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Id 153
Author Walmsley, B.,
Title Co-creating theatre: authentic engagement or inter-legitimation?

Walmsley, B. (2013). Co-creating theatre: authentic engagement or inter-legitimation?, Cultural Trends, 22:2, 108-118

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Abstract This article investigates the development, purpose and value of co-creation in theatre. Through a qualitative analysis of a festival of new work at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, it explores the levers and barriers to participatory engagement and evaluates the phenomenon of co-creation from the comparative perspective of theatre producers and audiences. The rising trend of co-creation reflects the evolving role of the audience in the creative process. Co-creation is one of the most intensive ways audiences can engage with the arts, and this study questions to what extent it can be regarded as an authentic democratization of the creative process. The study takes a qualitative approach, based on participant observation and 12 in-depth interviews with a sample drawn from theatre-makers, managers, marketers and audiences. Its key findings are that co-creation attracts a highly niche audience of “theatre people” who are active learners and risk takers and that while an all-encompassing definition of co-creation remains elusive, the activity is here to stay. Co-creation is ultimately messy, raw, incomplete, contingent and context-dependent. Successful co-creation involves trust, respect, collaboration, playfulness and exchange; it takes participants on an adventurous journey and deepens their engagement with theatre. The implications of this study are as follows: producers and artists should engage authentically with participants and explore ways to develop their co-creative skills; marketers should utilize experiential marketing techniques to emphasize the different, fun, risky and edgy aspects of co-creation; and policymakers should not rely on co-creation to widen participation and democratize the arts, but accept that it can deepen engagement for a select few.


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