Performing Premodernity at the 2015 IFTR Conference in Hyderabad, India

In July 2015, members of the research group “Performing Premodernity” presented a curated panel entitled “Theatre for the People? Accessibility, Sensibility and Democracy in Late 18th-Century Theatre” at the annual conference of the International Federation for Theatre Research in Hyderabad, India.

The second half of the 18th century saw some major changes in theatrical culture. The panel explored the concept of ‘accessibility’ both in terms of the access of new audiences to the theatres and repertoires of the period (then and now), in terms of the audiences’ access to the emotional life of dramatic characters, and in terms of theatre-makers’ access to the emotional life of audiences as a way of generating social and political change. The latter two are closely related to the Enlightenment concept of ‘sensibility’ (or aesthetic/sensitive cognition) and a new mode of theatricality that put emphasis on the ‘naturalness’ of the theatrical illusion, and on spectators’ empathy with the characters. The concepts of sensibility and aesthetic education were, in turn, central to the democratic aspirations of the period. The panel explored questions of if and how the theatres, aesthetic theories, dramatic works and theatrical events of the period may be regarded as ‘democratic’ or as being characterised by a democratic sensibility.

Petra Dotlačilová: “Accessing the Role: J.-G. Noverre and Mlle Clairon as Pre-reformers of Theatre Costume in the Age of Enlightenment”
Maria Gullstam: “Rousseau’s Quest: Performing Humanity and Curing Inequality”
Willmar Sauter: “Democratic Seating in 18th Century Theatres: The Example of Drottningholm”
Magnus Tessing Schneider: “Enlightenment Dramas of Political Encounters: The Case of Calzabigi’s Elvira (1794)”
Mark Tatlow: “Touching and Dissolving”: Haydn’s Arianna and the Question of Emotional Accessibility”
Meike Wagner: “Open Access: Bourgeois Audiences enter the Theatre around 1800”

Abstracts available here

13th July 2015