Terry O'Connor, Creative Fellow 2017

Photograph of Dr Terry O'Connor

My creative and academic interests focus on devising and contemporary theatre form, with particular reference to my thirty years of work with 2016 International Ibsen Award winners, Forced Entertainment. My research has explored the application of collaboration in contemporary avant-garde performance, its forms and processes.


Forced Entertainment's work is often concerned with the charge and possible ruptures of the live event and creating different performative forms and contracts with audiences through playful re-inventions of theatrical convention.

I have performed in all but a few of Forced Entertainment’s critically acclaimed works, at major festivals and theatres around the world and have established an independent body of performance work as a performer and theatre maker. Beyond my work with Forced Entertainment, I have collaborated with artists including Jerome Bel (Fr), Richard Maxwell and the New York City Players (USA), Tim Crouch (UK) and Meg Stuart and Damaged Goods (Be). I have worked as a dramaturg and mentor with Priya Mistry, Sarah Sansom, Ruth Ben-Tovim and Encounters, Wendy Houstoun and Laura Murphy amongst others (www.forcedentertainment.com).

From 1986 to the present day, I developed a canon of practice and lecture based interactions with the Academy, drawing on Forced Entertainment’s trajectory of theatre practice in an interrogative pedagogical frame and contributing creative interventions and lectures at the Universities of Kent, Bristol, Brighton, Cambridge, Manchester Metropolitan, Warwick, Leeds, Coventry, Sheffield Hallam, Lancaster, Hope Liverpool, Huddersfield, Wolverhampton, Lincoln, De Montfort, Salford, Hull, Glasgow, Royal Holloway, Roehampton, Middlesex, as well as Dartington College, Bretton Hall and others.

From 2005, I began to work closely with the University of Sheffield and in 2009 I received an AHRC Creative Fellowship Award to pursue research investigating paradigms of collaboration within contemporary performance and their relation to the language and ethics of conversational exchange. This five year creative project, Say the Word, based at Roehampton University led to new pieces with Professor Joe Kelleher and other colleagues from the Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies as well as practitioners from a wide field of arts practice including dancer and choreographer Wendy Houston, artist Becky Shaw and composer John Avery.

In 2011 I was appointed Professor of Contemporary Theatre and Performance Practice at the University of Sheffield and, in 2014, this role was extended as an honorary position.

In 2016 I was awarded the Creative Fellowship at the University of Birmingham where I look forward to making two new pieces with Birmingham Drama students and members of the RSC. (http://uobattop.tumblr.com/tagged/terry-o'connor)


My work at Birmingham continued my solo project Say the Word, making new performance work around the word ‘no’, exploring the paradox of its generative power and its reach to the personal and political.

Following Forced Entertainment’s Complete Works: Tabletop Shakespeare, I am also working on a new piece inspired by Hamlet’s reflections on the First Player’s speech about Hecuba, called In a Dream of Passion or All or Nothing.

Other activities

Public presentations and events

  • 'Autobiographical Food' by Invisible Flock. Performance event in a Ready Steady Cook format, interviewing Bobby Baker, Selina Thomson, Jennifer Booth, Leo Kay, Emma Bolland, Sheila Ghelaini, Mole weatherall and Eva Meyer-Keller.  University of Sheffield, Feb 2016: Hillsfest, Sheffield July 2016: Compass Festival Leeds, November 2016 .
  • Warwick Arts Centre Emerge Season. Masterclass presentation. November 2014.
  • Theatre Delicatessen North, The Moor Sheffield. Mentor for ten artists and groups., leading to Horror Souk, week-long performance Autumn 2014.
  • The End of the Conversation. AHRC funded intensive curated and chaired by O’Connor with Dr Sam Ladkin, University of Sheffield. Contemporary artists joined participants from the Universities of Sheffield, Roehampton, Sussex, Huddersfield, Sheffield Hallam. June 2014.
  • In Imagination: the future reflected in art and argument. Keynote. October 2013. A one-day interdisciplinary symposium at the University of Sheffield in association with the UK premiere of Forced Entertainment’s new work Tomorrow’s Parties, co-curated by O’Connor with Dr Frances Babbage and Dr Rachel Zerihan.
  • Lasting Work. Paper on Durational Performance NCRM funded, Qualitative Longitudinal Research conference, Birkbeck and University of Sussex, June 2013.
  • Panelist- (Re)presenting the Archive, University of Sheffield. May 2013.
  • Promising Performance. Co-Convenor and speaker for this ISDF Contemporary Practice Panel, University of Sheffield June 2012.
  • Confusion’s Masterpiece.Keynote presentation for the Standing Conference of Drama Departments AGM, University of Reading March 2012.
  • Rightful Placing. Keynote presentation Archive of Exile symposium, Bank Street  Arts, Sheffield July 2011.
  • A Future for Theatre. Panel Presentation.Flare Festival, Contac theatre Manchester July 2011.
  • Respondent- Performance Matters -AHRC-funded cultural research project, LADA April 2010.
  • Chair, Making Space in Music and Architecture: an art/science encounter with Professor Bryan Lawson (Architecture) and Dr Dorothy Ker (Music), University of Sheffield, March 2009.
  • Grass will grow in the cracks, paper for Betonbrut, seminars with Nicolas Moulin, Leverhulme Artist in Residence, University of Sheffield, June 2009.
  • off-centre, off-message-key-note address with Dr Amanda Crawley-Jackson (French, University of Sheffield), for Betonbrut Symposium, Site Gallery Sheffield, 13 June 2009.
  • A:The Christmas Party, a performance collaboration with artist and SHU lecturer Becky Shaw for a six hour radio transmission commissioned by ArtSheffield 2010 and broadcast on Sheffield Live April 2010, performed at Roehampton University 2012 and at SHU Design for Health Conference 2015.
  • Lullaby- Performance collaboration with Wendy Houstoun for Performance and Cocktails, Duckie, August 2011.
  • Distance Speaking- written dialogue with Tim Etchells for the Kunstlerhaus Bremen, September 2010. 

Public interviews

  • Gdansk Shakespeare Festival, July 2016
  • Sheffield Theatre Deli, July 2016
  • Barbican Theatre, March 2016
  • Amsterdam Frascati Theatre, January 2012
  • Estonia Baltoscandal Festival, July 2012
  • Nitra, Slovakia, (TV) September 2012
  • Krakow 36th Krakow Theatrical Reminiscences, October 2011
  • Cambridge, The Junction, October 2011
  • Nottingham Contemporary Arts, November 2011
  • Huddersfield, Lawrence Batley Theatre, November 2011 

Radio broadcasts

  • Front Row, Radio 4, March 2016
  • FE Radio 4 Documentary June 2012
  • Interview Prague Radio 1 September 2011
  • BBC Sheffield 2011, 2012, 2013

2007-16 Mentor/dramaturgy/professional directing

  • Director and casting Director, The Impossible Possible House. Riksteatern Stockholm, Sweden. August 2016.
  • Director and casting Director, The Impossible Possible House. Theatre Vidy, Lausanne, Switzerland. March-September 2015.
  • Practice Mentor for WRoCAH-funded PhD Laura Murphy August 2016.
  • Theatre Delicatessen North, The Moor Sheffield. Mentor for ten groups leading to Horror Souk, 2014.
  • Fierce Festival Mentor 2007, Birmingham, working with live artist Priya Mystri.
  • Arts Council funded Building Bridges investigation into creative routes within theatre production roles- mentor for Sarah Sansome.
  • Dramaturg. Sharrow Stories: An Arts Council Encounters performance project for the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.
  • Dramaturg. Wendy Houstoun, Performance and Cocktails, Duckie 2010 and 50 Acts for NottDance, Nottingham 2011.


  • To Act, To Do and To Perform 2017. with Song Jungmin (Roehampton).  British UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionette).
  • No Stories: ongoing assemblage of collaborative texts generated around the word ‘No’.
  • Nothing Goes To Waste. Artists in the Archive, Routledge 2017. AHRC funded research project Redux, Performing Documents, Universities of Bristol and Exeter.
  • Say the word and MOVE. March 2013. Paper on Labour and collaborative performance for Performance Research.
  • Stealing Voices. November 2010, Artwords Press. The mediating effects of spoken and autographic utterances with artist Penny McCarthy SHU.
  • NON, Taylor and Francis 2010. A collaborative performance and text. created with Drs Steve Nicholson, Frances Babbage and Bill McDonnell, Parallax journal.
  • Virtuous Errors and the Fortune of Mistakes. August 2009. Performance Research Journal.