Course Correction: Reorienting Approaches to Space in Theatre and Performance

Call for Participants
CATR Working Group – Course Correction: Reorienting Approaches to Space in Theatre and Performance

Working Group Liaison: Katrina Dunn, Confirmed Participants: Kim Solga, Shauna Janssen, and Alessandro Simari

By the 1990s, theatre and performance scholarship had embraced the spatial turn already in evidence in cultural studies and used it to reassert performance as a fundamentally spatial medium. Building on foundational work of geographers and cultural theorists, scholars of the spatial turn helped swerve theatre and performance studies away from the privileging of time that had long been at its core. Never limiting themselves to one particular mode of analysis, the kaleidoscope of theory employed exposed theatre and performance as ideal settings for the consideration of the politics of place and space. A multiplicity of published texts looking at performative offerings through a spatial lens inspired a widespread acceptance of Henri Lefebvre’s idea, in The Production of Space (1991), that space is never a given but a social product. Each society creates its own unique version of space based on complex social practices and constructions, including theatre and performance.

Some of the directions that scholars have explored in the roughly twenty years since the spatial turn took hold in the field include: highlighting place and space in dramatic theory and analysis, encouraging the application of spatial theory to theatre history, employing cultural materialism to interrogate a materiality of place that includes theatre buildings and performance spaces, extending urban theory to reflect on the processes through which the city’s meanings are activated, and merging spatial methods with a range of embodied perspectives to take a new look at the experience of performers and audiences. This work has given rise to a range of generative subfields, such as approaches to site-specific theatre, theatre/performance and the city, theatre and architecture, and theatre and real estate to name a few, each of which have grown in complexity and influence as they have evolved.

This new CATR Working Group, Course Correction: Reorienting Approaches to Space in Theatre and Performance, hopes to build on this legacy by defining and exploring new directions for spatial perspectives on theatre and performance. The Liaison and Core Group of confirmed participants are soliciting interest from CATR’s membership to find other scholars to join us in this project of setting the terms and topics of current and future debate. Though we wish to allow the group to select topics of importance through a shared and equitable group process, there are several pressing actions that clearly need to be attended to. We especially invite contributions that intersect with the following topics:

  • The deeper incorporation of feminist and queer spatial theory into the field
  • The heeding of Kim Solga’s call, in Theory for Theatre Studies: Space (2019), for the decolonization, not only of the stage, but also of spatial theory and its methodologies
  • The assessment of the consequences of the pandemic’s interruption of spatial co-presence, often seen as fundamental to theatre and performance
  • The uptake of urgent ecological issues and environmental ethics into spatial theory and practice

We encourage participation from early career to established scholars from a wide range of scholarly backgrounds and diverse perspectives. We plan to meet quarterly for three years, with our major meeting at the CATR Conference. The CATR 2022 meeting will be during the June 12-14 Third Act in Lethbridge and will be hybrid with a number of members participating online. Over the three-year term, we hope to move the group’s explorations towards a publication profiling new directions and innovations in the spatial turn, and/or an event based on our collective exploration.

Interested participants are invited to submit an approximately 500-word abstract clarifying their current research interests, as well as a no more than 250-word bio clarifying their expertise. Please email these materials to Working Group Liaison Katrina Dunn.

Works Cited

Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith, Blackwell, 1991.
Solga, Kim. Theory for Theatre Studies: Space. Methuen Drama, 2019.

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