Theresa Zwerschke: Playing Periphery: The Farmers’ Theatre as a Rehearsal of Reality


Thesis Advisor: Grant Watson

July 2023


This thesis engages with the cultural practice of a farmers’ theatre located in the rural Alpine region. Tracing its unauthorized, scattered history in conversations with participants, private archives, photo books, and personal scripts becomes both a research method and a directive for the development of this text, in which my position as a researcher reflects a constant negotiation between an affective involvement and a critical examination. My text approaches the farmers’ theatre as an ecology, a lived practice that is conditioned by the social order of its locality and simultaneously con-stitutes its version of reality. The Alps as a stage for social imaginations map out a backdrop for reflections on the historical instrumentalization of agricultural politics, the omnipresent rural/urban dichotomy, and the position the peasant inhabits in this narration. Studying the characters enacted on and off stage centers questions about the performativity and rehearsal of established role allocations, their impact on the (self-)understanding of an agricultural working class, and the consequences of their rejection. Through means of mimesis, the plays’ rehearsals get examined as a site for the transmission of local knowledge and the reinforcement of traditional values. Working through the contradictions and ambivalences posed by this local practice doesn’t resolve with speculations about its potentiality, but rather opens new paradoxes, that require staying with the farmers’ theatre as a (troubled) tool for thinking.