Skip to main content

Dr Louise Owen

  • Overview



    Louise is Director of the BA Theatre Studies programmes at Birkbeck, and has served as Director of MA Text and Performance (with RADA). She is Director of Birkbeck’s Peltz Gallery and Co-Director of Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre.

    Louise joined Birkbeck as a full-time member of academic staff in 2011. She previously worked as Lecturer in Applied Theatre at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (2008-2011), and as Visiting Lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Trinity Laban, Goldsmiths College, and Birkbeck.


    • PhD, Queen Mary, University of London, 2010
    • MA in Performance, Queen Mary, University of London, 2005
    • BA (Hons) English Studies, University of Nottingham, 1999
    • Fellow, HEA, 2012

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Director and Admissions Tutor, BA Theatre Studies
    • Co-Director, Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre
    • Director, Peltz Gallery
    • Affiliate Member, Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality

    Professional activities

    Louise has examined PhDs at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Queen Mary, University of London, and Royal Holloway, University of London. She is external examiner of MA Theatre and Performance Studies at King's College, London, and BA Theatre at Brunel University.

    In the arts sector, Louise has worked for a range of organisations including London Bubble, People’s Palace Projects, and Battersea Arts Centre, in press and marketing, audience development, project evaluation, and education and participation.

    Louise is on the International Scientific Advisory Board of the cross-disciplinary journal Law/Art. She regularly acts as peer reviewer for journals and academic publishers in theatre, performance and cultural studies.

  • Research


    Research overview

    Louise specialises in theatre and performance studies, focusing on contemporary theatre and performance in terms of economic change and modes of governance, in particular the social and cultural effects of neoliberalization. Her research has investigated a range of artistic practices in this context, examining themes of regeneration, precarious labour, migration, individualization, gender, sexuality, and industrial change and transformation.

    Her monograph Agents of the Future: Theatre, Performance and Neoliberalization in Britain (Northwestern University Press, in press), examines the period immediately before the emergence of the financial crisis in 2007-8, and the proliferation and institutionalisation of socially-engaged and community based performance. Theatre & Money, which she is writing for Palgrave Macmillan's Theatre& series, addresses longer histories of the representation and implication of finance in theatre practice. Other recent essays analyse the theatrical mediation of the crisis and its consequences, paying particular attention to the ways in which ideas of nation, multiculturalism, gender, history, work and value have been implicated in various responses staged by British artists and theatre companies.

    With Dr. Marilena Zaroulia (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama), she is working on an investigation of historical and contemporary dramaturgies of assembly, most recently exploring modes of digital dramaturgy and social gathering in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Research Centres and Institutes

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    Louise welcomes inquiries from prospective PhD students (including practice-led projects) in relation to her research interests:

    • modern and contemporary drama, theatre and performance
    • histories of alternative, community, educational and socially engaged art, theatre and performance practices
    • political economy and performance
    • theatre, performance and social reproduction
    • theatre, performance and cultural geography

    The projects she is currently co-supervising with colleagues address the performance of emotional labour in the service sector, the work of nineteenth century playwright Henry Arthur Jones, discourses of cultural production in Plymouth, and histories and practices of lesbian theatre and performance.

    Current doctoral researchers



    Louise teaches on BA Theatre and Drama Studies, BA English, BA Liberal Arts, MA Text and Performance, and MA Dramaturgy.

  • Publications



    Book Section

    Conference Item


    • Cranfield, Ben and Owen, Louise (2017) Editorial. Performance Research: On Proximity 22 (3), pp. 1-6. Taylor and Francis. ISSN 1352-8165.
  • Business and community

    Business and community


    Louise has organised numerous public events designed to enable dialogue between and among artists and academics, on a variety of issues of mutual interest and concern. Much of this work proceeds under her co-directorship of Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, and Birkbeck Arts Week.

    • Beyond Glorious: the Radical in Engaged Artistic Practices (2013), a three-day event co-organised with artist Rajni Shah and writer and curator Mary Paterson addressing social engagement in performance, held at Birkbeck and Artsadmin.
    • World Factory: the politics of conversation (2015), an event exploring Metis Arts' World Factory (Young Vic, 2015) with Birkbeck academics in geography, law, business and management, media studies, and theatre and performance.

    • Gendering Austerity (2015 & 2016), a symposium series co-organised with colleagues in Geography and Business, in which theatre and performance artists and companies Alinah Azadeh, Paper Birds, Leo Butler and Clean Break discussed their dramatisations of debt, parenting, poverty, precarity and criminal justice with and alongside scholars and activists.
    • Conventions of Proximity in Art, Theatre and Performance (2016), a day-and-a-half long symposium co-organised with Ben Cranfield, tracing the commonalities and differences between theatre, performance, installation, visual art and museological practices, featuring works from artists Peader Kirk and Teoma Jackson Naccarato, Bruno Roubicek, Caroline Astell-Burt, Sheila Ghelani, and Fourthland.
    • Being European (2016), two day-long festivals with Camden People’s Theatre, University of Winchester and University of Kent, exploring European identity, culture and politics before and after the referendum vote, bringing theatre and performance artists into dialogue with academics in law, politics, and theatre and performance.
    • Twofold: On the Particularities of Working in Pairs (2017), a two-day symposium on the dynamics of working in pairs and in other collaborative modes across disciplines and contexts. Co-organised with artist Karen Christopher, it marked the conclusion of her long-term series of duet performances entitled The Difference Between Home and Poem (Haranczak/Navarre Performance Projects).
    • Human Jam (2018-19), a docu-theatre project exploring the impact of the HS2 development on Camden, originated by Camden People's Theatre, supported by Birkbeck, and with the contribution of MA Text and Performance students.