Book cover for 'Space in Performance'
Google Preview

Space in Performance

Making Meaning in the Theatre
Gay McAuley
How real and imagined theatrical spaces and the relationships between them evoke meaning


Theater, as distinct from other dramatic media, is essentially a relationship between performer, spectator, and the space in which both come together. Space in Performance examines the way theater buildings function to frame the performance event, the organization of audience and practitioner spaces within the building, the nature of the stage and the modes of representation it facilitates, and the relationship between the real space of the theater and the fictional places that are evoked.

The book's theoretical and methodological framework is both semiotic and phenomenological, based in part from the seminal work of Anne Ubersfeld, from direct observation of the rehearsal process, and from documentation and analysis of professional performances. The situation of the academic observer in the rehearsal room has much in common with that of the ethnographer in the field, and contemporary ethnographic practice provides a third theoretical and methodological perspective to this study.

Performance studies is an emerging discipline, and it is still evolving appropriate methodologies. The multi-faceted approach adopted here will engage theater and performance studies specialists, those concerned with modes of representation in contemporary culture, and students of theater, semiotics, architecture, set design, acting and performance theory. It also offers a great deal to theater practitioners as well as to spectators interested in deepening their appreciation of theater art. It is written in a simple, accessible way, and the theory always emerges from descriptions of practice.

Gay McAuley is Director of the Centre for Performance Studies, University of Sydney.

Praise / Awards

  • "An excellent study that imaginatively summarizes, synthesizes, and intelligently critiques a wide range of previous theory and practice while making an important new contribution to the field of theater studies."
    —Marvin Carlson, City University of New York
  • "McAuley examines 'space' as an axial agent of theater practice and aesthetic experience. In seven lucid chapters, she weaves insights from semiotic theory and architectural principle with observations from rehearsal practice and performance paradigm to pattern a remarkable fabric of interlaced concepts. . . . probes the relationship between the space of performer and the space of the spectator. The subject matter will pique interest among various readers, from students and scholars to actors and architects."
    —P. D. Nelson, Marlboro College, Choice, March 2000
  • ". . . a creative, accessible, and thorough investigation of the centrality of a spatial perspective to the production and analysis of performance practice. It will be of interest to theatre and performance studies students and scholars, theatre practitioners, and spectators."
    —Sophie Neld, New Theatre Quarterly
  • ". . . undertakes a radical rethinking of theatrical performance at the end of the twentieth century, reinventing ways and means of exploring the multi-functionality of space as the essential medium of theatrical performance. . . . Space in Performance is a highly accessible, lucid and engaging piece of writing. It is essential reading for its exemplary theoretical and methodological approach to the study of theatrical performance as a spatial phenomenon. . . . At the same time, in its passionate account of the theatrical experience the book offers a great deal to theatre practitioners and spectators seeking to enhance their understanding and appreciation of the fascinating art of theatre."
    —Kerrie Schaefer, University of Newcastle, Sun Sisters and Lightning Brothers: Australian Aboriginal Performance, October 2000
  • ". . . McAuley reveals herself to be a particularly insightful observer, recording details that most spectators, even the most perceptive, might overlook. . . . [H]er involvement as a witness to the proceedings on stage and as a member of an audience is palpable. The vitality and accessibility of her writing is bound to spur recollections and revisionings for attuned readers."
    —Paul D. Nash, Columbia University, Theatre Journal, October 2002
  • "An important piece of pioneering."
    Theatre Research International, Volume 26: No. 1 (2001)

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 320pp.
  • 8 drawings, 21 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08769-3

Add to Cart
  • $31.95 U.S.