Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Chicago's 500 Clown theater: Physical action, impulse and narrative in play
by Danzig, Leslie Buxbaum, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2007, 241; 3284154
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation articulates the practice of clown theater by a Chicago-based company called 500 Clown in order to provoke further investigation and definition of this hybrid theatrical form, which, though increasingly popular as a practice, has yet to be theorized or historicized. This study addresses clown theater's relationships with other performance forms as well as how the form intersects with critical theater and performance concepts such as narrative structure, action, play, improvisation, spectatorship, risk, liveness and presence.

Generally speaking, clown theater incorporates elements from both clown and dramatic theater. Clown offers a direct and immediate relationship with the audience, the privileging of spontaneous play over predetermined and complex narratives, and the unique presence of an individual performer as opposed to that of a fictional character. Dramatic theater offers, among other things, structures to sustain full-length productions and numerous conventions, which, though culturally specific, address fictional coherence, role of the audience, and repeatability of the event. Clown theater gets its dynamic not from a facile and complementary give and take of elements and conventions, but rather from tensions inherent in the interaction between clown and dramatic theater.

This dissertation's methodology relies variously on participant observation, autoethnography, oral history, and the synthesis of secondary sources in order to create a detailed account of clown theater as developed and practiced by 500 Clown. This investigation of clown theater practice is framed by an examination of the particulars of creating and sustaining a theater company, a move that reflects my experience that artistic practice is in constant negotiation, conflict and cohabitation with business practice. In service to that, the opening and closing chapters explore how the form and content of artistic practice as well as the economics of sustaining that form are shaped by their context inclusive of colleagues, cost of living, availability of space, broader trends in the use-value of the arts and the more ineffable culture of a city.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Manning, Susan
Commitee: Edwards, Paul, Zimmerman, Mary
School: Northwestern University
Department: Performance Studies
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 68/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Theater
Keywords: Chicago, Clown, Five hundred Clown Theater, Illinois, Improvisation, Liveness, Narrative, Physical theater, Play
Publication Number: 3284154
ISBN: 978-0-549-29430-6
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