Performing Astronomy: The Orrery as Model, Theatre, and Experience

  • Kurt VanhoutteEmail author
Part of the Avant-Gardes in Performance book series (AGP)


This chapter presents a history of the orrery, from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century, presenting it as an inherently theatrical device and establishing a picture of its evolution from a scale model into a performative space in its own right. Also, generically known as a “planetarium”, an orrery is a clockwork mechanism with balls of various sizes attached to copper arms made to scale that illustrate the relative positions of the celestial bodies. The prototype comes in many and often stunningly original forms ranging from elaborate machines mounted on stage and so-called human orreries to landscape installations and immersive environments specifically crafted for presenting performances. In all cases, the orrery articulates recurring questions that derive their substance from the human sense of place and perspective. Its history shows the importance of astronomical discoveries and demonstrations to our understanding of theatre and theatricality.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

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