IMTAL Europe - International Museum Theatre Alliance
Conference - Communicating the Past

Communicating the Past

Museum Theatre & Live Interpretation

Conference in Athens, 20th - 21st May 2022 (duration 2 days plus option excursion, schedule to be confirmed)


#Compast will bring together people who want to share and extend their knowledge of how live interpretation and museum theatre are used to interpret the past in museums and at heritage sites. The Conference is organised by IMTAL Europe and the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences/Dept. of Communication, Media and Culture. It will last two full days (Fri-Sun), with an optional excursion day on Sunday 22nd May, 2022.

Please note:


The Compast Conference is planned as a live in-person event in May 2022. We do not consider a digital replacement. If the Covid-19 situation continues to pose a substantial problem, we may have to reschedule the conference. The organising committee will make a go/no-go decision by 20th March, depending on the pandemic's dynamic during the spring.

If you book any travel or accommodation before then, please look out for offers that can be changed or cancelled at no or minor cost. The organisers cannot be held accountable for any conference related costs made by attendees, including cancellation fees caused by early bookings.

Conference Programme

Thursday 19 May
18.00 – 22.00: IMTAL welcome drinks and dinner / Details to be announced at a later date

Friday 20 May
9.30-10.00: Coffee & registrations
10.00-10.15: Welcome addresses: Andromache Gazi, Head, Dept. of Communication, Media and Culture, Panteion University & Teti Hatjinikolaou, President ICOM Greece
10.15-10.30: IMTAL Global perspectives: Jack Veldman, Chair IMTAL Europe & Douglas Coler, Chair IMTAL America/President of IMTAL & Jo Clyne, Chair IMTAL Asia Pacific
10.30-11.30: Keynote speech: Pathways to the past. Creating connections to make the past come to life, Andrew Ashmore, Director A. Ashmore & Associates, Founding Director of IMTAL Europe (UK)
11.30-12.00: Coffee break
12.00-13.15: Session 1. The basics

  1. Museum theatre from the 19th to the 21st century: history, challenges and perspectives, Foteini Venieri, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences (Greece)
  2. Reinterpreting Interpretation: Engaging Historical Thinking Through Museum Theatre, Elysia Segal, Vice-President IMTAL America
  3. What is live interpretation in film? What is live interpretation in itself?, Éva Zöldi-Birkás, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (Hungary)

13.15-14.30: Light lunch
14.30-15.45: Session 2. Museum theatre practice, Chair: Andrew Ashmore

  1. Benevolent Theft: Cultural Appropriation and The Challenge of Inspiration, Douglas Coler, President IMTAL America
  2. Many Voices, One Mission: Character Interpretation at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Elizabeth Keaney, George Washington’s Mount Vernon (USA)
  3. Pushing the Boundaries: Experimental Theatre Project at the History Museum at the Castle, Jacquelyn Coleman, University of Washington (USA)

15.45-17.15: Angela Pfenninger’s workshop “Visitors to Greece through the ages”
17.15-17.45: Coffee break
17.45-19.00: Session 3. Museum theatre and the city, Chair: Niki Nikonanou or Rebecca Shelley

  1. Active monuments: Performing the city at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Styliana Galiniki, Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki (Greece)
  2. The Walking Stick, Areti Kondylidou, Service of Modern Monuments and Technical Works of Central Macedonia, Greek Ministry of Culture
  3. “1821” in revue sketches as meta-nationalistic narrative: a paradigm for museum theatre? Patricia Kokori, Panteion University of Social and Political Science (Greece)

19.00-: Welcome dinner at Panteion’s University Garden

Saturday 21 May

10.00-11.15: Session 4. Museum theatre in informal learning settings, Chair: Jack Veldman

  1. Inquiry Drama in Museums: A new perspective, Agni Karagianni, Democritus University of Thrace (Greece)
  2. Managing Expectations. Live Interpretation for Children with Special Needs, Thomas Aune Olsen, IMTAL-Europe, Fotevikens Byalag, Vellinge Municipality, The Storyteller (Norway)
  3. “I will remember the stories we created more than the informative labels”. Participatory actions and Museum Theatre, Elena Viseri, Theatre educator, and Niki Nikonanou, Department of Early Childhood Education, University of Thessaly (Greece)

11.15-11.45: Coffee break
11.45-13.15: Session 5. Digital forms of museum theatre, Chair: Alexandra Bounia

  1. Live interpretation as a game, Árpád Bayer, historian, museum game designer (Hungary)
  2. Museum theatre in digital history projects, Andromache Gazi, Panteion University, Thodoris Giannakis, 3D artist, game developer, Ilias Marmaras, Game developer and researcher, Yiannis Scoulidas, Programmer, game developer, Yannis Stoyannidis, University of West Attica, Foteini Venieri, Panteion University, Stewart Ziff, artist, researcher, game developer (Greece / UK)
  3. Museum theatre interactive documentary video, Foteini Venieri, Panteion University / Production: Heterotopia Museum Theatre &, Mobics / Interactive documentary script and direction: Ilias Marmaras / Post-production: Prosenghisi Film & Video Productions (Greece / UK)

13.15-14.15: Light lunch
14.15-15.45: RoughHouse Theatre workshop “N17”
15.45-16.15: Coffee break
16.15-17.15: Round table, Moderator: Rebecca Shelley, Andrew Ashmore, Areti Kondylidou, Scott Maggelsen, Foteini Venieri
18.00-20.30: Optional evening outing: Theatrical tour “Have a gas” in English at the Industrial Gas Museum and dinner there (Technopolis City of Athens).

Sunday 22 May

Optional excursion to Sounion and Lavrion. Detailed programme to be announced at a later date.

Conference Themes

The Basics

It may sound obvious, but why should we have live interpretation and which forms are best? Why does museum theatre matter? What are the similarities and differences between museum theatre and live interpretation? What can go wrong? This thematic unit goes back to basics, discussing different forms, methodology, success stories and bad practices in museum theatre and live interpretation to find out what is still valid and why. Contributions concerning different forms of person-to-person engagement and their evaluation, are also welcome.

Photo by: Maria Storf-Felden, museum live Worms

It is all about Content

The world is turbulent and we are part of that. How do we best tackle sensitive issues and reflect on diversity? How can live interpretation best address stereotypes and serve public history? How do museums position themselves within contemporary issues and how should interpreters be part of this? What version of the past do we want to present? (Or is everything we do fake news?) Where is our self-criticism and does it undermine our authority? This thematic unit focuses on content - with an emphasis on “difficult” issues - and adopts a self-reflective view. Contributions on best and worst practices are welcome along with more theoretical presentations.

Crisis, Change and remaining Relevant

Crisis means change. If 2020 and 2021 taught us anything, it is that nothing is certain. Changes also bring chances: to reinvent interpretation, reinvent the stage upon which we act (museum, site, space…), and to reinvent ourselves. How do the working conditions for live interpretation differ from country to country? Are there any formats that are robust and pandemic-safe? How do we continue to be relevant and offer relevance to our audiences? What challenges lie ahead of us over the coming years, and do we need to shift our focus or introduce new standards and practices? Can we use museum theater to put contemporary issues into an historical context? And how can we go about it?

This theme looks at live interpretation and museum theatre as vehicles for tackling change and uncertainty, and perhaps even as a way of enhancing visitor engagement in times of crises. It also focuses on how live interpretation and museum theatre may help museums and heritage sites remain relevant and be more actively involved in current socio-political issues.

For example:

Post-crisis interpretation vs pre-crisis interpretation:

About 30% of cultural institutions may permanently close because of the pandemic ( Those that survive will have found other avenues of income generation. What can we learn from this development? Which techniques have to evolve and which techniques may stay the same? Will we see a significant shift in content development as we move on from the pandemic?


New Formats & Technologies

This theme examines the digital potential of museum theatre and live interpretation. If our audience has gone digital, where does that leave us? Should we keep offering in-person live interpretation, or are online virtual encounters the way forward? There are practical barriers as well as emotional ones (can a livestream be as good as the real thing - and anyway, how do I set one up?)... finally there are, of course, economic considerations (is there any money in this? If so, how do I install a pay-channel?). What’s the latest? Virtual immersive storytelling? Are we ready for Cross Reality? We welcome your thoughts, methods and ideas.

Why Greece now?

2021 marked the bicentenary of the 1821 Greek War of Independence, which resulted in the formation of the modern Greek state. The Greek Revolution was actively supported by major European powers, mainly Britain and France, where “Philhellenism” had, since the 15th century, gradually developed into a rigorous and influential movement. The charm of Greek antiquity attracted upper-class Europeans who traveled to Greece between the 15th and 19th century, wrote extensively about it and left precious testimonies (

The European gaze on Greece had a strong influence on the formation of Greek national identity, and its long-lasting repercussions are to a certain extent felt in the country even today. Can museum theatre and live interpretation shed some light on the complexity of the relationship between Greece and Europe, back then and now? This might be an opportunity for developing some museum theater performances and live interpretation on the subject, especially for the conference. We are keen to hear suggestions and open to discussing possible funding contributions and support.

Organising Committee

The Compast Organising Committee consists of three organisations, represented by:

  • Andromache Gazi (Greece) Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences
  • Foteini Venieri (Greece) Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences
  • Rebecca Shelley (Greece) Heterotopia Museum Theatre
  • Thomas Aune Olsen (Sweden) Board Member of IMTAL Europe
  • Jack Veldman (Netherlands) Chair of IMTAL Europe
  • Angela Pfenninger (Germany) IMTAL Europe

Scientific Committee

The Compast Conference scientific committee consists of the following people.

  • Alexandra Bounia (Greece) University of the Aegean, Professor of Museology
  • Wolfgang Hochbruck (Germany) Freiburg University, Professor of North American Studies specialising in Museum Theatre
  • Catherine Hughes (USA) Conner Prairie, Director of Museum Theatre and Research, IMTAL US Founder
  • Dr Peter Inker (USA) Colonial Wiliamsburg    
  • Dr Yvonne Lammers (the Netherlands) Prehistorisch Dorp, Director
  • Scott Maggelsen (USA) Bowling Green State University, Associate Professor of Theatre
  • Niki Nikonanou (Greece) University of Thessaly, Associate Professor of Museum Education
  • Ioulia Pipinia (Greece) Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki,  Associate, Professor of Theatre Studies
  • Giorgos Vavouranakis (Greece) University of Athens, Associate Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology

Photo by: Panteion University Athens