Democratizing Performance and Emboding Presence at the Pop-up Globe Theatre in Auckland

By: Vanessa Byrnes  

This paper considers elemental, performative, and spatial opportunities available to actors, directors, and audience in the construction of performance on the open-air stage. This stems from reflection and evidence gained while directing and producing Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra at the Pop-up Globe Theatre’s inaugural season in Auckland. This temporary spatial response to Shakespeare gave birth to something quite new in the South Pacific that has since proven to be a successful exercise in democratizing performance for many. More than 100,000 people attended the first Pop-up Globe season; in Antony & Cleopatra, the cast and crew of twenty brought a particular New Zealand sensibility to the work that was enhanced further by the architecture of this space. This was in turn met by the audiences’ appetite for something uniquely ‘Antipodean’ in its construction. From the architecture of the condensed second Pop-up Globe to the audience sensibilities that emerged through the season, the creative muscle of the space, actors, and audience grew very fast. Creative ‘responsibility’, confidence, and mutuality came to the fore of the theatrical experience on offer to elicit a unique kind of performance democracy. This paper considers specific learnings that emerged for me as the key creative and producer of this project. Reflection suggests that the creation of this temporary Globe ultimately contribute to the discourse on how the practices of art and our ways of interpreting art have shaped democracy and individual freedom as core organising principles of both society and performance.

Shakespeare, Performance, Directing, Acting, Methodology, Praxis
2020 Special Focus - Against the Grain: Arts and the Crisis of Democracy
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Vanessa Byrnes

Head of School, Creative Industries, Unitec New Zealand, New Zealand
New Zealand

Dr. Vanessa Byrnes is an award-winning director, actor, producer, and perfromance teacher who's worked extensively in film, theatre, and tertiary training in New Zealand and internationally. She has led and collaborated on more that 150 theatre and screen productions during the past 30 years in everything from independent, self-funded works to major international productions. This includes numerous feature films, short films, televisions commercials/drama, radio, and theatre. She is a passionate advocate of the power of creativity, the significance of the role of the artist in society, and the quality and innovation of New Zealand work. Vanessa is currently Head of Creative Industries at Unitec (Auckland), which houses the country's largest performing arts school.