Sociology of theatre and performance
These essays from 1983 to 2008 are pioneering in establishing and developing the field of the sociology of theatre and performance. They cover various aspects, focusing on theoretical and methodological principles, the problems of contextualisation and of defining contexts for theatre practice, and approaches to analysing and understanding performances in terms that are aesthetic as well as sociocultural at one and the same time. It is in this area of artistic works as process and achievement, which the sociology of the arts in general has found notoriously difficult, that the book makes its most innovative contribution.
The book also provides examples of audience analysis, introducing the category of ethnic identification, which studies of audiences had neglected, including those by Pierre Bourdieu concerning museum attendance and viewing in galleries. Here demographic and other quantitative factors are correlated with spectators’ assessments of theatre productions, emphasising the importance of such qualitative material for grasping the social significance and dynamics of theatre/performance.
This book’s wide range of interests, perceived and presented from a number of different angles, employs a diverse range of methods: conceptual framing, cultural embedding, textual deconstruction, empirically-based sociocultural performance analysis, ethnographic research, media documentation, questionnaire surveys and interviews with actors, directors and spectators. Different types of performances are discussed, going from the mainstage productions of path-breaking directors of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – including opera – to performances with a political thrust, or to community groups involved in identifying and authenticating multiculturalism.