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Louise Owen

  • Overview



    Louise is Director of the BA Theatre Studies programmes at Birkbeck, and also 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
    • PGCE HE, Birkbeck, University of London, 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 BA Theatre at Brunel University and has served as external examiner of MA Theatre and Performance Studies at King's College, London.

    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.

    Professional memberships

    • Louise has served on the committee of the US-based Performance Studies Focus Group of ATHE: Association of Theatre in Higher Education, and organised its pre-conference symposia in Los Angeles (2010), Chicago (2011) and Washington DC (2012). She has held memberships of ASTR: American Society of Theatre Research (US), IFTR: International Federation of Theatre Research, PSi: Performance Studies International, and TaPRA: Theatre and Performance Research Association (UK).


  • Research


    Research interests

    • Modern and contemporary theatre and performance
    • Socially engaged performance practices across disciplines, encompassing dance, digital art and performance, film, music, theatre and visual art
    • Political economy, public policy and performance
    • Histories, dramaturgies and practices of theatrical assembly
    • Culture and social reproduction

    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 Restaging the Future: Theatre, Performance and Neoliberalization in Britain (Northwestern University Press, 2023), 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. 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, government, history, work and value have been implicated in various responses staged by British artists and theatre companies.

    Theatre & Money, which she is currently writing for Bloomsbury Methuen's Theatre& series, addresses the representation of money in visual art, theatre and performance, focusing on works created in the aftermath of the crisis. Arising from this research, her new project 'Theatrical Currency: Money in Post-War British Theatre' investigates how British plays and performances in the post-war period defined and dramatized the workings of money.

    With Dr. Marilena Zaroulia (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama), she is also working on an investigation of historical and contemporary dramaturgies and practices of assembly. Their recent collaborative text, 'Re-membering assembly' (2022), explores 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 theatre and performance
    • Political economy and performance
    • Socially engaged performance practices across disciplines, encompassing dance, digital art and performance, film, music, theatre and visual art
    • Histories, dramaturgies and practices of theatrical assembly
    • Performance and social reproduction

    The projects she is currently co-supervising with colleagues address discourses of cultural production in Plymouth, and histories and practices of lesbian theatre and performance.

    Current doctoral researchers


    Doctoral alumni since 2013-14



    Louise teaches on BA Theatre and Performance, BA Theatre and English, BA Theatre and Creative Writing, BA Theatre, Film and Media, BA Theatre and Arts Management, 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 directorship of Birkbeck's Peltz Gallery, co-directorship of Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre (with Professor Fintan Walsh), and the School of Arts' annual festival Birkbeck Arts Week (with Professor Sue Wiseman and Adam Castle, Events and Exhibitions Producer).

    • Louise has co-organised Birkbeck Arts Week, the School of Arts' annual festival, since 2012. It is a multidisciplinary showcase of the research and practice of academics, artists, associates and students, consisting of talks, screenings, workshops, exhibitions, and performances. In recognition of their work, in 2021-22, Louise and fellow Arts Week colleagues won the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching for their re-articulation of the festival as an entirely digital offering during the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions of 2020 and 2021.
    • Human Jam (2018-19) was a docu-theatre project exploring the impact of the HS2 development on Camden, originated by Camden People's Theatre (CPT). The St James' Gardens Project, an early version of the performance, was presented at Birkbeck Arts Week 2018. In collaboration with CPT, Louise negotiated support for Human Jam from Birkbeck's Public Engagement Research Innovation Fund, and connected MA Text and Performance students to the project as participatory workshop assistants.
    • Twofold: On the Particularities of Working in Pairs (2017) was a two-day symposium Louise co-organised with artist Karen Christopher on the dynamics of working in pairs and in other collaborative modes across disciplines and contexts. It marked the conclusion of Karen Christopher's long-term series of duet performances entitled The Difference Between Home and Poem (Haranczak/Navarre Performance Projects). Louise co-organised the symposium, and curated a CHASE-funded training workshop for doctoral researchers entitled 'On the Particularity of Conference Presentation', inviting participants to consider how performance techniques might enhance the public delivery of their academic work.
    • Conventions of Proximity in Art, Theatre and Performance (2016) was a day-and-a-half long symposium which Louise co-organised with Ben Cranfield (Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies). The symposium traced the commonalities and differences between theatre, performance, installation, visual art and museological practices, and featured works from artists Peader Kirk and Teoma Jackson Naccarato, Bruno Roubicek, Caroline Astell-Burt, Sheila Ghelani, and Fourthland. Arising from the symposium's proceedings, Louise and Ben co-edited the journal edition Performance Research: On Proximity (2017).
    • Being European: Before the Referendum and After the Referendum (2016) were two day-long festivals produced by Camden People’s Theatre in collaboration with Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, University of Winchester and University of Kent. The festivals explored 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. With colleagues, Louise co-curated the talks programme of both festivals, and co-curated the performance programme of After the Referendum.
    • World Factory: the politics of conversation (2015) was 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, presented at Arts Week 2015 to coincide with the run of the performance. Prior to the presentation of World Factory at the Young Vic, Louise liaised with Metis Arts and director Zoe Svendsen to produce workshop trials of the performance staged in the School of Arts performance studio attended by BA and MA students. Following the Arts Week event, Louise curated her colleagues' responses as a contribution to an edition of Contemporary Theatre Review: Interventions