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Dr Karen Quigley
Subject Head of Theatre Senior Lecturer



Born in Ireland, I completed my BA at Trinity College Dublin, MA at RADA/King’s College London and PhD at King’s College London. I joined York in September 2014 from the University of Chester, where I had been Lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies since 2011. I am currently Programme Leader for MA Theatre-Making.

I teach across BA and MA programmes in theatre, and also supervise several PhD research students. As a lecturer and supervisor in these contexts, I always aim to encourage the development of practical theatre thinkers and thoughtful theatre practitioners. Moving fluidly between the lecture room and the studio space, I explore ways of thinking, talking, playing and making theatre that are constantly engaging with their critical, political and cultural contexts.


Selected publications


  • Performing the Unstageable: Success, Imagination, Failure, (London: Bloomsbury, 2020)

Journal Articles

  • ‘Departure Points: Beginning training in site-based performance practices’ in Studies in Theatre and Performance, 9:2 (July 2018)
  • 'Offering Resistance: Unstageable Stage Directions in Sarah Kane’s Cleansed’ in European Drama and Performance Studieshors-série (special edition) (2017)
  • 'Letting the truth get in the way of a “good” story: Spectating solo and Blast Theory’s Rider Spoke’ in Journal of Contemporary Drama in English, 4:1 (2016)
  • 'Theatre On Call: Participatory Fainting and Grand-Guignol Theatre’, in Performance Research, 16:3, (September 2011).

Book Chapters

  • HERE & NOW, There & Then: in conversation with Veronica Dyas’, in Radical Contemporary Theatre Practices by Women in Ireland, ed. Miriam Haughton and Maria Kurdi, Carysfort Press, 2015.
  • ‘Auto-ethnography and dissolving dichotomies’, in Performance and Ethnography, ed. Peter Harrop and Dunja Njaradi, Cambridge University Press, 2013.



Research Interests

  • Critical approaches to staging and unstageability
  • European theatre histories
  • Contemporary performance practice in the UK and Ireland
  • Voice and music in contemporary theatre
  • Autoethnographic approaches to writing about performance
  • Pedagogies of site-based theatre and performance practices in higher education

My current research explores moments of unstageability in European theatre since the 1860s. This project attempts to provide a counter-dialogue to conventional modern theatre histories, which tend to focus on what the theatre has been able to stage at any particular time, but rarely on what it has not. My first monograph on this subject, Performing the Unstageable: Success, Imagination, Failure, articulates a new and innovative framework for thinking through impossibility and unstageability in contemporary theatre and performance, and was published by Bloomsbury in February 2020.

I am also interested in site-based performance practices, particularly in terms of spectatorship and pedagogies. With funding from the HRC at York, I completed a pilot study in 2016-17 on teaching site-based performance practices, which involved a short series of research interviews with prominent scholar-practitioners in this area. I look forward to extending this project over the coming years.

Finally, alongside other colleagues in the theatre team, I am currently researching R&D processes in contemporary British theatre. Inspired by the teaching we do in this area, we are drawing together interview material and other documentation from practitioners across the industry, exploring R&D as a specific theatre-making methodology in its own right, as distinct from its usual status as the first stage of rehearsal, or an element in a devising process.

Contact details

Dr Karen Quigley
School of Arts and Creative Technologies
University of York
YO10 5GB

Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 5229