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Saturday March 16 | Session 13:15 - 14:45 (20 min) University Theatre Building | University Theatre
Theatre scandals can be considered symptoms of interventions as well as a means for change. In the first capacity theatre scandals function as indications of vehement breaches of the norms and values of large groups in the population – either with regard to the socially acceptable content of performances and/or with regard to the aesthetics of the theatrical institution itself. As such theatre scandals represent a potential for altering the status quo and hence they are sometimes (consciously) used in trying to instigate institutional changes.  

In this paper the analogy between contagious diseases and theatre scandals is explored. The potential of a scandal is present in many theatrical events, but under what conditions does this potential come to fruition? And once the break-out of a scandal is a fact: how does it spread, what -if any- containment strategies are employed, how does it (eventually?) die out and are there any longer lasting effects of these interventions - like immunity, scars, heightened susceptibility, and so on? The paper starts from the assumption that any derogatory statement on a (planned or actualized) theatrical expression, pronouncing it to be scandalous and denying its right to be performed, might become a full-fledged public scandal. How this process evolves and how to measure the spread and magnitude of the scandal are some of the questions that are addressed by looking into methods and concepts employed by epidemiology.

Applying such an analogy from the medical world is not without problems - think only of questions like “what is/are the organism(s) that are infected?”; “in what way can a scandal be considered as a disease or a cure?”; etc. However, the analogy is nevertheless able to heighten our insight in the ontology, origins, development and classification of theatre scandals.  

Some case studies from history -amongst others the scandal surrounding the first Dutch performance in 1987 of Fassbinder’s Der Müll, die Stadt und der Tod (Het vuil, de stad en de dood, directed by Johan Doesburg in 1987 as the final exam of his studies at the Theatre Academy)- will serve as illustrations.
 
Peter Eversmann (1955) studied a year at Wittenberg University, Ohio, USA and after that completed his studies in Art History and in Theatre at the University of Amsterdam in 1982.  His dissertation De ruimte van het theater (The Space of the Theatre) was defended in 1996. He is currently associate professor at the department of Theatre Studies, University of Amsterdam. He teaches and has published on the theory and history of theatre architecture as well as on empirical audience and reception research. Current research interests include the theatrical experience of the spectator as a specific form of the aesthetic encounter, theatre iconology and the use of information technologies for education in the performing arts. He is editor in chief of the Themes in Theatre series published by Rodopi.
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