Summer Conversation Series
June 24th, July 22nd, and August 26th 2020, 2-4pm EST
While we couldn't meet in person at the time, we were keen to continue fostering a network of artists, scholars, and others interested in spectatorship. We created a three-part online conversation series centred on questions of audience research in a virtual environment.
Anyone was welcome to join the directors of the Centre for Spectatorship and Audience Research (Kelsey Jacobson, Kelsey Blair, Scott Mealey, and Jenny Salisbury) for lightly structured discussion on three topics, listed below. Participants were welcome to come to one, or attend them all. There was no preparation or reading required in advance and participants were instructed to simply bring their questions, provocations, and experiences.
Conversation 1: Brave New World? Audiences of Online, Digital, and Non-Embodied Performance
This conversation was the first of our conversations, taking place on June 24th 2020. The explosion of digital theatre experiences prompted renewed consideration of 'old' ideas: what is liveness? How do we understand time, space, relationality, and community in such contexts? Drawing on experiences attending performances including the National Theatre UK's streaming series NT at Home, The Tempest from Creation Theatre, Ministry of Mundane Ministries from Outside the March, and performances at FoldA (Festival of Live Digital Art), we discussed the online audience experience.
Conversation 2: Conducting Research in Virtual Worlds
Our second conversation took place on July 22nd 2020. We focused on practicalities and considerations of conducting research in online and virtual realms: what ethics are in play, what access is available, and how are usual notions of research altered, reinvented, or challenged through the shift to online or non-embodied performance experiences? We shared the projects we were currently working on, and encouraged others to also share their work.
Conversation 3: What's Next? Thinking About Post-COVID Audiences
We concluded our first ever Summer Conversation Series on August 26th 2020 with our third conversation. COVID-19 has undoubtedly forced significant change in the way theatre is spectated. Even when physical theatres are reopened, the relationship between audience, performer, and institution may have radically shifted. In this conversation, we considered next steps in terms of both practical considerations and larger philosophical opportunities: how might we reconstitute or reconsider the spectator's role in the theatrical event?
All conversations were presented over Zoom.