Aarhus University and Odin Teatret agreed in the autumn of 2002 to establish the Centre for Theatre Laboratory Studies (CTLS) with its base at Odin Teatret in Holstebro.
The Centre for Theatre Laboratory Studies is the result of more than 30 years' collaboration between Nordisk Teaterlaboratorium (which is the umbrella organisation for Odin Teatret and all its activities), and the Department of Dramaturgy of the Institute for Aesthetic Studies, at Aarhus University.
The Centre's activities will mainly concentrate on the following points:
- to research the artistic, technical, conceptual and social contribution of contemporary as well as past theatre laboratories;
- to establish an archive of all Odin Teatret's activities, as well as gather and spread knowledge of the history and of the achievements of theatre as laboratory;
- to promote an exchange, both theoretical and practical, between the Centre's national and international network;
- to take the initiative for analytical and practical seminars and conferences on theatre laboratories as a creative professional and theoretical environment;
- to implement a working milieu to stimulate scholars and artists who intend to do theoretical and practical research within the Centre's framework.
Regular collaboration has existed between Odin Teatret and the Department of Dramaturgy at Aarhus University since 1966. At that time the department's teachers, Tage Hind and Christian Ludvigsen, played a crucial role in establishing a connection with Holstebro Town Council, making it possible for OdinTeatret to move from Norway to Holstebro.
Since then Odin Teatret's actors and Eugenio Barba have regularly taught at the Department of Dramaturgy. Several of the Department's teachers are permanent members of the scientific staff of ISTA, International School of Theatre Anthropology - the itinerant research environment that today constitutes one of the many activities of Nordisk Teaterlaboratorium/Odin Teatret. In 1988 Aarhus University bestowed an honorary doctorate on Eugenio Barba.
This mutual professional interest culminated in a 3 week interdisciplinary project at Aarhus University in March-April 2000. Odin Teatret's performances, working demonstrations, didactic films and lectures formed the basis for a course involving teachers and students of literature, music, dramaturgy and semiotics at the Institute for Aesthetic Strudies. The results of this interdisciplinary course, whose point of departure was Odin Teatret's artistic and research activities, were collected in the book in English entitled "Odin 2000" and published by Aarhus University Press.
Today this long and active connection has been formalised through the Centre for Theatre Laboratory Studies thus extending the possibilities for using theoretical-practical resources within both institutions.
The Centre is led by a director, Annelis Kulhmann, chosen by Aarhus University. The Board of Directors consists of four members: two chosen by the Institute for Aesthetic Studies and two by Nordisk Teaterlaboratorium.
The Centre's research into theatre laboratories that have stimulated the evolution of twentieth century theatre, will focus on three different perspectives: the historical, the contemporary and the future.
• The Historical Perspective. The historical or retrospective element in the Centre's activities will be based on the extensive archives at Odin Teatret, such as magazines, books, videos, films, tapes, programmes, photos, posters, etc. These include material and documentation from ISTA's international sessions, the Eurasian Theatre University and Odin Teatret's performances, international seminars held in Holstebro and other activities both local and international.
This archive will be organised according to the relevant new technology to make it as simple and user-friendly as possible. A collaboration has been established with these theatre laboratory archives: The Centre of Studies for Jerzy Grotowski's Work (Poland), Centre for Performance Research (Great Britain), Teatro Potlach (Italy) and Centro Internacional de Investigación de TNT (Spain).
A website is under construction to disseminate information about the archives and to attract the attention of international researchers giving them the possibility to study in Holstebro.
• The Contemporary Perspective. This perspective deepens the already well-developed ties between Odin Teatret and the Department of Dramaturgy. As it expands, it will increase interaction with pedagogy and other research areas.
It takes the form of a continuous exchange of teaching staff, where the respective institution's personnel can stay at each other's institutions in connection with their own research projects. Odin Teatret's staff can contribute to the tuition at the Department, while on the other hand the Department's staff and students can take advantage of Odin Teatret's facilities and activities as a part of their education. Odin Teatret will regularly present its performances at the Kasernescenen in Aarhus, which is administrated by the Institute for Aesthetic Studies.
The Centre gives the staff of the Department of Dramaturgy the possibility to participate in Odin Teatret's artistic activities and research through shared research projects, conferences and symposia of a national and international character. This collaboration aims to include other centres and university institutions.
Various international symposiums have taken place since 2004 in Holstebro, Aarhus and Copenhagen. The titles were: "Why a Theatre Laboratory?" (2004), "The Theatre that Dances" (2004), "The Present Moment" (2006 and 2007),. "Serendipity" (2007), "Theatre Space" (2008).
Furthermore, the Centre gives the possibility for international research activities both for Ph.D. scholarship holders as well as on a Masters level.
• Future Perspective.The two above mentioned perspectives are based on Odin Teatret's present activities. In the future, it is obvious that Odin Teatret will not be able to continue the same activities, which depend on the present staff. The Centre, therefore, exists as a potential for future artists and researchers, who, with specialised interests and artistic vigour will inject new life into the theatre laboratory tradition through their personal needs and the circumstances of their time.
In other words, the Centre constitutes a space which is a legacy for anomalous practice and research. It can generate unpredictable contacts between theatre people and scholars across traditions and nationalities confronting scientific practice and artistic theory with constantly new methods and keeping alive the inheritance and tradition of theatre as laboratory.