Publication date:

01 February 2017

Length of book:

216 pages


Lexington Books

ISBN-13: 9781498549745

Fourteen scholars who work on campus or in the theater address this issue of what it means to play offstage. With their individual definition of what “offstage” could mean, the results were, predictably, varied. They employed a variety of critical approaches to the question of what happens when the play moves into the audience or beyond the physical playhouse itself? What are the social, cultural, and political ramifications? Questions of “how” and “why” actors play offstage admit the larger “role” their production has for the world outside the theater, and hence this collection’s sub-title: “The Theater As a Presence or Factor in the Real World.”

Among the various topics, the essays include: breaking the “fourth wall” and thereby making the audience part of the performance; the theater of political protest (one contributor staged Waiting for Godot in Zuccotti Park as part of the Occupy Wall Street protests); “landscape” or “town” theater using citizens as actors or trekking theater where the production moves among various locations in the community; the way principles of the theater can inform corporate management; the genre of semi-scripted comedy and quasi-impromptu spectacle (such as reality TV or flash mobs); digitalized performances of Shakespeare; the role of Greek Theater in the midst of the country’s current economic and political crisis; how the area outside the theater became part of the performance inside Shakespeare’s Globe; Timothy Leary’s Psychedelic Celebrations designed to reproduce the offstage experience of LSD; WilliamVollmann’s use of Noh theater to fashion a personal model and process of life-transformation; liminal theater which erases the line between onstage and off. The collection thus complements through actual performance criticism those studies that see the theater as a commentary on issues—social, political, economic; and it reverses the Editor’s own earlier collection TheAudience As Player, which examined interactive theater where the spectator comes onstage.
Part of the "Transforming Literary Studies" series, this collection explores how "offstage" theatrical performances—performances that are not on a theater stage or that break the fourth wall—impact the audience and, in fact, may be the necessary ingredient to the continued vitality of theatrical performance in general. Homan (English, Univ. of Florida) organizes the 12 essays into three sections: "What Fourth Wall?" "The Theater of Everyday Life," and "Presence and Factor—and Force." Contributors include both theater scholars and practitioners, and in their essays they describe how the use of the actor-audience relationship, inside and outside the theater space, can transform the audience’s visceral involvement in the journey of the play. Flash mobs, political advocacy, and digital technology are some ways in which contemporary cultural phenomena are mined for these theatrical re-creations and representations. The volume offers unique and convincing perspectives on cinematic digital runs of Shakespeare productions, Germany's Citizen’s Theater, Timothy Leary’s Psychedelic Celebrations, and a staging of Waiting for Godot during Occupy Wall Street. Readers with exposure to the plays discussed or a background in theater will be at an advantage. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students.