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Visting Scholar: Dr. Helen Freshwater

November 15th at 2pm and November 16th 2016 at 5pm

We were so pleased to have an incredible visit from Dr. Helen Freshwater - author of Theatre & Audience, and advocate for audience research in the UK who joined us for in-depth conversations about the state of spectatorship research at the time and where we went from there. Dr. Freshwater is Lecturer in Theatre Studies at the University of Newcastle. Her research focuses upon twentieth-century British theatre and contemporary performance. Recent publications include Theatre & Audience and Theatre Censorship in Britain: Silencing, Censure and Suppression (both published in 2009). She is a contributing editor to New Theatre Quarterly and Performing Ethos, and works as a dramaturg. In 2011 she was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize to support her latest research, which explores how contemporary theatre uses child performers and contributes to the cultural construction of children and childhood. 

Dr. Helen Freshwater is a Reader in Theatre and Performance at the University of Newcastle. Her publications include Theatre & Audience and Theatre Censorship in Britain: Silencing, Censure and Suppression (both Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). Her next monograph, provisionally titled Performing Childhood focuses on major twenty-first century British theatre productions and ‘megamusicals’ that have been performed across the world. It presents analyses of the popular appeal of the child performer and the way that they – and the forms of childhood they embody – are styled for cultural export and consumption. 

Tea and Conversation

This event took place on Novemeber 15th 2016. There was a casual tea & conversation that included graduates and faculty from the Drama Centre and beyond.

Keynote Address: Twenty-first Century Theatre and ‘the people formerly known as the audience’

This paper returned to Theatre & Audience (2009) to reflect on the performances and publications which inspired its development. It also considered what changed for theatre audiences and in theatre studies since its publication. In 2009 Freshwater asked why theatre scholars seem disinclined to ask audiences what they make of the theatre they view, and whether we really know very much at all about what theatre does for – and to – those who witness, watch, and participate in it. This paper reflected on why this question now seems dated as it focuses on audience responses to Billy Elliot the Musical (2005), War Horse (2007) and Matilda the Musical (2010). Drawing the recent work of Camilla Vasquez (2014), Caroline Heim (2015) and Kirsty Sedgman (2016) amongst others, this paper examined what these productions make of their audiences – and what their audiences make of them. The keynote address was held Novemeber 16th 2016 at 5pm, followed by a Q&A and a light reception and celebrartion.

Both events were hosted at the Robert Gill Theatre

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