Performance Theory

Performance Theory

Performance Theory

Performance Theory

Synopsis

Few have had quite as much impact in both the academy and in the world of theatre production as Richard Schechner. For more than four decades his work has challenged conventional definitions of theatre, ritual and performance. When this seminal collection first appeared, Schechner's approach was not only novel, it was revolutionary: drama is not just something that occurs on stage, but something that happens in everyday life, full of meaning, and on many different levels. Within these pages he examines the connections between Western and non-Western cultures, theatre and dance, anthropology, ritual, performance in everyday life, rites of passage, play, psychotherapy and shamanism.

Excerpt

With two exceptions, I wrote the essays in this book between 1966 and 1976. It was a very busy decade. My interests had dramatically shifted from theater to performance and from aesthetics to the social sciences. Today I write “performance, ” but at the time I wasn't sure what performance was. I knew it was more than what was appearing on the stages of New York, London, or Paris. From the advent of Happenings in the early 1960s to the vibrant enactment on American streets of what Victor Turner termed “social drama” - the freedom movement led by thousands of ordinary people but iconicized in the eloquent words and enacted testimony of Martin Luther King, Jr. - I discovered that performance can take place anywhere, under a wide variety of circumstances, and in the service of an incredibly diverse panoply of objectives.

My experiences as a civil-rights and anti-Vietnam War activist, and a sometime participant-creator of Happenings, pointed me toward a whole new range of research. I “found” social and cultural anthropology extremely useful because in ethnographies and theoretical treatises anthropologists treated the actual lived behavior of people performatively. Taking a cue from Erving Goffman's 1959 breakthrough book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, I sensed that performances in the broad sense of that word were coexistent with the human condition. Goffman

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