Volume 21 of Theatre Symposium presents essays that explore the intricate and vital relationships between theatre, religion, and ritual.
Whether or not theatre arose from ritual and/or religion, from prehistory to the present there have been clear and vital connections among the three. Ritual, Religion, and Theatre, volume 21 of the annual journal Theatre Symposium, presents a series of essays that explore the intricate and vital relationships that exist, historically and today, between these various modes of expression and performance.
The essays in this volume discuss the stage presence of the spiritual meme; ritual performance and spirituality in The Living Theatre; theatricality, themes, and theology in James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones; Jordan Harrison’s Act a Lady and the ritual of queerness; Gerpla and national identity in Iceland; confession in Hamlet and Measure for Measure; Christian liturgical drama; Muslim theatre and performance; cave rituals and the Brain’s Theatre; and other, more general issues.
Edited by E. Bert Wallace, this latest publication by the largest regional theatre organization in the United States collects the most current scholarship on theatre history and theory.
Cohen Ambrose / David Callaghan / Gregory S. Carr
Matt DiCintio / William Doan / Tom F. Driver / Steve Earnest
Jennifer Flaherty / Charles A. Gillespie / Thomas L. King
Justin Kosec / Mark Pizzato / Kate Stratton
A substantive exploration of bodies and embodiment in theatre
Theatre is inescapably about bodies. By definition, theatre requires the live bodies of performers in the same space and at the same time as the live bodies of an audience. And, yet, it’s hard to talk about bodies. We talk about characters; we talk about actors; we talk about costume and movement. But we often approach these as identities or processes layered onto bodies, rather than as inescapably entwined with them. Bodies on the theatrical stage hold the power of transformation. Theatre practitioners, scholars, and educators must think about what bodies go where onstage and what stories which bodies to tell.
The essays in Theatre Symposium, Volume 27 explore a broad range of issues related to embodiment. The volume begins with Rhonda Blair’s keynote essay, in which she provides an overview of the current cognitive science underpinning our understanding of what it means to be “embodied” and to talk about “embodiment.” She also provides a set of goals and cautions for theatre artists engaging with the available science on embodiment, while issuing a call for the absolute necessity for that engagement, given the primacy of the body to the theatrical act.
The following three essays provide examinations of historical bodies in performance. Timothy Pyles works to shift the common textual focus of Racinian scholarship to a more embodied understanding through his examination of the performances of the young female students of the Saint-Cyr academy in two of Racine’s Biblical plays. Shifting forward in time by three centuries, Travis Stern’s exploration of the auratic celebrity of baseball player Mike Kelly uncovers the ways in which bodies may retain the ghosts of their former selves long after physical ability and wealth are gone. Laurence D. Smith’s investigation of actress Manda Björling’s performances in Miss Julie provides a model for how cognitive science, in this case theories of cognitive blending, can be integrated with archival theatrical research and scholarship.
From scholarship grounded in analysis of historical bodies and embodiment, the volume shifts to pedagogical concerns. Kaja Amado Dunn’s essay on the ways in which careless selection of working texts can inflict embodied harm on students of color issues an imperative call for careful and intentional classroom practice in theatre training programs. Cohen Ambrose’s theorization of pedagogical cognitive ecologies, in which subjects usually taught disparately (acting, theatre history, costume design, for example) could be approached collaboratively and through embodiment, speaks to ways in which this call might be answered.
Tessa Carr’s essay on "The Integration of Tuskegee High School" brings together ideas of historical bodies and embodiment in the academic theatrical context through an examination of the process of creating a documentary theatre production. The final piece in the volume, Bridget Sundin’s exchange with the ghost of Marlene Dietrich, is an imaginative exploration of how it is possible to open the archive, to create new spaces for performance scholarship, via an interaction with the body.