Theatre in the Expanded Field

Alan Read

DOI: 10.5040/9781408185971

ISBN: 9781408184950

Theatre in the Expanded Field is a fiercely original, bold and daring exploration of the fields of theatre and performance studies and the received narratives and histories that underpin them. Rich with interdisciplinary reference, international, eclectic and broad-ranging in its examples, it offers readers a compelling and provocative reassessment of the disciplines, one that spans pre-history to the present day.

Sixty years ago, in 1962, Richard Southern wrote a remarkable book called The Seven Ages of the Theatre. It was unusual in its time for taking a trans-disciplinary, new-historical and avowedly internationalist approach to its subject - nothing less than a totalizing view of its field. Theatre in the Expanded Field does not attempt to mimic Southern's work but rather takes his spirit of adventure and ambition as its frame for the contemporary moment of performance and its diverse pasts. Identifying seven ways of exploring the performance field, from pre-history to postdramatic theatre the book presents studies of both contemporary and historical works not as a chronological succession, but in keeping with their coeval qualities, as movements or 'generations' of connection and interaction, dissensus and interruption. It does this with the same purpose as Richard Southern's original work: to provide for the planning of responsive performance spaces 'now'.

Illustrated throughout with line-drawings, Theatre in the Expanded Field is as richly rewarding as it is ambitious and expansive in it vision.

Read's discursive, unstintingly intelligent, rigorous, and spirited book is nothing less than necessary reading for anyone who cares about what theatre is, and can be . . . [This] beautifully researched, thoughtful dream of a book asks its readers in turn to dream what kind of theatre, and what kind of approaches to its making, we dare as practitioners, scholars, readers, and spectators ... I use the word 'dream' to describe this book not as a soft, sentimental noun but rather as a way to reflect how the book operates on the reader's mind. It stops to dream. It asks us to dream. It provides some paths for us to consider, and space to wonder if there might be new paths left to forge Contemporary Theatre Review

In Theatre in the Expanded Field, Alan Read elucidates a vast collection of manifestations of performance at its most molecular. His flawless insight and persistent archeology reveal the intricate palimpsests at work in the architecture of building, book, image, or idea. His latest masterful textual performance - a book that reads like a spirited monologue that spans the centuries - offers an intellectual adventure for the reader that will only fortify Read's well-deserved reputation as an indispensible and galvanic life force of contemporary performance philosophy.

Like the course of a long and satisfying conversation, this book can take surprising twists and turns. Read moves unpredictably between and among contemporary theatre and performance practices, philosophy/theory, and prehistorical and historical artworks in order to lure one of his favorite animals – the human – into play. With its distinct seven generations – seven distinct essays – this book will become a kind of signature book in Read's unique method and provoke future scholars into new directions, yet to be thought.

Magnificent. Alan Read's new book explores the distinctions and relations between 'theatre' and 'performance' which lie at the heart of most contemporary cultural discourses, doing so in expansive, enlightening and extraordinary ways. For those of us immersed in the lived realities of such distinctions and relations, this book is absolutely essential reading.

In establishing his "seven approaches to performance," Read uses Richard Southern's The Seven Ages of the Theatre (1962) as a template, providing rich, eclectic studies of performance, pre- to postmodern. Each of the approaches reads like a performance monologue, teasing out the thesis that performance, "in the expanded field" of all human interaction, serves as a cultural irritant, celebrating contingency and playfulness as essential to the human animal. Theoretically sophisticated, academically challenging, and often very entertaining, this book will engage, irritate, and amuse the intellectually scrupulous and playfully inclined. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty, professionals. CHOICE