Theatre, Intersubjectivity and Medical/Psycho-trauma

On May 23rd, 2018, a composer-poet, cultural scholar and pediatrician conversed on the relation between theatre and trauma. This was the fifth and last public dialogue organised by the New Utrecht School in 2018.

Illness on stage

What is it like for chronically ill children, if they perform on theatre and in movies, to be cast in the role of 'the sick child'? How can a stage offer ways to reconcile with trauma and lessen pain? What does it imply to be a 'medial' being - and when do we speak of a healthy or ill mediality? 

    Theatre and trauma 

    The ancient Greeks already knew that theatre has a healing influence on body and soul: Aristotle thought that visiting a tragedy play could 'purify' the soul of the audience. But the relation between theatre and art goes beyond this: the hospital floor effectively forms a stage for a strictly directed performance, with assigned roles, a tight script and a set of stage props. Vice versa, the theatre is a place where physical and mental suffering can be visualised and embodied. The stage is a place for collective experimentation with giving purpose and meaning, a place where actors and audience can provide creative answers together on what it is to be healthy or ill.


    • Prof. Kiene Brillenburg-Wurth, professor in literature and comparative media at Utrecht University, is an expert in media, creativity and the theory of aesthetic experience. She is the head of the Humanities department of Utrecht University College.
    • Micha Hamel is a versatile artist: poet, composer, and virtual reality artist. Additionally, he is a lector in performatnce practice at Codart in Rotterdam, and guest-teacher Dutch language and culture at Utrecht University.

    • Prof. Berent Prakken, professor Child Rheumatology, chair of Research and Education of Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, director of the Education Center and vice dean of Education at UMC Utrecht. He emphasises education of the medical humanities, and transferring medical knowledge from the laboratory to the hospital.