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Stranger in a stage land: A case for the role of science-fiction in theatre

Platt, Stephen B. (2020) Stranger in a stage land: A case for the role of science-fiction in theatre. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Science fiction is one of the most popular genres across the major entertainment mediums, except theatre. Despite science fiction plays existing for almost as long as there has been science fiction literature, the genre has failed to flourish on stage as it has done in the mediums of cinema, literature, television, and interactive entertainment like video games. Theatre in the twenty-first century has shown encouraging signs of growth and development for science fiction stage shows, and live performance spaces, practitioners, and production companies have the potential to breed the next great works of the genre.

Academia relating specifically to science fiction theatre is also an emerging practice. Ralph Willingham’s Science Fiction and the theatre (1994) remains amongst the most comprehensive compendiums of the genre’s stage history, but a number of contemporary researchers and academics are beginning to examine the practice of science fiction theatre in greater detail. By considering the work of academics on science fiction and the history of the genre, both on and off the stage, I show that science fiction and the theatre possess many benefits for one another when combined in practice. My research uses a multi-modal approach, drawing upon the theories of Practice as Research, Audience Reception theory, and the Iterative Cyclical Web, to demonstrate how practitioners can develop science fiction texts for live performance spaces that effectively create and explore the genre’s themes, values, and stories.

The exegesis explores the genealogy of science fiction in theatre and contains documentation of my creative artefact used to examine the processes of creating original science fiction for the stage; the staged radio play series @lantis. Written and directed by myself, @lantis was a two-year long project that featured the contributions of more than fifty actors, sound designers, foley artists, theatre technicians, visual artists, and musicians which culminated in seven individual episodes between sixty and ninety minutes long, performed live as a work of theatre to an audience, as well as being recorded and broadcast online as audio plays. The exegesis concludes with an analysis of data collected from surveys taken by @lantis audience members and in-depth discussions about potential areas of interest for contemporary and upcoming science fiction theatre practitioners.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Social Sciences and Arts
Supervisor(s): Trees, Kathryn and Moody, David
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