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Reality and Fiction in Contemporary Theatre



This article examines a particular aesthetic experience that is brought about by a destabilization, even a collapsing, of the dichotomous pair of concepts the ‘real’ and the ‘fictional’. While a tension between the two, even in differing degrees, proves characteristic of all kinds of theatre, recent developments on European stages emphasize this tension. In the paper it is examined with respect to 1) the actors' bodies and 2) the theatrical spaces. In each case, the point of departure is two examples which are analysed with regard to the particular function that the tension between the real and the fictional might serve. It is argued that what in everyday life is neatly separated into two different worlds to be fully grasped by the dichotomous pair of concepts becomes blurred in the performances discussed here. The particular aesthetic experience coming into being in such performances is an experience of ‘betwixt and between’ (Turner) – a liminal experience. This way, they stimulate a new discussion of the concept of aesthetic experience, so central to all forms of art in the Western world since 1800.



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1 Engel, Johann Jakob, Mimik (Berlin: Mylius, 1804), Schaubühne (1801–1806) 11 Vol., VII, p. 60.

2 With regard to such an explanations see Michael Stadler/Peter Kruse, ‘Zur Emergenz psychischer Qualitäten. Das psychophysische Problem im Lichte der Selbstorganisationstheorie’, in Wolfgang Krohn and Günter Küppers, eds., Emergenz. Die Entstehung von Ordnung, Organisation und Bedeutung (Frankfurt-am-Main: Suhrkamp 1992), pp. 134–60. See also Fischer-Lichte, Erika, The Transformative Power of Performance A New Aesthetics Performance (London and New York: Routledge 2009).

3 Cp. Turner, Victor, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969).

4 Today, the foyer, the Palm Courtyard, the Breakfast Hall and the Imperial Hall can be visited in the Sony-Center at the Potsdamer Platz, where in 1996 they were transferred by applying rather complicated technical devices.

5 Bennett, Tony, The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 181.

6 Turner, The Ritual Process, p. 95.

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Reality and Fiction in Contemporary Theatre



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