Stephen Scott-Bottoms


  • Professor of Contemporary Theatre, Drama
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Personal profile


I am currently Professor of Contemporary Theatre and Performance, having moved to the University of Manchester in 2012. Previously, I served for 7 years as the Wole Soyinka Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at the University of Leeds. From 1993-2005 I was a Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer in Theatre Studies at the University of Glasgow.  In addition to publishing widely in theatre and performance studies (see Research tab for an overview), I am also a theatre practitioner - variously as director, performer and writer/dramaturg. Some of my recent, research-related practice - which has explored the use of site-specific performance in contexts of environmental change - is documented on the project websites noted below. 

Over the years, I have worked collaboratively with a range of contemporary theatre and performance practitioners, to present and contextualise their voices in public symposia, and to document their work in printed contexts. This collaborative work has included book projects with the Chicago-based performance company Goat Island (Small Acts of Repair, 2007) and with performance artist and 'drag king' pioneer Diane Torr (Sex, Drag, and Male Roles, 2010). I was invited by writer-performers Tim Crouch and Penny Arcade to contribute contextualising essays to books anthologizing their performance texts (Tim Crouch: Plays One, 2011; Penny Arcade: Bad Reputation, 2009). I also worked with Crouch to present a symposium and resultant journal edition exploring his controversial play The Author (2010-11), and have published extensive interviews with key American playwrights including Edward Albee and Christopher Shinn. 

In 2014 I am serving as a peer reviewer on the Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts panel of REF2014 (Research Excellence Framework). I fulfilled a similar role for RAE2008 (Research Assessment Exercise). I From September 2014, I will serve a 3-year period as Head of Subject Area for Drama. Somehow, I will be juggling this alongside being a Co-Investigator on the major new AHRC research project, "Towards Hydro-Citizenship" (2014-17), which builds directly on my recent performance research work in Shipley, West Yorkshire.

Research interests

I have a wide-ranging set of research interests, covering many aspects of contemporary theatre and performance. I am also increasingly concerned with exploring inter-disciplinary research initiatives, and believe that theatre/performance studies has much to offer in such two-way dialogues.

To date, much of my key publishing has been on American theatre and performance. This has included monographs on the playwrights Sam Shepard and Edward Albee, and a major critical history of New York's Off-Off-Broadway theatre movement of the 1960s, Playing Underground (cited for Outstanding Achievement by the American Society for Theatre Research).

In journal articles and book chapters, I have also taken an active interest in aspects of performance theory. This has ranged from critiques of the disciplinary relationship between theatre studies and performance studies, to the vexed questions of authorship and audience participation (see for example my recent work on Tim Crouch), to examinations of issues around gender performativity (see for example my book written with performance artist Diane Torr, Sex, Drag and Male Roles).

Performance and Environment. My recent research has been largely concerned with practice-based explorations arouund environmental and ecological questions. After developing some theoretical work around ecology in the book Small Acts of Repair, I led an AHRC research network, 'Reflecting on Environmental Change through Site-based Performance' (2010-11: see performance footprint blog and the On Ecology edition of Performance Research). This led to a twin-site project exploring community awareness of rivers and flood risk (Multi-Story Water, 2012-13), in collaboration with the Environment Agency. A major new AHRC consortium project, 'Towards Hydro-Citizenship' (2014-17) builds directly on our findings. Other 'environmental' work looks, conversely, at confined, man-made spaces such as corridors and prisons: see, for example, my forthcoming re-examination of the notorious Stanford Prison Experiment.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Environmental Research Institute
  • Creative Manchester


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