Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program



Elizabeth Smith

Abstract/Artist's Statement

This paper examines companies working to re-activate the audience’s role of participation by what has come to be termed “devising” theater. I begin with analyzing the impact of the Theatre Workshop’s Oh What a Lovely War in Britain, 1963, considered to be one of the first collectively devised performances in contemporary theater history, and that became a rare commercial success. Moving across the Atlantic, I look into the Living Theatre during a rise in experimental, audience-participatory theater in America, specifically their controversial performance Paradise Now, as well as Korach, from their current residence in New York City. Lastly, I explore two younger and currently expanding, self-proclaimed devising companies—Punchdrunk and Kneehigh—in a discussion of immersion and storytelling in devised theater. My aim is to evaluate each group’s treatment of the audience in relation to its decision to devise theater, exploring the successes and difficulties that reveal devising theater as a challenging but eternal necessity.

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