Site-Specific Theatre | Theresa J. May
Site-specific theatre, environmental theatre, found space theatre, and immersion theatre are all terms that refer to theatre conceived for, and performed for specific location beyond traditional theatre spaces. When theatre or performance takes place in a space that is not already understood by audience and artists as a “theatre,” or when the theatrical space necessarily encompasses a larger impinging environment, that location — the space/place — profoundly shape the meaning/s of the performance for audience/spectators, and so that site or environment must become a central consideration for artists as well. In other words, outside of the “black box” there’s no such thing as a black box. There’s no such thing as an “empty space.” Locations are always/already saturated with meaning, and have their own stories to tell — stories that must be accounted for in site-specific artistic practice.
Site-specific (also called environmental theatre) makes use of found-spaces for performance (indoors or outside), or configures a theatre space to serve as a specific environment (a cathedral, a prison, a town square). It includes outdoor pageants, adventure tours, participatory theatre, ceremonial theatre, guerrilla theatre, street theatre, protests, public facing performance in civic spaces. We will study key performances and practitioners, and discuss the unique demands that site-specific performance makes on playwrights, actors, directors, designers, and audiences. From the aesthetic to the practical, the questions abound. In this course you will learn about the historical and cultural context of diverse site-specific performances, companies, and artists; understand site-specific performance within the continuum of theatre history, and reflect on the potential of site-specific performance in relation to the larger role of theatre in society; understand and apply the primary theories of site-specific theatre, including the social, political, environmental “meanings” made in site-specific performances as you become conversant in the implicit and explicit politics of performance in public spaces; develop a vocabulary to articulate their own aesthetic and kinesthetic relationship to a variety of places, including both aesthetic and practical questions to site-specific performance; plan a site-specific performance of your own devising.