholars understand how audiences appreciate acting both in the particular case of Siddons and her contemporaries, but by extension throughout history and today

Denise Varney, “‘Not Now, Not Ever’: Julia Gillard and the Performative Power of Affect,” published in Performance, Feminism and Affect in Neoliberal Times, ed. E Diamond et al, 2017, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 25-38.

Varney delivers a vibrant and engaging analysis of Julia Gillard’s notable speech, which was a key moment in recent Australian politics.   By analyzing not only the speech itself, but also the political performances of the opposition forces that precipitated it, Varney provides a dynamic reading of the Australian political landscape that focuses on and exposes its affective undercurrents.  Conceptually coherent and eloquently expressed, the notion that Varney forwards of the performative power of affect will be of value to other scholars, and especially useful in contemporary feminist performance studies.  Furthermore, the chapter demonstrates what performance studies analysis has to offer to broader political discourse and scholarship.

2017 Alexandra Kolb (Queen Mary University, London) "Wigman's Witches: Reformism, Orientalism, Nazism" in Dance Research Journal 48(2), August 2016: 26-43

The task that Alexandra Kolb has set for herself in this wonderfully insightful piece of research might best be summarised as an attempt to understand the Hexentanz, or “Witch Dance”, of Mary Wigman, through the lens of what the anthropologist, Clifford Geertz (following Lee Baxandall) calls ‘a period eye’. In other words, while Wigman’s performances have acquired legendary status as a landmark in the development of expressionist/modernist dance (and scholars regularly trace the line from Laban, though Wigman and Kurt Jooss, to more contemporary dance theatre artists such as Pina Bausch), there is surprisingly little commentary on how Wigman’s work made sense to the audience of its day—or, rather, how it appealed in different ways to the competing sensibilities of quite diverse audiences and how this range of possible meanings shifted as German society itself was shifting.

The canonical status of the work has tended to erase its complex production history. As Kolb reminds us, Wigman first conceived Hexentanz “in 1914 under a constitutional monarchy”; a revised version was produced “in 1926 against the backdrop of a liberal democracy” (this being the version for which the famous, fragmentary film documentation still exists, now so easily accessible on YouTube); and a third—group—version “was fashioned in 1934 under the Fascist dictatorship of the Third Reich”.

The hostility of the Nazi regime towards so much experimental, modernist art is, of course, well known. This, together with the dominant trend in dance scholarship that celebrates Wigman’s defiantly feminist gestural language, has overshadowed a more complex, troubling story about the reception of the work. Through careful historical and archival research, including translations of previously unpublished diary excerpts, Kolb demonstrates convincingly that “in constructing her dances, Wigman partook in a widely disseminated … early twentieth-century German discourse on witchcraft and witch persecutions, which included interpretations ranging from anti-clerical and feminist to racist and anti-Semitic”.

The ‘inconvenient truth’ revealed by Kolb is that we can count a figure such as Heinrich Himmler among those who would most likely have applauded the work. This is not to suggest that Wigman was deliberately targeting such an audience—indeed, her modernist leanings and her teaching activities in the 1930s did come under close, occasionally hostile scrutiny from the Nazi regime—but it is to acknowledge, to an uncomfortable degree, how Wigman’s embodiment of myths and archetypes involved dancing on ideological ground that leading Nazis also found fertile.

Highly Commended
Suzanne Little (University of Otago) "Dramaturgies of the Left Behind: Mobility and Stickiness in The Disappearances Project" in TRI 41(3): 245-257.

A very sensitively developed piece of performance analysis, leading into an argument that reaches beyond the specifics of the chosen case study, namely
 version 1.0’s documentary theatre production, The Disappearances Project, based upon the testimonies of people whose lives have been marked by the unexplained disappearance of a person (typically a family member) to whom they were close. The paper argues persuasively that The Disappearance Project creates an “aesthetics of indeterminacy” that troubles and extends current understandings of how affect and engagement work in theatre. In so doing, Little demonstrates effectively how certain ideas that have been circulating within the ‘new mobilities’ paradigm in the humanities and social sciences may be also brought to bear on the analysis of a piece like The Disappearances Project. Throughout the article, there are many effective, elegant descriptions of practice which ground the performance analysis. The “sign-posting” of the argument is also clear and exemplary.
Bree Hadley (Queensland University of Technology) “Mobilising the Mobilities Paradigm in Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies: Potentials, Politics and Pitfalls.” Australasian Drama Studies 69 (October): 7-28.

This article provides a wonderfully useful ‘primer’ on key concerns within the ‘mobilities’ turn in the humanities/social sciences and some very suggestive comments on how it could be taken up further in performance practice and performance theory. Hadley tests these ideas by surveying of a range of relevant practices, including “walking performances”, site-based works that involve some element of place re-activation, ‘dark tourism’ performances, and various events that engage with the politics of the surveillance society. The great strength of the essay is that it doesn't simply show how such practices ‘tick the boxes’ in terms of the theoretical agenda of mobility scholars—Hadley is also very much concerned with challenging the perceived inclusiveness of mobility as a guiding concept and she does this through (again) suggestive references to the work of disabled performance artists. This generous and incisive paper will serve as an excellent stimulus for many other researchers in our field.

2016 Nicola Hyland (Victoria University of Wellington) “Beyoncé’s Response (eh?): Feeling in Ihi of Spontaneous Haka Performance in Aotearoa/New Zealand” in TDR: The Drama Review 59(1), 2015: 67 – 82.

Hyland is an exceptional guide for both insiders and cultural outsiders, offering a range of ‘feelingful’ readings of haka performances that contest and complicate previous scholarship: in proposing that “the criterion for critique is not in the form but in the feeling” (80), Hyland offers a nuanced and insightful way forward. The judges are certain that this article will have a long-lasting impact on both scholars and students. It is a superlative example of cultural performance analysis; that is, Hyland brings a wholly Maori perspective to the research process, right down to the footnotes, which acknowledge the genealogy of those whose work she cites. (The judges were especially pleased that this was an ADSA-driven piece of work, expanded from a presentation at the 2014 Conference!). Hyland’s erudite and clear prose, combined with her eye for a great story and a beautiful image, set this work apart and made it a clear, unanimous winner of the 2016 Marlis Thiersch Prize.

2015 Helen Gilbert (Royal Holloway University of London) ”Let the Games Begin’: Pageants, Protests, Indigeneity (1968-2010)’. In The Politics of Interweaving Performance Cultures, edited by Erika Fischer-Lichte, Torsten Jost, Saskya Iris Jain (London: Routledge, 2014) 156-175.

What a story! This elegant essay looks at the complex, often contradictory way indigenous peoples have engaged with the mega-spectacles performed as part Olympics opening ceremonies. Gilbert wants readers to recognise that indigenous performances – in the stadium and in the streets outside – contain embodied enactments of agency. The essay is an extended, richly researched and passionately argued demonstration of the need for ‘new and nuanced ways of reconceptualising the grounds of aesthetic exchange’. Beyond the relatively recent academic vogue for the idea of ‘interweaving cultures’, she wants us to think again about the ‘particular threads and knots in a meshwork of performances that have brought indigeneity and Olympism into dialogue, however agonistically.’ Gilbert’s presentation and analyses of the processes and politics both of production and of protest are thoroughgoing, compelling and challenging. Her theoretical resources are very well-deployed and made tangible in relation to her case studies in ways that offer significant insights into the current state of postcolonial performance scholarship as well.

Short List Diana Looser‘The Fiery Pacific: Volcanic Eruptions and Settler-State Theatricality in Oceania, 1780-1900’. In Theatre Survey 55:3 (September 2014) 362-392. This essay is meticulously researched, rigorously analysed and carefully positioned at the intersection between performance and postcolonial studies. Looser uses the specifics of her material to show us what study of ‘selected portrayals of the Pacific volcano on European, American, and Australasian stages from the 1780s to 1900’ can tell us about the shifting politics of exploration and settlement. She presents an engaging, compelling narrative, through which we progressively encounter vivid descriptions of the performances – aesthetically and theatrically – in their historical and social contexts. We learn much about the history of such popular theatrical productions – that is, about how such spectacles were produced – and also are challenged to think differently about the ‘transnational and cross-cultural dynamics of colonial theatricality in Oceania’. Looser’s ability to tack back and forth between close readings of playscripts, historical reconstruction of performance events, commentary on political happenings and larger cultural discourses is tremendous. To get from Pompeii to Lord of the Rings in thirty pages is quite a ride!

Emma Willis, ‘Emancipated Spectatorship and Subjective Drift: Understanding the Work of the Spectator in Erik Ehn’s Soulographie’. In Theatre Journal 66:3 (October 2014) 385-403. Willis presents a very careful, close reading of Rancière’s arguments in Emancipated Spectator as a frame for analysing Erik Ehn’s Soulographie. With this essay, she uses Rancière’s work as leverage for a sensible critique of the work at hand at the same time that she inserts herself constructively into the big ‘where to now?’ debate for theories of socio-political or ethical or affective engagements of performance. In examining the desire to recuperate in some way ‘the aesthetic-contemplative’ mode of spectatorship, Willis makes a significant contribution to current thinking about what the ‘good’ of performance might be and what kinds of dramaturgical structures might best foster this kind of experience.

2014 Caroline Wake, (University of New South Wales) ‘Between Repetition and Oblivion: Performance, Testimony, and Ontology in the Refugee Determination Process’. In Text and Performance Quarterly 33.4 (July 2013) 326-343

The committee agreed that this elegantly written work of scholarship really nails the criterion of ‘lasting merit’. It manages to be meticulous and insightful, theoretically dense and provocative, without sacrificing purpose and clarity. Wake takes a very particular case study – of the refugee asylum-seeking interview – and analyses the performances therein with precision and depth. She calls on an impressive array of sources, and she makes effective use of theory to construct and give political force to her critical analysis. In so doing, she challenges conventional wisdom about the virtues of testimonial performance (‘bearing witness’) and forces a re-think of how performance studies – ‘for its interest in bodies, encounters, processes, and politics’ she says – might work to human experience in extremis.

Short List Jonathan W. Marshall, ‘The World of the Neurology Ward: Hauntology and Euopean Modernism mal tourné in Butoh’. TDR 57.4 (T220, Winter 2013) 60-85.
Maryrose Casey, ‘Conditions of Recognition: Social Aesthetics and Aboriginal Australian Performance’. In Aesthetics 23.1 (June 2013) 92-109.

2013 Bryoni Trezise, (University of New South Wales)“Spectatorship that Hurts: Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio as Meta-affective Theatre of Memory,” Theatre Research International 37.3 (2012): 205-220.

This is an astonishingly, vividly intimate documentation of a striking performance experience that is also rigorously academic. Trezise implicates and renders us as readers in the reading, much as 'BR.#04 Brussels' seems to have worked on the spectators.  This is exciting research that offers fresh insights into the relation between affect and spectatorship, and its connection with a broader politics of cultural memory. In particular, Trezise’s focus on affective listening offers compelling ways of rethinking embodied reception. Trezise argues that the works of Soc`?etas Raffaello Sanzio generate a particular affective dimension that remediates the function of affect as it works to empathically bind spectator subjectivities through relations of power to images of suffering others. This generates a form of spectatorship that hurts: morally, emotionally and physically. The essay is very well written, and every now and then produces a beautifully-turned and astonishing phrase/sentence such as on p.206, where she notes that her  ‘cellular stitching might have just come undone’ in response to the staged act she has witnessed.

Short List Murray Edmonds (University of Auckland), “One Night in Motley Cow: Grotowski and Nietzsche,” Performance Research 17.1 (2012): 113-125.
William Peterson (Monash University) “La Ville Sensuelle: Seeking a ‘Better City, Better Life’ in the French Pavilion,” Access 31.2 (2012): 39-51, special issue on Theatre and Performance in the Asia-Pacific.
Diana Looser (University of Queensland) “Moving Islands: Mapping the Samoan Diaspora in Contemporary Transnational Theatre from the South Pacific,” Contemporary Theatre Review 22.4 (2012): 451-466.

2012 Joanne Tompkins (University of Queensland) "Site-Specific Theatre and Political Engagement across Space and Time: The Psychogeographic Mapping of British Petroleum in Platform's And While London Burns", Theatre Journal, 2011, 63.2, pp. 225-243

This outstanding entry ­ offered a cogent, focussed account of an innovative performance that is expertly located within the larger socio-political context of climate change, ethics and environmental science. Strong mastery of the discourse, and balance of attention to performance with context and intellectual milieu. The concept of ‘psychogeography’ — an affective means of spatial engagement offers a new theoretical framework — advances the claims of  cultural and emotional geographies that have circulated for the last 5 years. In her conclusion, Tompkins notes there is a time limit on the ways in which environmental theatre can intervene in climate change. As she warns ‘there is a time limit on the potentiality one can derive from this production that is well beyond the restrictions or diversions that traffic and building modification may provoke: once the inundation of the Thames affects London and the Great Flood happens, And While London Burns may become a historical record documenting warnings ignored’.

Short List Bree Hadley (Queensland University of Technology) "(Dia)logics of Difference: Disability, Performance and Spectatorship in Liz Crow's Resistance on the Plinth", Performance Research, 2011, 16.2, pp. 124-131.
Suzanne Little (University of Otago) "In and Out of Tune with Reality: Opposed Strategies of Documentary Theatre", Double Dialogues, 2011, 14.

2011 Helena Grehan (Murdoch University) "Aalst: Acts of Evil, Ambivalence and Responsibility" in Theatre Research International No. 35.1 (2010): 4-1

This year’s Award goes to a very deserving scholar and long serving member of this Association, Helena Grehan, for her journal article Aalst: Acts of Evil, Ambivalence and Responsibility’. Dr Grehan’s submission stood out for its elegance of form, the clarity of its writing and the depth of its scholarship. This is an article deeply engaged with critical theory, cogently focusing the work of Agamben and Levinas to illuminate analysis of a work of contemporary performance about a deeply confronting judicial case, of parents on trial for the murder of their two children. The author’s voice drives the commentary. She engages the reader at all stages of the argument, taking them with her into a deep consideration of the relationship between the original event and its layers of representation in performance. This article comes out of Grehan’s long term engagement with the ethics of representation and spectatorship. It offers a tightly focused but nuanced analysis, balancing the rigorous application of theory and a playful, meditative and clearly performative engagement with the topic, to discuss issues raised for the spectator by this particular work in a series of productions in different cultural locations, in Belgium, Scotland and Australia.

Honourable Mention Will Peterson (Monash University) "Performing Indigenity in the Cordillera: Dance, Identity and Politics in the Highlands of Luzon" in Asian Theatre Journal No. 27.2 (2010): 246-268

Short List Suzanne Little (University of Otago) "Re-Presenting the Traumatic Real: Douglas Wright's Black Milk" in Dance and Politics ed. Alexandra Kolb, Bern: Peter Lang, 2010: 233-254.
Glen McGillivray (University of Sydney) "Pleasure Out of Suffering: Negotiating Material Reality through Fetishism and Disavowal in Food Court" in About Performance No. 10 (2010): 93-106.

2010 Paul Dwyer and Liza-Mare Syron (University of Sydney) "Protocols of Engagement: 'Community Cultural Development' Encounters an Urban Aboriginal Experience" in About Performance No. 9: 169-191.

2009 Gay McAuley (University of Sydney) "Not magic but work: Rehearsal and the Production of Meaning" in Theatre Research International, 33: 276-288.

2008 Ian Maxwell (University of Sydney) "The Ritualization of Performance (Studies)" in Graeme St John (ed) Victor Turner and Cultural Performance, New York: Berghan Books, 2008.

2007 Veronica Kelly (UQ)  "An Australian Idol of Modernist Consumerism: Minnie Tittel Brune and the Gallery Girls", Theatre Research International, vol. 31, no. 1, 2006, pp. 17-36.

2006 Jonathan Bollen (UNE / Flinders) "Remembering masculinities in the theatre of war", Australasian Drama Studies, no. 46, April 2005, pp.3-19.

2005 Rachel Fensham (Monash University) "Mrs Patrick Campbell as 'hell cat': Reading the Surface Histories of a Female Body"  inNineteenth Century Theatre and Film, vol. 30, no. 2, Winter 2003.

2004 Helen Gilbert (University of Queensland) "Black and White and Re(a)d All Over Again: Indigenous Minstrelsy in Contemporary Canadian and Australian Theatre" published in Theatre Journal, "Theatre and Activism", vol. 55, no. 4,  December 2003. 679-698.

2003 Ed Scheer (University of NSW) "What does an avatar want: Stelarc's e-motions" published in The Cyborg Experiments, Joanna Zylinska (ed.) (London and New York: Continuum Press, 2002) pp.81-100.

2002 Peta Tait, (Theatre Studies, La Trobe) "Fleshed, Muscular Phenomenologies: across sexed and queer circus bodies" in Body Show/s, ed. Peta Tait, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000, pp. 60-78.

2001 Jacquline Lo (Centre for Cross-Cultural Research, ANU) "Beyond Happy Hybridity: Performing Asian-Australian Identities"  inalter/asians: Asian-Australian identities in art, media and popular culture, ed. Ien Ang, Sharon Chalmers, Lisa Law and Mandy Thomas, Annandale: Pluto Press, 2000, pp.152-68.

1999 Veronica Kelly (Department of English, University of Queensland) '"Who's the Bigger Dill?": The Madhouse in Recent Australian Drama' in The Body in the Library, ed. Leigh Dale and Simon Ryan (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998). Series: Cross/Cultures - Readings in the Post/Colonial Literatures in English.

1998 Jane Goodall (University of Western Sydney) 'Transferred Agencies: Performance and the Fear of Automatism'. The text can be accessed at Theatre Journal.

1997 Robert Jordan (University of New South Wales) 'Visualising the Sydney Theatre, 1796