At the beginning of June, the entire team of the ERC project Developing Theatre went on a retreat in Kochel am See (Bavaria) to concentrate for two days on discussing specific topics relevant to the group’s research agenda. The place of retreat was the Georg von Vollmar Academy, situated on a green hill above the beautiful lake “Kochelsee”. Retreats as a working format have two positive sides: they allow a dense time to work together and to learn from each other; and they strengthen the team spirit. Both facets are essential for collaborative research.
In a real ‘think tank’, the PhD students, PostDocs, Senior Researchers as well as current visiting researcher Patrick Ebewo (Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria) discussed the topic of “workshop as a format“: In the course of the 20th century, but especially since the middle of the century, this working format gained increasing importance in the context of theatre education and practice. Based on their respective research projects and source material, historical approaches to ‘workshop’ as a concept, and theories, the researchers elaborated on this theme. A joint working paper on the topic is in the making and will be published on the project’s website in the coming weeks.
A second focus during the retreat was on the concept and discourse of ‘soft power’, a term coined by Joseph S. Nye; according to Nye, ‘soft power’ is “the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than coercion and payment. A country’s soft power rests on its resources of culture, values, and policies.” (Nye, Public Diplomacy and Soft Power, 2008). The reading of Nye’s and other selected texts on the topic and their critical reflection against the background of cultural diplomacy, philanthropy, the arts and media, formed the content of the second day.
The Developing Theatre team is very international, its members come originally from Germany, Ghana, India, Iran, New Zealand, Nigeria and Syria – a true intercultural benefit for each single of the researchers (and for multifaceted research in general). The themes of the retreat were deepened during expanded walks and hikes through the beautiful landscape of the so-called ‘Blue Land‘.