Stephen Scott-Bottoms


  • Professor of Contemporary Theatre, Drama

Personal profile


I am a writer, teacher and theatre-maker, and have been Professor of Contemporary Theatre and Performance at the University of Manchester since 2012. Previously, I taught at the Universities of Leeds (2005-12) and Glasgow (1993-2005).  In addition to publishing widely in theatre and performance studies, I am actively engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborations. My most recent book, Incarceration Games (2024), engages with debates in psychology and penology by offering historical reconstructions of "dramatic" social psychology experiments. Meanwhile, much of my recent practice-based research has involved working alongside professional stakeholders in flood and climate resilience, using storytelling and facilitated dialogue as methods for developing shared understanding around environmental challenges. 

Over the years, I have also worked collaboratively with a range of contemporary theatre and performance practitioners, to document and contextualise their work. In Playing Underground (2004), I presented a critical history of New York's radical, 1960s Off-Off-Broadway theatre movement, using interviews with many of the practitioners involved as key source material. I have also published books in collaboration 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 have contributed framing essays to collections of performance texts by actor-playwright Tim Crouch and performance artist Penny Arcade, and have published extended interviews with playwrights including Edward Albee and Christopher Shinn. 

I am currently Research Co-ordinator for the department of Drama and Film here at Manchester, and served previously as Head of Department. I have also acted as an external consultant on research in drama/theatre/performance for various other univerties. I was a member of the national peer-review panels for Drama, Dance and Performing Arts during both REF2014 (Research Excellence Framework) and RAE2008 (Research Assessment Exercise). 

In 2022, I co-founded the social enterprise Vesper Hill, as a means to "spin out" my research around storytelling for resilience.

Research interests

I have a wide-ranging set of research interests, covering many aspects of contemporary theatre and performance. I am also engaged in various inter-disciplinary research initiatives, and believe that expertise developed by theatre/performance studies has much to offer other fields.

Throughout my career, I have pursued research relating to American theatre and performance. I have published monographs on the playwrights Sam Shepard and Edward Albee, and edited the Cambridge Companion to Edward Albee (2005). I have also published on playwrights from Maria Irene Fornes to Christopher Shinn, and on performance artists from Julie Laffin to Penny Arcade. My critical history of New York's 1960s Off-Off-Broadway theatre movement, Playing Underground, was cited for Outstanding Achievement by the American Society for Theatre Research.

I have also long taken an active interest in aspects of performance theory. My essays "The Efficacy/Effeminacy Braid" (2003) and "Putting the Document into Documentary" (2006) have been widely cited as interventions in debates around - respectively - the disciplinary relationship between theatre studies and performance studies, and truth claims of verbatim theatre. My articles on British actor-playwright Tim Crouch have used his work to investigate questions of authorship and audience. I have also published several pieces that apply Jacques Ranciere's work to theatre and performance. 

Much of my more recent work has engaged with aspects of applied theatre and performance. My interest in the use of theatre in prisons -- see for instance my article on Geese Theatre, "Silent Partners" (2009) -- led me to toward the research that resulted in my book Incarceration Games, which connects the history of therapeutic role-play in prisons with that of social psychology experiments such as the Stanford Prison Experiment. Meanwhile, in my practice-based research as a theatre-maker and storyteller, I have worked extensively with questions of environment and ecology. This began when I led an AHRC research network, 'Reflecting on Environmental Change through Site-based Performance' (2010-11), which led directly toward a series of community-focused initiatives in West Yorkshire: the AHRC projects 'Before the Flood' (2012-13), 'Towards Hydro-Citizenship' (2014-17), and various subsequent pieces are documented on the Multi-Story Water website. Since 2021, I have been working in collaboration with various partners (the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, Leeds City Council, JBA Consulting) on "telling a better story" around climate resilience and adaptation.

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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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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