Performance Studies: An Introduction by Richard Schechner - A Review
Performance Studies: An Introduction is a groundbreaking textbook that offers a comprehensive and engaging overview of the field of performance studies. Written by Richard Schechner, one of the founders and leading figures of the discipline, the book covers a wide range of topics, from the performing arts and popular entertainments to rituals, play, games, social media, and everyday life performances. The book also features primary extracts, student activities, key biographies, and over 200 images of global performance.
The book was first published in 2002 and has since been revised and updated four times, reflecting the latest developments and debates in performance studies. The fourth edition, published in 2020, includes two new chapters on global and intercultural performance and on the growing international importance of performance studies. The book also explores the implications of performance theory for understanding the contemporary world, such as the role of simulation, performativity, and shamanism.
Performance Studies: An Introduction is an essential resource for anyone interested in studying or practicing performance. It provides a clear and accessible introduction to the key concepts, methods, and perspectives of performance studies, as well as a rich and diverse selection of examples and case studies from around the world. The book is also supported by a fully updated companion website that offers interactive resources, teaching tools, and research links.
The book is available in both print and digital formats. You can download a free PDF version of the book from this link or purchase a hardcopy or an ebook from this link.
In this review, I will focus on some of the main themes and arguments of the book, as well as its strengths and weaknesses. I will also discuss how the book can be used for teaching and learning performance studies.
What is performance studies
The first chapter of the book provides a concise and clear definition of performance studies as \"an interdisciplinary field that studies performance in all its manifestations\" (p. 3). Schechner explains that performance studies is not limited to the study of theatre or art, but rather encompasses any human or nonhuman activity that can be understood as performance. He also distinguishes between performance studies and other related disciplines, such as theatre studies, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies.
Schechner argues that performance studies is a unique and valuable field because it offers a holistic and dynamic approach to studying human behavior and culture. He claims that performance studies can help us to understand how people create meaning, identity, and social relations through their actions and interactions. He also suggests that performance studies can help us to critique and transform the dominant structures and ideologies that shape our lives.
The chapter also introduces some of the key concepts and methods of performance studies, such as the performance paradigm, the broad spectrum of performance, the performative turn, the ethnography of performance, and the analysis of performance texts. Schechner provides examples and exercises to illustrate and apply these concepts and methods to various types of performance.
What is performance
The second chapter of the book explores the question of what constitutes performance and how we can identify and describe it. Schechner proposes a working definition of performance as \"twice-behaved behavior\" (p. 28), meaning that performance is any behavior that is repeated or rehearsed, either consciously or unconsciously. He also identifies four characteristics of performance: restored behavior, make-believe, showing doing, and explaining showing.
Schechner then discusses different ways of categorizing and comparing performances, such as by genre, function, context, audience, mode, style, quality, efficacy, and value. He also introduces some of the key terms and concepts that are used to analyze performances, such as action, event, script, score, scenario, frame, role, character, actor, performer, participant, observer, spectator, witness, feedback loop, communication model, representation model, reception model, and interpretation model.
The chapter also provides examples and exercises to help the reader identify and describe various kinds of performances from different cultures and historical periods. Schechner emphasizes the diversity and complexity of performance phenomena and encourages the reader to adopt a flexible and critical perspective. aa16f39245