Audiences and Participants: Researching Theatre Users at Contact, Manchester

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Uwe Groschel

Abstract

When people 'go to the theatre' we know that they are audiences. When young people go to Contact, however, they might be audiences, performers and/or theatre makers - they might play all three or more roles. Contact's users blur existing concepts and terminology. When we want to know more about theatre audiences, audience research offers models based on the distinction between audiences and theatre makers. If we want to know more about Contact's users, however, a model reflecting the blending of audiences and theatre makers' roles has yet to be developed. This thesis engages with Contact's users. It maps some of their multiple roles and experiences by asking two main questions: What are the practices of the people attending Contact and how can these practices be researched? A range of qualitative methods is necessary in order to investigate the wide variety of Contact's users' roles and experiences. Individual and group interviews are drawn from audience research, creative workshops are drawn from communication studies, and participant observation and visual research from the social sciences. Finally, a new method, Walking Fieldwork, is adapted for the use in theatre. A number of case studies are employed to investigate Contact's users. These case studies involve the observation of young actors during rehearsals and performances, the observation of participants in an outreach project, the investigation of audiences' experiences of two productions, and several short post-show interviews with general Contact audiences. This study found evidence that the relationship between theatre makers and audiences is changing. The term 'theatre user' is introduced as it opens up an area of overlap between the two and fits contemporary practices at Contact more closely. Contact's users function as communities, participants and co-creators. The descriptions of these roles and experiences contained in this thesis are understood as an initial exploration into practices of contemporary theatre users. However, further research is needed to build a more detailed understanding of these practices.In terms of research methods, this study found that the academic field of audience research needs to develop methods which are sensitive to both the backgrounds of theatre users and the theatrical context. The argument is put forward that audience research should become more aware of methods for the investigation of human experience and should enter into a 'methods-dialogue' with other academic fields of study.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Aug 2013