17 theatre questions I think are pertinent and worthy of discussion

Since these are only semi-formed questions, and have not yet been polished by reiteration into glossy, meaningless pebbles, the list will be messier, wordier, and more convoluted.


01. Diversity, racism, patriarchy, affirmative politics, and the status of performing arts as representational, not merely of a story, but of the society. Real diversity, how to increase it, why it is so hard, and what effect would it have on how we perceive reality. The real figuration of racism, sexism, and different culturocentrisms. (Includes: women on stage, people of colour on stage, different voices, etc. The nature of insult or offensive performance. I don’t think we’ve come far at all.)

02. The nature of plagiarism in the theatre. (Examples: Beyonce and AT de K; but also the micro-trends within European theatre, or aesthetic transfers between the Schaubühne and Australia.) To what extent is it acceptable, and to what extent is it plagiarism, if one audience may never become aware.

03. The nature of reality on stage (the real chair standing for another real chair, as Hans-Thies Lehmann noted), and its manifestations in the new documentary theatre (known in Germany, I believe, as ‘post-epic’ theatre): Rimini Protokoll, same Tassos Stevens, super-participatory theatre, one-on-one performance, etc.

04. The relationship of theatre to community, ritual, and religion. In the light of Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists. Particularly pertinent to live art, one-on-one performance, immersive, etc.

05. The notion of politics in theatre, including
05a. the concept of the ‘right-wing play’
05b. whether politically effective theatre has ever existed
05c. Caryl Churchill’s notion of theatre that ‘makes people do things’: how, what is the dramaturgy of ‘making people do things’?
05d. Christoph Schlingensief
05e. especially in the light of…

06. Theatre as inherently an event, rather than representation of event, thus more likely to become revolution than to enlighten people on the need for revolution.


07. The role of the audience in meaning-making: giving the meaning to the work of performance, its role in defining what the work means, and whether it’s good or not. Not in the sense of there being a good, informed audience, and an audience misreading the performance, but in the sense of the audience being the other 50% of the theatre event. Sub-questions including the relationship of this meaning-making to:
07a. the audiences’ knowledge of current events
07b. traffic conditions on the day (Tassos Stevens has written some excellent stuff on this recently)
07c. the comfort or discomfort of the room
07d. collective level of education, income, and prejudices
07e. collective knowledge of the theatre canon, and contemporary works.

08. The notion of ‘trigger’ (as in, trauma, the way it is used in discussions of rape, for example) and its relationship to the audience experience in the theatre.

09. The anatomy of attention: shortening and lengthening attention spans, modern, pre-modern and post-modern. The ethical component thereof.

10. What audience experiences are ‘valid’ or ‘invalid’, and how does someone attend one with a view of having to write about it critically later?

11. The poetics of audience participation.

12. The social conditions of immersive and participatory theatre: internet, urban sprawl, new forms of alienation, new forms of socialisation.

13. The changing quality of listener’s responsibility for the message received, and imperative to react (something noted by Hans-Thies Lehmann in Postdramatic Theatre).


14. Differences and similarities between ‘theatre’ and ‘performance art’ (or ‘performance’ and ‘performance art’), with a view towards
14a. the differences in the mode of production between performing and visual arts, where the latter is specifically oriented towards producing a high-priced, purchasable object, normally as investment – and the former produces no such object. The artistic objectives, the critical measurements
14b. the fact that one nominally respects, and the other eschews, the notion of skill or training. (The discussion has already been fruitfully opened at culturebot.)
14c. differing understanding of curation and dramaturgy: i.e., contextualisation and theoretical framing of art.

15. The spatiality of performance (including, but not limited to, site-specific performance), and the points of connection between theatre and sculpture. Also, related: art as experience, not artefact. The role of space in framing performance.)

16. The role of media in communicating and framing performance. Criticism as interpretation, vs. criticism as evaluation. Criticism as documentation.


17. Theatre as a form of coming together.

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