“As Exciting as a Movie”: How Does Streaming Change Theatre?

Katie Hawthorne | 6 March 2017

It turns out that finding a precise definition for theatre is deceptively tricky. For some theorists, theatre depends upon the live presence of an audience to witness an event. For others, it’s the live presence of a performer to tell a story. Some researchers and theatre makers hold that it’s the one-off, physical, fleeting nature of a performance which sets it apart from other art forms. For example, in 1993, performance scholar Peggy Phelan argued: Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented […]: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance” (146).

Each of these definitions relies upon an idea of liveness – the idea of a live audience and a live performer, sharing physical space and time. Cultural theorists like Phillip Auslander have grappled with what it means to be live – don’t worry, this won’t get morbid – and in 1999, he argued that we have only understood live art since we’ve had a mediated alternative, the not live, and explained that “the defining fact of the recorded is the absence of the live.” (2)

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What is Postdramatic Theatre, and How Do I Sit Through Six Hours of It?

28 November 2016 ¦ Katie Hawthorne

The short answer is this: Postdramatic theatre can be lengthy, noisy and complicated, and it goes out of its way to challenge an audience. You will need snacks.

A slightly longer answer should start with “post-”. This year, we’ve seen ominous new terms coined to describe our political landscape: post-truth, post-Brexit and post-Trump have become a part of every-day speech, each pointing towards an uncertain future and a time of unpredicted turbulence. It’s strange, because the “post-“prefix usually signifies critical reflection. In academic terms, at least, we use it to denote that a concept has been updated (e.g. post-modern) or to offer a position of perspective on complicated periods of history (e.g. post-colonial) – but this new kind of “post-” seems to suggest that we are still in the thing, rather than beyond it.

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The Hamiliad: Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Epic Tradition

31 October 2016 ¦ Bradley Copper

Virgil’s Aeneid was an epic poem composed from 29-19 BC. It describes the mythological journey of Trojan hero Aeneas and his founding of Rome, and was immediately placed at the centre of education in the early Roman Empire. Hamilton: An American Musical, a show about Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and the American Revolution (1765-83), has with similar speed entered classrooms across the United States in the year since its Broadway debut. In his poem, Virgil lauds Emperor Augustus, to whom he performed parts of it; Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man behind Hamilton, sang an early version of its first song at a White House Poetry Jam in 2009. In fact, it’s difficult to find higher praise for the musical than from the White House: recently Michelle Obama called it “a musical about the miracle that is America” (70th). Rarely do literary works get so warm an imperial reception, so what may we make of this anecdotal connection between Hamilton and the classical epic?

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