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CTR 163 (Summer 2015) Now Available Online

by on August 21st, 2015

CTR_163_SUMMER2015_100 DPI

CTR 163 (Summer 2015)
Performance Futures: Imagining Theatre in 2030

Edited by Jenn Stephenson and Laura Levin

Also available on Project MUSE

CTR 163 (Summer 2015): Performance Futures: Imagining Theatre in 2030, edited by Jenn Stephenson and Laura Levin, explores very recent innovations in theatre and performance, and asks what they can tell us about where the field is headed. Focusing on new formats of theatrical production and reception, contributors have been invited to answer the question: “What will the performance landscape in Canada look like in fifteen years?” This is not theatre in a distant sci-fi future but theatre that is just around the corner. The assembled collection brings together voices that are passionate and visionary, and address such disparate topics as the future of theatre in online venues, the future of interculturalism and cultural diversity in theatre, the future of theatre funding, and the future of theatre criticism. The script featured in this issue is Concord Floral, winner of the 2015 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play. Written by Governor General Award-winning playwright Jordan Tannahill, and co-created with acclaimed artists Erin Brubacher and Cara Spooner along with a group of exceptional Toronto teens, this powerful text exhibits alternative ways of representing the lives of tomorrow’s youth as well as more ecologically responsive human futures. Concord Floral is accompanied by an arresting series of staged photo-portraits by Erin Brubacher, which help reconceptualize the boundaries of a theatrical script and production.

Click here to read the full table of contents.

For more information about the Canadian TheatreReview or for submissions information, please contact:

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Emerging Discourses in Theatre and Performance Studies: Ecocriticism, Cog Sci, and Affect Theory

by on June 11th, 2015

This spring (2015) I led a graduate seminar in the Center for Performance Studies at the University of Washington called “Emerging Discourses in Theatre and Performance Studies.” Throughout the ten-week term, we discussed readings in three areas: Ecocriticism, the Cognitive Sciences, and Affect Theory. Each of these areas represented discursive “turns,” that is, conversations that have emerged fairly recently in our fields and do not seem to be going away soon. The goal for the seminar, then, was for the students to become familiar with these discourses, so that they would be at the very least conversant with them in reading and at conferences, and, even better, equipped with “tool belts” of helpful concepts and resources for their own research.

We devoted roughly three weeks to a crash-course in each area, reading essays from special journal issues and collections and discussing them in the seminar. One of the benefits of taking on contemporary scholarly conversations was that when we had questions or confusions about particular concepts or arguments, we could contact many of the working scholars in the field to ask them directly, and our colleagues in the field were generous, thoughtful and timely in their responses. At the end of each unit, the students compiled a working inventory of provocative key terms and concepts that gave some shape to the conversation and that could serve as indexes for future term papers, dissertation chapters, conference presentations and publications.

Attached are .pdf files of our inventories, along with a syllabus for the course. We hope they might be useful springboards for a larger collective of scholars engaged in these conversations.

Additions, corrections, and suggestions are welcome in the comments section, below.


Seminar Participants: Monica Cortés-Viharo (Drama), Jay Eckard (Drama), Duygu Erdoğan Monson (Drama), Storm S. Sundberg (Dance), Robert Wighs (Drama). With thanks to Monica Cortés-Viharo for transcribing and organizing the inventories, and to Rhonda Blair, Amy Cook, Baz Kershaw, and Theresa May.

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Some thoughts on the Mid-America Theatre Conference, Kansas City, 2015

by on June 3rd, 2015

I fumbled, I shifted, I repeatedly ran my fingers over the scars made by boxknife blades on the back of my hands, I touched the raised flesh hidden under the hair of my head, a reminder of those who tried to squash the queer materiality of the punkified presence I had imposed upon the quaint rural community of pre-internet Sand Springs, Oklahoma; I recalled the hunger pangs and acrid smells of the Los Angeles streets. As I sat listening to the keynote address from Dr. Irma Mayorga of Dartmouth, I could not help but run over the past traumas of my body, desperately searching for evidence of suffering. Why?

Mayorga’s speech was a blend of biography and social analysis that made visible markers of race (a predominantly externally regulated category) and ethnicity (a more agential category in its uptake) central. She is the first Latina to receive a doctorate from Stanford’s Drama Department, and her personal exploration of the techniques of policing the raced body was inscribed in her phenotype as much as her words. None of the stories and representations she encountered in the dramatic canon resembled her world, those colored bodies who looked like her and populated that world, or the stories attached to and circulating around those colored bodies. She has continually sought to rectify this.

Opposed to the brown, marginalized body is of course the neutral (yet masculine) gleam of whiteness, a historically and ontologically (through discursive reinforcement) disembodied positionality in all its hegemonic force and appeal. Whiteness is concerned with white history, the great man theory—as long as those great men are white with a few tokenistic gestures to the Frederick Douglasses and Luis Valdezes thrown into the mix. Whiteness is not a body, certainly not my body, though I benefit from its categorical deployment. Whiteness is a way of looking, of appraising, of rising above the body. It too has its phenotypic markers that must be filled in with history, rhetoric, and the deflation of affect. It is not my body, or at least my embodied experience in total, but I bear its marks and benefits.

At these conferences we are all about the embodied experience, embodied epistemologies, affective ways of knowing, phenomenological bodies (a term Harvey Young prefers), and the body as a political site of resistance, containment, and surveillance. But as I looked around the conference room I saw many souls uncomfortable in their fair skinned bodies: a spasm, a fidget, a twitch, a look down, a forced smile. In sum, consciousness was reversing Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological schema, knowledge was attempting to de-situate, to transcend the material and the flux of subject-object, and leave behind only the trace of a mechanical nod of the head.

Yes, we white theatre scholars were fulfilling the mandate of whiteness to rise above our bodies, but realizing the impossibility of doing so. Why? Because in some ways to agree with Dr. Mayorga was to reject those benefits of Caucasian phenotype, to possibly deny oneself a job, publication, or field of study. No one of course mentioned this, but that potential move from imaginary to actuality was nonetheless there. No one wanted his or her body to plunge itself back into debates on affirmative action, especially to find that body on the “wrong” side, that side that centers the self as it partakes of fruits of domination. (And unfortunately, sometimes affirmative action only affirms systemic racism if its actions do not go deep and wide enough).

So I (unconsciously at the time) searched my body for its history, its marks of travail, poverty, homelessness, hunger, violence, those typically un-white varieties of experience—no doubt to make myself feel better because I agreed with Mayorga in many of her assessments. But also I considered my bodily exploration an act of theorizing, of connecting, of perhaps destabilizing categories, of potentially empathizing and connecting with other embodied agents. The body is a repository of memory and this could be where we start.

At the University of Washington many of our students share an East Asian heritage (of course, a multi-sited heritage or heritages), but the curriculum centers upon Anglophone or European traditions of performance. Some lament that there is no common base of analysis in the classroom: Haven’t any of these students read Hamlet? Don’t they know Oedipus? But rather than seeing this problematic as an insuperable obstacle, I take it as an opportunity. John Dewey writes of publics as formed around and by problems, and this “problem” of no Hamlet, no Oedipus, can force open (if an instructor is receptive) a dialogic encounter rather than a unidirectional lecture–the continual dialectic of wrestling with the ostensibly incommensurable clutter of objects between cultures.

I carry no utopian visions that a comprehensive shared language is developed, but rather that common terms are learned or created together in order to deal with new problems; the canon is shifted, adjusted, refracted, enlarged etc. In short, we theorize through the body, through co-presence, through expanding the frame of critique to include entities of association usually excluded–to realize anew the network of agents. Treating histories as bodies treated as repositories of clashes, trauma, failures, problems and yes, affects, jouissance, hopes and alliances. Let us ask considerate questions: considerate because they consider the presence of individuals, of interests, of difference. To deny this is to deny a situatedness that extends beyond the self. I study animals and other life forms, and argue with them for better treatment and an adjustment and extension of certain rights, so I am always willing to look beyond the flat ontology of whiteness, but its push and pull is always there, circumscribing possibilities of imagination if one is not vigilant or diligent in his or her resistance.

So as I mentally return to that MATC luncheon, I again think about my embodied history, but what about all those bodies marked in various ways that got me there: human bodies, animal bodies, plant bodies, rock bodies? I think of what has been de-emphasized from political belonging to become my resource, my means to an end, and I again, feeling uncomfortable and guilty, “reach for the scars.” But let me not stop there. Let me gesture towards another’s scars and inquire. Let us notice our scars. Let us think beyond sight to embodied histories rich with sounds, smells, tastes and the tactile. Let us be truly theatrical in our sharing—cordoning off time and space to listen, see, and experience the other. Students should never be considered an obstacle or a means to an end. Differences, gaps in understanding, blank stares are all opportunities for reflection both on the self and what we consider external to the self. Perhaps I receive blank stares (which I sometimes do) because I am not asking interesting questions about interesting things because I am not being expansive enough in my definition of interests. So where I land after this impromptu foray into memory is in a place where I am no longer just looking at my scars or reflecting upon myself, but I am looking at the other—I am looking at you and exulting in where our differences can take us.

Scott Venters is a Doctoral Student in Theatre History, Theory, and Criticism in the School of Drama, University of Washington.

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Now available on Project MUSE

by on May 23rd, 2015

CTR 162

CTR 162 / Spring 2015

Performing Products: When Acting Up Is Selling Out

Edited by T. Nikki Cesare Schotzko, Didier Morelli and Isabel Stowell-Kaplan

How can we, as artists, scholars, and critics, determine where art might and might not intervene into matters that exceed its immediate aesthetic parameters? Why is there such a pervasive fear within the art community that art might presume too much, getting in the way of “real action” and “real change”? Moreover, does art’s role, witting or not, within commodity culture render any political motivation it might carry with it a commodity as well? What do we do when acting up is already selling out? These tensions and confusions, these preoccupations and paranoias are precisely what we address in Performing Products: When Acting Up Is Selling Out. Featuring interviews, photo-essays, reflections on performances past, articles on the current state of performance as a set of deftly imbricated practices and economics, as well as one letter-cum-manifesto, we have deliberately blurred the lines between art, performance, and criticism in this issue: Percival P. Puppet discusses his copyright dispute with Marina Abramović; Istvan Kantor writes to Jeff Koons; Nicole Lizée talks of her love for merch in a world of avant-garde composition; Lawrence Switzky considers the redemptive possibility of exhaustion in marathon theatre; and many more artists and scholars reflect upon their own experience of performance in the current economy.

Click here to read the full table of contents.

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A Bookplate Collector Shares his Passion–and Strategies

by on March 3rd, 2015

Ed. Note: Lewis Jaffe runs the website bookplatejunkie.blogspot.com, which features images from his and others’ collections of bookplates used by important figures in the theatre profession as well as in cinema and television.


Bookplates:  why I collect them

I am retired now and devote a good deal of time in pursuit of and learning about new bookplates for mycollection. A client once asked me why people collect? It wasn’t meant to be a trick question but at the time I was at a loss to explain.

Upon reflection the answer which suits me best is that collecting is therapeutic. Sometimes I feel like an archeologist digging up old artifacts or a detective trying to locate a person. Interestingly enough several entertainers were also notable rare  book collectors. Among them were James Cagney, Jean Hersholt, and George Jessel.

David Garrick

Here are some time-tested ways to obtain bookplates

eBay: When I started this adventure about 45 years ago there was no Ebay, so I built a collection without it. Today Ebay is certainly an excellent way to find bookplates from around the world. It takes time and discipline because there is so much clutter and misrepresentation, but it is still worth the effort.

Bookplate Societies: When I first got interested in bookplates I joined both The American (www.bookplate.org) and English (www.bookplatesociety.org) bookplate societies. That gave me an opportunity to meet with and obtain bookplates from other collectors. It still makes good sense to join these organization and exchange bookplates with other collectors.

Antiquarian and used booksellers will go out of their way to help you if you make your interest known to them. It gets harder each year as the number of open shops decreases, and the number of pre-1940’s books on the shelves are decreasing. Nevertheless, it is often productive. Start looking in either the poetry or drama sections as owners of such books seem to have used bookplates more frequently and there is often less turnover of inventory. Ask the bookseller if he keeps a box of detached boards. I have found some excellent 18th century plates in such boxes.

John Gielgud

Michael Redgrave

Bookbinders: In most large communities there is at least one hand bookbinder. Check the Yellow Pages, Google, or ask a book dealer. More often than not they, being pack rats, hold onto old bookplates, and in some instances are more than willing to sell you a cigar box full.

Book and Paper Shows: I have always enjoyed going to shows. After a while, dealers will save things for you. It pays to stop at every booth and ask.

Noel Coward

Angel of Death letters: I am almost (not quite) embarrassed to admit to the fact that I used to look up the ages of bookplate collectors and wrote to all those over eighty to inquire if they knew of any collections for sale. The point is that it was very productive and I’ve purchased several major collections that way.

For the record, I am 77, so do not bother me until 2018!

Letters to Famous People: I’ve occasionally gotten some remarkable bookplates by writing to celebrities, but I have not had much luck in recent years. Most celebrity mail is filtered by clerks and more often than not you get a signed photo or an auto penned label.

Wylly Folk St. John

Wylly Folk St. John

For those of you wishing to obtain additional information about this topic, Lew can be reached at Bookplatemaven@hotmail.com


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