Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Theatre & Dance
This dissertation sets out to provide guidelines for the conceptualization of audience experiences for site-based theatre--theatre events more commonly described as site-specific, site-responsive, or immersive. Creators of site-based theatre should design participative engagement for audiences that immerses participants in the site and interfaces with its contexts, and promotes a visceral and memorable experience of the performance.
Following a definition of site-based theatre, this dissertation investigates conceptual practices of 20 leading practitioners of site-based theatre in contemporary Great Britain; Grid Iron Theatre, Punchdrunk, Pearson/Brookes, Common Wealth Theatre Company, Hydrocracker Theatre, Red Earth, and ZU-UK, among others. Based on interviews with these practitioners, and observations of eight site-based theatre productions in the U.K. between 2011-2013, this dissertation proposes and explores a two-step sequence for the conceptualization of visceral and memorable site-based theatre audience experiences, and derives a taxonomy of the essential qualities of site-based theatre.
Chapter Three explores how site-based theatre benefits from an excited and engaged audience. Some audiences are attracted to site-based theatre’s egalitarian appeal that defies the power implications of the conventional theatre transaction.
Chapter Four explains how real-world sites offer locational, societal, historical and cultural contexts to be perceived and interpreted by the spectator. Numerous considerations for performance and participant interfaces are explored including a range of possible responses to contextual information present in the site.
Chapter Five explores the range of possible participative engagement available to creators of site-based theatre. Conceiving participative engagement requires attention to: inviting agency and active participation; engaging participants in roles in the performance; the usage and effects of immersion, proxemics, haptics and temporality, orientation and disorientation, and transitions; and methods for compelling movement through the performance and site.
This study identifies and discusses two foundational considerations for the conceptualization of site-based theatre and considers the possibility for expanded site-based theatre activity in the United States in the future.
Harmon, Randall, "Site-based Theatre in 21st Century Britain: Conceptualizing Audience Experiences" (2015). Theatre and Dance Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 36.