15 January 2014 / Events

Affecting Theatre: Spectatorship and Participation

Presented by Prof. Nicola Shaughnessy & Prof. Robert Shaughnessy

There has recently been an upsurge of interest in interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers and practitioners in theatre and performance and colleagues working in psychology, the social sciences, and the medical humanities, with a particular focus on the affective dimensions of performance, its potential to change and transform its participants, and to touch lives. In this lecture, Nicola Shaughnessy and Robert Shaughnessy draw upon two current University of Kent projects as examples of interdisciplinary research in practice, in the fields of applied performance and Shakespeare studies.

Imagining Autism, funded by the AHRC, is a performance-based intervention for autistic children that involves a series of immersive installations, creating ‘environments’ that are designed to facilitate communication, social interaction and creativity. Working in conjunction with performers, autistic participants encounter a range of stimuli, triggers and responsive technologies, including puppetry, costume and masks, and digital media. We will discuss the ways in which the research is leading to new understandings of the imagination in autistic children, and of how it is differently inflected from the neurotypical child. In Time with Shakespeare investigates the shared embodied experience of actors and audiences in relation to the rhythms of Shakespeare in performance as way of understanding the works’ unique power and enduring appeal. Both projects have been developed though collaboration with colleagues in social and cognitive psychology, and we will reflect upon the possibilities that these suggests for future collaborative research.

Nicola Shaughnessy is Professor of Performance at the University of Kent, and Director of the Centre for Cognition, Kinesthetics and Performance. Her more recent books are Applying Performance (Palgrave, 2012) and Affective Performance and Cognitive Science (Methuen, 2013).

Robert Shaughnessy is Professor of Theatre at the University of Kent. His publications include The Shakespeare Effect (Palgrave, 2002) and The Routledge Guide to William Shakespeare (2011).


15 January 2014




Swedenborg Hall, 20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH