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CONTINGENCIES OF PERFORMANCE: THE GAP AS VENUE

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 April 2009

Extract

Anyone who has staged a show has an idea of the numberless odd things that can go wrong. We expect, of course, that they will go right. From experience and knowledge, we can conceive the contingencies in categories; they range from the personal to the institutional and the natural (as in a force of nature). Contingencies of performance are the many variables that could impact performance in any number of ways, mostly unforeseen, and even if foreseen, mostly unpredictable in effect. Of course, contingency factors are time and space dependent, as what is contingent in one context or time may be completely under control in another context or time. We need to conceive of performance as fundamentally “a changing function of multiple variables,” as Barbara H. Smith once said of value. This changing function is a concept we need to hold tightly as we navigate common challenges of performance: What is our purpose or goal? What should we perform? What are the mechanics of the performance? Where should we perform? When? And for whom? These challenges are theoretically of indeterminate and indeterminable chronological sequence, and beginning from and working diligently through any one of them is bound to lead us into the others.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Society for Theatre Research 2009

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References

Endnotes

1. Smith, Barbara H., Contingencies of Value: Alternative Perspectives for Critical Theory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 10Google Scholar.

2. The question “What is our purpose or goal?” for instance, has been made particularly preeminent by distinguished director and theorist Herbert Blau. His particular phrase is “What are we performing for?” “Universals of Performance; or, Amortizing Play,” SubStance 11.4 (1983): 140–61, at 152 (Blau's emphasis). To take the question seriously is to implicate both the means and ends of performance and therefore the relations between and among performers, performance, and audience in space and time.

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