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Landon Rogers
Landon Rogers

Richard Schechner's Performance Studies: An Introduction - A Comprehensive and Accessible Guide

Performance Studies: An Introduction by Richard Schechner

Performance Studies: An Introduction is a groundbreaking textbook that provides a comprehensive and accessible overview of the field of performance studies. Written by Richard Schechner, one of the founding fathers and leading scholars of performance studies, this book introduces readers to the history, theory, concepts, methods, scope, diversity, challenges, and opportunities of studying performance in its various forms and contexts. Whether you are interested in theatre, dance, music, film, television, ritual, play, games, social media, or the performances of everyday life, this book will help you understand how performance shapes our world and how we can shape it through performance.

Performance Studies An Introduction Richard Schech ajedres glenda educa

What is performance studies?

Performance studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines and analyzes human behavior as performance. Performance is not only something that happens on stage or screen, but also something that happens in everyday life. Performance is not only something that people do intentionally or artistically, but also something that people do spontaneously or habitually. Performance is not only something that people do individually or collectively, but also something that people do in relation to their environment and culture.

Performance studies explores how people use performance to express themselves, communicate with others, create meaning, construct identities, challenge norms, resist power, transform situations, and imagine possibilities. Performance studies also explores how performance affects people's emotions, perceptions, cognition, memory, learning, creativity, agency, and well-being. Performance studies draws on various disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, communication, media studies, cultural studies, literature, history, philosophy, and aesthetics to understand the complexity and diversity of human performance.

The origins and development of performance studies

Performance studies emerged in the late 20th century as a result of several factors, such as:

  • The expansion and experimentation of the performing arts, especially theatre, in the 1960s and 1970s, which challenged the conventional boundaries and definitions of art and culture.

  • The influence of anthropological and sociological theories, such as those of Victor Turner, Erving Goffman, and Clifford Geertz, which emphasized the performative aspects of ritual, social interaction, and cultural symbolism.

  • The emergence of poststructuralist and postmodernist perspectives, such as those of Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Jean-François Lyotard, which questioned the stability and authority of language, knowledge, and representation.

  • The rise of social movements, such as feminism, civil rights, gay rights, and environmentalism, which used performance as a tool for activism, protest, and empowerment.

  • The development of new technologies, such as digital media, the internet, and social media, which enabled new forms and modes of performance and participation.

Richard Schechner was one of the pioneers who recognized the need for a new field that could address the changing nature and role of performance in the contemporary world. He founded the first academic journal dedicated to performance studies, The Drama Review (TDR), in 1962, and the first academic program in performance studies, at New York University (NYU), in 1980. He also developed a theoretical framework for performance studies, based on his concept of the "broad spectrum of performance", which includes six types of performance:

  • Performing arts: theatre, dance, music, etc.

  • Popular entertainments: circus, carnival, sports, etc.

  • Rituals: religious, political, social, etc.

  • Play and games: recreational, educational, competitive, etc.

  • The performances of everyday life: greeting, dressing, eating, etc.

  • Performances of the self: identity, gender, sexuality, etc.

Schechner argued that these types of performance are not separate or fixed, but rather interconnected and fluid. He also argued that performance studies should not only analyze and interpret performance, but also create and participate in performance. He advocated for a "performance-oriented" approach that combines theory and practice, research and action, criticism and creativity.

The key concepts and methods of performance studies

Performance studies uses a variety of concepts and methods to study performance in its multiple dimensions. Some of the key concepts are:

  • Performance: a process of doing or showing something; a dynamic and emergent phenomenon that involves actions, interactions, expressions, representations, and interpretations.

  • Performativity: the capacity of language, signs, and actions to produce effects and realities; the way that performance constructs and performs social and cultural meanings and identities.

  • Performance analysis: the process of examining and understanding the elements, structures, functions, and effects of performance; the application of analytical tools and frameworks to describe and explain performance.

  • Performance ethnography: the process of observing and participating in the performance cultures of different groups and communities; the use of ethnographic methods such as fieldwork, interviews, participant observation, and reflexivity to document and understand performance.

  • Performance art: a genre of artistic expression that uses the body, time, space, and media as its main materials; a form of experimental and avant-garde performance that challenges the conventions and boundaries of art and culture.

  • Performance activism: a mode of political engagement that uses performance as a means of raising awareness, expressing dissent, demanding change, and creating alternatives; a form of social and cultural intervention that challenges the status quo and envisions new possibilities.

Performance studies also uses a variety of methods to create and participate in performance. Some of the key methods are:

  • Performance making: the process of devising and producing original performances; the use of creative techniques such as improvisation, collaboration, composition, scripting, staging, and editing to generate and shape performance.

  • Performance training: the process of developing and enhancing one's skills and abilities for performing; the use of pedagogical techniques such as exercises, workshops, rehearsals, feedback, and evaluation to improve one's performance.

  • Performance documentation: the process of recording and preserving performances; the use of media technologies such as photography, video, audio, text, and digital platforms to capture and archive performance.

  • Performance dissemination: the process of sharing and distributing performances; the use of media technologies such as print, broadcast, online, social media platforms to communicate and circulate performance.

  • Performance evaluation: the process of assessing and judging performances; the use of criteria such as quality, effectiveness, impact, relevance to measure and value performance.

The scope and diversity of performance studies



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