Pia Kleber

Professor of Comparative Literature, Helen and Paul Phelan Chair in Drama
PhD Toronto

KleberContact Information

Email: pia.kleber@utoronto.ca
Office: UC
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Pia Kleber has been Professor and Director of the University College Drama Program at the University of Toronto since 1988. She has an M.A. in costume design from the Academy of Fine Arts, Berlin, and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. In 1999 she was awarded the Helen and Paul Phelan Chair in Drama.

Professor Kleber is the organizer of two major international theatre festivals and conferences: Why Theatre: Choices for the New Century (1995), and Brecht: 30 Years After (1986), both held at the University of Toronto. During these conferences she brought two famous German Theatre Companies to North America for the first time: the Berliner Ensemble (1986) and the Berlin Schaubühne (1995).

Prof. Kleber’s focus for the past thirty years has been to bridge the gap between Europe (especially Germany) and Canada, and to unite the two cultures. For her efforts to strengthen German-Canadian relations she will be awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz by the German President this fall.


Whether personal, social or broadly political, the definition and preservation of Human Security is central to contemporary art around the world. My own research goal is to show how central art has been and is to the conception of Human Security. All literature about Human Security to date has completely ignored the fact that artists do much more than respond to or reflect contemporary anxieties: they explore issues that other parts of society may not recognize and they offer solutions to perceived problems.

Some of the works we study in my class are: Ariane Mnouchkine (Au soleil même la nuit; Le dernier Caravanserail) ; Robert Lepage (Trilogy of Dragons ; Needles and Opium ; The Andersen Project) ; Atom Egoyan (Ararat), John Greyson and South African Aids activist , Zackie Achmat (Fig Trees); Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Kandahar);and Terry George’s’ Hotel Rwanda.

I investigate techniques of cross-cultural collaboration in the arts and address ways in which these activities might be made to overlap more closely with the work of social and political activists both in Canada and elsewhere in the world. I am concerned with how policies, fuelled by fear and based on misrepresentation, are constructed in a space apart from the lives they either seek to protect or seek protection from The project’s challenge therefore is to forge a clear link between two notoriously vague concepts – “Human Security” and “Culture” – in such a way that a coherent analysis and effective strategies can emerge.In order to undertake this unique and non-traditional inquiry I use an innovative and multidisciplinary pedagogical approach by combining students from Comparative Literature with students from the Department of Political Science under the supervision of Prof. Stephen Clarkson. The combination of students from both disciplines will help to infuse a social-scientific approach to security in international relations with a practical understanding of how creative agency can produce social change. We plan to present the progress and prospective new directions at a conference in Berlin at the end of the academic year


Recent Publications

Her numerous publications include books on Bertolt Brecht: Exceptions and Rules. Brecht, Planchon and “The Good Person of Szechwan”; Re-Interpreting Brecht: His Influence on Contemporary Drama and Film. Her articles include “Theatrical Continuities in Giorgio Strehler’s The Tempest”, “The Directing Methodologies of Giorgio Strehler” and “Die Courage der Mütter. Am Beispiel von Bertolt Brecht”. Prof. Kleber’s articles have been published in five languages (English, French, German, Italian and Chinese).