Lynne Conner

Lynne is a theatre and dance historian, a playwright and director, a community-based arts activist, a college professor and a cultural theorist with an emphasis on audience studies. She realizes that this list of professional activities appears unconventionally broad, but from her perspective they all share a common root: the belief that participation in the arts (as audience members and as practitioners) is the best way to make sense of the world. And making sense of the world is, well, what we humans do.

As a frequent speaker on the role of the audience in today’s arts ecology, she has given keynote addresses and presentations at the Salzburg Global Seminar, Toronto Creative Trust, National Performing Arts Convention, Wallace Foundation, International Society of Performing Arts Presenters, Boston Foundation/Massachusetts Cultural Council, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Southwest Arts Conference, Grantmakers in the Arts, Dance USA, the American Symphony Orchestra League, and the International Art in Society Conference (among others).

Her new book, Audience Engagement and the Role of Arts Talk in the Digital Era (Palgrave Macmillan) is based on two premises: 1) an audience member’s pleasure is deeply tied up with the opportunity to interpret the meaning and value of a work of art and this pleasure is enhanced significantly when that interpretation is made social; and 2) over the course of the 20th century audiences lost access to public interpretive venues, resulting in a lack of real, committed interest in the serious arts. Previous publications on audience behavior, engagement practices and arts valuation include “In and Out of the Dark: A Theory About Audience Behavior from Sophocles to Spoken Work” (in Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation in America’s Cultural Life, eds. Steven J. Tepper and Bill Ivey), Project Brief: Arts Experience Initiative  and “Who Gets to Tell the Meaning: Building Audience Enrichment” (in GIA Reader).

Lynne holds a Ph.D. in Theatre History and Performance Studies. She is professor and chair in the Department of Theater and Dance at Colby College in Maine, where she directs plays and teaches playwriting, performance history, and art for social justice courses.

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