Dr Scott Palmer

Dr Scott Palmer


I have over 30 years of teaching and management experience in Higher Education in performance, design and technical theatre and was a founder member of the School of Performance and Cultural Industries in 2001. I have held a number of Senior Management roles including; Deputy Head of the School of Performance & Cultural Industries, Director of Student Education, Director of Enterprise and Knowledge Transfer and was Programme Manager for BA (Hons) Performance Design for over a decade. In 2017–18 I was appointed to an Excellence and Innovation Fellowship at the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence & Innovation.

Through a combination of research, teaching and engagement with external professional partners, I am a leading advocate for the international emergence of scenography as an intellectual discipline. My monograph Light: Readings in Theatre Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) has made a significant contribution to this field; it explores how light has influenced staging practices throughout history and provides a range of new thinking and perspectives on the use of light as a creative performance practice. I am an editor of the Bloomsbury Methuen Performance + Design series, and with Leeds colleague Joslin McKinney, co-edited Scenography Expanded (Bloomsbury 2017). Recently I have co-edited and contributed to a major new critical anthology Contemporary Performance Lighting (2023). I am an Associate Editor of the Routledge Theatre & Performance Design journal.

My teaching and research focus on scenography, immersive theatre practices and the interaction between technology and performance. I have supervised many collaborative devised student-led performances both within theatre spaces and beyond - most recently with a 2nd year undergraduate project with Leeds Museums and Galleries 'Within This House' 

I collaborated on the AHRC-funded Projecting Performance project with Sita Popat and KMA Creative Technology (2006–08). Performance outcomes from this work include the interactive kinetic light installation, Dancing in the Streets, (York 2005.)  <iframe width="320" height="240" frameborder="0" scrolling="auto" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="https://mymedia.leeds.ac.uk/Mediasite/Play/fa0119d3b30c45cab87871e8511ad4401d?autostart=true&player=50a54cab1d3541bc913f556ea1b6df590a&playfrom=0&covertitle=false" allowfullscreen msallowfullscreen allow="fullscreen"></iframe> and experimental productions; A Midsummer Night's Dream (2007) and The Shakespeare Project (2008) also with Popat and KMA. This work contributed to the scenography for DV8 Physical Theatre's international production To Be Straight With You and the impact of this research was highlighted by AHRC as an exemplar case study. I was involved with the creation of Ghost Peloton (NVA & Phoenix Dance Theatre) as part of the Grand Départ Yorkshire Festival in Leeds, May 2014, and ESTATE a collaborative, devised site-specific landscape performance with Floridian playwrights, researchers and students at the University of Miami (2017). I have also contributed to the AHRC/EPSRC funded Emergent Objects - designing the technological interface through performance research which formed part of the Designing for the 21st Century initiative drawing on performance knowledge to explore and articulate the emergent nature of the interface between technological object and human that is fundamental to the development of new design thinking and practices.

My recent publications explore the historical role of darkness as atmosphere in the theatre in the opening chapter of Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre  (eds. Alston/Welton, Methuen, 2017), a chapter on Light and Projection in Arnold Aronson's The Routledge Companion to Scenography (2018) and a chapter ‘A staging revolution through light and music: Adolphe Appia, Wagner and Hugo Bähr’ (2021).

Research interests

My research is focused on light, darkness and atmosphere, and designing for audience experience.

Current research projects:

  • Surround Stories (UKRI funded XR Stories) exploring 360-degree Full Dome environments in collaboration with LiveCinemaUK 
  • AHRC-funded Bridging the Gaps – Mixed Reality Performance of Chinese Opera in Rural and Urban Shanghai – exploring the potential of emergent digital technologies and relational performance practices to bring communities together

I have contributed to the international debate in the field of scenography for over 20 years. I was co-convenor of the IFTR Scenography Working Group (2013–16) and curated their Shared Space event at the Prague Quadrennial in 2015. I was an inaugural member of the TaPRA Scenography Working Group and have made regular contributions to OISTAT Education and History and Theory Commissions, and to Performance Studies International (PSi).

My monograph Light: Readings in Theatre Practice (2013) informed the research for BBC Radio 3's Illuminating the Stage (broadcast 25 December 2017.)

I co-edited Scenography Expanded: An Introduction to Contemporary Performance Design (2017) in the Bloomsbury Methuen Performance + Design Series which I am also a co-editor. I am Associate Editor for the Routledge Journal of Theatre and Performance Design in which my article 'A choreographie of light and space: Adolphe Appia and the first scenographic turn' was published [Open Access]. This argues for a revision to established theatre histories and analyses the particular conditions that converged in Dresden to establish Appia as the first lighting designer - a critical moment in the evolution of modern theatre practice. 

Recent research has focused on audience experience through both theory and practice. Work on darkness and atmosphere in performance has contributed to the opening chapter to Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre (2017), and a chapter on Light and Projection in Arnold Aronson's The Routledge Companion to Scenography (2018). I have explored the role of emerging digital technologies in shaping relational performance experiences. 

Teaching at University of Miami in 2017 resulted in an immersive landscape performance of ESTATE that I directed, and an experimental 360-degree video that can be experienced via smartphone download and VR headset - Estate 360. Research outcomes from this project have been shared at a Joint panel of the Intermediality and Scenography Working Groups at IFTR Belgrade, Serbia (July 2018) at the TaPRA Gallery, Aberystwyth University (September 2018), at ICIDS Dublin (December 2018) and ZipScene Budapest (2019) and detailed in a published article

As part of a University Fellowship investigating digital creativity and the mobile phone (with colleague Maria Kapsali) we developed a web resource SignalSpace.

I have recently co-edited a major new volume Contemporary Performance Lighting:Experience, Meaning and Creativity for Bloomsbury Methuen. It is the first critical anthology focusd on performance light.

I am a member of the PLACE, Practice as Research and Participation Research Groups, and was co-instigator of the Leeds-based Performing Light Network.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/prVbYqpI1mI" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD (Leeds) Light, Scenography and the Choreography of Space.
  • Cert. Education (Manchester)
  • BA Hons. Drama (Wales)

Professional memberships

  • ALPD - Association of Lighting Production & Design
  • IFTR - International Federation of Theatre Research
  • TaPRA - Theatre and Performance Research Association
  • SBTD - Society of British Theatre Designers

Student education

I was Director of Student Education (2019–2022) and responsible for coordinating all taught provision in the School. I teach across several modules on the undergraduate BA Theatre and Performance degree and on the MA Performance Design course. I have led core lecture-based modules as well as those focused on studio-based teaching and devising using design-led approaches. I regularly supervise research projects and student work that results in public perfomance.

I have particular interests and expertise in aspects associated with design in performance, directing relational performance ('immersive', one-to-one, 'environmental' and site-specific forms), devising, collaborative performance-making and in delivering content that makes links between historical innovations in theatre and performance of the modernist era with contemporary developments in performance practice, e.g. XR, 360 fulldome and location-based performance mediated via GPS and mobile phone apps.

Public performance work with undergraduates has focused on devised immersive and environmental theatre practices resulting in Pandora's Box (2009), Dream/Play (2010), Just Before Dawn (2011), All About Eve (2011) Into the Dark (2012) Blood Wedding (2013) and one-to-one performances, The Dreaming (2015) and The Waiting Room (2017). A recent second year collaborative project resulted in 'Within This House' (2018) – a relational, site-specific, durational performance of the First World War Auxiliary hospital at Temple Newsam in collaboration with Leeds Museums and Galleries.

I have supervised and examined PhD candidates in areas that include; light, scenography, design for audience experience, ‘immersive’, relational, site-specific and mixed reality performance.

Research groups and institutes

  • Audience, Engagement & Experience
  • Participation
  • Place & Performance
  • Theatre at Leeds

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>