First actress to broaden the repertoire with artistic doctoral degree

Petra Fransson is the first member of the Malmö Theatre Academy to obtain a PhD as a stage performer. The dilemma between the tough conditions for professional actors on the one hand, and the potential between the body and delivering lines on the other led her to her PhD project.

“I started eight years ago, but I chose to study part-time while continuing to work as an actress”, she says.

Petra Fransson

Petra Fransson

Artistic research became a new and alternative platform for Petra Fransson, and breaking new ground in a fairly unestablished research world have involved both pros and cons. Artistic doctoral degrees were introduced in Sweden in 2010 together with a national artistic graduate school with which Petra Fransson has been affiliated. A playwright from the Malmö Theatre Academy has also obtained a PhD but is not an actor. Nationally, Petra Fransson is the first actress to be awarded an artistic doctoral degree, that is, on the basis of an artistic PhD project. Three actors/actresses in Sweden have previously obtained a Doctor of Philosophy, i.e. not in the artistic field.

“Being the first to achieve this artistic degree has given me a lot of freedom, but it has also required me to be quite inventive, which was sometimes difficult”, she says.

Petra Fransson did not work alone, however; she describes her thesis project as interartistic. As the artistic director and project owner, she worked with musicians, other actresses/actors and visual artists.

Her PhD project “Omförhandlingar: Kropp, replik och etik” (Renegotiations: Body, lines and ethics) is based on three texts written by Austrian playwright and author Elfriede Jelinek who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004. The first two texts are soliloquies from “Princess Dramas” and the third is from “Winter Journey” which Petra Fransson produced at the Galeasen theatre in Stockholm. The final part of her PhD project, “ethics”, is about the actor as a creator, among other things.

Her hope for the future is to continue to have one foot on stage and the other in academia as a lecturer and researcher.

The #metoo and #tysttagtagning petitions in which Petra Fransson took part started right after she submitted her doctoral thesis to print.

“So they didn’t affect the thesis itself, but have been a reminder of why I went into research in the first place, and of the importance of the thesis in situating the profession of acting in a feminist and postcolonial discourse”, she says.

Maria Lindh