Abstract

This essay interprets the Theatre of Cruelty's ideal spectator in light of early twentieth-century theatre audiences and the field of crowd theory. Artaud was writing at a moment when the role and identity of the audience was being radically redefined. The late nineteenth century transformed the audience from an active assembly to a refined, domesticated, and physically restrained group of people who obeyed the command to contemplate in stillness what transpired behind the proscenium. While much of the avant-garde rebelled against this new bourgeois audience and developed strategies to attempt to reinvigorate the spectator, many other performance theorists built on this new means of control. During the 1920s and 1930s, some theatres sought to intensify the audience's emotional experience while keeping it physically restrained, orchestrating an ecstatic loss of self. This essay suggests that, contrary to all our familiar associations with Artaud's work, Artaud's contemporary doubles were the creators of peoples' theatres in interwar Italy and Germany; while the avant-garde was still thinking in terms of "audience," these theatres were thinking of "crowds."

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-332X
Print ISSN
0192-2882
Pages
pp. 191-211
Launched on MUSE
2009-10-15
Open Access
No
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