Theatrical Event

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The term theatrical event refers to any any kind of public event, display and/or performance, including but not at all limited to stage plays and performances.

Besides formal stage performances, the more familiar such events include festivals, carnivals, concerts, religious and social rites[1] and ceremonies of all kinds (including fairs, parades, procession's[2], and so on), political rallies, protest marches, and so on.

While the term event in itself simply refers to any happening or occurrence, the specific term theatrical event was coined during the course of the 20th century to refer to a particular kind of approach to studying the entire complex of activities, processes, influencing factors and individuals involved in the presentation of a single public event or performance before an audience at a particular time under particular circumstances.

This notion was first introduced by Victor Turner and Richard Schechner in their important and influential writings about the notion of performance and the theoretical approach they refer to as performance theory[3], in which they refer to the sum of all the processes involved in performing before an audience (including social, political, contextual, performative, ritual and ceremonial acts leading to and shaping the actual performance on stage, as well as its reception during and after the event. This would naturally allow for the opening up of conventional definitions of what constitutes "theatre" and include many performance forms that may seem unconventional and even alien to European thinking about was long referred to as drama or theatre, and notions of dramatic and theatrical form.

By contrast, the term Theatrical Event, while referring to a similarly expanded view of theatre and performance, is not quite the same. It was in fact introduced into theatrical discourse by writers and researchers seeking to avoid what they saw as some of the more controversial aspects of performance theory as applied by Schechner, Turner and their followers. Leading exponents of this new approach are found as members of the Theatrical Event Working Group[4] of the International Federation for Theatre Research. (For more on this, see the entry of the Theatrical event).

See also the entries under: Theatre, Theatricalization, Eventification, Festivalization, Performance, and Theatrical system.

Publications on the theatrical event

Besides the personal writings of Wilmar Sauter and other members of the Theatrical Event Working Group, the group also publishes collections and monographs on the approach in two series: Themes in Theatre (see and Studies in International Performance (see


Vicki Ann Cremona, Peter Eversmann, Hans van Maanen, Willmar Sauter and John Tulloch, 2004. Theatrical Events: Borders – Dynamics – Frames. IFTR/FIRT. Theatrical Event Working Group. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Temple Hauptfleisch, Shulamith Lev-Aladgem, Jacqueline Martin, Willmar Sauter and Henri Schoenmakers. 2007. Festivalising! Theatrical Events, Politics and Culture IFTR/FIRT. Theatrical Event Working Group. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

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