Strenae Journal Image

Call for Papers: Special Issue of Strenae
Theatrical Experiences and Ideologies: Conditions for the Emergence of Theatre for Young People in Europe

Theatre for young people has come into existence throughout the twentieth century, thanks to pioneering experiences that took place before a dramatic repertoire was properly established. In France, this repertoire has been part of youth literature since the early 2000s. Thus, we propose to look back at those pioneering experiences, through an aesthetic and historical approach. In particular, we will try to understand how twentieth century ideologies may have influenced or even encouraged the development of a theatre for young people in Europe.

The intention is to highlight the conditions for the emergence of theatre for young people from the interwar years to the 1950s, as this period has fostered the emergence of theatrical practices with and for children. In France, Léon Chancerel and Miguel Demuynck’s innovative experiences are generally contrasted with the commercial purposes of the Théâtre du Petit Monde: it is important, however, to paint a more nuanced picture. Other European cases could be explored in depth so as to become more aware of what was created at a time when societies were suddenly preoccupied with children’s leisure activities, and when some totalitarian states used theatre for young people to achieve ideological ends. The experiments which have been conducted in the USSR and in the “people’s democracies” with the advent of the Soviet regime deserve special attention, both for the magnitude of their political project and for their remarkable artistic achievements.

These are possible avenues for reflection:

  • First of all, it would be interesting to analyze the ideological foundations of this first theatre with and for young people: what refers, in its conception, to a democratic ideal; but also what it owes to the lyrical strength of certain totalitarian ideologies, like communism or fascism.
  • To establish a “European landscape” of this first theatre for young people, it would be useful to examine in some detail the theatrical aesthetics dedicated to young audiences that have developed from the interwar period to the 1950s. Some contributions may focus on particular cases, while others may draw comparisons on the scale of a country, or between European countries. One could also shed light on artistic enterprises which have stayed away from ideology and have defended other ways of dealing with young audiences.
  • Beyond dramatic creation itself, the enquiry can be broadened to the practices of dramatic play that have been initiated by artists towards young people. As a matter of fact, these practices may have enriched the poetic and theoretical imaginary of those who intended to build a theatre for young audiences.
  • The interwar period and the ensuing post-war years turn out to be a decisive starting point for the history of theatre for young people. According to Robert Abirached, Léon Chancerel was the “founding father” of this artistic sector in France ; another key reference at a European level is the path of Latvian director Asja Lacis, commented on by Walter Benjamin in the 1930s. Therefore, one could try to determine how this foundation period has influenced the utopia of a theatre for young people as it has been formulated in Europe in the post-1968 context.

ABIRACHED, Robert, « Une histoire », dans Théâtre aujourd’hui n°9 : Théâtre et enfance : l’émergence d’un répertoire, Paris, Scéren-CNDP, 2003.
BENEVENTI, Paolo, Introduzione alla storia del teatro-ragazzi, Firenze, La Casa Usher, 1994.
CHANCEREL, Léon, Le Théâtre et la Jeunesse, Paris, Bourrelier, 1941.
LACIS, Asja, Walter Benjamin et le théâtre pour enfants prolétariens, Strasbourg, Le Portique, 2007.
LESOURD, Sibylle, L’Enfant protagoniste : naissance, mouvances et paradoxes d’une figure clé du théâtre contemporain pour la jeunesse en France et en Italie, thèse Paris Sorbonne, 2016.
PAGE, Christiane, Pratiques théâtrales dans l’éducation en France au XXe siècle : aliénation ou émancipation ?, Arras, Artois Presses Université, 2010.
ROMAIN, Marilyne, Léon Chancerel : portrait d’un réformateur du théâtre français, Lausanne, L’Âge d’homme, 2005.
VAN DE WATER, Manon, Moscow theatres for young people : a cultural history of ideological coercion and artistic innovation, 1917-2000, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
WINOCH, Michel, Le XXe siècle idéologique et politique, Paris, Perrin, 2009.
YENDT, Maurice, Les Ravisseurs d’enfants. Du théâtre et du jeune spectateur, Arles, Actes Sud-Papiers, 1989.

Proposals (500 words maximum), in English or French should be sent before 14 December 2018 to the journal Strenae:, along with a short biography and bibliography.

Proposals will be reviewed by the editor Sibylle Lesourd and the editorial board of the journal. Authors will be promptly notified of the acceptance or rejection of their proposal. Full articles (30,000 characters, including spaces, maximum) are to be submitted by 4 may 2019. Articles will be accepted in English or French.

Publication is scheduled for Fall 2019.

CFP – Theatrical Experiences and Ideologies: Conditions for the Emergence of Theatre for Young People in Europe