Playing Real: Mimesis, Media, and Mischief explores the integration and interaction of mimetic theatricality and representational media in twentieth- and twenty‑first-century performance. It brings together carefully chosen sites of performance—including live broadcasts of theatrical productions, reality television, and alternate-reality gaming—in which mediatization and mimesis compete and collude to represent the real to audiences. Lindsay Brandon Hunter reads such performances as forcing confrontation between notions of authenticity, sincerity, and spontaneity and their various others: the fake, the feigned, the staged, or the rehearsed.
Each site examined in Playing Real purports to show audiences something real—real theater, real housewives, real alternative scenarios—which is simultaneously visible as overtly constructed, adulterated by artifice and artificiality. The integration of mediatization and theatricality in these performances, Hunter argues, exploits the proclivities of both to conjure the real even as they risk corrupting the perception of authenticity by imbricating it with artifice and overt manipulation.
Although the performances analyzed obscure boundaries separating actual from virtual, genuine from artificial, and truth from fiction, Hunter rejects the notion that these productions imperil the “real.” She insists on uncertainty as a fertile site for productive and pleasurable mischief—including relationships to realness and authenticity among both audience and participants.
1. The Miracle of Electronovision: Mediatizing the Live Stage/Enlivening the Screen
2. Mimetic Strategies: The Work of the Actor in the Midst of Technological Reproduction
3. Intimate Access: Performing Romantic Love on Reality TV
4. "Scripted Reality" and the Negotiation of Authenticity
5. This Is Not a Game: Playing Alternate Realities in ARGs
6. This Is Not a Threat: Conspiracy for Good
“Playing Real is an insightful examination of how performance across media—theater, film, television, games—shapes our understanding of the ‘real’ world. Written in an engaging, even playful style, Hunter’s core argument nevertheless packs a real punch. As we consider how thoroughly both performance and digital media have penetrated contemporary culture, this book offers an important and timely perspective for theater, performance studies, and beyond.” —Sarah Bay-Cheng, coauthor of Performance and Media: Taxonomies for a Changing Field
“Lindsay Brandon Hunter neatly sidesteps debates about the social, moral, economic, or cultural value of live versus recorded or broadcast performance, and the ontology of performance itself, in order to closely interrogate several instances of the two as co-existent. This alone is a significant contribution—without ignoring the importance of those debates within the disciplines of performance studies, theater, and media studies, she moves away from polemic and into real-world examples. But the work is more than just an intervention. It also uncovers or re-reads several key texts (yes, True Tori is a key text!) with nuance and rigor, expanding what the above disciplines consider performance, mediatized or otherwise.” —Kirsten Pullen, author of Like a Natural Woman: Female Spectacular Performance in the Classical Hollywood Era