Welcome to theater-historiography.org!

This is your space to exchange resources for research and pedagogy. Borrow generously from the tools in Faculty Club, then share some of your own. Tell us about what you’re reading in Ex Libris. And watch the Discussion areas for special commentaries and field reports from the trenches.

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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CTR 161 Now available on Project MUSE

by on February 19th, 2015

CTR 161_winter 2015(3X3)

Performance and Human Rights in the Americas

Also available at CTR online

Motivated by recent artistic and scholarly efforts to query Canada’s place in the hemisphere, this issue features activists, artists, and researchers working at the intersection of performance and human rights both within and beyond Canadian borders. The performance actions examined in this issue travel across the geography and the history of the Americas in an effort to resist, redress, and protest human rights abuses. In the wake of the official opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, this issue raises timely questions about how performance can serve as a potent site of inquiry that interrogates the very terms and conditions of human rights discourse, particularly in the curation of Canada as a human rights leader. While each voice in this collection speaks to a distinct issue that is harrowing in scope (femicide, genocide, institutional violence, treaty rights, food insecurity, corporate violence), all unite in their call for continental coalitions and solidarity to expand inter-American dialogue northwards and to assess Canada’s role in the complex, ongoing, and unfinished history of human rights.  CTR 161 / Winter 2015

Click here to read the full table of contents.

The Canadian Theatre Review features thought-provoking plays and articles on currentissues and trends in Canadian theatre. CTRprovides the Canadian theatre community with in-depth feature articles, manifestos, slideshows, videos, design portfolios, photo essays, and other documents that reflect the challenging forms that theatre takes in the contemporary Canadian arts scene.

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Ecocriticism in Theatre and Performance Studies: A Working Critical Bibliography (1991-2014)

by on February 5th, 2015

Complied by Theresa May, with Lisa Woynarski, Karen O’Brien, Arden Thomas, Downing Cless and members of ASTR performance and/in ecology working group. January 27th, 2015

Note: This list is by no means comprehensive, and suggestions for additions and/or corrections are welcome. The many essays that are part of an anthology or special journal issue on ecological theatre are not included in the list of stand-alone articles. See the table of contents of those volumes and journals for additional and important sources.

Monographs and Collaborative Editions:

Bottoms, Stephen. Small Acts of Repair: Performance, Ecology and Goat Island. London: Routledge, 2007.

Boehrer, Bruce Thomas. Environmental Degradation in Jacobean Drama. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Chauhuri, Una and Shonni Enelow. Research Theatre, Climate Change, and the Ecocide Project. New York: Palgrave, 2014.

Chaudhuri, Una. Staging Place: The Geography of Modern Drama. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995.

Chaudhuri, Una and Holly Hughes. Animal Acts: Performing Species Today. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014.

Cless, Downing. Ecology and Environment in European Drama. New York: Routledge, 2011.

Egan, Gabriel. Green Shakespeare: From Ecopolitics to Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Estok, Simon. Ecocriticism and Shakespeare: Reading Ecophobia. New York: Palgrave, 2011.

French, William W. Maryat Lee’s EcoTheater: A Theater for the Twenty-first Century. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 1998.

Fried, Larry and Theresa J. May. Greening Up Our Houses: A Guide to a More Ecologically Sound Theatre. New York: Drama Books, 1994.

Heinlein, Kurt Gerard. Green Theatre- Promoting Ecological Preservation and Advancing the Sustainability of Humanity and Nature. Saarbrüken, Germany: VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller, 2007.

Jones, Ellen. A Practical Guide to Greener Theatre. Waltham, Massachusetts: Focal Press, 2013.

Kershaw, Baz. Theatre Ecology: Environments and Performance Events. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (2009).

Marranca, Bonnie. Ecologies of Theater: Essays at the Century Turning. New York: PAJ Books, 1996.

May, Theresa. Salmon Is Everything: Community-based Theatre in the Klamath Watershed. Corvallis: Oregon State U Press, 2014.

Osnes, Beth. Theatre for Women’s Participation in Sustainable Development, Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2013.

Sullivan, Garrett. The Drama of Landscape, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.

Witham, Barry. A Sustainable Theatre: Jasper Deeter at Hedgerow. New York: Palgrave, 2013.

Edited Volumes

Arons, Wendy, and Theresa J. May, eds.  Readings in Performance & Ecology. New York: Palgrave, 2012.

Besel, Richard D. and Jnan A. Blau, eds. Performance on Behalf of the Environment. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014.

Chaudhuri, Una and Elinor Fuchs, eds.  Land/Scape/Theater, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002.

Cool, Guy and Pascal Gielen, eds. The Ethics of Art: Ecological Turns in the Performing Arts. Amsterdam: Valiz/Antennae, 2014.

Dawes, Birgit and Marc Maufort, eds. Enacting Nature: Ecocritical Perspectives on Indigenous Performance. Peter Lang, 2014.

Giannachi, Gabriella and Stewart Nigel, eds. Performing Nature:  Explorations in Ecology and the Arts. Berne: Peter Lang, 2005.

Margolies, Eleanor and Wallace Heim. Landing Stages. London: The Ashden Directory, 2014.

Szerszynski, Bronislaw, Wallace Heim and Claire Waterton, eds. Nature Performed: Environment, Culture and Performance. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

Journal issues Dedicated to Ecocriticism in Theatre and Performance Studies:

Note: the articles in these journals are not part of stand-alone article list below.

Canadian Theatre Review 144 (Fall 2010). Special Issue: “Theatre in an Age of Eco Crisis.” Guest editors Nelson Gray and Shelia Rabillard.

Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 20.2 (Spring 2006). Special Section: Ecocriticism. John Gronbeck Tedesco, ed.

Performance Research: A Journal of Performing Arts 17.4 (2012). “On Ecology.”

Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance (Research in Drama Education) 17.2 (2012). On Environmentalism. Guest editors Sally Mackey and Dee Heddon.

TDR 51.1 (T193) (Spring 2007) Special issue on animals in/and performance. Guest editor Una Chaudhuri.

Theater 25:1 (Summer 1994). Erika Monk, ed. Guest editor Una Chaudhuri.

Theatre Topics 17.2 (Fall 2007) Special issue on Ecotheatre. Jonathan Chambers, ed. Guest editor Wendy Arons.

Stand-Alone Articles & Chapters:

Arons, Wendy. ”Beyond the Nature/Culture Divide.” Theatre Historiography: Critical Interventions. Henry Bial and Scott Magelssen, eds.  Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010. 148-161.

Arons, Wendy. “Queer Ecology/Contemporary Plays.” Theatre Journal 64.4 (December 2012): 565-582.

Arons, Wendy and Theresa J. May. “Ecodramaturgy in/of Contemporary Women Playwrights.” Contemporary Women Playwrights: into the Twenty-first Century. Ed. Penny Farfan and Lesley Ferris. New York: Palgrave, 2014: 181-198.

Chaudhuri, Una. “Animal Rites: Performing beyond the Human.” Critical Theory and Performance. Ed. Janelle G. Reinelt and Joseph R. Roach. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. 506-520.

Chaudhuri, Una. “Animal Acts for Changing Times.” American Theater (October 2004): 36.

Chaudhuri, Una. “Zoo Stories: ‘Boundary-Work’ in Theatre History.” Redefining Theatre History. Ed. W.B. Worthen and Peter Holland. New York: Palgrave, 2004.

Chaudhuri, Una. “Animal Geographies: Zooësis and the Space of Modern Drama.” Modern Drama 46.4 (Winter 2003): 646-662.

Chaudhuri, Una.  “AWK!” Extremity, Animality and the Aesthetic of Awkwardness.” The Undiscovered Country: The Later Plays of Tennessee Williams. Ed. Philip Kolin. New York: Peter Lang, 2002. 54-67.

Chaudhuri, Una.  “Sniff Art.” Review of “On the Scent.” TDR 48.2 (T182) (Summer 2004): 76-79.

Cless, Downing.  “Ecology vs. Economy in Robert Schenkkan’s The Kentucky Cycle.The Journal of American Drama and Theatre 8:2 (Spring, 1996): 59-72.

Cless, Downing.“Eco-Theatre, USA: The Grassroots Is Greener.” TDR 40:2 (Summer 1996): 79-102.

Gray, Nelson. “The Murmuring-In-Between: Eco-centric Politics of The Girl Who Swam Forever.Theatre Research in Canada 31:2 (2010): 193-207.

Fancy, David. “Geoperformativity Immanence, Performance and the Earth.” Performance Research 16: 4 (2011): 62-72.

Harpin, Anna. “Land of Hope and Glory: Jez Butterworth’s Tragic Landscape.” Studies in Theatre and Performance 31.1 (2011): 61-73.

Harrison, Jan. “Singing in Animal Tongues.” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 33.97 (January 2011): 28.

Lynn Jacobson. “Confessions of an Eco Reporter: Green Theater.” American Theatre 8.11 (Feb 1992): 16-25, 55.

Kershaw, Baz. “Ecoactivist Performance: The Environment As Partner in Protest?” TDR 46:1 (T173) (2002): 118-130.

Mackey, Sally. “Performance, Place and Allotments: Feast or Famine?” Contemporary Theatre Review 17:2 (2007): 181-191.

May, Theresa J. “‘Consequences Unforeseen . . .’ in Raisin in the Sun and Caroline, or Change.Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 20.2 (Spring 2006): 127.

May, Theresa J. “Greening the Theatre: Taking Ecocriticism from Page to Stage.” Interdisciplinary Literary Studies: A Journal of Criticism and Theory 7.1 (Fall 2005): 84-103.

May, Theresa J. “The Ecology of Willy Loman.” New England Theatre Journal 15 (2004): 63-76.

May, Theresa J. ““Bahktin on Site: Chronotopes in Theatre in the Wild’s Dragon Island.” On-Stage Studies 22 (1999):19-38.

May, Theresa J. “Frontiers: Environmental History, Ecocriticism and The Kentucky Cycle.Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 14:1 (Spring 1999): 159-178.

May, Theresa J. “Taking the Cage Out of the Gaze: Perception, Wilderness and the New Zoo.” Theatre Insight 10:2 (1999).

Parameswaran, Ameet. “Zooësis and ‘Becoming with’ in India: The ‘Figure’ of Elephant in Sahyande Makan: The Elephant Project.” Theatre Research International 39:1 (March 2014): 5-19.

Ryan, Courtney. “Playing with Plants.” Theatre Journal 65.3 (October 2013): 335-353.

Sarco-Thomas, M. “Improvising in Ruyang: Community Art as Ecological Practice,” Journal of Arts and Communities 1.1 (2009): 45–68

O’Brien, Karen. “A Symbiotic Relationship: The Works of Martin McDonagh and Ecocriticism.” The Theatre and Films of Martin McDonagh. Ed. Patrick Lonergan. London: Methuen, 2012. 179-192.

O’Brien, Karen. “Collaborative Ecology in Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan.” Out of the Earth: Ecocritical Readings of Irish Texts. Ed. Christine L. Cusick. Cork: Cork University Press, 2010. 189-204, 242-244.

Standing, Sarah.  “From the Redwood Forest.” American Theater 2.65 (February 2005): 65.

Sweeting, Adam and Thomas C. Crochunis. “Performing the Wild: Rethinking Wilderness and Theater Spaces.” Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism. Ed. Karla Armbruster and Kathleen R. Wallace. 325-340.

Blogs and Websites

Jeremy Pickard, “On Eco-theatre,” TCG Blog: http://www.tcgcircle.org/2013/06/on-eco-theater/

Slagle, Dillon. “The Aesthetic Evolution of Eco Theater,” HowlRound Blog: http://www.howlround.com/the-aesthetic-evolution-of-eco-theater

Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts: http://www.sustainablepractice.org/

Earth Matters on Stage Ecodrama Festival: http://www.earthmattersonstage.org/

Green Theatre Choices Toolkit: Mo’ello Theatre, San Diego, CA. 2009.

The Ashden Directory: http://www.ashdendirectory.org.uk/default.asp &


Ashdenizen blog: http://ashdenizen.blogspot.com/

Site, Performance, and Environmental Change: http://performancefootprint.co.uk

Multi-Story Water: http://multi-story-Shipley.co.uk

Hydrocitizenship: www.Hydrocitizenship.com

Facebook pages:

Artists and Climate Change (managed by Chantal Bilodeau)

Theatre Makers Against Climate Change (managed by Alison Carey)

(The blogs and sites above also have Facebook pages)


CTR 160 Now available on Project MUSE

by on November 12th, 2014

CTR_160_Fall 2014 (3X3)

CTR 160, Fall 2014

Actor Training in a Changing Landscape

Also available at CTR online

Featuring the voices of acting trainers, actors, directors, graduates, policy makers and theorists from across the country, this issue explores key challenges facing acting training in English-speaking Canada. It also begins to imagine ways through and beyond them. The concept of “diversities” is used as a central organizing principle to unpack monolithic realities blocking the development of acting training, including a current and troubling absence of diversity in institutional approaches to aesthetics, to questions of gender and sexuality, and to the cultural realities of the student population. From the classroom, to the rehearsal, to the stage, this collection of interviews, lively conversations, essays and manifestos is sure to shift and intensify the national discussion about acting training.

Click here to view the full table of contents.

The Canadian Theatre Review features thought-provoking plays and articles on current issues and trends in Canadian theatre. CTRprovides the Canadian theatre community with in-depth feature articles, manifestos, slideshows, videos, design portfolios, photo essays, and other documents that reflect the challenging forms that theatre takes in the contemporary Canadian arts scene.

You can also access CTR on the various online platforms below.

CTR Online (http://bit.ly/CTRONLINE)

Project MUSE (http://bit.ly/ctrPMUSE)

CTR on YouTube (http://bit.ly/ctrYTUBEVIDEOS)

Website (www.canadiantheatrereview.com)

Facebook (http://bit.ly/CTRFaceBook)

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

Canadian Theatre Review
University of Toronto Press, Journals Division
5201 Dufferin Street, Toronto, ON M3H 5T8, Canada
Tel: (416) 667-7810 Fax: (416) 667-7881
Fax Toll Free in North America 1-800-221-9985
Email: journals@utpress.utoronto.ca
Website: www.canadiantheatrereview.com

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Dreaming of Theatre History: Pedagogy in the Trenches

by and on August 18th, 2014

Participants at the Theatre History and Theatre as a Liberal Art Focus Group Preconference “Dreaming of Theatre History: Pedagogy in the Trenches” met at the ATHE conference in Scottsdale in July 2014 to address the challenges faced in teaching theatre history in higher education through papers and roundtable discussions. Preconference Co-Organizers James Brandon and Jeanne Wilcoxon report.

Representing large research universities, two-year community colleges and small liberal arts institutions, participants clearly faced different challenges based on institutional support and departmental mission (e.g., a small department that only has the resources to offer one hybrid course of theatre history, literature and theory confronts different curricular questions than a department that can offer a dedicated theatre history sequence of four courses) but shared concerns about the state of theatre history and pedagogy in higher education.  While several of these shared concerns are familiar from past discussions on this subject (e.g., is a topical or chronological approach more effective in teaching theatre history?), the challenge of teaching underprepared and unengaged students, working with technology in the classroom and surviving in the current neoliberal landscape of higher education, are recent and vital concerns that animated discussion throughout the preconference.

Advocating “embodied practices” and project-based work in the classroom as being both a solution to the problem of student disengagement and as particularly appropriate to the discipline of theatre, panelists presented assignments designed to energize the classroom as a space of creative inquiry.  Their assignments, which taught students to think critically about the process of making history and actively analyze historical event and text through creative performances and productions (v. more traditional reading and research assignments), provoked discussion on how far we should focus on sparking student engagement.  Are we, in our efforts to engage, diminishing the rich and difficult labor of learning, a process that does and should challenge comfort levels?  Given that our participants ranged from tenured professors to adjuncts and graduate teaching assistants, a very real concern voiced was the impact of the student course evaluation on the career of the instructor:  a poor evaluation from a disgruntled “consumer” could potentially lead to the instructor’s dismissal. In the current corporate climate of higher education, how can we resist the conceptualization of the student as consumer who is satisfied only when sufficiently amused (the professor as entertainer)?  Yet, as was a theme throughout the larger ATHE conference, how can we still reach out to engage students in a process of learning v. simply reiterate classroom practices that, by failing to engage students, fail to teach?

Several papers asked us to rethink how we teach theatre history.  Challenging both topical and chronological approaches, Rick Jones from Stephen F. Austin State University proposed “teaching theatre history backwards,” leading students to discover the connections to the past that animate the present through a genealogical organization of the theatre history course.  Two papers addressed how we can use the web as a communal learning space for students (e.g., group dramaturgical projects on the web as a way to share student work) and as an online archival resource for our courses.  At the same time, there was discussion on the potential costs of using that technology: increased institutional spending to hire IT staff and purchase up-to-date technology, as well as the time required inside and outside the classroom for students and faculty members to learn constantly evolving technology.

At the heart of this preconference was the question of what must be, and can only be, taught to our students through the teaching of theatre history. Why is learning theatre history necessary for the theatre major and for the general education of the non-major? While discussion often centered on the designated theatre history course, the process of historicization, which is political in its insistent revelation of change and the possibility of change, can be and, for several participants, is taught in a wide range of theatre or performance courses.  However, some participants, still facing the challenge of convincing colleagues that the discipline of theatre can be an integrated study of both practice and theory, are fighting to even keep a course on theatre history in the curriculum for the theatre major. James Brandon (Hillsdale College) and Mark E. Lococo (Loyola University) offered strategies and rationales for placing theatre history at the core of the theatre major in their institutions.

Perhaps because the theatre history course itself is in danger of elimination, or perhaps because the topical approach to teaching theatre history has allowed for a cracking of the previously pervasive Eurocentric canon, the provincialism that Marvin Carlson and Steve Tillis have criticized in the American teaching of theatre history, and the cultural elitism in theatre studies cited by, among others, David Savran and Stacy Wolf, did not figure largely in the discussions[1]. While textbooks and anthologies, usual suspects of discussion, dropped out of the conversation, there was debate about the centrality of plays to the theatre history course.  Could a course be taught without plays, focusing instead on primary documents that would teach students the history through examining the material practice of making theatre? This returned us to the question of institutional support and resources.  For several participants, due to budgetary cuts, the theatre history course is also the dramatic literature course (or, in one case, the film and media studies course).   Interestingly, Marvin Carlson’s plea two decades ago to give up the battle for disciplinary “turf” is being answered today through the forced revamping of curriculum and the reorganization of fine arts departments into interdisciplinary units.[2] However, participants echoed Carlson’s attendant warning in that same essay: if we aren’t able to “clearly say what distinguishes theatre history” from other histories, we are in danger of having administrators make that definition and, potentially, erase that practice from the ever-more-arid landscape of higher education.


James Brandon (Hillsdale College) and Jeanne Willcoxon (St. Olaf College)

Note: a more extensive version of this report can be found at the Theatre History Focus Group blog on the ATHE website.

[1] See:  Tillis, Steve (March 2007).  “Remapping Theatre History.”  Theatre Topics 17 (1): 1-19; Tillis, Steve (November 2012).  “The Case Against World Theatre History.”  New Theatre Quarterly 28 (4): 379-391; Carlson, Marvin (November 2004).  “Become Less Provincial.”  Theatre Survey 45 (2): 177-180; Savran, David (November 2004).  “Towards a Historiography of the Popular.” Theatre Survey 45 (2): 211-217; Wolf, Stacy (March 2007).  “In Defense of Pleasure: Musical Theatre History in the Liberal Arts [A Manifesto].” Theatre Topics 17 (1): 51-60.

[2] Carlson, Marvin (Summer 1995).  “Theatre History, Methodology and Distinctive Features.”  Theatre Research International 20 (2): 90-96.

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