Illustration: Roxana Tayefeh Mohajer

Multilingual Performing Arts

The Department of Performing Arts at SKH invites you to a two-day symposium where we will discuss and investigate multilingual performing arts from various perspectives.

The program consists of presentations of multilingual performances in the Nordic region, talks, workshops and in-depth presentations about research on multilingualism and the performing arts.

The symposium is organised by the Department of Performing Arts at Stockholm University of the Arts (SKH) in collaboration with Unga Klara and Riksteatern Crea and SKH Department of Acting, and is open to all of you who are interested.

We are inviting students, teachers and doctoral students in the performing arts, professional performing artists and staff at SKH and other interested parties to the symposium. 


Monday 29 March (link will be up soon)

Tuesday 30 March (link will be up soon)

The symposium contains sessions in Swedish, English and Swedish sign language.

Questions and background

A large part of the population in Sweden is multilingual; five official minority languages and a few hundred more languages are spoken in the country. Nevertheless, monolingualism is still the norm and multilingualism is generally seen as somewhat deviant, including in the performing arts field.  

The symposium ties in with the discussion of norm criticism and Eurocentrism by questioning the monolingual norm. This language ideology is linked to the view of the nation as a homogeneous society in which only one language should be spoken. We challenge this approach by asking questions such as:

  • How can the performing arts field actively work to promote linguistic and cultural diversity in a society and a world where various forces strive for linguistic and ethnic homogeneity? 
  • How can multilingualism be made visible as a competence, asset and experience, both at Uniarts and in the performing arts field and society at large? 

In recent years, a number of performing artists in the Nordic region have chosen to work multilingually. Some of these people and groups present their work during the symposium and talk about why and how they work with multiple languages and how the performances were received by the audience.  

We discuss multilingualism from both a public perspective and a practitioner’s perspective: 

  • Is it possible to use one’s entire linguistic repertoire (language/dialects/sociolects)
  • in one’s artistic work? 
  • How can a multilingual performance communicate with the audience?
  • How can performing arts practitioners deal with questions related to our understanding of text and messages – regardless of language? 

We hope to be able to raise awareness of participants’ own experiences and competences:

  • What linguistic repertoire (languages/dialects/sociolects) do I have?
  • How could I use these in my work and artistic practice?
  • What opportunities would this yield and what challenges are there?

We investigate the potential that multilingualism can have in the performing arts: 

  • Can multilingualism open up new dramaturgical structures?
  • Can multilingualism add musical, emotional and political dimensions?
  • What are the links between language and identities, and how can these be investigated in the performing arts?

A sneak peek at the programme


  • Gustav Deinoff, a director and Artistic Director Unga Klara (Swedish).
  • Mindy Drapsa, Artistic Director of Riksteatern Crea (Swedish sign language and Swedish). 
  • Josette Bushell-Mingo, Head of the Acting Department at SKH (English)

Presentations of multilingual performances

  • Dan Henriksson, Artistic Director of Klockriketeatern, Helsinki, Finland (Swedish + sign language interpretation).
  • Kristin Bjørn and Bernt Bjørn, Artistic Directors of Ferske Scener, Tromsø, Norway (English + sign language interpretation).
  • Mindy Drapsa, Artistic Director of Riksteatern Crea (Swedish sign language and Swedish)

In-depth presentations

  • Carla Jonsson, Professor of Educational Work at Umeå University: “Multilingualism in the performing arts: Power, resistance and identity” (in English + sign language interpretation).
  • Vanja Hamidi Isacson, playwright and doctoral student at the Department of Performing Arts, SKH: “The (musical) potential of multilingualism in dramatic works” and a reading of excerpts from her multilingual play “UniZona & PolyZona” in collaboration with Unga Klara (Swedish + sign language interpretation).

Impressions from working with multilingual performing arts 

Multilingualism can be defined as “The use or mastery of multiple languages”

Voices about working with multilingual performing arts, from “En Antologi för en flerspråkig scenkonst” (“An Anthology for Multilingual Performing Arts”) (Eds. Haglund, A, Styrke, A, Wiklund, K., 2020):

Multispråk gives you multiple possibilities 
     /Josette Bushell-Mingo

It definitely feels like an extra space that opens up when I act in Persian
     /Elmira Arikan in “Språket som ett extra ben” (“Language as an Extra Leg”) by Farnaz Arbabi

Drama and the performing arts can serve as possible places for silenced and marginalised languages and voices to be heard
     /Vanja Hamidi Isacson

Now I work with my entire identity, both my languages and my cultures
     /Farnaz Arbabi

... just like all other artistic decisions, the choice of language is also a political act
     /Jesper Karlsson and Dan Henriksson