Porous Dramaturgy: ‘Togetherness’ and Community in the Structure of the Artwork

‘Porous Dramaturgy’ is a new project, which will bring together a network of academics, producers, dramaturgs, directors and others.

The project is funded by AHRC, with Cathy Turner as Principal Investigator and Duška Radosavljevic (University of Kent) as Co-Investigator. Project partners are Hanna Slättne (Tinderbox, N. Ireland) and Shadow Casters (Croatia).

What do we mean by ‘Porous Dramaturgy’? We are applying a term used by theatre director Kully Thiarai, to describe a theatre institution which acts as a catalyst for activity that passes through and beyond itself; a space that is open to diverse occupations, collaborations and communities (Thiarai 2011). This project suggests that ‘porous’ dramaturgy might be similarly open to the contribution of the spectator or passer-by. The project sets out  to explore the relationship between the ‘porous’ dramaturgy of the artwork and the ‘porosity’ of the institution.

So, in using the term ‘Porous Dramaturgy’ we imply work that attempts to engage the audience in co-creation – for instance, through interactivity, immersion and site-specificity. This project wonders whether the artwork may realise democratic aims through its ‘porous’ construction. We are interested in contexts where the notion of ‘community’ is placed under pressure by political and socio-geographical circumstances, and so part of our project concerns an examination of this work in relation to Croatia and Northern Ireland, as well as provincial UK communities.

 While it is clear that interactivity, immersion and site-specificity are neither pre-requisites or guarantors of agency, they implicate audiences in the construction of a shared experience and present working examples of the ways in which ‘togetherness’ is conceived, constructed, evaded, imitated or imposed. If certain kinds of dramaturgy allow the audience to permeate the artwork, and become part of it, what kinds of community may be constituted or recognised through this process?

All network events will address the following questions:

1)    What kinds of ‘togetherness’ or community are generated by, or implicated in the work discussed? This includes the way the work acknowledges or accommodates tension and division and its relationship to regional or national identity, as well as democratic principles.

2)    What kind of ‘porosity’ is evident in the artworks discussed?

3)    What are the implications for the theatre institution, curators, producers and dramaturgs? 

 The network will comprise two main events, in Kent and Exeter: 

The first event, at the University of Kent, Feb 22-23, 2013, will include both discussion and practice around the notion of interactive theatre which approaches the theatre building and context as a site of exchange. It will take its practical inspiration from a workshop with Croatian company, Shadow Casters. The company has deployed performance-making processes in addressing the issue of democratisation and individual empowerment of a people in a post-communist context. Their trilogy of works On Togetherness approaches the specific context of the theatre building and its communities. In Explicit Contents, for example, audience members gather in groups throughout every part of the theatre building, working towards a performance work that is entirely co-created and without external witness.  http://shadowcasters.blogspot.co.uk/

The second event, at the University of Exeter, May 17-18, 2013, will consider the forms of ‘togetherness’ and community constituted through site-specific work in non-theatre spaces. The starting point for this discussion will be the work of Wrights & Sites, Devon. Wrights & Sites’ ‘mis-guides’ and public artworks will be used and visited, providing an opportunity to examine the experience of ‘audiences’ who become participants in the ‘performance’ of these works. This two-day event will prompt a consideration of how site-specific practices have developed in relation to the construction or analysis of placial identities and the relationship of performance structure to audience experience and to organisational frameworks. http://www.mis-guide.com

Cathy and Duška will take network findings to further discussion at panel events in Belfast and Dubrovnik, hosted by our partners Slättne and Shadow Casters respectively. The purpose of these events is to explore network ideas further in relation to the particular tensions within these national contexts. 

See also http://www.tinderbox.org.uk/dramaturgy/