Prof. Peter M. Boenisch, M.A., PhD | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Prof. Peter Boenisch, M.A., PhD

Job title

Professor of European Theatre


I am originally from Southern Bavaria, and studied theatre, English literature, and linguistics, at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich (Germany), where I also wrote my PhD dissertation, supervised by Christopher Balme, on the analysis of movement and corporeal representations in contemporary performance. Having started out as Wissenschaftlicher Assistent (Assistant Professor) for dance and performance at the Institute for Theatre Studies at LMU, I then worked for 16 years at the University of Kent (Canterbury, UK), where I was a co-founder and director of the European Theatre Research Network (ETRN). I am now Professor of Dramaturgy at Aarhus University (AU, Denmark), and maintain my connection to the UK as Professor of European Theatre at Central, where I work on a fractional basis. Central, AU and Kent today together continue the activities of the ETRN as a joint research network with a number of academic and professional partners across Europe.

At Central, I supervise PhD students, mentor researchers, and contribute to the activities of the research department. The main areas of my own research are the fields of theatre directing and dramaturgy, and institutional contexts of theatre-making, with a particular focus on the German- and Dutch-speaking European countries. The US magazine Newsweek once described me as a ‘leading European theatre scholar’ (4/12/2016). I have published around seventy essays and book chapters which reflect, in particular, my keen interest in the intersections of aesthetics and politics in contemporary theatre, discussing issues such as spectatorship, conditions of production, and transcultural theatre.

My monograph Directing Scenes & Senses: The Thinking of Regie (Manchester University Press 2015) maps out my understanding of theatre direction in the European Regie tradition as a dialectical process of mediation. For a number of years, I have followed, worked on and collaborated with German theatre director Thomas Ostermeier, the artistic director of Schaubühne Berlin, on research in the methodology of theatre direction. We co-authored the book The Theatre of Thomas Ostermeier (Routledge 2016).

In 2018, I co-edited, with Clare Finburgh (Goldsmiths) a volume for the book series Great European Stage Directors (series editor: Central’s Emeritus Professor Simon Shepherd), discussing the work of the post-war innovators of political theatre direction in Europe, Joan Littlewood, Giorgio Strehler, and Roger Planchon. I also edited the thirtieth anniversary re-issue of David Bradby and David Williams’s seminal study Directors’ Theatre (Macmillan Red Globe Press 2019), and currently prepare an edited volume on the twentieth anniversary of Thomas Ostermeier as artistic director of Schaubühne Berlin (forthcoming, 2020).

I am an editorial associate of Contemporary Theatre Review, and a member of the new European Association for the Study of Theatre and Performance (EASTAP). 


Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD)

Research Areas

  • theatre direction and dramaturgy
  • institutional critique of theatre production
  • Continental European theatre
  • critical performance theory and political theatre
  • choreography and contemporary dance performance

PHD Supervision

I have supervised 12 PhD and 3 MA Research projects, and have examined dissertations in the UK, Australia and the Netherlands. I welcome innovative and inspired proposals for postgraduate research in the following areas:

  • theatre direction: history, practice, methodologies
  • political and critical theories and aesthetics of theatre and performance, involving critical philosophy of Jacques Rancière, Slavoj Žižek, Hegel, Marcuse, and others
  • studies in the work of European theatre artists such as Thomas Ostermeier, Milo Rau, Maatschappij Discordia, tg STAN, Guy Cassiers, and other artists and aspects of European theatre
  • institutional aesthetics, conditions of theatre production, curating theatre
  • dance, physical theatre and corporeality
  • transcultural and intermedial theatre and performance

Key Publications

2019, forthcoming. ‘Encountering a ‘theatre of (inter-)singularity’: Transformations and rejections of shifting institutional dramaturgies in contemporary German theatre’, in Erika Fischer-Lichte, Christel Weiler and Torsten Jost, eds, Shifting Dramaturgies: Composing Experiences of Interweaving Performance Cultures (Abingdon and New York: Routledge).

2018. (co-ed. with Clare Finburgh), The Great European Stage Directors, Vol. 6: Littlewood, Strehler, Planchon (London: Bloomsbury Methuen).

2018. ‘The hopeless courage of confronting contemporary realities: Milo Rau’s “globally conceived theatre of humanity”’, in Peter Eckersall and Helena Grehan, eds, The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics (Abingdon and New York: Routledge).

2017. ‘“An actor, but in life“: Spectatorial consciousness and materialist theatre. Some notes apropos Althusser‘, in Tony Fisher and Eve Katsouraki, eds, Performing Antagonism: Theatre, Performance & Radical Democracy (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan), pp81-99.

2016. (co-author with Thomas Ostermeier) The Theatre of Thomas Ostermeier (Abingdon and New York: Routledge)

2015. Directing Scenes & Senses: The Thinking of Regie (Manchester: Manchester University Press)

2014. ‘Who’s watching? Me! – Theatrality, the Žižekian Subject and Spectatorship’, in Broderick Chow and Alex Mangold, eds, Žižek & Performance (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave), pp48-60.

2014. ‘What happened to our Nation of Culture? Staging the theatre of the Other Germany ‘, in Nadine Holdsworth, ed., Theatre and National Identity: Re-Imagining Conceptions of Nation (Abingdon and New York: Routledge), pp145-160

2014. ‘Acts of Spectating: The Dramaturgy of the Audience’s Experience in Contemporary Theatre’, in Katalin Trencsényi and Bernadette Cochrane, eds, New Dramaturgy: International Perspectives on Theory and Practice (London: Methuen), pp225-41.

2013. ‘Spectres of Subjectivity: On the Fetish of Identity in (Post-)Postdramatic Choreography’, in Jerome Carroll, Steve Giles, and Karen-Juers Munby, eds, Postdramatic Theatre and the Political: International Perspectives on Contemporary Performance (London: Methuen), pp111-128.

2008. 'Exposing The Classics: Michael Thalheimer’s Regie beyond the Text”, in Contemporary Theatre Review , Special issue 'German Theatre Beyond the Text ', 18:1, February 2008, pp.30-43, ISSN: 1477-2264 (electronic) 1048-6801 (paper)

2006. ‘Aesthetic Art to Aisthetic Act. Theatre, Media, Intermedial Performance’, in Chiel Kattenbelt and Freda Chapple, eds, Intermediality in Theatre and Performance (Amsterdam & New York: Rodopi), pp103-116.

2002. körPERformance 1.0. Theorie und Analyse von Körper- und Bewegungsdarstellungen im zeitgenössischen Theater (München: ePodium)


Listen to Peter's lecture Reclaiming Regietheater: The Dialectics of Directing, given at the London Theatre Seminar, Senate House, University of London (17 October 2013).

Watch Peter in conversation with former Artistic Director of Berlin Volksbühne theatre, Chris Dercon, at the international conference “Systemic Crisis in European Theatre” (April 2018).

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