Acting in Real Time
Paul Binnerts University of Michigan Press, 2012 Library of Congress PN2061.B44513 2012 | Dewey Decimal 792.028
Acting in Real Time by renowned Dutch director and acting teacher Paul Binnerts describes his method for Real-Time Theater, which authorizes actors to actively determine how a story is told---they are no longer mere vehicles for delivering the playwright's message or the director's interpretations of the text. This level of involvement allows actors to deepen their grasp of the material and amplify their stage presence, resulting in more engaged and nuanced performances.
The method offers a postmodern challenge to Stanislavski and Brecht, whose theories of stage realism dominated the twentieth century. In providing a new way to consider the actor's presence on stage, Binnerts advocates breaking down the "fourth wall" that separates audiences and actors and has been a central tenet of acting theories associated with realism. In real-time theater, actors forgo attempts to become characters and instead understand their function to be storytellers who are fully present on stage and may engage the audience and their fellow actors directly.
Paul Binnerts analyzes the ascendance of realism as the dominant theater and acting convention and how its methods can hinder the creation of a more original, imaginative theater. His description of the techniques of real-time theater is illuminated by practical examples from his long experience in the stage. The book then offers innovative exercises that provide training in the real-time technique, including physical exercises that help the actor become truly present in performance. Acting in Real Time also includes a broad overview of the history of acting and realism's relationship to the history of theater architecture, offering real-time theater as an alternative. The book will appeal to actors and acting students, directors, stage designers, costume designers, lighting designers, theater historians, and dramaturgs.
The forty years from 1880 to 1920 marked the golden age of the American theatre as a national institution, a time when actors moved from being players outside the boundaries of respectable society to being significant figures in the social landscape. As the only book that provides an overview of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century theatre,Actors and American Culture is also the only study of the legitimate stage that overtly attempts to connect actors and their work to the wider aspects of American life.
Despite its importance to literary and cultural texts of resistance, theater has been largely overlooked as a field of analysis in colonial and postcolonial studies. Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance seeks to address that absence, as it uniquely views drama and performance as central to the practice of nationalism and anti-colonial resistance.
Nandi Bhatia argues that Indian theater was a significant force in the struggle against oppressive colonial and postcolonial structures, as it sought to undo various schemes of political and cultural power through its engagement with subjects derived from mythology, history, and available colonial models such as Shakespeare. Bhatia's attention to local histories within a postcolonial framework places performance in a global and transcultural context. Drawing connections between art and politics, between performance and everyday experience, Bhatia shows how performance often intervened in political debates and even changed the course of politics.
One of the first Western studies of Indian theater to link the aesthetics and the politics of that theater, Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance combines in-depth archival research with close readings of dramatic texts performed at critical moments in history. Each chapter amplifies its themes against the backdrop of specific social conditions as it examines particular dramatic productions, from The Indigo Mirror to adaptations of Shakespeare plays by Indian theater companies, illustrating the role of theater in bringing nationalist, anticolonial, and gendered struggles into the public sphere.
Nandi Bhatia is Associate Professor of English at the University of Western Ontario.
Charity has been a pervasive and influential concept in American culture, and has also served an important ideological purpose, helping people articulate their sense of individual and national identity. But what, exactly, compels our benevolence? In a social moment when countless worthy causes and deserving groups clamor for attention, it is worth examining how our culture generates the exchange of sympathy commonly experienced as “charity.” Acts of Conspicuous Compassion investigates the historical and continuing relationship between performance culture and the cultivation of charitable sentiment, exploring the distinctive practices that have evolved to make the plea for charity legible and compelling. From the work of 19th-century melodramas to the televised drama of transformation and redemption in reality TV’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the book charts the sophisticated strategies that various charity movements have employed to make organized benevolence seem attractive, exciting, and seemingly uncomplicated.
Sheila C. Moeschen sheds new light on the legacy and involvement of disabled people within charity—specifically, the articulation of performance culture as a vital theoretical framework for discussing issues of embodiment and identity, a framework that dislodges previously held notions of the disabled existing as passive “objects” of pity. This work gives rise to a more complicated and nuanced discussion of the participation of the disabled community in the charity industry, of the opportunities afforded by performance culture for disabled people to act as critical agents of charity, and of the new ethical and political issues that arise from employing performance methodology in a culture with increased appetites for voyeurism, display, and complex spectacle.
Against queer theory's long-suffering romance with mourning and melancholia and a national agenda that urges homosexuals to renounce pleasure if they want to be taken seriously, Acts of Gaiety seeks to reanimate notions of "gaiety" as a political value for LGBT activism by recovering earlier mirthful modes of political performance. The book mines the archives of lesbian-feminist activism of the 1960s–70s, highlighting the outrageous gaiety—including camp, kitsch, drag, guerrilla theater, zap actions, rallies, manifestos, pageants, and parades alongside "legitimate theater”-- at the center of the social and theatrical performances of the era. Juxtaposing figures such as Valerie Solanas and Jill Johnston with more recent performers and activists including Hothead Paisan, Bitch and Animal, and the Five Lesbian Brothers, Sara Warner shows how reclaiming this largely discarded and disavowed past elucidates possibilities for being and belonging. Acts of Gaiety explores the mutually informing histories of gayness as politics and as joie de vivre, along with the centrality of liveliness to queer performance and protest.
Why do people act? Why are other people drawn to watch them? How is acting as a performing art related to role-playing outside the theater? As the first philosophical study devoted to acting, Acts: Theater, Philosophy, and the Performing Selfsheds light on some of the more evasive aspects of the acting experience— such as the import of the actor's voice, the ethical unease sometimes felt while embodying particular sequences, and the meaning of inspiration. Tzachi Zamir explores acting’s relationship to everyday role-playing through a surprising range of examples of “lived acting,” including pornography, masochism, and eating disorders. By unearthing the deeper mobilizing structures that underlie dissimilar forms of staged and non-staged role-playing, Acts offers a multi-layered meditation on the percolation from acting to life.
The book engages questions of theatrical inspiration, the actor’s “energy,” the difference between acting and pretending, the special role of repetition as part of live acting, the audience and its attraction to acting, and the unique significance of the actor’s voice. It examines the embodied nature of the actor’s animation of a fiction, the breakdown of the distinction between what one acts and who one is, and the transition from what one performs into who one is, creating an interdisciplinary meditation on the relationship between life and acting.
Dramaturg Jane Barnette has put together an essential guide for theatre scholars and practitioners seeking to understand and participate in the process of adaptation for the stage. Employing the term “adapturgy”—her neologism for the art of adaptation dramaturgy—Barnette redefines the dramaturg’s role and thoroughly refutes the commonplace point of view that adapted works are somehow less creative than “original” plays.
The dual nature of dramaturgy and adaptation as both process and product is reflected in the structure and organization of the book. Part 1 explores the ways that linking adaptation to dramaturgy advances our understanding of both practices. Part 2 demonstrates three different methods—each grounded in a detailed case study—for analyzing theatrical adaptations. Part 3 offers concrete strategies for the dramaturg: dramaturgy for the adapted script; the production dramaturgy of stage adaptations; and the role of the dramaturg in the postmortem for a production. Rounding out the book are two appendixes containing interviews with adapters and theatre-makers and representative program notes from different play adaptations.
Plays adapted from literature and other media represent a rapidly growing part of the theatre. This book offers both practical and theoretical tools for understanding and creating these new works.
Aesthetic Citizenship is an ethnographic study of the role of theatrical performance in questions regarding immigration, citizenship, and the formation of national identity. Focusing on Paris in the twenty-first century, Emine Fisek analyzes the use of theater by immigrant-rights organizations there and examines the relationship between aesthetic practices and the political personhoods they negotiate.
From neighborhood associations and humanitarian alliances to arts organizations both large and small, Fisek traces how theater has emerged as a practice with the perceived capacity to address questions regarding immigrant rights, integration, and experience. In Aesthetic Citizenship, she explores how the stage, one of France’s most evocative cultural spaces, has come to play a role in contemporary questions about immigration, citizenship and national identity. Yet Fisek’s insightful research also illuminates Paris’s broader historical, political, and cultural through-lines that continue to shape the relationship between theater and migration in France.
By focusing on how French public discourses on immigration are not only rendered meaningful but also inhabited and modified in the context of activist and arts practice, Aesthetic Citizenship seeks to answer the fundamental question: is theater a representational act or can it also be a transformative one?
The contemporary moment has been described in terms of both a “narrative” and a “performative turn,” but the overlap between these two has largely escaped attention. This curious gap is explained by the ways in which scholars across the humanities have defined narrative and performance as opposite forces, emphasizing their respective affiliations with time vs. space and identity constitution vs. its undoing. Although the opposition has been acknowledged as false by many in this simple form, its shifting instantiations continue to shape the ways we make sense of the arts as well as society. Instead, An Aesthetics of Narrative Performance: Transnational Theater, Literature, and Film in Contemporary Germany by Claudia Breger maps the complexities of imaginative worldmaking in contemporary culture through an aesthetics of narrative performance: an ensemble of techniques exploring the interplay of rupture and recontextualization in the process of configuration. Interlacing diverging definitions of both narrative and performance, the study outlines two clusters of such techniques—scenic narration and narrative “presencing” in performance vs. forms of narrative theatricalization—and analyzes the cultural work they do in individual works in three different media: literature, film, and theater. These readings focus on the rich configurations of contemporary worldmaking “at location Germany.” In the discussed representations of German unification, contemporary cultures of migration, and the transnational War on Terror, the aesthetics of narrative performance finds its identity as a multifaceted imaginative response to the post/modern crisis of narrative authority.
When theater and related forms of live performance explore the borderlands labeled animal and autism, they both reflect and affect their audiences’ understanding of what it means to be human. Affect, Animals, and Autists maps connections across performances that question the borders of the human whose neurodiverse experiences have been shaped by the diagnostic label of autism, and animal-human performance relationships that dispute and blur anthropocentric edges.
By analyzing specific structures of affect with the vocabulary of emotions, Marla Carlson builds upon the conception of affect articulated by psychologist Silvan Tomkins. The book treats a diverse selection of live performance and archival video and analyzes the ways in which they affect their audiences. The range of performances includes commercially successful productions such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, War Horse, and The Lion King as well as to the more avant-garde and experimental theater created by Robert Wilson and Christopher Knowles, Back to Back Theatre, Elevator Repair Service, Pig Iron Theatre, and performance artist Deke Weaver.
Signaling such recent activist and aesthetic concepts in the work of Kara Walker, Childish Gambino, BLM, Janelle Monáe, and Kendrick Lamar, and marking the exit of the Obama Administration and the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, this anthology explores the role of African American arts in shaping the future, and further informing new directions we might take in honoring and protecting the success of African Americans in the U.S. The essays in African American Arts: Activism, Aesthetics, and Futurity engage readers in critical conversations by activists, scholars, and artists reflecting on national and transnational legacies of African American activism as an element of artistic practice, particularly as they concern artistic expression and race relations, and the intersections of creative processes with economic, sociological, and psychological inequalities. Scholars from the fields of communication, theater, queer studies, media studies, performance studies, dance, visual arts, and fashion design, to name a few, collectively ask: What are the connections between African American arts, the work of social justice, and creative processes? If we conceive the arts as critical to the legacy of Black activism in the United States, how can we use that construct to inform our understanding of the complicated intersections of African American activism and aesthetics? How might we as scholars and creative thinkers further employ the arts to envision and shape a verdant society?
Contributors: Carrie Mae Weems, Carmen Gillespie, Rikki Byrd, Amber Lauren Johnson, Doria E. Charlson, Florencia V. Cornet, Daniel McNeil, Lucy Caplan, Genevieve Hyacinthe, Sammantha McCalla, Nettrice R. Gaskins, Abby Dobson, J. Michael Kinsey, Shondrika Moss-Bouldin, Julie B. Johnson, Sharrell D. Luckett, Jasmine Eileen Coles, Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Rickerby Hinds.
Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
African Women Playwrights
Edited and with an Introduction by Kathy A. Perkins. Foreword by Amandina Lihamb University of Illinois Press, 2008 Library of Congress PR9347.A385 2009 | Dewey Decimal 822.9140809287
This anthology consists of nine plays by a diverse group of women from throughout the African continent. The plays focus on a wide range of issues, such as cultural differences, AIDS, female circumcision, women's rights to higher education, racial and skin color identity, prostitution as a form of survival for young girls, and nonconformist women resisting old traditions. In addition to the plays themselves, this collection includes commentaries by the playwrights on their own plays, and editor Kathy A. Perkins provides additional commentary and a bibliography of published and unpublished plays by African women.
The playwrights featured are Ama Ata Aidoo, Violet R. Barungi, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nathalie Etoke, Dania Gurira, Andiah Kisia, Sindiwe Magona, Malika Ndlovu (Lueen Conning), Juliana Okoh, and Nikkole Salter.
In the dark of the blackout before the curtain rises, the theater holds its many worlds suspended on the verge of appearance. How can a performance sustain this sense of potentiality that grounds all live production? Or if a stage-world does begin, what kinds of future might appear within its frame? Conceiving of the theater as a cultural institution devoted to experimenting with the future, this book begins and ends on the dramatic stage; in between it traverses literature, dance, sculpture, and performance art to explore the various futures we make in a live event.
After Live conceives of traditional dramatic theater as a place for taming the future and then conceptualizes how performance beyond this paradigm might stage the unruly nature of futurity. Chapters offer insights into the plays of Beckett, Churchill, Eno, and Gombrowicz, devised theater practices, and include an extended exploration of the Italian director Romeo Castellucci. Through the lens of potentiality, other chapters present novel approaches to minimalist sculpture and dance, then reflect on how the beholder him or herself is called upon to perform when confronted by such work.
Senelick's biography of the panto clown Laff Fox, renowned in his time as America's funniest performer, brings this most popular and most tragic legend to life. In his new essay to this expanded edition, Senelick draws upon recent discoveries and insights to further animate Fox's remarkable career.
From the earliest Puritan displays of piety and rectitude to the present-day epidemic of staged school massacres, the history of America has been characterized by a dual impulse: to cast public event and character as high drama, and to dismiss theater and theatricalization as un-American, even evil. This book rethinks American history as theater, and theater as the ethos and substance of American life, ironically repudiated at every turn by the culture it produces.
Beginning with the writings of John Winthrop and others, through the Federalist and "romantic" stages of American cultural life, and into the modern and contemporary periods, Anthony Kubiak finds an America not usually discovered by traditional or materialist approaches to history. He deploys the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan, the cultural theory of SlavojZizek, and the performance theory of Herbert Blau in an unparalleled reappraisal of dominant American identity, culture, and history.
Anthony Kubiak is Associate Professor of English, University of South Florida. He is also author of Stages of Terror: Terrorism, Ideology, and Coercion as Theatre History.
The Partheneion, or “maiden song,” composed in the seventh century BCE by the SpartanpoetAlcman, is the earliest substantial example of a choral lyric. A provocative reinterpretation of the Partheneion and its broader context, Alcman and the Cosmos of Sparta excavates the poem’s invocations of widespread and long-lived cosmological ideas that cast the universe as perfectly harmonious and invested its workings with an ethical dimension.
Moving far beyond standard literary interpretations, Gloria Ferrari uncovers this astral symbolism by approaching the poem from several angles to brilliantly reconstruct the web of ancient drama, music, religion, painting, and material culture in which it is enmeshed. She shows, for example, that by stringing together images of horses, stars, and birds, the poem evokes classical antiquity’s beloved dance of the constellations. Instrumental in shaping the structure of the lyric, this dance symbolizes the cosmic order reflected in the order of the state, which the chorus would have enacted in a ritual performance of the song.
With broad implications for archaeology, art history, and ancient science, Ferrari’s bold new analysis dramatically deepens our understanding of Greek poetry and the rich culture of archaic Sparta.
In the 1970s, Yugoslavia emerged as a dynamic environment for conceptual and performance art. At the same time, it pursued its own form of political economy of socialist self-management. Alienation Effects argues that a deep relationship existed between the democratization of the arts and industrial democracy, resulting in a culture difficult to classify. The book challenges the assumption that the art emerging in Eastern Europe before 1989 was either “official” or “dissident” art; and shows thatthe break up of Yugoslavia was not a result of “ancient hatreds” among its peoples but instead came from the distortion and defeat of the idea of self-management.
The case studies include mass performances organized during state holidays; proto-performance art, such as the 1954 production of Waiting for Godot in a former concentration camp in Belgrade; student demonstrations in 1968; and body art pieces by Gina Pane, Joseph Beuys, Marina Abramovic, and others. Alienation Effects sheds new light on the work of well-known artists and scholars, including early experimental poetry by Slavoj Žižek, as well as performance and conceptual artists that deserve wider, international attention.
Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage was the first professional regional theatre in the nation’s capital to welcome a racially integrated audience; the first to perform behind the Iron Curtain; and the first to win the Tony Award for best regional theatre. This behind-the-scenes look at one of the leading theatres in the United States shows how key financial and artistic decisions were made, using a range of archival materials such as letters and photographs as well as interviews with artists and administrators. Close-ups of major productions from The Great White Hope to Oklahoma! illustrate how Arena Stage navigated cultural trends.
More than a chronicle, America in the Round is a critical history that reveals how far the theatre could go with its budget and racially liberal politics, and how Arena both disputed and duplicated systems of power. With an innovative “in the round” approach, the narrative simulates sitting in different parts of the arena space to see the theatre through different lenses—economics, racial dynamics, and American identity.
Examines the strengths and weaknesses of both the dramatic and cinematic arts
Is theater really dead? Does the theater, as its champions insist, really provide a more intimate experience than film? If so, how have changes in cinematic techniques and technologies altered the relationship between stage and film? What are the inherent limitations of representing three-dimensional spaces in a two-dimensional one, and vice versa?
American Drama in the Age of Film examines the strengths and weaknesses of both the dramatic and cinematic arts to confront the standard arguments in the film-versus-theater debate. Using widely known adaptations of ten major plays, Brietzke seeks to highlight the inherent powers of each medium and draw conclusions not just about how they differ, but how they ought to differ as well. He contrasts both stage and film productions of, among other works, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, Sam Shepard’s True West, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Margaret Edson’s Wit, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson. In reading the dual productions of these works, Brietzke finds that cinema has indeed stolen much of theater’s former thunder, by making drama more intimate, and visceral than most live events.
But theater is still vital and matters greatly, Brietzke argues, though for reasons that run counter to many of the virtues traditionally attributed to it as an art form, such as intimacy and spontaneity. Brietzke seeks to revitalize perceptions of theater by challenging those common pieties and offering a new critical paradigm, one that champions spectacle and simultaneity as the most, not least, important elements of drama.
Jonathan Shandell provides the first in-depth study of the historic American Negro Theatre (ANT) and its lasting influence on American popular culture. Founded in 1940 in Harlem, the ANT successfully balanced expressions of African American consciousness with efforts to gain white support for the burgeoning civil rights movement. The theatre company featured innovative productions with emerging artists—Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, and many others—who would become giants of stage, film, and television. In 1944, the ANT made theatrical history by creating the smash hit Anna Lucasta, the most popular play with an African American cast ever to perform on Broadway. Starting from a shoestring budget, the ANT grew into one of the most important companies in the history of African American theatre. Though the group folded in 1949, it continued to shape American popular culture through the creative work of its many talented artists.
Examining oral histories, playbills, scripts, production stills, and journalistic accounts, Shandell gives us the most complete picture to date of the theatre company by analyzing well-known productions alongside groundbreaking and now-forgotten efforts. Shedding light on this often-overlooked chapter of African American history, which fell between the New Negro Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement, Shandell reveals how the ANT became a valued community institution for Harlem—an important platform for African American artists to speak to racial issues—and a trailblazer in promoting integration and interracial artistic collaboration in the U.S. In doing so, Shandell also demonstrates how a small amateur ensemble of the 1940s succeeded in challenging, expanding, and transforming how African Americans were portrayed in the ensuing decades. The result is a fascinating and entertaining examination that will be of interest to scholars and students of African American and American studies and theatre history, as well as popular culture enthusiasts.
American Political Plays after 9/11 is a diverse collection of bold, urgent, and provocative plays that respond to the highly charged, post 9/11 political landscape. Sparked by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and subsequently fueled by a series of controversial events—the Iraq war, the passing and enforcement of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, and the revelation of torture and other scandals at the Abu Ghraib prison—American political theater is currently experiencing a surge in activity. The plays in this collection include The Guys by Anne Nelson, At the Vanishing Point by Naomi Iizuka, The Venus de MiloIs Armed by Kia Corthron, Back of the Throat by Yusseff El Guindi, Three Nights in Prague by Allan Havis, and Question 27, Question 28 by Chay Yew.
The characters range from a New York City fire captain trying to respectfully memorialize eight of his lost comrades, to the citizens of a hog-killing Louisville neighborhood who poignantly exemplify the underside of the economic crisis, to an Arab American citizen being harshly (and possibly unfairly) interrogated by two officers as a “person of interest.” Though not all of the plays deal explicitly with the Al Qaeda attacks, they collectively reveal themes of sorrow and anxiety, moral indignation, alarmist self-preservation, and economic and social insecurity stemming from the United States’ fairly sudden shift from cold war superpower to vulnerable target.
The lively introduction by Allan Havis includes a brief history of political theater in the United States, an extensive discussion about how theater communities responded to 9/11, and an informative analysis of the six plays in the book. A collection of dramatic material framed by this significant historical event, AmericanPolitical Plays after 9/11 will be indispensable for theater and cultural studies scholars and students.
Richly deserving of wider exposure in the theater and the classroom, these sly, remarkable scripts touch on the forceful and salient issues of the 1990s, including the Gulf War, racial and sexual relations, crises unique to big cities, immigration and multiculturalism, art and censorship, revisionist history, academic freedom, and the transformation of the American presidency.
The American Play by Suzan-Lori Parks features an Abraham Lincoln impersonator trapped in an outrageous, Beckett-like world, while Naomi Wallace's In the Heart of America centers on a Palestinian American from Atlanta who is caught up in the Persian Gulf conflict. Kokoro by Velina Hasu Houston chillingly depicts the stark predicament of a Japanese mother caught between two impossible worlds; Marisol by José Rivera reveals the dark fairytale life of a young Latin woman in a wartorn, apocalyptic New York. The Gift by Allan Havis confronts overwhelming moral ambiguity in the farcical realm of university politics, while Nixon's Nixon by Russell Lees offers an adroit treatment of the fascinating, tortured Nixon/Kissinger relationship. The collection closes with Mac Wellman's 7 Blowjobs, a wicked send-up of the compromise politics that determined the fate of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Taken together, these seven plays present an eclectic web of social thought and imagination that are uniquely American, offering the reader a splendid, honest study of a rich society in search of itself.
In this groundbreaking study, Bruce McConachie uses the primary metaphor of containment—what happens when we categorize a play, a television show, or anything we view as having an inside, an outside, and a boundary between the two—as the dominant metaphor of cold war theatergoing. Drawing on the cognitive psychology and linguistics of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, he provides unusual access to the ways in which spectators in the cold war years projected themselves into stage figures that gave them pleasure.
McConachie reconstructs these cognitive processes by relying on scripts, set designs, reviews, memoirs, and other evidence. After establishing his theoretical framework, he focuses on three archtypal figures of containment significant in Cold War culture, Empty Boys, Family Circles, and Fragmented Heroes. McConachie uses a range of plays, musicals, and modern dances from the dominant culture of the Cold War to discuss these figures, including The Seven Year Itch, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; The King and I,A Raisin in the Sun, Night Journey, and The Crucible. In an epilogue, he discusses the legacy of Cold War theater from 1962 to 1992.
Original and provocative, American Theater in the Culture of the Cold War illuminates the mind of the spectator in the context of Cold War culture; it uses cognitive studies and media theory to move away from semiotics and psychoanalysis, forging a new way of interpreting theater history.
When John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, his older brother Edwin was devastated. A leading stage star, Edwin Booth thought his career had ended. But with the support of countless theatergoers, over the next thirty years Booth would overcome the shadow of John Wilkes’s infamy and steadily advance a reputation as America’s greatest-ever Shakespearean actor, the American tragedian par excellence.
Daniel J. Watermeier has, through decades of tireless research paired with his own sharp insight, put together the most complete Edwin Booth biography to date. Drawing on a wealth of archival materials and contemporary theatrical scholarship, American Tragedian: The Life of Edwin Booth gives more attention than previous biographies to Booth’s apprentice and journeyman years; his rise in antebellum America to stardom with a new, acclaimed style of acting; his work as an innovative theater builder and theatrical producer; his several foreign tours; and his nationwide tours in the late 1880s. It also addresses Booth’s critical reception in dozens of cities in America and abroad and situates his professional activities within the events and trends of the time.
As interesting as it is informative, Watermeier’s book offers an in-depth look at the triumphal career and tumultuous life of one of the American stage’s most celebrated figures.
Presenting a historical overview of female stage directors in the United States, this valuable reference tool focuses on fifty women who have made significant contributions to professional directing during the twentieth century. Anne Fliotsos and Wendy Vierow collect biographical details and important directing data on each woman, including information on training and career path, notable productions, critical reception, directing style, major awards, and bibliographic materials. Insightful commentary from the directors themselves also provides rich details on the theatre business and working process. This collection recognizes the much overlooked contributions of women directors and is an essential introductory tool for students and researchers of American theatre.
America’s Japan and Japan’s Performing Arts studies the images and myths that have shaped the reception of Japan-related theater, music, and dance in the United States since the 1950s. Soon after World War II, visits by Japanese performing artists to the United States emerged as a significant category of American cultural-exchange initiatives aimed at helping establish and build friendly ties with Japan. Barbara E. Thornbury explores how “Japan” and “Japanese culture” have been constructed, reconstructed, and transformed in response to the hundreds of productions that have taken place over the past sixty years in New York, the main entry point and defining cultural nexus in the United States for the global touring market in the performing arts. The author’s transdisciplinary approach makes the book appealing to those in the performing arts studies, Japanese studies, and cultural studies.
Analyzing Performance provides conceptual tools for understanding a range of performance, including theater, dance, cinema, other audiovisual media, and mime. This richly illustrated book develops protocols for the analysis of performance at every level -- from the minute gestures and facial expressions of an actor to the social network in which theater is embedded -- and respects the importance of every aspect of performance, including actor, costume, space, time, music, and lighting. With a keen awareness of the roles of social context in the interpretation of performance, Patrice Pavis leads the reader from a purely formal analysis to a semiology and anthropology of performance, where spectator and actor are equally objects of study. Drawn from performance traditions and innovations all over the world, the book's many examples make critical techniques vivid and concrete.
Analyzing Performance will be essential reading for critics, scholars, students, and practitioners of theater, who will find that David Williams's elegant translation brings Pavis's insights within reach of English-language readers.
Patrice Pavis, Professor of Theater at Paris-VIII University, has written extensively and influentially on performance.
David Williams is Professor of Theater, Dartington College of Arts, Devon, England.
Gross anatomy, the study of anatomical structures that can be seen by unassisted vision, has long been a subject of fascination for artists. For most modern viewers, however, the anatomy lesson—the technically precise province of clinical surgeons and medical faculties—hardly seems the proper breeding ground for the hybrid workings of art and theory. We forget that, in its early stages, anatomy pursued the highly theatrical spirit of Renaissance science, as painters such as Rembrandt and Da Vinci and medical instructors like Fabricius of Aquapendente shared audiences devoted to the workings of the human body. Anatomy Live: Performance and the Operating Theatre, a remarkable consideration of new developments on the stage, as well as in contemporary writings of theorists such as Donna Haraway and Brian Massumi, turns our modern notions of the dissecting table on its head—using anatomical theatre as a means of obtaining a fresh perspective on representations of the body, conceptions of subjectivity, and own knowledge about science and the stage. Critically dissecting well-known exhibitions like Body Worlds and The Visible Human Project and featuring contributions from a number of diverse scholars on such subjects as the construction of spectatorship and the implications of anatomical history, Anatomy Live is not to be missed by anyone with an interest in this engaging intersection of science and artistic practice.
Angels in the American Theater: Patrons, Patronage, and Philanthropy examines the significant roles that theater patrons have played in shaping and developing theater in the United States. Because box office income rarely covers the cost of production, other sources are vital. Angels—financial investors and backers—have a tremendous impact on what happens on stage, often determining with the power and influence of their money what is conceived, produced, and performed. But in spite of their influence, very little has been written about these philanthropists.
Composed of sixteen essays and fifteen illustrations, Angels in the American Theater explores not only how donors became angels but also their backgrounds, motivations, policies, limitations, support, and successes and failures. Subjects range from millionaires Otto Kahn and the Lewisohn sisters to foundation giants Ford, Rockefeller, Disney, and Clear Channel. The first book to focus on theater philanthropy, Angels in the American Theater employs both a historical and a chronological format and focuses on individual patrons, foundations, and corporations.
We all have an animal story—the pet we loved, the wild animal that captured our childhood imagination, the deer the neighbor hit while driving. While scientific breakthroughs in animal cognition, the effects of global climate change and dwindling animal habitats, and the exploding interdisciplinary field of animal studies have complicated things, such stories remain a part of how we tell the story of being human. Animal Acts collects eleven exciting, provocative, and moving stories by solo performers, accompanied by commentary that places the works in a broader context.
Work by leading theater artists Holly Hughes, Rachel Rosenthal, Deke Weaver, Carmelita Tropicana, and others joins commentary by major scholars including Donna Haraway, Jane Desmond, Jill Dolan, and Nigel Rothfels. Una Chaudhuri’s introduction provides a vital foundation for understanding and appreciating the intersection of animal studies and performance. The anthology foregrounds questions of race, gender, sexuality, class, nation, and other issues central to the human project within the discourse of the “post human,” and will appeal to readers interested in solo performance, animal studies, gender studies, performance studies, and environmental studies.
"An engrossing biography about the marital breakdown of a major literary figure, of particular interest for what it reveals about O'Neill's creative process, activities, and bohemian lifestyle at the time of his early successes and some of his most interesting experimental work. In addition, King's discussion of Boulton's efforts as a writer of pulp fiction in the early part of the 20th century reveals an interesting side of popular fiction writing at that time, and gives insight into the lifestyle of the liberated woman."
---Stephen Wilmer, Trinity College, Dublin
Biographers of American playwright Eugene O'Neill have been quick to label his marriage to actress Carlotta Monterey as the defining relationship of his illustrious career. But in doing so, they overlook the woman whom Monterey replaced---Agnes Boulton, O'Neill's wife of over a decade and mother to two of his children. O'Neill and Boulton were wed in 1918---a time when she was a successful pulp novelist and he was still a little-known writer of one-act plays. During the decade of their marriage, he gained fame as a Broadway dramatist who rejected commercial compromise, while she mapped that contentious territory known as the literary marriage. His writing reflected her, and hers reflected him, as they tried to realize progressive ideas about what a marriage should be. But after O'Neill left the marriage, he and new love Carlotta Monterey worked diligently to put Boulton out of sight and mind---and most O'Neill biographers have been quick to follow suit.
William Davies King has brought Agnes Boulton to light again, providing new perspectives on America's foremost dramatist, the dynamics of a literary marriage, and the story of a woman struggling to define herself in the early twentieth century. King shows how the configuration of O'Neill and Boulton's marriage helps unlock many of O'Neill's plays. Drawing on more than sixty of Boulton's published and unpublished writings, including her 1958 memoir, Part of a Long Story, and an extensive correspondence, King rescues Boulton from literary oblivion while offering the most radical revisionary reading of the work of Eugene O'Neill in a generation.
William Davies King is Professor of Theater at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of several books, most recently Collections of Nothing, chosen by Amazon.com as one of the Best Books of 2008.
Illustration: Eugene O'Neill, Shane O'Neill, and Agnes Boulton ca. 1923. Eugene O'Neill Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
Apocalypse, with its promise of millenarian transformation, has been one of the twentieth century’s powerful driving forces, in aesthetics as well as in politics. This special Millennium Issue of Theater offers a radical rethinking of theatrical modernism and the avant-garde in the light of apocalypse—the violent destruction of the old to “Make It New,” as Ezra Pound urged. This major collection of essays and play texts explores how modernist theater both reflected and contributed to the century’s unparalleled social and political upheavals. Featuring previously unpublished texts and translations by Karl Kraus, Tennessee Williams, Heiner Müller, and David Cole, this collection shows that twentieth-century theater transformed many of the traditional elements of classical apocalyptic literature for modern ends. The volume’s contributors consider playwrights, theories, and movement spanning the past one hundred years, providing a startling new perspective on modern drama from Ibsen and Jarry to Adrienne Kennedy and Tony Kushner.
Contributors. Gabrielle Cody, Linda Dorff, Michael Evenden, Elinor Fuchs, Daniel Gerould, Sylvére Lotringer, Matthew Wilson Smith, Kirk Williams
Aquí and Allá: Transnational Dominican Theater and Performance explores how contemporary Dominican theater and performance artists portray a sense of collective belonging shaped by the transnational connections between the homeland and the diaspora. Through close readings of plays and performances produced in the Dominican Republic and the United States in dialogue with theories of theater and performance, migration theory, and literary, cultural, and historical studies, this book situates theater and performance in debates on Dominican history and culture and the impact of migration on the changing character of national identity from end of the twentieth century to the present. By addressing local audiences of island-based and diasporic Dominicans with stories of characters who are shaped by both places, the theatrical performances analyzed in this book operate as a democratizing force on conceptions of Dominican identity and challenge assumptions about citizenship and national belonging. Likewise, the artists’ bi-national perspectives and work methods challenge the paradigms that have traditionally framed Latin(o) American theater studies.
Taking the reader on an inward journey from façades to closets, from physical to psychic space, Architectural Involutions offers an alternative genealogy of theater by revealing how innovations in architectural writing and practice transformed an early modern sense of interiority. The book launches from a matrix of related “platforms”—a term that in early modern usage denoted scaffolds, stages, and draftsmen’s sketches—to situate Alberti, Shakespeare, Jonson, and others within a landscape of spatial and visual change.
As the English house underwent a process of inward folding, replacing a logic of central assembly with one of dissemination, the subject who negotiated this new scenography became a flashpoint of conflict in both domestic and theatrical arenas. Combining theory with archival findings, Mimi Yiu reveals an emergent desire to perform subjectivity, to unfold an interior face to an admiring public. Highly praised for its lucid writing, comprehensive supplementary material, and engaging tone, Architectural Involutions was the winner of the 2016 MLA Prize for Independent Scholars.
While successful plays tend to share certain storytelling elements, there is no single blueprint for how a play should be constructed. Instead, seasoned playwrights know how to select the right elements for their needs and organize them in a structure that best supports their particular story.
Through his workshops and book The Dramatic Writer’s Companion, Will Dunne has helped thousands of writers develop successful scripts. Now, in The Architecture of Story, he helps writers master the building blocks of dramatic storytelling by analyzing a trio of award-winning contemporary American plays: Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley, Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks, and The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl. Dismantling the stories and examining key components from a technical perspective enables writers to approach their own work with an informed understanding of dramatic architecture.
Each self-contained chapter focuses on one storytelling component, ranging from “Title” and “Main Event” to “Emotional Environment” and “Crisis Decision.” Dunne explores each component in detail, demonstrating how it has been successfully handled in each play and comparing and contrasting techniques. The chapters conclude with questions to help writers evaluate and improve their own scripts. The result is a nonlinear reference guide that lets writers work at their own pace and choose the topics that interest them as they develop new scripts. This flexible, interactive structure is designed to meet the needs of writers at all stages of writing and at all levels of experience.
The Greek playwright Aristophanes (active 427–386 BCE) is often portrayed as the poet who brought stability, discipline, and sophistication to the rowdy theatrical genre of Old Comedy. In this groundbreaking book, situated within the affective turn in the humanities, Mario Telò explores a vital yet understudied question: how did this view of Aristophanes arise, and why did his popularity eventually eclipse that of his rivals?
Telò boldly traces Aristophanes’s rise, ironically, to the defeat of his play Clouds at the Great Dionysia of 423 BCE. Close readings of his revised Clouds and other works, such as Wasps, uncover references to the earlier Clouds, presented by Aristophanes as his failed attempt to heal the audience, who are reflected in the plays as a kind of dysfunctional father. In this proto-canonical narrative of failure, grounded in the distinctive feelings of different comic modes, Aristophanic comedy becomes cast as a prestigious object, a soft, protective cloak meant to shield viewers from the debilitating effects of competitors’ comedies and restore a sense of paternal responsibility and authority. Associations between afflicted fathers and healing sons, between audience and poet, are shown to be at the center of the discourse that has shaped Aristophanes’s canonical dominance ever since.
The new musical theatre of Stephen Sondheim shuns the traditional story of love triumphant, probing instead the more disturbing issues of contemporary life.
Confident that the musical is America’s greatest original contribution to theatre, Joanne Gordon explicates the works of Sondheim to repudiate the common perception of the genre as mere escapist entertainment.
Gordon notes that Sondheim tackles real themes, that he has no fear of introducing pain, trauma, and complex ideas onto the Broadway stage. Tracing Sondheim’s career from his initial success as lyricist for West Side Story and Gypsy to the opening of Into the Woods, Gordon demonstrates that the value of Sondheim’s work obviously lies in its seriousness of theme coupled with its disturbing content; less obvious, but equally important, is Sondheim’s innovative use of form.
From A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum through Anyone Can Whistle, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods, Sondheim’s music and lyrics prove to be inextricably woven into the fabric of the entire work. Both music and lyrics, Gordon stresses, "grow out of the dramatic idea inherent in the show’s concept and themselves become part of the drama that previous theatre songs would only reflect."
Sondheim, Gordon notes, asks much of an audience that may not want to be challenged. In short, to enjoy a Sondheim play, the audience must participate intellectually. The audience willing to expend the effort will not be cheated, Gordon insists, because Sondheim, throughout his career, has demonstrated that "musical theatre can be serious, poignant, and still exhilarating."
Artaud and His Doubles
Kimberly Jannarone University of Michigan Press, 2010 Library of Congress PQ2601.R677Z685 2010 | Dewey Decimal 848.91209
Artaud and His Doublesis a radical re-thinking of one of the most influential theater figures of the twentieth century. Placing Artaud's writing within the specific context of European political, theatrical, and intellectual history, the book reveals Artaud's affinities with a disturbing array of anti-intellectual and reactionary writers and artists whose ranks swelled catastrophically between the wars in Western Europe.
Kimberly Jannarone shows that Artaud's work reveals two sets of doubles: one, a body of peculiarly persistent received interpretations from the American experimental theater and French post-structuralist readings of the 1960s; and, two, a darker set of doubles---those of Artaud's contemporaries who, in the tumultuous, alienated, and pessimistic atmosphere enveloping much of Europe after World War I, denounced the degradation of civilization, yearned for cosmic purification, and called for an ecstatic loss of the self. Artaud and His Doubles will generate provocative new discussions about Artaud and fundamentally challenge the way we look at his work and ideas.
Arthur Miller: 1962-2005
Christopher Bigsby University of Michigan Press, 2011 Library of Congress PS3525.I5156Z5444 2011b | Dewey Decimal 812.52
Christopher Bigsby's masterful two-volume biography of Arthur Miller sheds new light on one of the twentieth century's most acclaimed literary figures. Plays such as Death of a Salesman, A View from the Bridge, and The Crucible brought Miller an international following; events such as his refusal to provide information to the House Un-American Activities Committee and his marriage to Marilyn Monroe kept him in the public eye. The second half of his life proved no less fascinating. In 1962, Monroe died, and he married photographer Inge Morath, a relationship that transformed him as a writer and as a person. His activism in support of political and social causes only increased during the period, including criticism of U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam and contemporary conflicts in the Middle East. In this period of his life, he also became renowned for his work in support of dissident writers in Russia, Czechoslovakia, China, and elsewhere. Enriched by the biographer's uncommon access to Miller and his unpublished papers, this compelling narrative provides illuminating detail and invaluable insights into the Miller the artist and Miller the man.
Perspectives on America's greatest living playwright that explore his longstanding commitment to forging a uniquely American theater
Arthur Miller's America collects new writing by leading international critics and scholars that considers the dramatic world of icon, activist, and playwright Arthur Miller's theater as it reflects the changing moral equations of his time. Written on the occasion of Miller's 85th year, the original essays and interviews in Arthur Miller's America treat the breadth of Miller's work, including his early political writings for the campus newspaper at the University of Michigan, his famous work with John Huston, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe on The Misfits, and his signature plays like Death of a Salesman and All My Sons.
Arthur Miller's Global Theater
Enoch Brater, Editor University of Michigan Press, 2007 Library of Congress PS3525.I5156Z535 2007 | Dewey Decimal 812.52
No American playwright is more revered on the international stage than Arthur Miller. In Arthur Miller’s Global Theater—a fascinating collection of new essays by leading international critics and scholars—readers learn how and why audiences around the world have responded to the work of the late theatrical icon. With perspectives from diverse corners of the globe, from Israel to Japan to South Africa, this groundbreaking volume explores the challenges of translating one of the most American of American playwrights and details how disparate nations have adapted meaning in Miller’s most celebrated dramas.
An original and engaging collection that will appeal to theater aficionados, scholars, students, and all those interested in Miller and his remarkable oeuvre, Arthur Miller’s Global Theater illustrates how dramas such as Death of a Salesman,The Crucible, and A View from the Bridge developed a vigorous dialogue with new audiences when they crossed linguistic and national borders. In these times when problems of censorship, repressive regimes, and international discord are increasingly in the news, Arthur Miller’s voice has never been more necessary as it continues to be heard and celebrated around the world.
Enoch Brater is the Kenneth T. Rowe Collegiate Professor of Dramatic Literature at the University of Michigan. His other books include Arthur Miller: A Playwright’s Life and Works and Arthur Miller’s America.
As If: An Autobiography
Herbert Blau University of Michigan Press, 2011 Library of Congress PN1708.B53A3 2011 | Dewey Decimal 792.092
"From his childhood in the 'Jewish heart' of Brooklyn to his memorable production of Endgame in the 1960s, Herbert Blau's autobiography provides not only more of Blau's penetrating insights into dramatists like Beckett and into the complex cross-currents of the American experimental theatre of this turbulent period. It is also a rich, deeply felt and powerfully expressed chronicle of cultural change that goes far beyond specific theatrical productions to offer a valuable personal view of the years that did so much to shape the contemporary world, expressed by one of the theatre community's most original and articulate thinkers."
---Marvin Carlson, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York
"Herb Blau's memoir---of his life, but also of an era---captures what has always been important about his work. 'Blooded thought,' he taught us to call it---the embodied process of 'finding yourself divided, in the embrace of what's remembered.' His vivid account of childhood in a particular kind of American neighbourhood is complemented by reflection on his years in San Francisco when the theatre and the Cold War unfolded as mutual antagonists in his personal drama. Acute, insightful, and sometimes painful, it is also an intellectual page-turner."
---Janelle Reinelt, University of Warwick
"I read As If from cover to cover, engaged and powerfully moved by a familiar brilliance . . . Blau holds an utterly unique place in twentieth-century American theater, in American culture, and in theater theory and practice."
---Elin Diamond, Rutgers University
"Few theater practitioners have had comparable influence in American theater; few have endured such intoxicating highs and dispiriting lows; none, arguably, has reflected so deeply and sharply about so wide a spectrum of first-hand practical experience."
---Linda Gregerson, University of Michigan
"Masterful . . . a brilliant and touching book written with honesty and humility . . . In addition, it serves as an admirable introduction to Blau's theories, providing a context for his complex and sometimes difficult ideas."
---John Lutterbie, Stony Brook University
As If: An Autobiography traces the complex life and career of director, scholar, and theorist Herbert Blau, one of the most innovative voices in the American theater. From his earliest years on the streets of Brooklyn, with gang wars there, to the often embattled, now-legendary Actor's Workshop of San Francisco, the powerfully told story of Blau's first four decades is also a social history, moving from the Great Depression to the cold war, with fallout from "the balance of terror" on what he once described in an incendiary manifesto as The Impossible Theater.
Blau has always forged his own path, from his activist resistance to the McCarthy witch hunts to his emergence as a revolutionary director whose work included the controversial years at The Workshop, which introduced American audiences to major playwrights of the European avant-garde, including Brecht, Beckett, Genet, and Pinter. There is also an account here of that notorious production of Waiting for Godot at the maximum-security prison at San Quentin, which became the insignia of the Theater of the Absurd.
Blau went on from The Workshop to become codirector of the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center, and then founding provost of California Institute of the Arts, where he developed and became artistic director of the experimental group KRAKEN. Currently Byron W. and Alice L. Lockwood Professor of the Humanities at the University of Washington, Blau has been visionary in the passage from theater to theory, and his many influential and award-winning books include The Dubious Spectacle: Extremities of Theater, 1976–2000; Sails of the Herring Fleet: Essays on Beckett; Nothing in Itself: Complexions of Fashion; To All Appearances: Ideology and Performance; The Audience; The Eye of Prey: Subversions of the Postmodern; and Take Up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point.
This richly evocative book includes never-before-published photographs of the author, his family and friends, collaborators in the theater, and theater productions.
Foregrounding critical questions about the tension between the study of drama as literature versus the study of performance, Melinda Powers investigates the methodological problems that arise in some of the latest research on ancient Greek theatre. She examines key issues and debates about the fifth-century theatrical space, audience, chorus, performance style, costuming, properties, gesture, and mask, but instead of presenting a new argument on these topics, Powers aims to understand her subject better by exploring the shared historical problems that all scholars confront as they interpret and explain Athenian tragedy.
A case study of Euripides’s Bacchae, which provides more information about performance than any other extant tragedy, demonstrates possible methods for reconstructing the play’s historical performance and also the inevitable challenges inherent in that task, from the limited sources and the difficulty of interpreting visual material, to the risks of conflating actor with character and extrapolating backward from contemporary theatrical experience.
As an inquiry into the study of theatre and performance, an introduction to historical writing, a reference for further reading, and a clarification of several general misconceptions about Athenian tragedy and its performance, this historiographical analysis will be useful to specialists, practitioners, and students alike.
Just prior to his death in 2005, August Wilson, arguably the most important American playwright of the last quarter-century, completed an ambitious cycle of ten plays, each set in a different decade of the twentieth century. Known as the Twentieth-Century Cycle or the Pittsburgh Cycle, the plays, which portrayed the struggles of African-Americans, won two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama, a Tony Award for Best Play, and seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards. August Wilson: Completing the Twentieth-Century Cycle is the first volume devoted to the last five plays of the cycle individually—Jitney,Seven Guitars, King Hedley II, Gem of the Ocean, and Radio Golf—and in the context of Wilson's entire body of work.
Editor Alan Nadel's May All Your Fences Have Gates: Essays on the Drama of August Wilson, a work Henry Louis Gates called definitive, focused on the first five plays of Wilson's cycle. This new collection examines from myriad perspectives the way Wilson's final works give shape and focus to his complete dramatic opus. It contains an outstanding and diverse array of discussions from leading Wilson scholars and literary critics. Together, the essays in Nadel's two volumes give Wilson's work the breadth of analysis and understanding that this major figure of American drama merits.
Through a series of vivid case studies, Authors in Court charts the 300-year-long dance between authorship and copyright that has shaped each institution’s response to changing social norms of identity, privacy, and celebrity.
“A literary historian by training, Rose is completely at home in the world of law, as well as the history of photography and art. This is the work of an interdisciplinary scholar at the height of his powers. The arguments are sophisticated and the elegant text is a work of real craftsmanship. It is superb.”
—Lionel Bently, University of Cambridge
“Authors in Court is well-written, erudite, informative, and engaging throughout. As the chapters go along, we see the way that personalities inflect the supposedly impartial law; we see the role of gender in authorial self-fashioning; we see some of the fault lines which produce litigation; and we get a nice history of the evolution of the fair use doctrine. This is a book that should at least be on reserve for any IP–related course. Going forward, no one writing about any of the cases Rose discusses can afford to ignore his contribution.”
—Lewis Hyde, Kenyon College
The Avant-Garde and the Popular in Modern China explores how an important group of Chinese performing artists invested in politics and the pursuit of the avant-garde came to terms with different ways of being “popular” in modern times. In particular, playwright and activist Tian Han (1898-1968) exemplified the instability of conventional delineations between the avant-garde, popular culture, and political propaganda. Liang Luo traces Tian’s trajectory through key moments in the evolution of twentieth-century Chinese national culture, from the Christian socialist cosmopolitanism of post–WWI Tokyo to the urban modernism of Shanghai in 1920s and 30s, then into the Chinese hinterland during the late 1930s and 40s, and finally to the Communist Beijing of the 1950s, revealing the dynamic interplay of art and politics throughout this period. Understanding Tian in his time sheds light upon a new generation of contemporary Chinese avant-gardists (Ai Wei Wei being the best known), who, half a century later, are similarly engaging national politics and popular culture.
Avant-Garde Performance and the Limits of Criticism looks at the American avant-garde during the Cold War period, focusing on the interrelated questions of performance practices, cultural resistance, and the politics of criticism and scholarship in the U.S. counterculture. It develops three case studies: the Living Theatre's influential production of Jack Gelber's The Connection, which subverted the historical and political assumptions of the War on Drugs, utilized cutting-edge jazz both formally and thematically, and inspired a generation of artists and activists to rethink the nature of community and communication; the earliest American performance art, namely the Happenings and Fluxus events, which responded in astounding ways to the avaricious movements of Cold War capitalism; and the Black Arts Movement, which brought about practical and theoretical innovations that effectively evade the conceptual categories of Euro-American philosophy and historiography.
Mike Sell's study is groundbreaking in its consideration of the avant-garde in relationship to a crucial but rarely considered agent: the scholar and critic. The book examines the role of the scholar and critic in the cultural struggles of radical artists and activists and reveals how avant-garde performance identifies the very limits of critical consideration. The book also explores the popularization of the avant-garde: how formerly subversive art is eventually discovered by the mass media, is gobbled up by the marketplace, and eventually finds its way onto the syllabi of college and university courses. Avant-Garde Performance and the Limits of Criticism is a timely and significant book that will become a standard reference for scholars in the fields of avant-garde literary criticism, theater history, critical theory, and performance studies.
"A provocative exploration of relations between the historical avant-garde and Cold War vanguard art and theatre. Sell's compelling historical and cultural narrative shows how the connections between the two exist at a very deep level of radical politics and aesthetics--an amazing concoction of rigorous scholarship, interdisciplinary learning, and progressive theorizing."
--Michael Vanden Heuvel, University of Wisconsin, Madison
"One of the most sophisticated, engaged, and engaging studies of the avant-garde in the United States that I've read-an important study that will raise the bar not only on scholarship of the Black Arts Movement, but on U.S. avant-gardism generally."
--James Smethurst, University of Massachusetts
A volume in the series Theater: Theory/Text/Performance. A list of recent titles in the series appears at the front of this volume.