Audience as Performer: The changing role of theatre audiences in the twenty-first century, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Audience as Performer

The changing role of theatre audiences in the twenty-first century, 1st Edition

By Caroline Heim


190 pages

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'Actors always talk about what the audience does. I don’t understand, we are just sitting here.'

Audience as Performer proposes that in the theatre, there are two troupes of performers: the actors and the audience. Although academics have scrutinised how audiences respond, make meaning and co-create while watching a performance, little research has considered the behaviour of the theatre audience as a performance in and of itself.

This insightful book describes how an audience performs through its myriad gestural, vocal and paralingual actions, and considers the following questions:

  • If the audience are performers, who are their audiences?
  • How have audiences’ roles changed throughout history?
  • How do talkbacks and technology influence the audience’s role as critics?
  • What influence does the audience have on the creation of community in theatre?
  • How can the audience function as both consumer and co-creator?

Drawing from over 140 interviews with audience members, actors and ushers in the UK, USA and Austrialia, Heim reveals the lived experience of audience members at the theatrical event. It is a fresh reading of mainstream audiences’ activities, bringing their voices to the fore and exploring their emerging new roles in the theatre of the Twenty-First Century.


"Heim's succinct, accessible volume serves as an important contribution to the ever-growing scholarly field investigating audiences in relation to theatrical performance. Highly Recommended."

- Choice Magazine

"An invaluable text for classes and scholars in theatre history, criticism, and practice."

- Theatre Topics

"Takes the research and understanding of the active role/s of audiences and the people in them to a new level of understanding and recognition."

- Australasian Drama Studies

Table of Contents





CHAPTER ONE Audience as Performer

CHAPTER TWO Stage Etiquette (1800-1880)

CHAPTER THREE Theatre Etiquette (1880-2000)


Introduction to Part II

CHAPTER FOUR Audience as Critic

CHAPTER FIVE Audience as Community

CHAPTER SIX Audience as Consumer

CHAPTER SEVEN Audience as Co-creator

Conclusion New Possibilities

List of Contributors

Appendix 1

Appendix 2


About the Author

Caroline Heim is Lecturer in Drama at Queensland University of Technology. Previous to entering academia she worked as a professional actor on New York and other US stages winning a Drama League Award.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / General