The collectively spent and used up lifetime in the collectively breathed air of that space

Bolton, Jacqueline (2013) The collectively spent and used up lifetime in the collectively breathed air of that space. In: Turning the Page: Creating New Writing 1945-2013, 13 - 14 September 2013, University of Reading.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


During the course of the 1990s, dramaturgical practice in England became identified with the writer-centred development of new plays by new or emerging playwrights. Looking beyond the structures of mainstream producing models, however, the ongoing evolution of artists and companies engaged in physical theatre, live art and intermedial performance has contemporaneously produced a need for ‘creative specialists who keep track of the complicated flow of ideas, technologies and forms associated with such work’. Whilst the majority of producing theatres, companies and development agencies in England regard the dramaturg as a playwright’s mentor, working almost exclusively on the pre-rehearsal development of a play-text, an increasing number of devising ensembles and artists are inviting dramaturgs into the rehearsal room as co-creators of a performance text ‘“written” not before but as a consequence of the process’.
The existence of these ‘dual dramaturgical tracks’, drawn up in response to sets of institutional and aesthetic assumptions regarding the distinctiveness (and, often, implied superiority) of these two areas of performance practice, evidences a contemporary schism manifest within both professional and academic discourses; a schism known in shorthand as ‘text-based theatre’ versus ‘non-text-based performance’. Proceeding from an assessment of Writ Large: New Writing on the English Stage 2003-2009 (2009), a report produced by the British Theatre Consortium on behalf of the Arts Council, this paper will address the emergence of an ‘oppositional’, even hostile, relationship between ‘the mainstream, the literary theatre’ and the ‘live art/performance scene’. In discerning and questioning what is at stake in the text-based/non-text-based divide, the influence of the academy upon contemporary discourses of theatre and performance will be evaluated alongside a comparison with the production processes of German-language theatre, where such a schism between writer-led and devising processes does not obtain.
This paper will suggest that what is signalled by the distinction ‘text-based/non-text-based’ theatre is not the simple presence/absence of a pre-existing script but instead the perceived deployment, interrogation, or erasure of a dramatic teleology constructed through adeptly crafted dialogue and authenticated by an individual writing-subject – ‘the “person” of the Author’. It will argue that more inclusive notions of the status and function of ‘text’, as well as more nuanced approaches to ‘authorship’, might help erase specious distinctions between allegedly text-based and non-text-based processes, advancing in their place a holistic approach to theatre-making which invigorates new theatre writing and performance.

Keywords:New Writing, Dramaturgy, Arts Council England, British Theatre Consortium, Devising
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W400 Drama
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
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ID Code:14527
Deposited On:18 Jul 2014 14:54

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