Performance texts and recording performance: Towards a methodology of multiplicity

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This chapter examines the impact of the increasing availability of video and digital recordings of theatre productions on theatre and performance historiography. Taking as a starting point the nearly century-old essay of Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility,” the chapter considers ways that audio-visual recordings make the theatrical work of art reproducible and therefore accessible to theatre historians for the first time in history. As the concept of ephemerality is challenged, a differentiation arises between ontological and phenomenological orientations to theatre and performance, and between historiographical approaches. This suggests that video and digital recordings should be analysed as “performance texts” that exist in relation to a live performance, yet that they also gain a performativity of their own. This is ever-more true today, when recorded productions are often experienced online by theatre historians and spectators alike, sometimes long after their live presentation. This observation is the basis for suggesting a historiographical perspective on multiplicity acknowledging that a theatre performance becomes part of cultural memory by its presentation and re-presentation in multiple interrelated ways. Finally, the chapter assesses methodologies for historiographical analysis of video and digital recordings of performance, including video annotation, from the archive of Rina Yerushalmi and the Itim Ensemble.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance Historiography
EditorsTracy C. Davis, Peter W. Marx
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781351271721
ISBN (Print)1138575518, 9781138575516
StatePublished - 2020


  • Theater -- Historiography


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