Professor Helena Grehan
PhD Murd.

Dean of Research and Innovation, College of Arts, Business, Law and Social Sciences

About me


I am Dean of Research and Innovation in the College of Arts, Business, Law and Social Sciences (ABLSS). In this role I work with the Pro Vice Chancellor for ABLSS, with the Executive Core Group and with staff members, students and other stakeholders from within the university and beyond, to develop policies and procedures for research development and training and to support researchers and Higher Degree by Research students to achieve the best outcomes they can from their research work.

I have taught both undergraduate and postgraduate students. I am particularly interested in working with students at all levels to develop and refine their skills in the area of critical analysis as these skills are transferrable to any employment context. I have taught subjects in Literature, Drama, Theatre, Performance Studies, Creative Media and Cultural Studies, Digital Arts and Research Methods as well as major first year classes on creativity and critical thinking and humanities research methods. I have supervised (or co-supervised) 14 PhD students to completion.

My research centres around questions of ethics and responsibility in and in response to contemporary art practice, with a particular focus on performance, installation and digital arts. I am particularly interested in how modes of spectatorship might be usefully understood and theorised in the context of an increasingly mediatised performance and creative arts environment. I have published a number of books, book chapters and journal articles from my research. I am a Fellow of the Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University and I was a member of the Australian Research Council (ARC) College of Experts 2015-2017 (Humanities and Creative Arts Panel). I was a member of the Research Evaluation Committee (Humanities and Creative Arts) for the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2018. I am Associate Editor of the refereed journal Performance Research.


Teaching area

I have developed, coordinated and taught in a range of units across the Humanities and Creative Arts during my career. I am not, however, currently teaching undergraduate students.

Research areas

My research interests include digital art practice, performance theory, ethics and spectatorship, new media dramaturgy and thinking about the relationships between art and politics. I publish my research in a range of national and international refereed journals. I am Associate Editor of the refereed journal Performance Research. 

I am currently involved in a major research project to establish ‘The Digitisation Centre of Western Australia’. This project involves The Western Australian Universities (Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University, Notre Dame University and the University of Western Australia), the State Library of Western Australia and the Western Australian Museum, who each hold extensive Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) collections that are of national and international significance. Included are anthropological and archaeological artefacts, photographs, film, and recordings; historical documents of cultural and political importance; and archival material of prominent Western Australians.  At present these are not available online and are often accessible only to a few local researchers. Many items are too fragile to be handled or transported. The Digitisation Centre of Western Australia will be established in 2020 with its aim to digitise these valuable collections.

Our aim is to establish a state of the art Centre in order to digitise these precious collections. Digitisation will not only preserve collections in digital format, thereby guaranteeing this resource for future generations, but it will also make these collections accessible, for the first time, to people across Australia and beyond. The Digitisation Centre of WA will form a major piece of national research infrastructure with a prominent international profile and significance. The Centre will have the capacity to digitise all significant Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) research collections held by participating institutions within a period of a decade and it will, as a result open up the opportunities for researchers and interested members of the public to access, analyse and write about these collections.

This centre emerges from an innovative collaboration between the Western Australian universities, the Western Australian Museum and the State Library of Wesern Australia that reflects the desire of each of the institutions to collaborate and share resources in order to support and build research opporutnities for WA based academics and to allow them to connect their work with collaborators across the world. It also aims to showcase these previously often inaccessible Collections. The establishment of the Centre is supported by each of the particpant organisations and the Australian Research Council through the LIEF scheme.

I have just completed a major collaborative research project with colleagues across the globe on performance and politics. This project was funded through an Australian Research Council Discovery grant entitled ‘Power and Performance: Revaluing Theatre in the 21st century’ (2016-2019) on which I was lead Chief Investigator. I worked with Professor Janelle Reinelt (Warwick), Professor Scheer, Professor Eckersall, Dr Edward Patterson (Melbourne) and Dr Caroline Wake (UNSW) on this project. Its aim was to lookat the creative arts – broadly defined to include, for example,  performance, digital media, creative protest, assembly and community practice, and to consider what it means to participate in political art practice in the 21st century. This project engaged with a range of scholars and arts practitioners to explore about how art intervenes in and challenges dominant ideologies and systems. This research culminated in the publication of The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics (2019) a volume that included  essays by 82 academics from across the globe. Its focus was to challenge the theoretical, critical and analytical modes utilised in thinking about art and politics by introducing new tropes and new voices into the debate.

In 2018 I completed a collaborative project with Professors Edward Scheer (UNSW) and Peter Eckersall (CUNY) on the topic of ‘New Media Dramaturgy’. This was an ARC funded Discovery Project and it resulted in a range of outputs including workshops with leading artists and companies, seminars, invited talks and a range of published works. The key research output in terms of publication was our co-authored book New Media Dramaturgy: Performance, Media and New Materialism which is part of the New Dramaturgies series edited by Cathy Turner and Synne Behrndt and published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017. Another notable outcome from this project was a co-authored book, with Prof Scheer William Yang: Stories of Love and Death published by New South Publishing in 2016. This book was the culmination of many years of discussions, analysis and consideration of the work of the important Australian artist William Yang.

My  edited book (with Peter Eckersall) ‘We’re People Who Do Shows’: Back to Back Theatre, Performance, Politics, Visibility (2013) was a pleasure to develop. It allowed us to work closely with the staff and performers at the amazing company Back to Back Theatre and to collaborate on a project that would go some way towards documenting and celebrating their profound and important work. My book Performance, Ethics and Spectatorship in a Global Age (2009), was joint winner of the Rob Jordan Prize, for the best book in theatre or performance studies in the previous two years, by the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies (ADSA). My article ‘Aalst: Acts of Evil, Ambivalence and Responsibility’, published in Theatre Research International, (2010: 35,1), pp. 4-16 was awarded the ADSA Marlis Thiersch prize for excellence in an English-language article in theatre, drama or performance studies anywhere in the world.

Current projects

As mentioned above I recently completed two books with my collaborators. The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics (edited with Peter Eckersall), and New Media Dramaturgy with Eckersall and Scheer,

I am also working on the new collaborative LIEF Grant with the 5 WA universities, the State Library and the Western Australian Museum on developing the ‘Digitisation Centre of Western Australia.’

Awards and grants

Awards and Prizes

  • Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Research Award for Distinguished and Sustained Achievement, 2019.
  • Marlis Theirsch Award 2011, Australaisan Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies.
  • Rob Jordan Prize 2010, Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies, joint winner.
  • Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2008 for teaching excellence in my discipline.


Grehan, Helena (CI) 2020, with CIs  Prof Benjamin Smith, Prof Josephine McDonald, Prof Erik Champion, Dr Toby Burrows, Associate Prof Mick Broderick,  Prof Paul Arthur, Associate Prof Jonathan McIntosh. ARC LIEF  Project.  ’The Digitisation Centre of Western Australia (Phase 1)’.

Grehan, Helena (CI) 2017, with CIs Prof Scheer, Dr Wake, Dr Paterson and PIs Prof Eckersall and Prof Reinelt. ARC Discovery Project. ‘Performance and Power: Revaluing Theatre in the 21st century.’

Grehan, Helena (CI) 2014 one of 25 partner institutions, ARC LIEF ‘AusStage, Phase 5: Australian live performance and the world – global networks, national culture, aesthetic transmission.’

Grehan, H (CI) 2011 with CIs Prof Scheer and A/Prof Eckersall. ARC Discovery Project. ‘New Media Dramaturgy: how new media transform the composition and reception of live performance.’

Grehan, H (CI) 2010 one of 18 partner institutions ARC LIEF ‘AusStage Phase 4: Harnessing collective intelligence and pioneering new visual methodologies for innovative research into Australian live performance.’

Grehan, H (CI) 2007 one of 19 partner institutions ARC LIEF ‘AusStage: Gateway to Australian live performance, phase 3 – enhancing collaborative research methodologies through digital networking technologies.’

Events and speaking engagements

Invited Panelist ‘Reading and Interpreting Brecht’ – Q&A with Director Dr Wang Xiaoying (Vice President, National Theatre of China), Dr Steve Chinna and Dr Gary Sigley. UWA Institute of Advanced Studies and Black Swan State Theatre Company, August 2, 2016, State Theatre Centre of WA.

Panel Chair ‘Between the Epic and the Everyday’ Back to Back Theatre’s Lady Eat’s Apple, with Back to Back Ensemble, Dr Caroline Wake, Dr Josephine Wilson and Ruth Little, Perth International Arts Festival, March 4, 2017, Heath Ledger Theatre.

Invited Speaker ‘The Self Behind the Selfie: A Roundtable with William Yang and Annette Shun Wah’, with Professor Edward Scheer, Adelaide Festival, Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, March 11, 2017.

Professional and community service

Member, Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) Research Evaluation Committee (REC)
for Humanities and Creative Arts (HCA), 2018.

Member ARC College of Experts, Humanities and Creative Arts Panel 2015-2017.

Associate Editor of Performance Research

Member Murdoch University Promotions and Probationary Review Committee 2006-present

Member psi (Performance Studies International).

Member of PICA (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts) Performance Advisory Panel.

Doctoral and masters supervisions

I currently supervise or co-supervise four Doctoral students working in the areas of theatre, creative writing, literature, philosophy, cultural studies and film.




Helena Grehan and Peter Eckersall, eds. The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics 2019, Routledge.

Helena Grehan, Peter Eckersall and Edward Scheer, New Media Dramaturgy: Performance, Media and New-Materialism 2017, Palgrave Macmillan.

Helena Grehan and Edward Scheer, William Yang: Stories of Love and Death 2016, New South Press.

Helena Grehan and Peter Eckersall, eds. ‘We’re People Who Do Shows’, Back to Back Theatre: Performance, Politics, Visibility, 2013, Performance Research Books.

Helena Grehan, Performance, Ethics and Spectatorship in a Global Age, 2009, Palgrave Macmillan.

Helena Grehan, Mapping Cultural Identity in Contemporary Australian Performance,1999, Peter Lang Publishing.

Book Chapters

Grehan, Helena and Peter Eckersall, 2019,  ‘A Dramaturgy for Cultural Activism’, in Helena Grehan and Peter Eckersall, eds. The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics , Routledge.

Grehan, Helena  2019, ‘Art, Politics and the Promise of Rupture: Reimagining the Manifesto in an Age of Overflow’, in Helena Grehan and Peter Eckersall, eds. The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics , Routledge.

Peter Eckersall, Edward Scheer and Helena Grehan, 2015, ‘New Media Dramaturgy’, in Magda Romanska ed. The Routledge Companion to Dramaturgy, London and New York: Routledge.

Helena Grehan, 2013,’Irony, Parody and Satire in Ganesh Versus the Third Reich‘, in Helena Grehan and Peter Eckersall ‘We’re People Who Do Shows’, Back to Back Theatre: Performance, Politics, Visibility, Performance Research Books.

Helena Grehan, 2013,’‘The Democratic Set: “A Cavalcade of portrait, soapbox and drama”‘, in Helena Grehan and Peter Eckersall, eds. ‘We’re People Who Do Shows’, Back to Back Theatre: Performance, Politics, Visibility, Performance Research Books.

Helena Grehan and Peter Eckersall, 2013,’The Existential Antagonists: Back to Back, dramaturgy and spectatorship’,in Helena Grehan and Peter Eckersall, eds. ‘We’re People Who Do Shows’, Back to Back Theatre: Performance, Politics, Visibility, Performance Research Books.

Helena Grehan, 2013, ‘Responding to the “unspoken” in Food Court’, in Helena Grehan and Peter Eckersall, eds. ‘We’re People Who Do Shows’, Back to Back Theatre: Performance, Politics, Visibility, Performance Research Books.

Helena Grehan, 2013, ‘Responsibility and the Dangers of Proximity: Responding to Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children,in Bryoni Trezise and Caroline Wake eds. Visions and Revision: Performance, Memory, Trauma, Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.

Neal Harvey, Helena Grehan and Joanne Tompkins, 2009, ‘AusStage: From Database of Performing Arts to a Performing Database of the Arts’, in Katherine Bode and Robert Dixon eds. Resourceful Reading. The new empiricism, eResearch, and Australian literary culture, Sydney: Sydney University Press.

Helena Grehan, 2001, ‘”Implacement” and Belonging: Dramatising White Women’s Stories in Tiger Country’, in Marc Maufort and Franca Bellarsi eds. Siting the Other: Re-visions of Marginality in Australian and English-Canadian Drama, Brussels: Peter Lang Publishing.

Refereed Journal Articles

Grehan, Helena and Peter Eckersall, 2019 ‘On Politics’, Performance Research, 24.8, 1-3.

Grehan, Helena, 2019 ‘Slow Listening: The ethics and politics of paying attention, or shut up and listen’, Performance Research, 24.8, 53-58.

Grehan, Helena, 2018 ‘On Refuge’, Performance Research, 23.4, 435-436.

Grehan, Helena, 2018 First Nations Politics in a Climate of Refusal: Speaking and listening but failing to hear, Performance Research, 23.3, 7-12.

Edward Scheer and Helena Grehan, 2017, ‘Recompositions: Images of Patrick White in William Yang’s My Generation‘, Australasian Drama Studies, 71, October, 157-177.

William Dunstone, and Helena Grehan, 2017, ‘”Chaos” and “convergence” on the Australian Goldfields: the politics of performance in the 1890s’, Australasian Drama Studies, 70, April, 35-56.

Helena Grehan, 2015, ‘Actors, Spectators, and “Vibrant” Objects: Kris Verdonck’s ACTOR#1, TDR, 59,3, 132-139.

Helena Grehan, 2015, ‘Electronic Journals’, Contemporary Theatre Review, 25,1, 130-133.

Helena Grehan, 2014, ‘An Unresolvable Dramaturgy: Dennis Del Favero’s Todtnauberg and what it means to respond’, Performance Research, 19,6,15-21.

William Dunstone and Helena Grehan, 2013, ‘Making maps “speak”: E-mapping performance on Western Australia’s Coolgardie Goldfield, 1894-98′, Australasian Drama Studies, 62, April, 89-99.

Helena Grehan, 2011, ‘Are we so happy that we’ve lost all of the “tragic spectators”?’, Performance Paradigm: a journal of performance & contemporary culture,

Helena Grehan, 2010, ‘Aboriginal Performance: Politics, Empathy and the Question of Reciprocity’, Australasian Drama Studies, 56, April, 38-52.

Helena Grehan, 2010, ‘Aalst: Acts of Evil, Ambivalence and Responsibility’, Theatre Research International, 35,1, 4-16.

Neal Harvey, Helena Grehan and Joanne Tompkins, 2010, ‘”Be thou Familiar, But by no means Vulgar”: Australian Theatre Blogging Practice’, Contemporary Theatre Review, 20,1, 109-119.

Helena Grehan, 2006, ‘Testimony and Ambivalence in Sandakan Threnody‘, Australasian Drama Studies, 49, October, 89-100.

Helena Grehan, 2004, ‘Questioning the relationship between consumption and exchange: Theatre Works’ Flying Circus Project’, December 2000, Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique, 12,2,565-586.

Helena Grehan, 2003, ‘Rakini Devi: Diasporic Subject and Agent Provocateur’, Theatre Research International, 28,3, 229-244.

Helena Grehan, 2003, ‘Black and Tran’: A comedy that laughs in the face of racism?’, Australasian Drama Studies, 42, April, 112-122.

Helena Grehan, 2002, ‘Stillness and Intrigue in The North and Sadness by William Yang’, Journal of Australian Studies, 73, 151-160.

Helena Grehan, 2001, ‘Theatreworks’ Desdemona: Fusing Technology and Tradition’, TDR 45,3, 113-125.

Helena Grehan, 2001, ‘Faction and Fusion in The 7 Stages of Grieving‘, Theatre Research International, 26, 1, 106-116.

Helena Grehan, 2000, ‘Performed Promiscutities: Interpreting Interculturalism in the Japan Foundation Asia Centre’s LEAR‘, Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, 3,

Helena Grehan, 1999, ‘Negotiating Discovery in The Geography of Haunted Places‘, Australasian Drama Studies, 34, April, 109-121.