When the Interventions editorial team started working together in 2014 our initial conversations turned to questions about the online form. What, we wondered, could the online space of an academic journal make possible for its readers and contributors in terms of research and critical dialogue? How might the format of our online platform expand the kind of critical conversations and dialogues that can be had about theatre and performance? And how can the digital distribution of scholarly research complement or enhance existing means of documenting and disseminating theatre and performance practice?
In this issue of Interventions we have placed these questions about form and encounter to the fore in order to explore what online spaces might offer to understandings and experiences of theatre and performance. The four contributions to this issue reflect on the relationship between theatre scholarship, criticism and practice and forms of interactivity, visuality and the digital.
Sarah Bay-Cheng offers a witty and thoughtful provocation on performance scholarship’s engagements with digital culture. Bay-Cheng, herself a regular contributor to these discussions, considers the multiplying taxonomies that have sought to fix theatre and performance’s relationship to the digital. What, she asks, is the point of defining the qualities of specific media and their relationship to theatre when the distinctions between media, including theatre, might be ‘less helpful than previously thought’? Through an embrace of post-media, Bay-Cheng encourages readers to consider how depth rather than breadth of study might benefit theatre and performance studies to account for a diverse and contested field.
UK-based theatre critic Megan Vaughan and US artist Brian House both reflect on the role the digital plays in their respective practices. We invited Vaughan, who writes about theatre in print and online formats, to create a feature for Interventions. Using the open source, interactive storytelling tool Twine (which Vaughan has used elsewhere), she describes recent performance practices that have explored questions of public space and public good. In parallel, Vaughan’s use of the interactive form, where readers follow the hyperlinks in her text, playfully explores theatre and the virtual as spaces of encounter and the ways both induce audiences to reflect on wider political and social practices. In an interview with Johanna Linsley, Brian House reflects on several of his projects that explore or rely on digital technologies for their conception and execution. House’s approach to his practice highlights the way online platforms rely on feedback loops that draw on performances of the private and the public, and digital and analogue experiences.
In ‘Listening Post: Public Voices on the Digital Stage’, members of the Interventions and wider Contemporary Theatre Review editorial team and contributing artists offer a survey, of sorts, of online performances of theatre and the commons. This collection utilises the idea of the vox populi as its jumping-off point. In doing so, it highlights the way the binary of digital and analogue fails to address the relational complexity of interactions at play in voicing private and public stories about lived experience.
We are intrigued by the possibilities and limits offered to writers, readers and artists and by extension performance scholarship, when working with the digital. This issue marks our continued interest in exploring the ways Interventions might formally and critically enable, expand or layer the conversation and dialogues that are taking place about theatre and performance. We welcome your comments and suggestions on how these discussions might feed into the future work of the journal.
– Elyssa Livergant