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Sponsored by the Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance
Organized by Hallie Marshall and Melissa Funke, University of British Columbia

Since Taplin’s ground breaking study The Stagecraft of Aeschylus (1977), the study of ancient drama has shifted its focus to plays in performance, and more recently sought to broaden the context for the performance of ancient Greek drama beyond fifth-century Athens (see for example, Bosher, 2012; Csapo et al., 2014), including its reception in later periods. While there has been some work on audience (see esp. Roselli, 2011), scholarship has thus far generally discussed the audience in relationship to ancient drama without contextualizing the audience in terms of their broader experience of spectatorship. And while the field of Performance Studies (see Schechner, 2013) has had a profound impact on contemporary theatre scholarship, its influence has yet to be widely felt in the study of Greek and Roman theatre and other ancient performance traditions.

This panel seeks papers which attempt to situate the audience of ancient drama in the larger context of the variety of performance traditions/spectating opportunities which co-existed alongside the theatre, and to query how we might define ‘performance’ in antiquity. Our goal is to provide a clearer sense of what it meant to be a spectator in the ancient world and how the variety of spectating opportunities available shaped audiences, their experiences, and their understanding of any given genre. When an audience gathered to watch a theatrical performance in antiquity, where did that experience fit into their larger cultural experiences of performance and spectatorship, and how might it have shaped how they interpreted what they saw on stage? How can the experience of being a spectator make meaning for the individual or the group? Among the topics that potential contributors might consider are:

  • choral performance and spectating
  • athletics and spectating
  • rhapsodic performances and spectating
  • lyric performances and spectating
  • legal proceedings and spectatorship
  • religious ritual and spectatorship
  • architecture and spectating
  • sculpture, painting, or other art forms and spectating
  • tourism and spectatorship
  • spectating within a festival context
  • comparative studies of spectatorship in ancient and modern genres

Please send abstracts that follow the guidelines for individual abstracts (see the SCS website) by email to Timothy Wutrich (not to the panel organizers). Review of abstracts will begin March 1. The deadline for submission is March 15. Please do not identify yourself anywhere in the abstract, as submissions will be blind refereed.


Bosher, Kate, ed. Theatre Outside Athens: Drama in Greek Sicily and South Italy. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Csapo, Eric, Hans Rupprecht Goette, Richard J. Green, and Peter Wilson, eds. Greek Theatre in the Fourth Century BC. De Gruyter, 2014.

Roselli, David Kawalko. Theatre of the People: Spectators and Society in Ancient Athens. University of Texas Press, 2011.

Schechner, Richard. Performance Studies: An Introduction, 3rd edition. Routledge, 2013.

Taplin, Oliver. The Stagecraft of Aeschylus: the dramatic use of entrances and exits in Greek tragedy. Clarendon Press, 1977.