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UAL Research Online

The effects of theatrical storytelling and scenography on children: The case of children's theatre in the ghetto of Terezín (1941-45)

Pantouvaki, Sofia (2008) The effects of theatrical storytelling and scenography on children: The case of children's theatre in the ghetto of Terezín (1941-45). PhD thesis, University of the Arts London.

Type of Research: Thesis
Creators: Pantouvaki, Sofia

The main aim of this research project is to investigate the power of theatrical storytelling and image over children's everyday lives, examining theatrical performances by and for children in the Theresienstadt ghetto during World War II.

The historical research develops based on the unique case of the 'model ghetto-town' of Theresienstadt (Terezín) in former Czechoslovakia, which, being neither a ghetto neighbourhood within a city nor a concentration-extermination camp, is recognised today as a huge 'workshop' where all manner of art was developed under occupation. This study focuses on children's theatrical creation and explores the dynamics of theatrical action, storytelling and scenography in children's lives under these specific coercive conditions. The elements of theatrical performance produced by and for the young inmates in the ghetto are documented by original diary entries, notes, posters, drawings and archival testimony from survivors, as well as by a series of original interviews with Theresienstadt survivors conducted as part of this study. The research provides the first detailed documentation of children's performances in Theresienstadt as well as an in-depth analysis of the staging of the two main children's productions staged between 1941 and 1945: the opera Brundibár and the dance-musical performance Little Fireflies.

The researcher's own artistic identity as a scenographer has been a key element defining the point of view of this study, which also explores how a theatrical/visual metaphor can express the ineffable. Furthermore, the interaction between reality and fantasy through theatre providing ways to experience and deal with reality with the support of our imagination is investigated. The effects of theatre on the children of Theresienstadt are examined from four points of view, i.e. from a cultural, educational, sociological and psychological perspective, arguing theatre as a means of enhancing freedom of spirit, as well as enriching children's upbringing.

The thesis concludes with a contemporary evaluation of the research results pertaining to this part of European cultural and theatrical history, pointing to the important function of theatre as a motivating power providing spiritual support in life.

Additional Information (Publicly available):

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Date: December 2008
Date Deposited: 12 May 2020 12:05
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2024 15:48
Item ID: 15640
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/15640

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