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Title: (Re-) Constructing the actor-audience relationship in immersive theatre practice
Author: Ramos, Jorge
ISNI:       0000 0004 5916 1482
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2015
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the United Kingdom (UK). This includes audience expectations shaped by theatre conventions, the ways in which actors perform as well as the strategies employed by event producers to encourage audience participation. This research aims to contribute to the field of immersive practice by proposing a new approach to immersive dramaturgy that enhances the experience of individual audiences in immersive, interactive and participatory theatre. This study maps the development of a new approach to actor training, audience interviews and the making of an immersive theatre production trilogy (Hotel Medea). The development process and production of the Hotel Medea trilogy comprise a key practice-based outcome of this research, and it was performed in full in London (2009, 2010 and 2012), Edinburgh (2011) Rio de Janeiro (2010), and in part in the city of Brasilia (2012). A second key outcome of the research is a new methodology of immersive practice—‘dramaturgy of participation’—that includes approaches to theatrical dramaturgy in which each audience member is offered opportunities to proactively participate as an individual, and which will be a useful resource for emerging theatre makers in the field of immersive practice. The overnight theatre production Hotel Medea is a major and central part of this submission. The written material provides context, detailed exegesis and expands upon relevant topics. Readers can access video recordings of Hotel Medea (LIFT, 2010) in full on the following address: I will use the Hotel Medea trilogy as the case study for this research utilizing its durational overnight structure to lead my argument for immersive theatre events to meaningfully consider the experience of each (and every) audience member individually throughout the duration of performance. An experience not based on competitive participation or chance journeys but instead on a carefully designed dramaturgy that allows individuals to build a temporary community with fellow audiences. My argument suggests that there is a need for immersive theatre practitioners to devise adequate tools for its audiences prior to participation being offered, in order to aid a fuller participation in the event. Hotel Medea is a durational interactive theatrical event that takes place in real time from 00.00 a.m. to 06.00 a.m., in three parts. It retells the Greek myth of Medea through three types of participation design: participatory rituals, immersive environments and interactive game-play. Hotel Medea is concerned with the experience of the individual audience members as ticket-paying public, as participants and as players. At every step of the event, expectations are re-negotiated to allow individuals to engage with the event—at times proactively, at others passively. I have focused on the perspective of the author as opposed to solely drawing upon audience questionnaires, feedback and testimonies of collaborators. My choice of critical approach is based on the accumulated experience gathered, especially as a performer in Hotel Medea, allowing me to explore the complex and nuanced responses from individual audience members over the course of six years. During the early stages of my research, audience and collaborator interviews played an important part in evaluating the basic structure of the performance event. However, it soon became clear that the production would need to devise its own tools for capturing relevant data. Therefore the role of the Captain – the first host the audiences meet as they arrive in Hotel Medea - became itself one of the most valuable tools for articulating this research. The Captain, as well as other approaches used, are described in detail through the course of the first chapters. The key focus of this research project is the proposition of a dramaturgy of participation through the notion of the ‘micro-event’. Micro-events are determined by three interrelated design elements, each of which nuances a larger area of practice, namely participatory rituals, immersive environments, and interactive game-play. The significance of this enquiry is the unique new practice in relation to audience behaviour in immersive experiences in a time when the term ‘immersive’ is widely explored both within and beyond the arts. The production output of this research—Hotel Medea—has itself been widely recognized by specialized press and cultural programmers as a leader in the field, creating a direct impact on the wider understanding of processes and methods of audience immersion across the UK and internationally. This recognition can be observed through awards and nominations, public statements of influential figures in the cultural sector, references in academic publications (Boenisch, 2012; White, 2013), in newspaper articles placing Hotel Medea as part of ‘the original cadre of British participatory ensembles’ (Armstrong, 2011) and in other UK publications such as The Herald, Scotsman, Metro (2011), Time Out, and Telegraph (2012).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral