World Stages, Local Audiences: Essays on Performance, Place, and Politics

by Peter Dickinson

World Stages, Local Audiences examines the relationship between audience and event, placed-based spectatorship and global politics. Dickinson argues that the forms of intimacy and identification that come from being part of a local performance public (however temporarily or tenuously) provide a potential model for rethinking our roles as world citizens. Using his own experience of recent theatrical practice in Vancouver, Canada as a starting point, Dickinson maps the spaces of connection and contestation, the flows of sentiment and social responsibility, produced by different communities in response to global sports spectacles like the Olympics and World Cup; national, religious, and civic debates on same-sex marriage, the war on terror, and the protocols of mourning; even the extreme weather resulting from climate change. He also analyses how such topics are taken up in the work of playwrights like Moisés Kaufman, Tony Kushner, Terrence McNally, Charles Mee, and Paula Vogel; conceptual, installation, and performance artists like Ai Weiwei, Rebecca Belmore, Paul Chan, and Annie Sprinkle; and dance-theatre artists like Margie Gillis, Crystal Pite, battery opera, DV8 Physical Theatre, and Stan Won’t Dance. In so doing, Dickinson makes an original contribution to the emerging discourse on live art and livability by examining not only the geographical and historical affiliations between different sites of performance, but also the at times radical new social bonds created by audiences witness to those performances. Suggesting that performance offers a way to read the world, and an opportunity to remake it, Dickinson’s study will be especially useful as a teaching text for artists, researchers, and urban planners interested in linking their site-specific practice to some of the most pressing issues of our time.