Audience Participation in Contemporary Lithuanian Theatre: A Conflicted Adaptation of the Western Tradition

Justinas Kalinauskas 1
  • 1 Vytautas Magnus University, , Kaunas, Lithuania

Summary

This article explores how audience participation practices were introduced into Lithuanian theatre in the last three decades (between the early ‘90s and the late 2010s) and how the audience participation methods of the 1960s Western theatre are/were being implemented into contemporary Lithuanian theatre projects. The key goal of this article is to examine the evolution of audience participation and collective theatre tradition in Lithuanian theatre by analysing the preconditions for participatory practices in the country’s theatre scene and defining the scope and contradictions of participation in the latest examples of contemporary Lithuanian theatre practices. These contradictions are also apparent in contemporary Western performative practices, which have already distanced themselves from the collective theatre movement of the ‘60s and the ‘70s and the political agenda of the performances of that time, selectively retaining only limited participatory aspects of the environmental theatre culture as a new form of entertainment. Similar limited levels of participation in Lithuanian theatre can be based on a different premise—that changes in spectators’ habitude cannot catch up with the newly (re)introduced theatrical ideas after the 1990s, and that theatre creators are still trying to cautiously synchronise conventional observation tactics and modern theatre hierarchies with the interactive ones, thus slowing down changes in staging and spectatorship strategies as well.

The article focuses on academic texts by Lithuanian theatre researchers Ramunė Balevičiūtė, Rasa Vasinauskaitė, Rūta Mažeikienė, Jurgita Staniškytė, Vaidas Jauniškis, Lina Michelkevičė, and others to illustrate the discourse of audience participation analysis and to present different stages of the participatory tradition in the historiography of Lithuanian theatre. For international context, history, and mechanics of audience participation, texts by Erika Fischer-Lichte, Michael Kirby, Richard Schechner, Gareth White, Gay McAuley, Johan Huizinga, and others are used.

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