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Title: Postmodern ludergies : theorizing participatory theatre events as folk play
Author: Gowers, Mark T.
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis compares contemporary audience participation theatre events to traditional folk play activities. Within American culture, widespread media literacy and theatrical reflexivity are identified as resources for folk play events such as murder mystery weekends, historical reenactments, and the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'. Theatre-making in a small town provides a model for understanding folk play in general. Folk/Theatre is defined as a reciprocal relationship between the theatre-making potential of a community, and the community-making potential of its theatre. Pre-modern definitions of folklore generally relate community-making to structural properties of myth and ritual, secured by shared beliefs. A post-modern definition is proposed which relates community-making to the post-structural properties of literature (as non-myth), and to the theatrical event (as non-ritual), secured by entertainment (as non-belief). The 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' and the historical reenactment weekend are identified as instances of post-modern folk play. Audience-participation murder mysteries originated among members of a fan-based literary sub-culture in New York City in 1977. These events relate the playability of the mystery game to media literacy, gained either by reading mystery novels, or from viewing film & television adaptations. Literacy is shown to be directly related to perceived folkgroup membership. The interactive murder mystery is then related to the phenomenology of audience reception. A film version is analyzed to illustrate how audience members select viewing positions based on their recognition of the actors' identity. A live version is discussed within the context of the American military USO show, which is compared to traditional Mumming practices. Ethnographic interviews reveal that when actors are recognized as fellow folk members (i.e. fellow Americans), audience members receive them interactively, and the event functions as a 'situational' folk-play activity. The final chapter utilizes Victor Turner's anthropological model to distinguish political liturgies from playful ludergies in post-modernity. Comparing the popular mock ritual event 'Tony and Tina's Wedding' to traditional community-making models, I conclude that the former merely simulates 'real community' through 'staged authenticity'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: mumming ; murder mystery theatre ; Tony and Tina's Wedding ; efficacy and entertainment ; folk drama ; folk play ; Rocky Horror Picture Show ; Fandom ; emergent community ; folklore ; Jean-Luc Nancy ; Mohonk Murder Mystery ; audience participation ; postmodern ludergy ; community making ; surplus belief ; performative contradiction ; paradox of play ; community theatre