Introduction: Staging Real People: On the Arts and Effects of Non-Professional Theatre Performers

Meg Mumford, Ulrike Garde


Performance practice since the 1990s has been characterised by an increased interest in theatre that either operates without professional performers or minimises their involvement. Instead, those performing have included a diverse array of specialists in areas of expertise other than that of performance-making. Often referred to as ‘experts’, they have frequently been selected according to their life experiences and/or connection with particular social categories such as economic class, field of work, ethnicity, age, and (dis)ability (Bishop 2012: 219).1 The concept of the ‘expert’ and the many theatre practices and discourses connected with it often challenge the professional / non-professional opposition. For example, while experts may not fulfil the criteria of people who are regularly engaged in the paid occupation of acting or performing, they do share with such professionals an ability to demonstrate special skills, training, and/or knowledge, often including advanced skills in performing a version of one’s self. We are aware that our use here of the term ‘non-professional’ could reinstate the type of binary troubled by the word ‘expert’. Nevertheless, we find the term useful as a way of referring to those figures, in works and events created by professional artists, who are not extensively trained in acting or performing and who usually do not earn their living from appearing on the stage.

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