Phoebe von Held is a theatre adaptor/director who lives and works in London. Her theatre projects combine textual work with directing and designing. In her adaptations, the focus is on the rewriting of non-dramatic, literary texts that speak to key contemporary social and political concerns, opening up the medium of drama to formal possibilities beyond the dramatic genre.
Her process begins with identifying the potential of a relevant text, testing its resonances with current concerns and contexts. The text undergoes a process of interrogation and deconstruction, whilst being converted into the medium of performance. This approach of textual reconfiguration is completed by the conceptual interventions that come with directing, reframing that text in the theatre or other media.
Adaptations usually involve new translations, conducted within a dialogical or group format, using a spoken word scenario to test the performability of a text, as well as a dramaturgical think tank to generate discussion and productive controversy. Adaptations range from close abridgements to very free rewritings in which the resulting text is almost entirely new.
Drawing on a background in contemporary dance and scenography, the visual dimension of theatre is fundamental to her directorial approach. Her work is collaborative in all its stages, not only together with other artists but also other professional or social groups; for instance in The Manual Oracle she collaborated with mental health patients suffering from paranoid psychosis; D'Alembert's Dream was developed in cooperation with a group of biomedical scientists based at the National Institute of Medical Research, London (now Crick Institute) .
Von Held's work as an adaptor/director is accompanied by research, writing and teaching in the field of theatre studies, literary studies and aesthetics. She has taught at University College London, Queen Mary and Westfield College, Boston University (London), Tate Modern and other institutions. Currently, she is a visiting lecturer on the MA in Scenography, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London. She is the author of Alienation and Theatricality: Diderot after Brecht, Oxford: Legenda, 2011.