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date: 21 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the Living Theatre’s Paradise Now as an important attempt to employ spectators’ corporeal presence to disseminate viral ideologies from stage to auditorium and into society at large. Using original research from the Living Theatre’s archives at Yale University, it provides a detailed discussion of the piece’s conception and development. It draws on two conceptual lenses, the language of Cold War containment ideology and the historical context offered by twentieth-century crowd theory, to situate the Living Theatre’s approach to Artaudian theatrical metaphysics in its political and cultural surround. In doing so, it argues that Paradise Now constitutes a politically charged, historically innovative instance of contagious dramaturgy—developed with the intention of spreading emotions, gestures, and ideas to its audiences in order to enact anarchist-pacificist revolution. It offers an intriguing template for future contagious and viral dramaturgies that would develop long after the Living Theatre’s landmark performance.

Keywords: Living Theatre, Julian Beck, Judith Malina, Mysteries, Paradise Now, contagion, crowd theory, viral, Artaud

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