Autocracy or Democracy

By: Timothy Soulis  

This topic explores the pluses and minuses of concentrating the creative control of a live performance in a single individual, or distributing it among the participants. That is, given a staged play, a music concert, or a dance presentation, what may be the advantages and problems of using a tight, autocratic hegemony over the production’s creative decisions, as opposed to encouraging a more democratically involved community of participants offering artistic ideas? Several factors affect the potential amount of creative control, such as practical considerations concerning the size of the production, the allotted rehearsal time, and the style of performance. A second major consideration is the level of trust between leader and participants, which often depends on such preparation aspects as age, education, and experience. A third consideration in the autocratic versus democratic dichotomy reflects a more philosophical difference between modernity’s emphasis on a unified vision guided by a primary creative force—the “top down” model—and a more postmodern “pastiche” approach, with each participant contributing to the creative process framework—a “bottom up” structure. In short, this topic examines the costs and benefits of a live performance developed autocratically—with the expectation of a high level of conformity by all to the creative dictates of one—as opposed to a theater, music, or dance performance developed democratically—with a more communally creative process.

Authority, Creativity, Cultural Trends, Sense-Making
Arts Theory and History
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Timothy Soulis

Professor, Fine Arts, United States
KY, United States

Timothy Soulis, Ph.D., has been teaching theater, fine arts, and research courses for more than 40 years. He has written, directed, and acted in plays, and has studied Greek tragedy, Elizabethan drama, and Modern plays and theater. His research in Aboriginal performance has taken him to Australia several times over the last fifteen years.