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Dr Lisa Peschel
Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Chair of Research & Practice



  • PhD, Theatre Historiography and History, University of Minnesota
  • Master of Fine Arts, Playwriting, University of Texas
  • Bachelor of Science, English Literature, University of Wisconsin

Ten years after completing a bachelor’s degree in English Literature I returned to full-time study to pursue my interest in theatre. At the University of Texas I researched theatrical performance in the World War II Jewish ghetto at Terezín (in German, Theresienstadt), completing and staging a play about the cultural life of the ghetto for an MFA degree in playwriting. During my doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota I spent several semesters in the Czech Republic, interviewing Terezín survivors and searching for previous unpublished scripts. In 2008 my annotated volume of plays and cabarets from the ghetto was published in Czech and German; in 2009 I completed a PhD thesis on survivor testimony about theatrical performance in the ghetto.

After postdoctoral fellowships at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC and the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University, I was appointed Lecturer in Theatre at the Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media at the University of York in September 2011. 

External activities


American Society for Theatre Research

Association for Jewish Studies

Association for Theatre in Higher Education

International Federation for Theatre Research

Czechoslovak Studies Association

Dramatists Guild of America

Invited talks and conferences

“A Holocaust Cabaret: Remaking Theatre from a Jewish Ghetto” (2023). Speaker for NEH-funded series, Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives, Queensborough Community College, USA.

“Positive Emotion and Memories of Theatre in the Terezín Ghetto” (2022). Emotions and Holocaust Studies online conference, hosted by partner institutions Penn State University, Center for Antisemitism Research (TU Berlin), Buber-Rosenzweig Institute, Fritz-Bauer-Institute and Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main.

“Theatre in a World War II Jewish Ghetto: Survivor Testimony, Centre And Periphery” (2022). IFTR World Congress, Reykjavik, Iceland.

“Laughter in the Ghetto: Newly Discovered Cabaret Scripts from Terezín” (2021). Public lecture and performance with survivor Zuzana Justman, sponsored by the Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews, Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences, New York Chapter, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association (BBLA).

“Holocaust Survivors and Surviving Political Prisoners in the Czechoslovak Public Sphere after 1989” (2022). Czech and Slovak Studies Workshop, online conference, hosted by the University of Pittsburgh.

“Devising Performance with Scripts from the Terezín Ghetto” (2020). Holocaust Educational Trust Residential CPD Course in Leicester. (Similar workshops were also conducted in Leicester in 2019 and 2017, and during a day-long Teaching the Holocaust in Drama event in York in September 2016).

“How to Use Terezín Theatre Texts in School Settings” (2019). Invited lecture for 32 American instructors participating in the Fulbright ETA (English Teaching Assistant) program in the Czech Republic in 2019-20, and a two-day intensive workshop for Czech teachers wishing to use theatre in Holocaust education.

“Images from Terezín and the History of Affective Relationships in the Ghetto” (2019). Symposium: Performativity of Images in Public Space, hosted by Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism and BIRMAC, School of Arts, London.

“Staging Plays from the Terezín Ghetto Today: Incorporating Historical Context into the Performance” (2018). Invited lecture for the Institute of Contemporary History’s Colloquia on Modern Jewish History, Prague.

“Performing the Jewish Archive Internationally: Reconstructions of a Musical Revue from the Terezín/Theresienstadt Ghetto in Australia and South Africa” (2018). AJS (Association for Jewish Studies) conference, Boston.

“Measuring Audience Engagement with Scripts by Jewish Artists:  Context, Emotional Engagement and Empathy” (2017). Performing the Jewish Archive symposium Performance, Empathy, Trauma and the Archive, Sydney Jewish Museum, Australia.

“Lost Theatrical Works from the Holocaust” (2016). Holocaust Lecture Series:   Rituals of Memory and Oblivion. Vanderbilt University, Nashville.

“Theatre and the Holocaust: Recently Rediscovered Scripts from the Terezín/ Theresienstadt Ghetto” (2015). Shannon Lecture in History, Carleton University, Ottawa.

“Artistic Censorship in Repressive Regimes” (2015). Panel speaker with Natalia Koliada (co-founder of Belarus Free Theatre), Julia Farrington (Head of Arts, Index on Censorship) and Iranian singers the Vahdat Sisters, York Festival of Ideas, York, UK.


Selected publications

Edited Volumes

A Holocaust Cabaret: Remaking Theatre from a Jewish Ghetto (Bristol: Intellect, 2023). Edited volume by colleagues on a practice research project conducted in Australia and South Africa in 2017: the reconstruction of a musical revue written by prisoners in Terezín in 1943.

Performing (for) Survival: Theatre, Crisis and Extremity (London: Palgrave, 2016). Case studies on communities that have employed performance as a strategy for coping with current (rather than past) social and political crisis. Co-edited with Dr. Patrick Duggan.

Performing Captivity, Performing Escape: Cabarets and Plays from the Terezín/Theresienstadt Ghetto (Calcutta: Seagull Press, 2014). Anthology of scripts, revised and expanded from the bilingual anthology Divadelní texty z terezínského ghetta/ Theatertexte aus dem Ghetto Theresienstadt, 1941–1945 (Prague: Akropolis, 2008).

Journal Articles, Chapters in Edited Volumes (selected)

"Theatre as Refrain: Representations of Departure from the Terezín/Theresienstadt Ghetto." In Palgrave Handbook on Theatre and Migration, eds. Yana Meerzon and Stephen Wilmer. London: Palgrave McMillan (2023).

"Survivor Testimony about Theatre in the Terezín Ghetto: A Longitudinal Case Study." S:I.M.O.N. Shoah: Intervention. Methods. Documentation. 8.2 (2021), 38-57.

"Pedagogy, Performativity and ‘Never Again’: Staging Plays from the Terezín Ghetto" (co-authored with Dr. Alan Sikes). In Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History, 26.2 (2020), 259-281.

"Laughter in the Ghetto: Cabarets from a Concentration Camp." In Theater unter NS-Herrschaft: Theatre under Pressure, eds. Brigitte Dalinger and Veronika Zangl (Vienna: Vienna University Press, 2018), 271-283.

"Performing Continuity, Performing Belonging: Three Cabarets from the Terezín Ghetto." In A Companion to Public History, ed. David M. Dean (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018), 377-390.

"The Cultural Life of the Terezín Ghetto in 1960s Survivor Testimony: Theatre, Trauma and Resilience." In Performing (for) Survival: Theatre, Crisis and Extremity (London: Palgrave, 2016).

"A Joyful Act of Worship": Survivor Testimony on Czech Culture in the Terezín Ghetto and Postwar Reintegration in Czechoslovakia, 1945–48." Holocaust and Genocide Studies 26.2 (Fall 2012): 209–228.

"Structures of Feeling' as Methodology and the Re-emergence of Holocaust Survivor Testimony in 1960s Czechoslovakia." Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 26.2 (Spring 2012): 161–172.



My research interests include theories of emotion, trauma, humour, memory and the roles that theatrical performance plays for societies in crisis.

I focus mainly on theatre in the Jewish ghetto at Terezín (in German, Theresienstadt), located 40 miles northwest of Prague, from 1941 to 1945. My research follows two main strands:

Research on performances in Terezin

Theatrical performances in Terezín began shortly after the ghetto was established, on the prisoner’s own initiative. By the summer of 1944 performances were taking place in dozens of locations around the ghetto, from attics and cellars to relatively well-equipped stages. Several different theatre troupes in the ghetto performed for audiences of various ages (from children to pensioners), languages and nationalities (mainly Czech, German and Austrian), political persuasions (from Czech nationalists to Communists to Zionists) and relationships to their own Jewishness.

Most of the scripts were considered lost. During my interviews with survivors in 2004-08, however, several previously unknown texts came to light. Since then, one strand of my research has focused on finding, editing, publishing and re-staging these scripts, and using them in Holocaust pedagogy. What does practice research tell us about what these plays might have meant to the prisoners, and what they might mean for audiences today? As pedagogical tools, what do these plays teach young people about the Holocaust?

From 2014-17 I was a co-investigator on the AHRC-funded project Performing the Jewish Archive. This project provided opportunities to re-stage works by Terezín prisoners in the US, the UK, the Czech Republic, Australia and South Africa. From 2018-2019 I was principle investigator of the follow-on project Gido’s Coming Home! Performing Music and Theatre from the Terezín/Theresienstadt Ghetto for Commemoration, Education and Inspiration, which focused specifically on bringing works by Czech-Jewish artists back to the Czech Republic.

Research on Terezin survivor testimony

Czech-Jewish survivors of the Terezin ghetto began testifying about their experiences, as theatre artists and as spectators, immediately after the war. In post-war Czechoslovakia, however, attention was focused on the returning political prisoners rather than the Jewish survivors. Due to political conditions, most of their testimony about the ghetto emerged in only two periods: from 1945 until the Communist government took power in 1948, and during a period of political thaw in the 1960s. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989 they could speak more freely, and several organizations began to collect their testimony. I conducted my own interviews, focused specifically on the cultural life of the ghetto, from 2004 to 2008.

In analysing their testimony over 60 years, I focus on two questions:

  • how does Terezín theatre remain in their memories, and appear in their narratives, for decades after the war? What does it mean to them, and what social functions does it serve, in the present of their testimony? is it reliable evidence regarding the past?
  • how did theatre create the effects survivors claim in the ghetto itself? Some say that theatrical performance helped save their sanity and perhaps even their lives. If we accept their testimony as reliable evidence, what does it tell us about why the prisoners chose to participate in something as seemingly unlikely as theatre?

I have published several articles on survivor testimony from various decades (see ‘Publications’) and currently have a monograph in progress. Stages of Life: Survivor Testimony on Theatre in the Terezín Ghetto tracks five individual survivors from 1945 until my own interviews with them in 2004-2008. How did their testimony change over time, and what did they stand to gain (or lose) by testifying in each period? And what does it tell us about theatre in the ghetto itself? Interpreting their narratives through the lens of clinical trauma theory I argue that, through performance, the performers and their audiences began the process of "working through" the traumatic events of the ghetto even while they were still taking place.

Contact details

Dr Lisa Peschel
School of Arts and Creative Technologies
University of York
YO10 5GB

Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 5247