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Performance Audiences and Publics with Dr. Kelsey Blair

September 23 2019, 5-7pm

Performance Audiences and Publics with Dr. Kelsey Blair

What are the meaningful relations between a performance audience — a theatre audience, a sporting audience, a dance audience etc. — and a public? How can researchers identify and analyze these relations? What methods are useful and ethical for investigating the relationship between a performance audience and a public?

“This essay has a public. If you are reading (or hearing) this, you are part of its public. So first let me say: Welcome. Of course, you might stop reading (or leave the room), and someone else might start (to enter). With the public of this essay therefore be different. Would it ever be possible to know anything about the public to which, I hope, you still belong?” - Michael Warner, “Publics and Counterpublics” (49).

For our first working group of the new term, Dr. Kelsey Blair put Michael Warner’s distinctions between audiences, publics, and counterpublics in conversation with Erin Hurley’s concept of “affection” to think through the relationship between performance audiences and publics. To anchor the session, they began with a short consideration of major sporting events in Canada (the Canadian men’s gold win at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver or the Toronto Raptors 2019 NBA Championship run) and then turn to the case of the 2017 Invictus Games, an international sport festival for wounded, injured, and ill service-persons, hosted in Toronto in 2017. They built out from these sporting examples to think about the relationship between other genres of performance audiences (theatre, dance, circus etc.) and publics.


Hurley, Erin. National Performance: Representing Quebec from Expo 67 to Céline Dion. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2011, pp. 149 -151. 

Warner, Michael. "Publics and Counterpublics." Public Culture, vol. 14, no. 1, 2002, pp. 49-90.

Kelsey Blair is a SSHRC-funded postdoctoral researcher in the Department of English at McGill where she is examining sport, circus, and theatre alongside one another. She recently completed her PhD in English with an emphasis in Performance Studies at Simon Fraser University. Her areas of interest include performance studies and sport, popular contemporary spectacle-performances (circus, stadium concerts, Broadway shows, sport), audience studies, and affect theory.  

Presented at the University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus.

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