Theatre in the Expanded Field: Seven Approaches to Performance
Book: Theatre in the Expanded Field: Seven Approaches to Performance
Written by: Alan Read
Published by: Bloomsbury, 2013
In Theatre in the Expanded Field, Alan Read re-examines the conception of theatre and performance, and urges the readers to reconfigure the ways one looks at these fields of studies. Analyzing the scopes of performance studies, Read ponders how performance as a practice irritates the public, bureaucracies, the conservatives, and the socialists and how performance studies emerged as a gestalt shift in 1980s and 1990s. The author claims that Richard Southern’s work “Seven Ages of the Theatre” which looks at the history of theatre within a broad social context, from the age of the costumed player to the works of Bertolt Brecht, serves as an inspiration for this book. The author’s purpose is to provide various approaches and disciplinary encounters to study theatre. The seven chapters of the book are defined by a specific approach to the history of performance. For example, the chapter ‘First Approach: Pre-Historical and Archaeological’ focuses on the emergence of spectatorship and traces it back to the pre-historic formation of the audience for paintings in caves, on ceramic tiles and fabric from the ceramic age. Read suggests that “if performance found its audience in the collective of the cave, as I have been suggesting before Mondzain’s invention of the first spectator, then the foundation of performance studies, if you follow my reverse logic and timeline, occurred in Egypt in the fourth millennium BCE” (p.23). The second chapter, talks about the pastoral and anthropological approach (the first extant literature of an agrarian practice called transhumance), the third chapter is about the theological and historical approaches, the fourth one is about the digital and technological approach, the fifth is about psychological and legal approaches, and so on.
“We should step outside the performance studies frame to view ‘Theatre’ (in its base theatricality, abandonment and all) and ‘Performance’, its irritating and irritable other, as braided like a Moebius strip in twentieth and twenty-first century’s cultural production”(pp. xxxvii-xxxviii)