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Macmillan Higher Education Palgrave Higher Education

Site-Specific Performance

ISBN 9780230576704
Publication Date November 2010
Formats Hardcover Ebook Paperback 
Publisher Palgrave

Site-specific performance – acts of theatre and performative events at landscape locations, in village streets, in urban situations. In houses, chapels, barns, disused factories, railway stations; on hillsides, in forest clearings, underwater. At the scale of civil engineering; as intimate as a guided walk.

Leading theatre artist and scholar Mike Pearson draws upon thirty years practical experience, proposing original approaches to the creation and study of performance outside the auditorium. In this book he suggests organizing principles, innovative strategies, methods and exercises for making theatre in a variety of contexts and locations, and through examples, case studies and projects develops distinctive theoretical insights into the relationship of site and performance, scenario and scenography. This book encourages practical initiatives in the conception, devising and staging of performances, while also recommending effective models for its critical appreciation.

MIKE PEARSON is Professor of Performance Studies at Aberystwyth University, UK. Formerly an Artistic Director of Cardiff Laboratory Theatre (1973-80) and Brith Gof (1981-97). He continues to make performance with Pearson/Brookes (1997-present). He is co-author of Theatre/Archaeology (Routledge: 2001) and In Comes I: Performance, Memory and Landscape (Exeter University Press: 2006).

The Practice of the Book
Models and Approaches
After Effects


Mike Pearson's book is all the more intriguing because of his background. Although he is now a professor of performance studies at Aberystwyth University, Pearson originally studied archaeology. It enables him to draw on geography and drama. The frequent scholarly references and use of terms, such as optic and haptic understanding, suggests this book is aimed at students and academics, but Pearson's writing style is poetic and engaging.' - Laura Silverman, What's On Stage
'Mike Pearson's vast experience with both the practicalities and the theory of site-specific theatre makes him the ideal author of Site-Specific Performance. This rewarding study offers challenging contexts, questions, and exercises for students. It engages with the broad range of disciplines upon which one may call for site-specificity, privileging place but not overlooking the significance of bodies, time, and other considerations which help determine place.' - Joanne Tompkins, Professor of Drama, University of Queensland, Australia
'Mike Pearson has written an important book on the practice of site-specific performance, drawing heavily on examples from his prodigious career as a performance maker working with the Wales-based group Brith Gof. It will be a useful and inspiring document for artists, scholars and students. The importance of the book rests heavily on the significance of the work described. The survey of (English language) literature on site-specific art in the introduction is in invaluable resource for both teaching and for scholarship. Pearson's Site-Specific Performance provides one of only a few reviews of the development of a set of practices that has transformed our understanding of what it means to make theatre and art in the 21st century. The book also makes an important contribution in its refreshing rural-centric perspective. Pearson also does a nice job of describing a number of traditional local performative practices (i.e. ones that do not emerge from an art world context) in the same register as his discussion of innovative or experimental works. He has an evocative style that oscillates between poetry and pedagogy and is a consummate storyteller. Pearson's greatest strength as a writer may well be his capacity to analyze performance, to explain how works of art do their work, and to draw clear relationships between theories of performance and the practice thereof, that he is an accomplished teacher comes through in his ability to summarize prevalent theories and to develop new ones. He asks provocative questions and makes perceptive and original observations, such as the discussion of the 'shift from optic to haptic understanding of site-specificity' and draws effectively from adjacent disciplines such as geography, archaeology, conservation, and curatorship. The book's greatest asset is the volume and range of models for site-specific performance that it provides.' - Laurie Beth Clark, Professor of Video/Performance/Installation at the University of Wisconsin Madison, USA
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