Theater and Performance Practices


Coordinator: Natalia Wawrzyniak

Duration: 2020-2023

This part of the project examined a rich theatrical culture that thrived before and after the rise of the Reformation in French-speaking regions of today’s Switzerland. It contextualized the performative culture within the broader framework of the emerging practices of eloquence.

The key questions that we addressed were the following: How were plays performed? What did rhetorical training entail? Who were the orators involved in theatrical performances? How was eloquence practiced on stage? To answer these questions, we analyzed plays performed in French and Franco-Provençal in Romandy between 1450 and 1550, historical testimonies (memories and correspondence), as well as performing arts archives (urban accounts and registers, actors’ roles) in the French-speaking regions of today’s Switzerland and neighboring cantons.

Our research on theatrical communication forms in Romandy during the “time of the orators” involved the use of two digital tools:

  • The creation of a database documenting theatrical performances (15th-16th c.) in the French-speaking regions of today’s Switzerland. This database provides researchers and the general public with access to the origins of Swiss theatrical culture in French. The data are accessible through two open-source repositories: the Swiss platform DaSCH, and the CESAR database (Calendrier électronique des spectacles sous l’Ancien Régime et la Révolution).
  • Development of experimental protocols for the historical reconstitution of theatrical practices in virtual reality (VR). The data collected from archives were tested as part of the seminar ARCHAS (Creative research workshop in the history of the performing arts) between 2020 and 2023. The objective was to offer historically reliable reconstitutions of theatrical eloquence and scenic work (venues, declamation, gestures, interactions), based on their reenactment in virtual environments.


  • Jehan qui de tout se mesle , s.l. (France), s.n., 16th c., AEF, Littérature 2.1
  • Role of the Fool, Présentation des joyaux, 16th c., AEF, Littérature 7.1-3
  • Compte des Trésoriers (1466), AEF, n° 127
  • T. de Bèze, Abraham sacrifiant, [Genève, Jean Crespin & Conrad Badius], 1550, MHR, e-rara
  • Actor’s role from Sion, parchment, 14th c., Archives cantonales du Valais, fond Flavien de Torrenté, A.T.F.1 ms 3
  • M. Malingre, Moralite de la maladie de Chrestiente [Neuchâtel, Pierre de Vingle], 1533, Zentralbibliothek Zürich, e-rara
  • Registres du Conseil, AEG, R.C. 20
  • Janot dans le sac, 16th c., AEF, Littérature 14.1