On Receiving an Honorary Doctorate, Warsaw, October 2017 | Schechner | Polish Theatre Journal

ISSN 2451-2966


Richard Schechner receives a honorary degree from the Aleksander Zelwerowicz Theatre Academy in Warsaw, 16.10.2017. Photo: Vova Makovskyi.
Richard Schechner

On Receiving an Honorary Doctorate, Warsaw, October 2017


Acceptance speech on the occasion of the award of an honorary doctorate degree by the Aleksander Zelwerowicz Theatre Academy in Warsaw

While summarizing his professional achievements – his research on performance – Richard Schechner analyses the development, widening and transforming performance as a theoretical category and as actual behaviour. He reflects upon the consequences of this process, as well as recognizes that knowing what performances are and how they structure our everyday lives can help save the world - the world of rising fascism, civil war in Syria, global warming and overpopulation. The author begins with his own backyard, asserting that American society and American culture is infected and deformed by its largely self-created plague of wars. He understands war not solely in military terms, but first and foremost as a performative, that is an operation of creative imagination that makes people personalise virtue, martyrdom and national identity in the form of a thousand powerful plots. It is not only between people, but also between humans and nature. Schechner locates the conflict in the tri-polar world of religion, armed politics and globalised economy, and recognises the chance of counterbalance in creating a new ‘fourth world of aesthetics’ – created by visual artists, filmmakers, writers, poets, scholars, etc. – by performers.

The paper was presented by Schechner during the ceremony awarding him with the title of doctor honoris causa from the Aleksander Zelwerowicz Theatre Academy in Warsaw.


aesthetics; ecology; performance; university; social theatre; One Billion Rising;

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Richard Schechner

one of the founders of Performance Studies, is a performance theorist, theater director, author, editor of TDR and the Enactments book series, University Professor, and Professor of Performance Studies. Schechner combines his work in performance theory with innovative approaches to the broad spectrum of performance including theatre, play, ritual, dance, music, popular entertainments, sports, politics, performance in everyday life, etc. in order to understand performative behavior not just as an object of study, but also as an active artistic-intellectual practice.  He founded The Performance Group and East Coast Artists.  His theatre productions include Dionysus in 69, Commune, The Tooth of Crime, Mother Courage and Her Children, Seneca's Oedipus, Faust/gastronome, Three Sisters, Hamlet, The Oresteia, YokastaS, Swimming to Spalding, and Imagining O. His books include Public Domain, Environmental Theater, Performance Theory, The Future of Ritual, Between Theater and Anthropology, Performance Studies: An Introduction, and Performed Imaginaries. As of 2014, his books have been translated into 17 languages. His theatre work has been seen in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. He has directed performance workshops and lectured on every continent except Antarctica.  He has been awarded numerous fellowships including Guggenheim, NEH, ACLS, and fellowships at Dartmouth, Cornell, Yale, Princeton, and the Central School of Speech and Drama, London.