Contemporary Theatre and the Experiential

By Kate Adams.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the context of the blurring of boundaries between club and theatre, game and theatre, and party and theatre, experiential spectatorship is spilling into the mainstream. This article starts from the recognition of the rapid rise of the experience economy as a turning point in consumer culture towards a specific appeal to the sensory body. The definition of experience in this analysis is key and a distinction is made between experience as it passes moment by moment, erlebnis, and experience as something that is cumulatively built up over time, erfahrung.

This paper asks, in a society defined by the crisis of experience, does this rise of the experiential in theatre simply reflect the reduction of experience to a series of consumable sensory moments or is there a mode of experience modelled through performance interaction which moves both beyond this established mode of experience and also beyond the notion of experience as cumulatively formed wisdom (erfahrung)? Drawing a parallel between established popular cultural practices of the body and those of the spectator in spectacular promenade performance, Fuerzabruta is used as an illustrative example of popular experiential performance and Hwang’s The Road as an example of experiential performance in which a transformative aesthetic is made possible.

Keywords: Contemporary Theatre, Experiential, Promenade Performance, Experience Economy, Spectatorship

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.153-164. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 639.948KB).

Dr. Kate Adams

Lecturer, English, Sociology, Politics and Contemporary History Department, University of Salford, Manchester, Lancashire, UK

I am a lecturer at Salford University, specialising in contemporary performance. My PhD examined the impact of the rise of the spectacle on contemporary theatre in Britain and I have since been working on the relationship between the spectacle and the experiential. My current interests include the impact of new media and gaming on interactive or participatory spectatorship in theatre, radical performance, phenomenology, and slow art and performance. I recently performed a solo live art piece at the Emergency festival in Manchester entitled ‘I Found this Dirt under my Fingernails’ which explored our relationship to the surface of the earth growth and decay.


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