Performing Arts

LinguisticsOxford Reference provides more than 58,000 concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedic entries on all aspects and disciplines within the field of the Performing Arts. Written by trusted experts for researchers at every level, entries are complemented by illustrative line drawings and images wherever useful.

International in scope, our coverage comprises authoritative, highly accessible information on the very latest terminology, genres, styles, time periods, concepts, theories, techniques, dramatists, performers, companies, and organizations relating to all areas of the performing arts—from ancient times and Shakespeare’s classics to twentieth-century theatre and dance.

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                               The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation    The Grove Book of Operas   The Oxford Dictionary of Dance   The Oxford Companion to Indian Theatre

See all the Performing Arts books available on Oxford Reference >

Sample resources

Discover Performing Arts on Oxford Reference with the below sample content:

A timeline of performing arts: from the harp being used as a musical instrument in Mesopotamia to British pop group, the Spice Girls, breaking all previous UK records with their first album, Spice

Quotations about acting, cinema, and dance from Oxford Essential Quotations

An exploration of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Shakespearian production from The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare

Ghost Dance’ defined in The International Encyclopedia of Dance

A look at operas from 1998 to 2008 in A Dictionary of Opera Characters

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Featured Author

Michael Patterson

Michael Patterson

Michael Patterson has taught at universities in Oxford, Belfast, Bangor, Leeds, Coleraine, and Leicester, and is now Emeritus Professor of Theatre. He has published six books on German theatre and one on political theatre. He is also the author of The Oxford Dictionary of Plays.

Author Q&A

What is the one term or concept that everyone—from students to everyday web users—should be familiar with? Why?

Realism’ is a term used in art, literature, film, television, and the theatre. It can easily be misunderstood. It does not mean that what is represented attempts to be real. In the theatre the action is framed by the beginning and end of the performance, by the physical limitations of the stage, and the audience can hear everything spoken, even whispered dialogue between two characters. In fact, ‘realism’ is merely a convention in which we are least aware of the convention.

Which historical events or figures featured in your dictionary have most influenced your study of your subject?

The First World War, in which traditional battle tactics were used in the face of modern technology, resulted in the deaths of millions. One can only guess how many brilliant potential writers and artists died in the mud of the battlefield. What we do know is that, especially in Germany, the shock of the war gave impetus to a radical revolution in theatre, which has been a major focus of my research (see e.g. The Revolution in German Theatre 1900-1933, 1981). Drawing-room theatre no longer offered an adequate response. The violent images of the war and the need to create a better world were transferred to the stage in the excesses of German Expressionism and in the political drama of Piscator and Brecht.

What do you think is the most commonly held misconception in your subject area?

Bertolt Brecht is unquestionably one of the most significant contributors to twentieth century theatre, but is frequently dismissed as being didactic, against emotion, and simply boring. This view has not been helped by the early and misleading English translation ‘alienation’, which Brecht defined simply as ‘making the familiar seem strange.’ It does not mean that he did not want his audience to be involved in the action; on the contrary, his theatre is lively, colourful, sometimes humorous, and, above all, challenges the spectator to reach his or her own conclusions.

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Featured blogs

How did Shakespeare originally sound?
November 2016
Test your knowledge of common Shakespearean words with our quiz.

Twenty-first-century Shakespeare
April 2016
Michael Dobson explores the extent of changes in the culture at large, and to Shakespeare’s place within it, within the last fifteen years.

The play's the thing!
January 2015
Michael Patterson explains to work that went in to compiling The Oxford Dictionary of Plays.

For more theatre and dance blog posts delve in to the OUPblog archives >

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