In the monograph Cooperation and Conflict: GDR Theatre Censorship, 1961-1989 (Oxford University Press, 2010), Laura explores how theatre censorship developed between the construction and fall of the Berlin Wall, how it was practised in different regions and cities, and how it affected genres from classical tragedy to contemporary drama. By exploring cases with different outcomes – ranging from production bans, through uneasy compromises, to official approval – the book challenges the assumption that conflict between censors and theatres was the norm. Laura shows how theatre practitioners were both affected by and participated in censorship, and how conflicts ran along multiple lines, within and between Party institutions, and within theatres themselves. She uses primary sources from the German Federal Archive, Stasi Archive, seven regional and city archives, and seven theatres, plus her own interviews with theatre practitioners and officials. She will now be making this material accessible to Peter Arnott, so that he can work with translations of archival documents and the published research, as he works on his play.
One of the most fascinating figures in early GDR theatre is the playwright, director and poet Bertolt Brecht. In Brecht and Political Theatre: ‘The Mother’ on Stage (Clarendon, 2006), Laura traces the staging history of Brecht’s play The Mother from its origins in the Weimar Republic, through Brecht’s exile and the division of Germany, to the reunified Berlin Republic. As The Mother is the only play that Brecht staged in the Weimar Republic, in exile and in the GDR, it is uniquely placed to offer insights into his development as a theatre director. Laura explores how post-Brechtian directors have used the play to promote their own political and theatrical concerns, from anti-authoritarian theatre to reflections on the legacies of GDR socialism. Laura has continued her work on Brecht, co-editing the volume Brecht and the GDR: Politics, Culture, Posterity with Karen Leeder (Oxford). It was published in 2011 as volume 5 of the Edinburgh German Yearbook.
Laura is now researching a project on representations of crime, detection and surveillance in GDR film and television, and has published articles on this topic. Public engagement is central to her research: in 2011 she collaborated with Susan Kemp on the two-day event ‘The Stasi Are Among Us’ at the Glasgow Film Festival, and she has worked with the Everyman Playhouse in Liverpool and the Unicorn Theatre London on educational activities associated with their productions of plays by Bertolt Brecht.