Is Theatre Personally and Socially Relevant?
Empirical Insight into Theatrical Experience
In the years 2009–2015, a comparison of theatre systems in seven smaller European cities was conducted and named the STEP City Study. The study also included reception research, conducted with an extensive questionnaire, and qualitative research comprised of focus groups and interviews with audience members. One of the surprising results showed that, generally, the spectators enjoyed the performances a lot, but at the same time, did not rate them as very personally or socially relevant. That is why we decided to explore the notion of relevance in this article, or in other words, to examine what we are measuring when we ask the audience if the performance was relevant for them. In this study, we combine audience research and performance analysis of the shows that were evaluated as the most personally or socially relevant. The shows had either existential or contemporary political topics, were created in rather traditional ways, and did not stand out in any particularly innovative theatrical approach. We also conclude that relevance is a complex issue expressed in different dimensions of theatrical experience and cannot be straightforwardly measured.
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