Audience in performance: a poetics and pedagogy of spectatorship




Prendergast, Monica

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This study is designed as a curriculum-based response to an urgent educational responsibility: How do we understand and respond to our ever-greater roles as audience members in a technologically, politically, culturally and economically performative society? The lived-through experience of the live performing arts offers a powerful medium for young people within which to find relevance and genuine connection with artists and artistic practice that is not generally available through mediatized forms of performance. This curriculum theory study, in implementation, has the potential to greatly improve the cultural literacy of future audiences for the performing arts. The paradigm shift in our culture from predominantly textual to predominantly visual creates a pressing need for aesthetic and critical understandings of the many ways we experience everyday life as audiences in performance. Live performance forms - theatre_ dance, performance art. opera. music - offer a crucial counterbalance to the prevailing forces of film, television and other mass media forms of performance_ These performing arts audiences are generally more challenged - aesthetically, affectively and cognitively - in their reception and interpretation of live performance. Also, due to the inherent nature of shared presence in live performance. the potential exists for authentic, meaningful interactions between performers and spectators in a way that is not possible in most media-based performance forms. A curriculum theory for audience-in-performance (AIP) involves an increased awareness of the presence, attention and witnessing activities of live audience. as revealed in aesthetic philosophy. Performance theory sees the alienation, commodification and dispersement of contemporary AIP, but also recognizes the potential for resistance, collaboration, participation and shared memory and meaning-making with performance. AIP curriculum theory consists of three parts: pre-performance (preparatory/ predictive): performance (attentive/interpretive); and post-performance (reflective/evaluative). The role and function of AIP is akin to that of choruses in Ancient Greek theatre, occupying the liminal space between audience and performance. AIP students prepare for performance as artists do, through the art form itself. and whenever possible in concert with performers. AIP curriculum theory_ also called pedagogy of the spectator, has six key characteristics: aesthetic, improvisatory, performative, critical, political and social. Successful implementation of AIP curriculum in the worlds of education and performance requires a greater understanding of performance by educators and of education by performers. It requires the placing performance studies into educational practice to enhance and improve student/teacher spectatorship of both culture and curriculum.



theatre and youth, audiences