Knut Ove Arntzen

Knut Ove Arntzen (born 1950) is a Norwegian theatre theorist and professor at The Department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies at The University of Bergen. Arntzen has published a number of articles and books and is in particular known for his work with newer performing arts forms, in particular related to the terms non-hierarchical and visual dramaturgy. Arntzen prefers the term "a visual kind of dramaturgy", which he defines as follows: "It indicates  that elements or means of expression, such as space, frontality, textuality and visuality, are no longer arranged in the traditional sense of organic or hierarchic systems, but are equivalent, on an equal footing".

Arntzen also has a past as a theatre critic for the newspaper Arbeiderbladet and has been a visiting lecturer at several universities abroad.

He and Sven Åge Birkeland were together awarded Honorary Hedda in 2020.


(Objekt ID 3961)
Object type Person
Born October 7, 1950
Functions Writer, Researcher, Critic, Professor, Theatre critic
Nationality Norwegian
Gender Male
Adresse Bergen, Norway
Website University of Bergen

The Hedda Committee gave the following reason for the award to Knut Ove Arntzen and Sven Åge Birkeland:

"All of us who work in the theatre know that our profession, our art form, is a practical discipline, or rather - a collection of different, complementary practical disciplines. And that the unifying of all these disciplines, when they are brought together into a higher unity, is what creates the art. In this unifying, what directors and others like to call the conception, another term is central, and that is theory - the exercise of reflecting on what theatre is and what theatre can be, given specific circumstances. Not least, it is about seeing where the theatre stands in relation to its own history. Which are the expressions carried by tradition, which are the new ones we now see, and not least, how do we think theatre will look in the future?

This year, The Hedda Committee wants to honour two very central figures in modern Norwegian theatre history, who have both, each from their perspective and with each their role, used their entire adult lives in searching for this: Where is theatre, performing arts, going - what happens, and how can we best convey to the audience what the most interesting right now is?

The first of them is to be regarded as a father figure. As early as the 1970es, he travelled across Europe and was able to observe near all the new tendencies at the international festival arena, of which he also diligently reported to the daily press. Eventually, he was seated at the institute for theatre studies at The University of Bergen, and this was where his work really got significant. There are many dramaturgs, directors, artistic directors, actors and other theatre practicians who found all or at least part of their education at what almost became his "school" in Bergen. The list is long, and it contains central names in newer Norwegian theatre history.

Among others, it also contains the name of the second person we wish to honour here tonight. And also in this, a look at the international arena is central. The thought that something happened out there, something lacking at home, first materialised in a festival - Bergen International Theatre Festival - and later in a garage, Teatergarasjen, where a curatorial sound judgment and incomparable international knowledge could delight the Norwegian audiences while challenging and inspiring Norwegian performing artists. Few Norwegian theatre venues, if any, become as directly part of contemporary European theatre history as the arena this man created. Or, as these two men created, one of them standing on the shoulders of the other. Today, there is a symbiotic relationship between the theatre theoretician and the theatre practician, bringing them together into a higher unity.

It is with great joy and gratitude that The Hedda Committee gives Honorary Hedda 2020 to Professor Knut Ove Arntzen and artistic director Sven Åge Birkeland."

At the occasion of Knut Ove Arntzen's 60th birthday in 2010 a celebratory book was published, under the title of Når teori og praksis likestilles: Festskrift til Knut Ove Arntzen (literally: When theory and practice are put on equal footing: Tribute to Knut Ove Arntzen). The book was edited by Hallfrid Velure, Melanie Fieldseth, Ole Klemsdal and Kristian Seltun.


Arntzen, K. O (1991). "A Visual kind of Dramaturgy: Project
Theatre in Scandinavia", in C. Schumacher og D. Fogg, ed., Small Is
Beautiful. Small Countries Theatre Conference, Glasgow: Theatre
Studies Publications. p. 43-48.

The Hedda Award,, 21.09.2020,

Affiliations (2)
Awards - part of jury (1)