After Live

Possibility, Potentiality, and the Future of Performance
Daniel Sack
An exploration of how live events—theater, dance, and installation art—stage encounters between the present and a radically ambivalent future


In the dark of the blackout before the curtain rises, the theater holds its many worlds suspended on the verge of appearance. How can a performance sustain this sense of potentiality that grounds all live production? Or if a stage-world does begin, what kinds of future might appear within its frame? Conceiving of the theater as a cultural institution devoted to experimenting with the future, this book begins and ends on the dramatic stage; in between it traverses literature, dance, sculpture, and performance art to explore the various futures we make in a live event.

After Live conceives of traditional dramatic theater as a place for taming the future and then conceptualizes how performance beyond this paradigm might stage the unruly nature of futurity. Chapters offer insights into the plays of Beckett, Churchill, Eno, and Gombrowicz, devised theater practices, and include an extended exploration of the Italian director Romeo Castellucci. Through the lens of potentiality, other chapters present novel approaches to minimalist sculpture and dance, then reflect on how the beholder him or herself is called upon to perform when confronted by such work.

“A distinctive contribution to debates within performance studies over ‘liveness’ and the ‘ontology of performance’; contentions over presence and representation in post-60s art and performance practice; and critical histories of dramatic form…. After Live is well-informed, its explication of complex material deftly accomplished, and it is written with a satisfying concern for the experience of the reader.”
—Nicholas Ridout, Queen Mary, University of London

Daniel Sack is Assistant Professor in English and the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Praise / Awards

  • "This is an evocative and important book..."
    --Modern Drama
  • "Sack teases out a sense of futurity, of potential as well as actual difference, to make a case for a theatre and performance scholarship that for all the ephemerality of the mythical moment, is not always quite so entrained to its passing. What excites further is the sheer loveliness of some of the language by which he elicits this, as well as the range of examples he employs from across an (anti)disciplinary perspective."
    --Studies in Theatre and Performance
  • "The careful and rigorous work of the book is to explore precisely how theatre and performance might engage with possible and potential futures." 
    --Theatre Journal
  • "A provocative and insightful investigation into the interrelated notions of the future, the possible, and the
    potential in literature and how those play out in the arts."
    --Kritikon Litterarum
  • "Makes a worthy contribution to what might be called the philosophical turn in dramatic criticism and performance theory."
    --The Drama Review

Look Inside

Product Details

  • 272 pages.
  • 12 B&W halftones.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12142-7

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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  • performance art, theatre, performance theory, dramatic theory, futurity, time, liveness, possibility, potentiality, aesthetics