By Gareth White (auth.)
This e-book asks that we ponder the practices that facilitate viewers participation on equivalent phrases with different components of the theatre maker's artwork; it bargains a theoretical foundation for this new technique, illustrated by way of examples from assorted participatory performances.
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Additional resources for Audience Participation in Theatre: Aesthetics of the Invitation
Autopoietic because it is self-generating, an emergent system that arises from itself, with only the input of raw materials rather than an exterior guiding hand; and a feedback loop because the activity of the spectators, however subtle, becomes part of the event, generating the variations in the activity of the performers and other spectators that generate more variations, and so on, and produce the liveness of the theatre event. This is part of her ontology of performance, and if performance makers have made a virtue of it, it would be foolish of theorists to leave it out of the account: ‘If “production” and “reception” occur at the same time and place, this renders the parameters developed for a distinct aesthetics of production, work and reception ineffectual’ (Fischer-Lichte 2008: 18).
I have borrowed the word procedure from Jan Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck in which she discusses the way that participation is manipulated by computer game designers to create a system with which players to interact, and designing the procedures that allow and respond to their activities. She insists this is a creative activity comparable with that of poets, authors and playwrights: it is very similar to the work of the creators of interactive drama, and Murray’s definition is one that will transfer easily: Procedural authorship means writing the rules by which the texts appear as well as writing the text themselves.
Again everyone knew exactly what to do with a ringing telephone, but this time it took longer for someone to step forward, first perhaps while they interpreted the ring as an invitation addressed to them rather than being framed as only an ‘onstage’ ring, and probably also because it would make them the centre of attention – making the action that is invited more risky. Ambiguous invitations like this are interesting cases that reveal risky situations and changing power relationships. It is possible to invite interaction in ways that are covert, neither implicit nor overt, but lead an audience or a spectator into participating without letting them know that this is happening, though definitions of audience participation can become tricky here, as many examples of this kind will involve hiding from the participants the fact that they are involved in a piece of theatre at all.