Preamble with Questions

At a very basic level, the negotiation between the two synchronous worlds of the actual and the fictional forms the foundation of what makes theatre theatre, distinguishing performance from life. In print forms of literature, little black squiggles on paper stand in for the real world. A still life bowl of fruit is made of paint and canvas. In the theatre, of course, the actual object at work and its fictional image are unusually close — a chair is another chair, a bright light is another bright light. The likeness of these two elements approach the limit horizon as in calculus, almost (but never quite) reaching identity.

These basic questions about the real on stage come to the fore lately with increased production of (and academic interest in) such genres as documentary theatre, verbatim theatre, autobiographical performance, and site-specific theatre — all of which place a premium on the actual nature of certain theatrical elements. In general, the conventions of the theatre work hard to subdue the real and bend it to its fictional will.

This project will look at those moments when, like contents under pressure, the real breaks through those bounds and surges upward. Questions to be considered may include:

  • audience attraction to “truth” and the “authentic”
  • instability of the real inside the fictionalizing frame of theatre
  • the use of the “real” in performance to effect political/social change
  • ethical obligations of performance to its real world antecedents
  • perceptual fluidity of what is real and how this fluidity is applied in support of the work’s themes or goals
  • strategies for managing the interplay between real and fictional worlds (e.g. metatheatre and framing)

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