University Leadership Team

Prof. Mary Oliver

Dean – Faculty of Media and Performance


Professor Mary Oliver has been a professional performance artist, writer and academic for over 30 years. As a pioneer in Digital Performance for the last two decades she has been creating interactive performances and artworks and this portfolio of work includes original performances, gallery-based interactive installations, published essays and research papers.

Her experience in Higher Education, has been gained by working in all aspects of teaching and learning and she has held a number of roles in both Research and Academic leadership with increasing responsibilities.

Interdisciplinary innovative education has been a central theme in all the roles that she has undertaken during this time. She has specialised in curriculum development and practice-led teaching and learning. Prior to joining AUB she was the academic lead on the development of the International Screen School in Manchester.

An Associate of the HEA and National Teaching Fellow, she is regularly asked to undertake consultation on curriculum development.

She was instrumental in initiating Practice as Research PhD routes and is involved in the examination of MRes and PhD theses both internally and externally. As a motivational leader her aim is to empower colleagues towards achieving their ambitions; coaching and mentoring has become a significant part of her role.

Mary believes firmly in the benefit of connecting with external partners and these relationships continue to be important for the purpose of joint research activities, knowledge exchange and essentially – creating employment opportunities for our graduates.

Professional practice

Storyteller – Writer – Performance Artist, started her performance career working with immersive theatre companies such as IOU Theatre and House in the 1980’s.

Since this time she has worked as a writer and performer with numerous music, dance and contemporary performance companies before turning to solo performance where in the late 90’s she was a pioneer of digital performance – the first performer to use a real-time video player (previously only used in large scale music venues and festivals) to perform as five characters simultaneously in an original performance that was completely computer controlled.

Since this time she has been combining her interactive writing skills and immersive performance experiences. She is currently exploring the conflation of cinematic, computational and scriptwriting methods in the development of interactive stories that sit across a range of platforms and user experiences – applying the art of deception and deflection in guiding the audience through immersive narratives.

Professional memberships

  • HEA National Teaching Fellow
  • Associate of the HEA
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts

Research Specialism

New Media Performance
Transmedia, Storytelling and Experience Design
Performance and Computation

Mary Oliver has employed a wide range of digital technologies in all her works, beginning in 1999 when she was the first contemporary performance artist to use the newly available Realtime Mpeg3 player to deliver a full-length multiple screen live performance.

Since this time all her projects have been created with the aid of bespoke interdisciplinary production teams that have been constructed in order to realise the new kinds of interactive narratives she has conceived. The projects have utilised the traditional narrative and technical skills of the theatre maker and incorporated computer engineers, programmers, hackers and bioscience technicians.

Mary’s research is located in the interstices between actual and screen based performance. She has spent the last two decades researching and creating performances on stage and on screen that examine notions of performer presence and liveness. Her resultant performances and publications have created a body of ideas and techniques for interaction that she is now taking into other forms of performative experiences, including experience design and transmedia story telling.

Although highly technical, storytelling is at the heart of all the narrative forms that she has created, including linear, non-linear and chance-based structures. She is actively applying the narrative design skills that she has acquired from other media forms to the design of new performative user experiences.


Research Supervision

Mary welcomes PhD projects that examine performativity, experience design, interactive narrative discourse and practice.

PhD (by publication) Thesis:  The Digital Performer: Performance Technology and New Performance Paradigms (2013).

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Research output