Is it theatre?

Performance could be broadly defined as whenever people gather together to watch something and share this live experience together. There are all kinds of performance events from the informal and spontaneous-- such as a group gathered to watch someone show-off their diving skills  on the high diving board at a local swimming pool, to something more structured and ritualistic like a wedding ceremony. Hockey game or sporting events can also be considered performances because they follow specific rules and the action has time constraints,  Then there are more structured entertainment events where an audience gathers  at a specific time and location to watch trained people to something special such as rodeo clowns at a rodeo, dancers at a pow-wow, circus performers, or  a wrestling match. And on the formal end of the scale there are events where an audience assembles to watch specially-trained artists perform in highly-structured art forms such as theatre, dance, and opera.

Click the "+" button on the board below to add a few forms of live entertainment that may or may not be theatre.

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Source: Permission: This material has been reproduced in accordance with the University of Saskatchewan  interpretation of Sec.30.04 of the Copyright Act.

All performances whether they are formal or informal can share specific traits. To help you figure out what theatre is and what it isn't, we can use the Traits of Theatre and apply them to different types of performances to determine if it's actually theatre. However these traits can include a broad spectrum of performance events. For example, in the PDF reading below, they use the example of "performance" being a fight that breaks out on the ice during a hockey game. According to the Traits  the "Doers" could be categorized as the hockey players, the crowd in the arena are the "Watchers", the "Performance site/place" is the ice, it is live and happening in front of an audience, and the fight itself moves through time since it has both a beginning and an end (hopefully determined by the referees!). Similarly in a theatre performance, the Doers are actors, performing a play live for an audience (the Watchers)-- usually in a theatre-- and the play unfolds in a specific time. However, a hockey fight differs from a theatrical performance because  it is completely unscripted and spontaneous, and the players are not consciously performing--the purpose of the fight is quite different from say a scripted and rehearsed fight that happens in a play.

Below are the general traits for performance, but make sure you read the selection from the text in order to understand which traits are specific to theatre; which traits can be shared between theatre and other art forms  to help develop your understanding of  "What is theatre?".

  • Doer
  • Watcher
  • Relationship
  • Presentation
  • Real site or space
  • Movement through time
  • Self-awareness

Read "Theatre: Performance and Art" from The Enjoyment of Theatre available in the Canvas DRAM 108 Course site under Modules  in the main menu and look for Module 2 Reading due to copyright conditions and then continue on with the Learning Activities for this week.