restricted access Performative Performances: A History and Theory of the “Copyright Performance”

Copyright performances—one-time, semi-staged productions created solely to secure performing rights in a play—pervaded the late-nineteenth-century British stage. This essay explains the history and rationale of copyright performances, going on to explore how copyright performances’ growth exposed changes in theatrical commerce, while anticipating and spreading the minimal performance aesthetic that defined modern drama. Above all, this short-lived, aberrant practice reveals the tensions that arose from the evolving copyright law’s efforts to commodify theatrical performances.