Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the University of Edinburgh commissioned the award-winning playwright Peter Arnott to write a play called ENSEMBLE, based on Prof. Laura Bradley’s research on East German theatre censorship. The documentary filmmaker Susan Kemp followed Peter as he developed his script and took it to audiences in Scotland. Our next event will be the premiere of Susan’s film at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Wednesday 9 November 2016.
The project has been developed in partnership with the Playwrights’ Studio Scotland and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It has also been supported by the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh.
Peter Arnott is one of Scotland’s leading playwrights. He made his professional debut in May 1985 with White Rose at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, and in the same month his play The Boxer Benny Lynch opened in Glasgow Arts Centre. Since then he has written some 40 professionally produced theatre plays, often dealing with historical material: the latest of these, Propaganda Swing, deals with jazz in the Third Reich and premiered at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, in September 2014. Peter’s interest in music was also evident in his play Janis Joplin: Full Tilt, which premiered at Oran Mor in November 2014 and went on to have a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014. This followed on from Peter’s success at the Fringe in 2012, when he won a Fringe First for Why Do You Stand There in the Rain, performed by students from Pepperdine University in California. This is one of a series of collaborative projects that Peter has undertaken with academic institutions: in 2008-11 he was Writer in Residence for the John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland, where he delivered a series of lectures with actors on the social context and impact of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species. He was also Writer in Residence with the Traverse Theatre and ESRC Genomics Forum at the University of Edinburgh, writing a play about the impact of scientific ideas.
Prof. Laura Bradley is Postgraduate Director and Chair of German and Theatre at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on the relationship between culture and politics, and she has worked extensively on theatre, censorship, and the playwright and director Bertolt Brecht. Laura is the author of the monographs Cooperation and Conflict: GDR Theatre Censorship, 1961-1989 (Oxford University Press, 2010) and Brecht and Political Theatre: ‘The Mother’ on Stage (Clarendon, 2006), and she co-edited the volume Brecht and the GDR: Politics, Culture, Posterity (Camden House, 2011) with Karen Leeder. She is currently working on a project on Brecht and spectatorship. Laura has worked with the Everyman Playhouse Theatre in Liverpool and the Unicorn Theatre in London on educational activities associated with their productions of plays by Brecht, and in 2011 she collaborated with Susan Kemp on a two-day event at the Glasgow Film Festival, called The Stasi Are Among Us. For more information about Laura’s research, click here.
Susan Kemp is an experienced documentary filmmaker, TV producer and festival programmer, who is joint Programme Director of the MSc in Film, Exhibition and Curation at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked as a researcher and programmer for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and she researched and produced the BBC One series Film 99 with Jonathan Ross. Susan has made programmes about film for BBC Four, including a 60-minute documentary on Iranian filmmaker Samira Makhmalbaf and a weekly series on world cinema. She has directed and produced documentaries on a wide range of subjects, including a six-part history of Scottish journalism. In 2014 she made Nort Atlantik Drift: A Portrait of Robert Alan Jamieson, which premiered at the Glasgow Film Festival, was subsequently screened at the Shetland Film Festival, and Stanza, Scotland’s Poetry Festival. Her most recent work is a documentary about the late filmmaker Antonia Bird for the BBC and Creative Scotland. The film screened on BBC Four in May 2016 and launched retrospectives at the BFI Southbank, Edinburgh Filmhouse and Manchester Home. Click here to read an interview with Susan about her documentary film for Who’s Watching Who?
Nicola McCartney is an award-winning writer and director, who runs the MSc in Playwriting at the University of Edinburgh and is acting as project dramaturge. She was Artistic Director of Glasgow-based new writing theatre company lookout (1992-2002) and has worked as a dramaturge for a range of companies, including the Edinburgh International Festival, the Royal Lyceum and the Tron Theatre. She is one of the Associate Playwrights of the Playwrights’ Studio and has had twenty-six of her stage plays produced. She is currently under commission to the National Theatre of Scotland, the Abbey Theatre, the Traverse Theatre, Tinderbox, and the Royal National Theatre.
Rebecca Raab studied for the MSc in Film, Exhibition and Curation at the University of Edinburgh. She gained her first degree in Media Studies and French at the University of Tübingen, and she has worked as an intern, volunteer or jury member at a range of festivals including the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Glasgow Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, and the German Film Festival in Nantes. She acted as film production assistant during the team’s visit to Germany.
Lizzie Stewart wrote her PhD thesis at the University of Edinburgh and worked for two years as Teaching Fellow in German at St Andrews. She is now Teaching Associate in German at the University of Cambridge. Her PhD thesis explored theatre and migration in contemporary Germany, particularly productions of plays by the Turkish-German playwrights Emine Sevgi Özdamar and Feridun Zaimoglu/Günter Senkel. She worked on schools liaison and impact monitoring for the project.
Michael Wood has recently submitted his PhD thesis at the University of Edinburgh, where he now holds a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. His thesis investigated the East German playwright Heiner Müller and the politics of a ‘democratic’ theatre, focusing on the three plays Der Lohndrücker, Der Horatier and Wolokolamsker Chaussee. He has published research on Heiner Müller and Rimini Protokoll as well as a handful of translations. Outside of academia, he composed the libretto for an opera based on J.S. Bach’s Coffee Cantata, which premièred in Glasgow in April 2015, under his direction. Michael – otherwise known as Mikey – was the project assistant.
We also worked with a number of translators, who translated archive material and interviews for the project: Isabel Adey, Ruth Martin, Rachael McGill, and Conor O’Loughlin. Laura also translated interviews and archive sources for Peter.