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Off Sites

Off Sites

Contemporary Performance beyond Site-Specific

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Bertie Ferdman


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
212 pages, 6 x 9, 36 illustrations

Theater in the Americas


Additional Materials

  • Table of Contents
  • Supplemental Materials

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Supplemental Materials

Ferdman Book Flier

About the Book

Honorable Mention, ATHE's 2018 Outstanding Book Award 

Contextualizing the techniques and methods of the incredibly rich and vital genre of site-specific performance, author Bertie Ferdman traces the evolution of that term. Originally used for experimental staging practices and then later also for engaged situational events, site-specific is no longer sufficient for the genre’s many contemporary variations.

Using the term off-site, Ferdman illustrates five distinct ways artists have challenged the disciplinary framework of site-specific theatre: blurring the traditional boundaries between the fictional and the real; changing how the audience and actor interact with each other and whether they are physically together or apart; fabricating sites from physically bound, conceptually constructed, or virtual spaces; staging live situations in real/nonreal and often mediated encounters; and challenging our preconceived notions of time and space. Tracing the genealogy of site-based work through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Ferdman outlines the theoretical groundwork for her study in the introduction. Individual chapters focus on distinct types of off-sites—the interdisciplinary discourse of disciplinary sites; the spaces of audience engagement with spectator sites; the dislocation of time for temporal sites; and the historiographical spaces of mapping for urban sites.   

Ferdman examines site-based work being done in the Americas by contemporary companies and artists experimenting with new forms and practices for site-driven theatre. Key productions discussed include Private Moment by David Levine, Geyser Land by Mary Ellen Strom and Ann Carlson, Jim Findlay’s Dream of the Red Chamber, and Lola Arias’ Mi Vida Después.


Bertie Ferdman is a contemporary performance scholar whose essays have appeared in TDR, Theater, PAJ, Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, Performance Research, TCG, and HowlRound. She is Associate Professor at Borough Manhattan Community College at the City University of New York.


“This timely and highly readable book, based in large part on personal experiences of spectatorship and astute readings of the work of often unfamiliar artists, is an essential guide to ways in which technological advances, neoliberal globalization, and environmental crises are impacting the form and function of contemporary performance.”—Mike Pearson, author of Site-Specific Performance

“Ferdman’s work documents—with clarity and articulate purpose—a major shift in performance/theatre that is ongoing and under way, and it succeeds in articulating a method of analyzing and understanding the wide range of performances that take place outside and beyond conventional building-based theatre spaces.”—Lesley Ferris, coeditor of Contemporary Women Playwrights: Into the Twenty-first Century

Off Sites stages a valuable intervention into discourses of site and space, both within and beyond artistic contexts. Perhaps the book’s most important contribution—in a world with a renewed interest in policing borders of specific locations—is in its claims for the political potential of a focus on ‘off sites.’”—Fiona Wilkie, author of Performance, Transport and Mobility: Making Passage
“This thorough, engaging, and wide-ranging study deftly argues for the significance of ‘off site’ as a means of reinvesting a critical edge in the form of site-specific performance and demonstrates how the concept of off site (inflected by technology, the global economy, and environmentalism) presents an insightful way of interpreting contemporary performance that takes place outside conventional theatre venues and for which place is a fundamental feature.”—Joanne Tompkins, author of Theatre's Heterotopias: Space and the Analysis of Performance

"This new work from CUNY theatre professor Bertie Ferdman looks at site-specific-theatre--theatre that is created for a specific non-traditional space rather than a typical theatre venue--and what makes it so vital. Specific productions discussed include David Levine's Private Moment, Mary Ellen Strom and Ann Carlson's Geyser Land, Jim Findlay's Dream of the Red Chamber, and Lola Arias' Mi Vida Despues."--Logan Culwell-Block, Playbill