Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Theatre & Dance

First Advisor

Bud Coleman

Second Advisor

Beth Osnes

Third Advisor

Merrill Lessley


As a genre, musical theatre has been left out of the discussion in scholarly and seminal works in the area of spectator/audience reception theory studies. This paper integrates spectator theory with musical theatre performance to consider the "in the moment" experience of musical theatre as a live event in which the spectator actively participates. This paper reviews models which describe the actor-spectator relationship from theatre theories of semiotics, phenomenology, cognitive approaches to spectating, and the study of the theatrical event and adapts them to create a new model of theatrical communication between the actor and spectator in a musical theatre performance. This new model is used to analyze the actor-spectator relationship during actual musical theatre performances. Each analysis takes a fresh look at viewing musical theatre through the frame of the active actor-spectator relationship with the goal of examining what is going on between the stage and spectator that packs such a punch in the moment of experience .