: Call For Papers, Performance Paradigm 11 (2015)

Staging Real People: On the Arts and Effects of Non-Professional Theatre Performers

Guest edited by Ulrike Garde and Meg Mumford

Performance practice since the 1990s has been characterised by an increased interest in the phenomenon of theatre without professional performers. Such performers are selected for a variety of reasons, including: their life experiences, their status as specialists in spheres of expertise other than that of art performance, and their connection to particular social categories such as economic class, field of work, ethnicity, age, and (dis)ability. In the work of companies such as Rimini Protokoll these performers are referred to as both ‘protagonists’ and ‘experts of the everyday’. In her recent study of participatory art, Claire Bishop gives the label ‘delegated performance’ to the tendency to hire such people to perform on behalf of the artist (2012: 219). The currently prominent modes of staging real people* recall, modify or challenge a diverse range of traditions and genres, from realist, documentary, and Dadaist experiments to popular entertainment forms including gladiator fights, freak shows, and most prominently today, reality television.

To date the use of non-professional performers in contemporary performance has provoked discussion about whether it constitutes a form of exploitative ‘outsourcing’ and exhibition, or offers a disruption of ‘agreed ways of thinking about pleasure, labour and ethics’ (Bishop, 2012: 220-29). Nicholas Ridout’s theorisation of ‘passionate amateurs’ opens up the possibility that some non-professional performers may operate as a variant of the ‘romantic anti-capitalist’ who makes theatre, or makes of it, ‘a fleeting realm of freedom within the realm of necessity’ (Ridout 2013: 4-6, 30). If the non-professional performer has the potential to interrupt our relation to work and time, this potential might be linked to their capacity to effect what Hans-Thies Lehmann refers to as an ‘irruption of the real’ (2006: 100), one that can generate powerful forms of ambiguity that invite a variety of new modes of perception and action.

In this issue of Performance Paradigm, we aim to explore further the roots, uses and effects of the non-professional figure in contemporary (post-1990) theatre and performance. To this end we welcome papers that address one or more the following areas:

What sorts of non-professionals are involved in the performances under consideration and what artistic practices does this work open up? This discussion might consider and further develop ideas such as ‘truth’, ‘authenticity’, processes of fictionalisation, ‘readymades’ (Duchamp), ‘reality effects’ (Barthes), and ‘irruption of the real’ (Lehmann).

What histories and traditions does contemporary performance that works without professional performers or actors, draw upon, modify, or challenge? For example, how can particular strategies, works and events be compared with those found in art and popular entertainment traditions, such as: verbatim and documentary theatre, ‘kitchen sink’ drama, neonaturalism, postmodern dance, postdramatic theatre, performance art, installation, fairground freak shows, ethnographic exhibitions, and reality television?

What effects can the utilisation of non-professional theatre performers create that cannot be achieved via the trained actor, performer and/or artist? In what ways are these effects context-specific?

What are crucial ethical and political issues raised by this aesthetic and/or socio-political strategy, such as modes of engagement with communities, labour politics, and the dangers of reproducing capitalist economic effects?

Abstracts should be 250-350 words in length and submitted to the guest editors, Ulrike Garde (ulrike.garde@mq.edu.au) and Meg Mumford (m.mumford@unsw.edu.au) by 6 October 2014. Final articles must be submitted by 30 March 2015 with the main body of text sitting between 6,000 and 7,000 words.

* In Theatre of the Real (2013) Carol Martin raises the difficulty of maintaining the real’s ambiguity when writing about it: “‘Real’ in quotation marks insinuates that the real is not real. Real (without quotation marks) insinuates that the real is real” (177). Following Martin’s practice, this issue of Performance Paradigm will not present the real and reality in quotation marks, but seek to clarify the complexity of these phenomena through discussion.