Spectatorship, Politics and the Rules of Participation

Re-discovering the Audience in Contemporary Lithuanian Theatre


  • Jurgita Staniškytė Vytautas Magnus University Kaunas




Audience, Participatory turn, Performance, Politics, Spectatorship


Contemporary theatre performances offer many examples of audience engagement - its forms range from physical interventions into public space to mental emancipation of the audience’s imagination. These practices put into question the effectiveness of the existing tools of audience research because, in some instances, theatre serves as a manipulation machine, “tricking” the public to perform specific social actions, while in other cases, it becomes a tool for the deconstruction of manipulation mechanisms at the same time serving as a platform for engaging entertainment. Audience research paradigms, based on dichotomies such as passive/active, inclusion/exclusion or incorporation/resistance are no longer able to address the complex concepts of spectatorship as performance, co-creation, or audience participation. Therefore, new practices of audience participation, conspicuously emerging in contemporary Lithuanian theatre, can only be adequately addressed by combining methodologies from different disciplines and critically evaluating historical and theoretical implications of these practices. In my article, I will focus on the historical implications of the term “audience participation” as a form of public engagement and issues of its application as experienced by theatre artists and audiences in Lithuania. The article will also examine the theoretical implications of the notion of participatory turn and its effect on theatre productions at the same time challenging the conceptual equations of “active spectatorship” in the aesthetic sphere to the emergence of “active participant” in the public sphere.

Author Biography

Jurgita Staniškytė, Vytautas Magnus University Kaunas

Jurgita Staniškytė, Ph.D., heads the Faculty of Arts and is a Professor of Theatre Studies Department at Vytautas Magnus University (Kaunas, Lithuania). She has published numerous scientific and critical articles on contemporary Lithuanian theatre in the context of the processes of Baltic stage art, performative aspects of post-soviet Lithuanian culture, creative communication and audience development. Jurgita Staniškytė actively participates in various scholarly and artistic organizations as well as international and national research projects. She serves as a member of the Committee of Social Sciences and Humanities of the Research Council of Lithuania. Jurgita Staniškytė is also the Board member of HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) and the Governing Board member of EU Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) on Cultural Heritage and Global Change. She was recently elected to the position of chairman of the Board of “Kaunas the European Capital of Culture 2022”. She has published four monographs, the latest – collective monograph I teatri post-sovietici (Roma, 2016).


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How to Cite

Staniškytė, J. (2019). Spectatorship, Politics and the Rules of Participation: Re-discovering the Audience in Contemporary Lithuanian Theatre. Nordic Theatre Studies, 30(2), 99–114. https://doi.org/10.7146/nts.v30i2.112954



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