Professor Adrian Curtin
I research Western drama and theatre, particularly work from the late nineteenth century onward associated with modernism and its legacy. My scholarship seeks to illuminate previously unexamined or under-explored aspects of this work by combining textual and performance analysis with cultural history and knowledge from different fields of study. I also research the theatrical representation and performance of Western 'classical' music, bridging theatre and performance studies with musicology.
My first book, Avant-Garde Theatre Sound: Staging Sonic Modernity (Palgrave, 2014), concerns sonic experimentation by avant-garde theatre artists of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, and shows how artists engaged with the sonic conditions of modernity through innovation in dramatic form, characterisation, language, staging, technology, and performance style. This book was supported by a British Academy/Leverhulme grant. I won the 2015 Early Career Research Prize, awarded by the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA), for this book.
My second book, Death in Modern Theatre: Stages of Mortality, approaches modern theatre from a different angle, focusing on the ways in which dramatists and theatre-makers have explored historically informed ideas about death and dying in their work. It examines the opportunities theatre gives us to reflect on the end of life in a compelling and socially meaningful fashion.
I am co-editor of The Edinburgh Companion to Modernism in Contemporary Theatre (Edinburgh University Press, 2023). This collection highlights modernism as an impulse that can be carried forward to the present, re-embodied and re-encountered in theatrical performance. A diverse set of contributions from scholars and theatre practitioners examines the legacy of modernism on the world stage in acts of remembrance, restaging, transmission, and slippage.
I was principal investigator of the AHRC research network Representing 'Classical Music' in the Twenty-First Century from 2019 to 2021. This network explored contemporary artistic and media representation of classical music as well as demographic representation in the classical music industry. I have co-edited a special collection of the Open Library of Humanities on this topic.
In 2022 I was awarded a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship to work for a year on a research project and a programme of public engagement about 'orchestral theatre', focusing on interdisciplinary performance experimentation by contemporary British ensembles. In this fellowship (commencing in January 2023), I will examine music-making that challenges conventional understanding of the orchestra, of musicians as performers, of borders between art forms, and of orchestral repertoire. A project blog is available here. I am under contract with Manchester University Press for a monograph based on this research.
My research interests include:
- modernist and avant-garde theatre from the late nineteenth century onward
- theatre sound, theatre music, and aurality in theatre
- examination of mortality in modern and contemporary drama and theatre
- the representation of Western classical music in drama and theatre
- theatrical or experimental approaches to performing classical music
- theatre and adaptation
- devised theatre
I welcome enquiries from potential PhD students about any of these topics or related topics.
2022-2023 Part of the research group 'The Sound of Theatre: Musical and Acoustemological Approaches to Contemporary Performance Practice in an International Context' (led by David Roesner), Center for Advanced Studies, LMU Munich
2019-2021 'Representing Classical Music in the Twenty-First Century'. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students on any subject relevant to my research expertise. If you are interested in working with me, please send a 500-word outline of your proposed research topic, along with a CV.
- Mariko North, The Virtuosity of Stillness: An Investigation into the Application of Embodied Meditative Practices in Western Classical Pianistic Performance Practice (co-supervisor)
- Howard Gayton, The Esoteric Fool: A Practice-based Pedagogical Approach to Modern Fooling (second supervisor)
- Georgia Achilleopoulou, Autobiography and Vocal Performance in Musical Theatre (second supervisor)
- Sophia Edlund, Voicing Thelxis: Kulning, Lulling, and Siren Song as Practices of Vocal Attraction (co-supervisor, 2023)
- Ohood S. Al-Aqeel, Female Playwrights in Saudi Arabia (second supervisor, 2022)
- Janine Diamond, Turning (in)to the Triple Threat: An Auto/Ethnographic Journey through Pedagogy, Discourse, Documentation and Embodied Experience in ArtsEd's Musical Theatre Training Process (co-supervisor, 2021)
- Jonathan Venn, Madness, Resistance, and Representation in Contemporary British and Irish Theatre (second supervisor, 2016)
- Kate Holmes, Aerial Stars: Femininity, Celebrity & Glamour in the Representations of Female Aerialists in the UK & USA in the 1920s and early 1930s (second supervisor, 2016)
- Amanda Phipps, Learning through Performance: Theatre, Education and the First World War at the Beginning of the Centenary Moment (second supervisor, 2016)
Research through practice
I collaborated with The Llanarth Group, Gaitkrash, and Theatre P'yut on a co-created piece of theatre entitled playing 'the maids' -- a montage of text (primarily English-language, with some Mandarin, Korean, and Irish), psychophysical scores, choreography, and sound compositions.
playing ‘the maids’ previewed at the Granary Theatre in Cork in June 2014 as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. It premiered at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, in February 2015 before touring other venues in Wales. This tour was funded by the Arts Council of Wales.
I continue to collaborate with Gaitkrash on the creation of new theatrical work.
External impact and engagement
- ‘The Orchestra of the Future’ (talk given at Futures: A Festival of Discovery, held at the Cornish Bank, Falmouth, October 2023)
- ‘Orchestral Theatre’ podcast (10 episodes, featuring edited interviews conducted for research), published in 2023
- ‘Representing “Classical Music” in the Twenty-First Century' (AHRC research network, 2019–2021) [3 symposia (held at the University of Exeter, the Royal College of Music, & online; 28 participants (scholars and professionals from the classical music industry, including representatives from Gramophone Magazine, Chineke!, Open Up Music, UK Music, Incorporated Society of Musicians, HERA, Illuminate Women’s Music, & the Institute for Composer Diversity); 37 blog posts; 11 peer-reviewed articles for a special collection of the Open Library of Humanities; 1 new dramatic script and public reading (Black Mozart, White Chevalier, by Dzifa Benson)]
- 'Staging Mortalitity: Provocation & Conversation' [November 2016, Barnfield Theatre, Exeter, part of the Being Human festival]
Contribution to discipline
- I co-founded the Sound, Voice, & Music TaPRA working group.
- I am an editorial board member of Theatre & Performance Design and Music Research Annual and a contributing editor of New Theatre Quarterly.
- I was the book review editor for Studies in Theatre and Performance from 2015-2018.
- I have served as peer reviewer for publishers and journals such as Routledge, Palgrave, Oxford University Press, White Rose University Press, Comparative Drama, Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, Modernism/Modernity, Theatre & Performance Design, and Sound Studies.
I work to advance my students’ intellectual, creative, and personal development by offering provocations, listening to what is said and not said, and creating a relaxed, yet focused, learning environment. I design modules that relate to my research interests and specialisms. In 2017 I was nominated for a University of Exeter Students' Guild award for research-inspired teaching. I was Director of Education for the Drama Department from 2018 to 2020. I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a mentor and assesor for the ASPIRE Professional Recognition Pathway, the University of Exeter's experiential route to fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (now Advance HE).
I joined the University of Exeter in 2012, having previously worked at the University of Lincoln. I did my doctoral training at Northwestern University, where I was a Presidential Fellow, and completed the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama programme in 2011. I have also studied at Boston College and University College Cork. I am originally from Cork, a city full of hills, and now live in another city full of hills.