Whether theatre is viewed as textual product or performance event, it has today become the object of new types of enquiry and investigation. Sociologists explore the theatricality of everyday life, linguists remind us of the force of theatrical metaphors in verbal structures, neurochemists refer to theatrical functions, which they see as the new universals of behavior. Theatre practitioners write books describing their art, collaborate with researchers and academics, and add to the flow of scholarly studies on opera, dance, circus, and performance art.
This renewal of interest makes even more painfully obvious the lack of a good scholarly introduction to performance studies, but the task of developing appropriate pedagogical methods poses formidable problems. The challenge has now been taken up by four scholars, each involved in a specific university tradition, and in this joint work they have attempted to achieve two things: an introduction to the major scholarly theories that are being applied to the analysis of performance; and a multidisciplinary approach that through the very multiplicity of methods utilized will reveal something of the complexity of contemporary theatrical production.
This book is the result of an initiative taken by the Free University of Brussels, which in 1983 and 1984 was awarded a grant by the European Office for Cooperation in Education to coordinate a joint study program in the performing arts; thanks to the participation of the Institute of Theatre Studies (University of Paris III) and the University of Odense (Denmark), units of this educational program have been reviewed and assessed and tried out in practice with 600 students a year. The results of these trials, together with additional input from colleagues at the Universities of Bologna and the City University of New York, appear in this book in a variety of forms: surveys of current research, presentation of analytical methods and concepts, definition of technical terms, questionnaires, and case studies. Publication of this textbook provides evidence of both international collaboration and cultural pluralism; it is evidence, too, of an accord at the institutional level which has already led to exchange schemes for students in the participating universities. It is hoped that the directions indicated in the book will make it a useful contribution to all those interested in the study of theatre practice.