Bernadette Cochrane and Heidi Lucja Liedke – The digital and the live: Three in one? On NT Live audiences and communality

Presentation

Bernadette Cochrane and Heidi Lucja Liedke

University of Queensland and University of Koblenz-Landau

The digital and the live: Three in one? On NT Live audiences and communality

The cinematic screening of live theatrical performances is a signal indicator of intensifying demand for cultural exchange and access. The paper considers how the international, intermedial phenomenon that is National Theatre Live creates three different classes of audience whose experience of the performance is shaped by different degrees of invested cognitive work. These audiences are the theatre audience, the simultaneous cinematic audience, and the delayed cinematic audience. To explain: the theatre audience shares time and space with the production. The simultaneous cinematic audience shares time but is geographically remote from the production. The delayed audience, often the international audience, is both temporally and geographically distant. If theatre is innately communal, then this configuration of audience implies a relational series of degradation or diminution of experience. Key to this implied diminution is the insinuation of the loss of community. We argue that, first, the audiences differ from one another on the basis of the cognitive work they need to invest into the experience of the performance. The cinema and the delayed audience make up for the diminished experience (through spatial/geographical and temporal exclusion) by re-imagining themselves back into the space and time of the theatre audience. Second, we argue that the three audiences while existing separately, overlap and intersect to create a fourth category of audience: the meta-audience. This meta-audience, those who occupy the position of two or more of the originating audience types, both extend and amplify the notion of theatre as a communal act. Rather than audience categories existing on a degrading plane, the meta-audience reconfigures these audiences as co-existing, mutually enriching communities. The meta-audience offers replenishment rather than reduction. The concept of the meta-audience also links up to and problematizes the discourse on the “ideal reader” or rather “ideal spectator”: What would an ideal audience be, for National Theatre Live? And is the ideal audience an abstract concept or a hybrid of all three classes of audience?

Bernadette Cochrane is a Lecturer in Drama at the University of Queensland. She works in the field of new dramaturgies. Publications include: “Screening from the Met, the NT, or the House: what changes with the live relay”. Theatre to Screen. Spec. issue of Adaptation (2014 with Frances Bonner), “Blurring the Lines: adaptation, transmediality, intermediality, and screened performance” for the Routledge Companion to Adaptation (2018), and “Screened Live: Technologically Reconfiguring Notions of the Author” Body, Space Technology (2020). Bernadette is a contributor to the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Stage Directors and Directing (2020). She is a board member for the Migrant Dramaturgies Network, https://migrantdramaturgies.tumblr.com.

Heidi Lucja Liedke is Assistant Professor of English Literature at the University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany. In her postdoctoral project, she examines the aesthetics of live theatre broadcasting and how it oscillates between the poles of spectacle, materiality, and engagement. Heidi was a Postdoctoral Humboldt Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London from 2018-2020. Recent articles include: “‘These Seats Are So Comfy’: Livecasting and the Notion of Comfortable Theatre” in Comfort in Contemporary Culture: The Challenges of a Concept, edited by Dorothee Birke and Stella Butter, Bielefeld: transcript, 2020, 209-230; “Emancipating the Spectator? Livecasting, Liveness, and the Feeling I” in Performance Matters 5.2 (2019): 6-23; “In Appreciation of ‘Mis-’ and ‘Quasi-’: Quasi-Experts in the Context of Live Theatre Broadcasting in Platform 13.1 On Criticism (2019): 86-102.

Rea Dennis – Moving out of door – Temporary communities and affective scenography

Presentation

Rea Dennis

Deakin University

Moving out of door – Temporary communities and affective scenography  

Customarily when we consider situating a performance out of door, we might imagine that it will adopt a form such as: Site Specific  …. In the park, … in the garden, … in the street – Public Art, Live Art, socially engaged, community based, landscape performance … 

Yet there is likely to be various forces at play when an artist moves out of door. Informed by my own practice research this paper explores the materiality of affect and connection when artists perform outside, move performance outside, and disrupt the inside with images/video of outdoors. It explores the way a form of vagrancy of occupation (Anderson 2013) occurs in this movement between spaces; and how this disrupts artist and audience experience of both the performance and of the outdoors. Drawing on the biophilic principles of thermal air?low and air?low variability; dynamic and diffuse light’ and non-rhythmic sensory stimuli, it considers how temporary communities that embrace a what might be termed a scenography of nature and enact a collective performing body, might form. 

Rea Dennis is a performance practitioner and scholar based in Melbourne, Australia whose works range from experiential and interactive performances and site-based social engagement, to intense black box physical performance. She also has a multimedia practice exploring perception, affect and materiality. She is a lecturer in Art and Performance at Deakin University and writes critical papers addressing experiences of thinking through making, embodied cognition and performance. Her work has toured to UK, New York, Taiwan, Germany, Brazil and Japan.

Soseh Yekanians – (Re)discovering Sense of Self Through the Theatre

Presentation

Soseh Yekanians

Charles Sturt University

(Re)discovering Sense of Self Through the Theatre

Records of dramatic conception and theatrical performance have co-existed since the time of ancient Greeks and continued during medieval Europe, Tudor England and the France of Louis XIV. And yet, whilst no one knows for certainty the “true” origins of theatre, we can assume that, like most of civilisation, it arose from Africa via rituals and storytelling traditions. But what was its purpose?

In the distant past, theatre was used more as a way to help express the ritualistic ways of daily life by creating stories and myths that people could reflect upon and live by. As theatre made its way through history, we saw its purpose change. French theatre director and playwright Antonin Artaud (1958) for instance, held the belief that theatre should represent reality and affect the audience as much as possible by representing daily ritualistic life. In this way, Artaud believed that audiences would become involved with the action of the theatre and, as a result, would experience theatre (and in turn life) in all its pleasure and cruelty and transform its results back into their everyday lives. Similarly, American theatre director Anne Bogart (2001) echoed theatre’s transformative power and regarded it as a unique art form because of its potential to initiate great change. 

Yet, according to some literary sources, the definition of theatre seems simpler than this. Theatre is merely “the activity or profession of acting in, producing, directing, or writing plays, in a building or outdoor area in which plays, and other dramatic performances are given” (Pearsall & Hanks, 2010). Whilst, I do not disagree with this definition, this paper will discuss why theatre is much more than simply an activity one partakes in to (re)present or (re)enact a performance. By probing into my own struggles with cultural displacement and loss of identity and then, (re)discovering my sense of Self through the theatre, I will highlight its uniquely transformative power whose intimate and synergetic processes enable its personnel to come together, to celebrate differences, allow for individual expression but the most importantly, allow for the opportunity to examine these complex matters in a nonjudgmental space. 

Dr Soseh Yekanians is a graduate from the Australian Academy of Dramatic Art in Sydney and the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School in New York. In 2012, she was awarded an Australian Postgraduate Award Scholarship to embark on a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in Perth. Her research investigated how theatre directing and the performing arts could provide a culturally displaced individual with a sense of identity and belonging. Dr Yekanians’ practice-led study, specifically provided new insights into how theatre directing allows an individual to (re)discover their identity through leadership in a non-judgmental forum and how the theatre as a space for communal exchanges and conversations can initiate dialogue about cultural differences. Following her doctorate, two major career highlights have been the publication of her children’s literature book, The Special Team Elite and her revised thesis titled, Finding Identity through Directing, which was recognised by world leading academic publisher Routledge.