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Performance as the New Theatre

Dr Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, Trinity Long Room Hub Visiting Research Fellow, explores the rise of the term ‘performance’ to describe theatrical works.

‘Everytime that a theatrical work is more experimental it’s called performance and not theatre’, says Dr Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, current Visiting Research Fellow at the Trinity Long Room Hub in collaboration with Trinity’s School of Creative Arts. Dr Tatinge Nascimento from Wesleyan University, Connecticut, is a theatre artist and scholar with a special interest in experimental performance.

She sees a departure from theatre as a reluctance among those in the profession to be associated with an art form which once provoked riots at opening nights. “Many artists have stopped calling their work theatre because they don’t want to be associated with boring performance. How many boring theatre pieces have you seen lately? My question is more this – what do we need to do to recover the name of theatre as experimental and ground-breaking work?”

She explored this question during her public lecture at the Trinity Long Room Hub on January 25th 2017 as part of Trinity’s Creative Arts Practice research theme’s Constellation Series. Titled ‘In Defense of Theatre (or the trouble with ‘performance’),’ she asked why some of the most innovative contemporary productions are generally viewed as ‘performance’ rather than ‘theatre.’ “In reality the majority of the performances I see, the pieces that call themselves performance – I look at them and I say ‘why is it not called theatre?”

“Today’s theatre appears tame, confined to replicating a few old formulas”, she says. The establishment of theatre, academic departments and conservatory programmes in many cases have suffocated theatrical innovation and robbed this ephemeral art form of its sense of urgency.” If the spectator considers theatrical experiences to be “predictable and stifled,” artists are less inclined to call their works ‘theatre’, she says.

She looks at the origins of theatre as an art form which historically has “elicited passionate philosophical debates.’ The desires of the spectator are also brought centre-stage when she asks “what kind of reality do we need to see on stage?”, adding, “it seems to me that the contemporary spectator searches for realness that exists at the intersection between non-art reality and aesthetic reality.”

Dr Tatinge Nascimento is also interested in cultural negotiations on stage, and has written a book Crossing Cultural Borders Through the Actor’s Work: Foreign Bodies of Knowledge (Routledge, 2007).

In her current research project, the performance of ‘the national’ at turn-of-the-century World Fairs, Dr Tatinge Nascimento is looking specifically at the Irish International Exhibition which took place in Dublin in 1907 and the inter-section between commerce and culture.


Dr Tatinge Nascimento is the recipient of a Consulate General of Brazil in New York Arts Grant to direct Pornographic Angel, her published adaptation of Brazilian playwright Nelson Rodrigues’ short stories. She is the author of ‘Crossing Cultural Borders through the Actor’s Work: Foreign Bodies of Knowledge’ (Routledge, 2007) and has recently finished a book project on The Contemporary Performances of Brazil’s Post-Dictatorship Generation. Dr Tatinge Nascimento has performed in Europe, North and South America, and her articles appear in ‘The Drama Review’ (United States), ‘Theatre Research International’ (UK), ‘Biblioteca Teatrale’ (Italy), ‘Didaskalia’ (Poland), ‘Studia Dramatica’ (Romania), ‘A[l]berto and Folhetim’ (Brazil). A Professor of Theatre at Wesleyan University, she teaches performance studies, theory, and studio courses.

Contact: Aoife King, Communications Officer | Trinity Long Room Hub | | 01 896 3895