Theater as Data

Computational Journeys into Theater Research
Miguel Escobar Varela
Demonstrates how quantitative digital tools for theater researchers can provide fresh insights


In Theater as Data, Miguel Escobar Varela explores the use of computational methods and digital data in theater research. He considers the implications of these new approaches, and explains the roles that statistics and visualizations play. Reflecting on recent debates in the humanities, the author suggests that there are two ways of using data, both of which have a place in theater research. Data-driven methods are closer to the pursuit of verifiable results common in the sciences; and data-assisted methods are closer to the interpretive traditions of the humanities. The book surveys four major areas within theater scholarship: texts (not only playscripts but also theater reviews and program booklets); relationships (both the links between fictional characters and the collaborative networks of artists and producers; motion (the movement of performers and objects on stage); and locations (the coordinates of performance events, venues, and touring circuits). Theater as Data examines important contributions to theater studies from similar computational research, including in classical French drama, collaboration networks in Australian theater, contemporary Portuguese choreography, and global productions of Ibsen. This overview is complemented by short descriptions of the author’s own work in the computational analysis of theater practices in Singapore and Indonesia. The author ends by considering the future of computational theater research, underlining the importance of open data and digital sustainability practices, and encouraging readers to consider the benefits of learning to code. A web companion offers illustrative data, programming tutorials, and videos. 

Miguel Escobar Varela is Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies at the National University of Singapore.

Praise / Awards

  • “A major contribution to theater studies and to Digital Humanities more broadly, Theater as Data offers a compelling vision of how the two fields can—and, in the case studies, do—work together to produce new knowledge.”
    —Derek Miller, Harvard University

  • “A much-needed synthesis of existing data methods in Digital Humanities and Theatre Studies, featuring a well-theorized framework that can be used by other scholars. The book also provides an important analysis of Indonesian and Singaporean texts, choreographies, and other performance records.”
    —Jennifer Roberts-Smith, University of Waterloo

  • "Theater as Data is likely to become the definitive guide to using computational data in theatre, dance, and performance studies research."
    Contemporary Theatre Review
  • "It is a ‘must-read’ that is able to make connections in areas where communion is usually deemed impossible."
    Theatre Research International
  • "This volume is an excellent primer on gathering and analyzing data in theatre research, as well as an informed guide for using and preserving data ethically."
  • "With its impressive survey of scholarly projects, methods, and debates, Theater as Data is an important text for everyone working at the intersections of the digital humanities and theatre, dance, and performance studies."
    Theatre Survey
  • Honorable Mention: Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) 2022 Award for Digital Scholarship

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 230pp.
  • 21 illustrations, 7 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07479-2

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  • $75.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05479-4

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  • $29.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12863-1

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  • Digital humanities; Computational humanities; Theater and performance; Theater studies; Research methods; Statistics and the humanities; Visualizations; Digital scholarship; Science and the humanities; Textual analytics; Corpus analysis; Network analysis; Biomechanics of dance; Video processing; GIS; Geostpatial humanities; Wayang kulit; The Necessary Stage; The Flying Inkpot; Javanese dance; Digital sustainability; Open access; Learning to code