The Poetics of Playing


  • Anneli Saro University of Tartu



Playing, Poetics, Ambivalence, Political Theatre, Estonian Theatre, Theatre NO99


Despite the seemingly general agreement that we are still living in a post- or
post-post-modern world andmany contemporary performancesarebased on theprinciplesof
postdramatic theatre, researchers have noticed certain changes in the poetics of theatrical
language, which havenot, so far, been described and analysed. Thisarticleseeksto search for a
poeticsof playing?that isto say, implicit principlesof producingand perceivingcontemporary
performances (non-mimetic forms of playing are beyond the scope of this investigation).
These principles in themselves are not necessarily new or contemporary, although their
combinations often create such an impression. The article consists of three parts. The first
explores the term 'poetics' and the second the poetics of playing. The final part provides an
empirical analysis of an example of the new poetics of playing. The political theatre project
Unified Estonia Assembly developed the structures and strategies of politics and performing
arts to their extremes, at the same time creating a powerful representation of political games.
By being a kind of exceptional theatrical event, it helped to exemplify how performers can
influence participants or society and how ambivalence as a strategy can be emphasized in
comprehension and social interaction. Thepoeticsof playing in Unified EstoniaAssembly was
based on fluid conceptions of players, roles and participants, playing and reality, and this
fluidity also created astrongsenseof ambivalenceboth duringtheplayingand afterwards.

Author Biography

Anneli Saro, University of Tartu

Anneli Saro is Professor of Theatre Research at the University of Tartu (Estonia) and the
Editor-in-Chief of Nordic Theatre Studies. She has been a convener of the international
working group Project on European TheatreSystems(2004-2008) and ispresently convener of
theTheatrical Event working group. Saro isalso amember of theexecutivecommittee of the
International Federation for Theatre Research. She has published articles on audience
research, performanceanalysis, Estonian theatrehistory and systems




How to Cite

Saro, A. (2014). The Poetics of Playing. Nordic Theatre Studies, 26(1), 8–19.



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