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Shakespeare and Chekhov in Production and Reception

Theatrical Events and Their Audiences

John Tulloch

Publication Year: 2005

With a focus on the canonical institutions of Shakespeare and Chekhov, John Tulloch brings together for the first time new concepts of “the theatrical event” with live audience analysis. Using mainstream theatre productions from across the globe that were highly successful according to both critics and audiences, this book of case studies—ethnographies of production and reception—offers a combined cultural and media studies approach to analyzing theatre history, production, and audience.

Tulloch positions these concepts and methodologies within a broader current theatrical debate between postmodernity and risk modernity. He also describes the continuing history of Shakespeare and Chekhov as a series of stories “currently and locally told” in the context of a blurring of academic genres that frames the two writers. Drawn from research conducted over nearly a decade in Australia, Britain, and the U.S., Shakespeare and Chekhov in Production and Reception will be of interest to students and scholars of theatre studies, media studies, and audience research.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

This book is about theatrical events, in particular, productions of Shakespeare and Chekhov in mainstream theatre, and their audiences. As a book of case studies, it represents a methodological exploration into theatre production and audience research over several years. In line with...


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pp. xiii-xv

Part 1: Introduction

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1. Defining Theatrical Event and Audience Research

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pp. 3-37

Two casual observations of theatre audiences help introduce the project for this book. They are both of teenagers watching performances of Shakespeare. One was in 1999 at the Barbican Theatre, London, for a performance of The Tempest. The other was in 2001...

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2. Spectatorship, Social Audiences, and Risk: Shakespeare at the Q Theatre

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pp. 38-80

In early March 2001 I was standing on the railway station platform right opposite the Q Theatre in Penrith, New South Wales, twenty-five miles from the center of Sydney. I had just seen an evening performance of Much Ado about Nothing by the Railway Street Theatre Company. Near me on the platform waiting for...

Part 2: Production/Audience Studies

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3. Imagining Audiences: The Eyre/Griffiths Productions of The Cherry Orchard

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pp. 83-112

Following Annette Kuhn’s understanding of both spectators and social audiences as discursive constructs, with “certain discourses possessing greater constitutive authority as specific moments than others” (1987, 347), an important advantage of a production analysis is that it allows a focus on the multimedial “authorship” of theatre...

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4. The “Reading Chekhov” Project: Social Audiences and Reading Formations

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pp. 113-153

Laurence Senelick’s valuable book The Chekhov Theatre: A Century of Plays in Performance is among the very few production-focused studies of Chekhov. Senelick clearly did not like the Eyre/Griffiths production of The Cherry Orchard. To understand why, we need to go beyond Senelick’s concerns about “vociferous socialism” and “Marxist dialectic” —though these are important...

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5. The Theatrical Event: Inner and Outer Audience Frames

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pp. 154-185

This chapter returns to the live stage. It moves from the macroto the micro-audience, following Susan Bennett’s point that the symptomatic theatre audience consists of small groups of family and friends. It also moves from the “mediated” to the “live” audience. At this point, the “Reading Chekhov” project laid...

Part 3: Theatrical Event Studies

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6. Cultural Contexts: Theatrical Event, Liminality, and Risk in The Free State

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pp. 189-218

I was initially drawn to the Theatre Royal, Bath (TRB), because they were producing three very different versions of Chekhov within three months, between March and June 2000: Janet Suzman’s political setting of The Cherry Orchard within the “new citizenship” of postapartheid South Africa; the state-subsidized Royal...

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7. Cultural Contexts:Theatrical Event, Liminality, and Risk in The Free State

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pp. 219-241

Janet Suzman’s The Free State was conceived in the South Africa of apartheid. In this national context, in a harsher version of the scientific “bads” of Beck’s risk society, science and technology were frequently used as repressive tools: life destruction, surveillance,social control,and the kind of torture that accounts for Leko’s damaged hands, which he waves around “too much” in Suzman’s play. The Free State...

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8. Playing Culture: Pleasurable Play in The Free State and The Cherry Orchard

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pp. 242-270

Playing culture is central to Sauter’s communicative model of theatre research and to his definition of a theatrical event as “the communicative mutuality of performer and spectator, the elements of play, and their dependence on the surrounding contexts” (2000, 14). Theatre audiences do not respond to a “political”play like Janet Suzman’s The Free State as though it is a political speech, though...

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9. Theatrical Playing: Much Ado,Mediatization, and “Liveness,”

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pp. 271-293

Theatrical playing, in Willmar Sauter’s historical example, has three aspects: “[F]rom many reviews we can learn that Sarah Bernhardt always was present as stage personality, as artist, and as role. In other words, she functioned simultaneously and with equal strength on the sensory, the artistic, and the symbolic levels.” So in...

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10. Conclusion

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pp. 294-300

This book has tried to bring together two ways of mapping the theatrical event in terms of audience research. The first has been to examine the issue from a production approach, exploring the situating of spectator positions (or, in Pertti Alasuutari’s term, the process of audiencing) during production.Part 2 of the book...


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pp. 301-304


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pp. 305-310

E-ISBN-13: 9781587296000

Publication Year: 2005