Modern Drama Volume 57, Number 2 /2014

This issue contains:

The Chronotopic Dynamics of Ibsen’s Pillars of Society: The Triumph of Industrialism, or How Drama Becomes History
Erinç Özdemir

Ventriloquist Theatre and the Omniscient Narrator: Gatz and El pasado es un animal grotesco
Barbara Fuchs

Parody, E.E. Cummings, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin
James M. Cherry

“A Little History Here, a Little Hollywood There”: (Counter-)Identifying with the Spanish Fantasy in Carlos Morton‘s Rancho Hollywood and Theresa Chavez’s L.A. Real
Courtney Elkin Mohler

“Remove Your Mask”: Character Psychology in Introspective Musical Theatre – Sondheim’s Follies, LaChiusa’s The Wild Party, and Stew’s Passing Strange
Alisa Roost

Rethinking Sarah Kane’s Characters: A Human(ist) Form and Politics
Louise LePage


Sean Carney, The Politics and Poetics of Contemporary English Tragedy, reviewed by Lily Cui

Leslie Atkins Durham, Women’s Voices on American Stages in the Early Twenty-First Century: Sarah Ruhl and Her Contemporaries, reviewed by Miriam Chirico

Siyuan Liu, Performing Hybridity in Colonial-Modern China, reviewed by Jen-Hao Hsu

Carol Martin, Theatre of the Real, reviewed by Liz Tomlin

Vassiliki Rapti, Ludics in Surrealist Theatre and Beyond, reviewed by Johanna Malt

Liz Tomlin, Acts and Apparitions: Discourses on the Real in Performance Practice and Theory, 1990-2010, reviewed by Miriam Felton-Dansky

Sara Warner, Acts of Gaiety: LGBT Performance and the Politics of Pleasure, reviewed by Jessica Del Vecchio

Maurya Wickstrom, Performance in the Blockades of Neoliberalism: Thinking the Political Anew, reviewed by Jason Fitzgerald

Modern Drama was founded in 1958 and is the most prominent journal in English to focus on dramatic literature. The terms “modern” and “drama” are the subject of continuing and fruitful debate, but the journal has been distinguished by the excellence of its close readings of both canonical and lesser-known dramatic texts from a range of methodological perspectives. The journal features refereed articles written from a variety of geo-political points of view which enhance our understanding, both formal and historical, of the dramatic literature of the past two centuries; there is also an extensive book review section.

Complete Modern Drama Online archive now available! Modern Drama Online is a fully searchable electronic resource, featuring a complete archive of regular and special themed issues. The archive contains over 3000 articles and reviews dating back to 1958.

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Theatre history, like the theatre practice, aggregates across disciplinary boundaries. Each theatrical reconstruction involves excavating multiple sources: physical artifacts, spoken text, voices, gestures, designs, and audience response. Some of this cannot be recovered. Nevertheless historians assemble what they find and construct meaning around it. In this process, the computer functions as a tool for identifying and assembling information. Libraries and universities generally use static catalog-style listings to retrieve and display research materials even though post-millennial students, familiar with iPhone and iPad apps, prefer visual and tactile technologies. My hope is to encourage the use of dynamic technologies in theatre history research.

This year I am working with a team of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Michigan with backgrounds in history, informatics, art and design, and theatre.  Collectively we are developing a prototype web-based, interactive tool called 19thcenturyacts.  The goal is to create an interesting and interactive visualization to track the life, travels, performances, cultural context and repertoire of the nineteenth-century actor Ira Aldridge as a prototype for other nineteenth century biography projects. Aldridge is one of the most documented African American performers who lived prior to the digital age. His global excursions epitomize African American cultural fluency during the nineteenth century.

Playbill from Aldridge’s performance at Covent Garden, 1833

 Playbill from Aldridge’s performance at Covent Garden, 1833 <>

Performance histories of non-western or working class people tend to be misrepresented within, or absent from mainstream archives.  Paul Conway posits “In the Age of Google non-digital content does not exist, and digital content with no impact is unlikely to survive[i].”  Preservation of digital content depends upon funding sources and some projects, usually works by “great” dramatists (Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov), receive more resources. In this rush to digitize the familiar are non-textual or ethnic pre-twentieth century performances excluded from the archive?

One would hope not. As I reverse my thinking I can see that the Internet and its social networks encourage local communities to develop unique archives of crowd sourced, culturally specific materials. A jarocho music aficionado can, through blogs and user-networks, collect and disseminate digital materials that document performance practices within specialized interest groups. Accessing and redistributing in-group materials digitally merges archiving and distribution needs. Practices of crowdsourcing a performance history for ethnic performance hold possibilities for an ongoing, dynamic archive of non-mainstream theatrics. Such an archive of un-vetted resources, while broad in scope, may also consist of repeated visual motifs only marginally connected to original historical referents.

Recently, in support of a class lecture, I initiated a YouTube search for the nineteenth century dancer Juba thinking I would find documentary or media reconstructions of Master Henry Lane or John Diamond or perhaps the folkloric dance “Juba” attributed to the African American trickster character of Juba. Instead, YouTube provided links to rehearsals of a British tap dancer named Master Juba, a clip from the musical Stormy Weather, harmonic riffs by blues musician Guy Davis, and field footage of a dance festival in the Southern Sudan. These performance snippets document a historical archive of Juba simulacra far removed from a point of historical origin. While the visual documents may indeed belong in a collection of Juba-esque materials, they are quite removed from the original referent. Is there a scholarly collection of performance documents as vividly evocative or universally accessible as the YouTube site? I think not.

My “call” is for universities, museums and libraries to develop dynamic visual tools that make information accessible in interactive ways, and to provide context for crowd sourced digital data about the theatre. A fire hose of digital information inundates us. Without human mediation the overload of data creates a nonsensical cacophony. Are there new possibilities for editing within crowd source systems or within computer generated semantic technologies? Responsible custody of performance history demands that archives respond to widespread digital sources, including media and audio materials. If institutions are able to collect, collate, curate and then display data in dynamic and easily accessible formats then users and preservationist will both benefit.

[i] Conway, P. (2010). “Preservation in the Age of Google: Digitization, Digital Preservation, and Dilemmas.” The Library Quarterly 80 (1): 61-79.




Edited by Shelley Scott and Reid Gilbert

CTR#158 offers an extended conversation about burlesque in Canada, from archival photos and historical contextualization to the most current interpretations of what neo-burlesque can be and what it can do. The audacious urban experience of Montreal lives beside the off-the-grid exuberance of Lasqueti Island. The details of costume construction in ancouver are considered alongside legal definitions that dictatecostumes in Calgary.

The issue offers an in-depth exploration of Toronto’s Operation Snatch, formerly The Scandelles, with two articles that chart the company’s trajectory from burlesque to political cabaret, a Scandelles script, and an interview with founder Alexandra Tigchelaar. Also exclusively online, Adriana Disman has curated a dialogue among socially conscious performers using neo-burlesque for social change. Whether conveying the experience of a male burlesque performer or drawing parallels with the community-building appeal of roller derby, the authors in this issue dissect, interrogate, and expand the definitions of burlesque.

Click here to read the editorial and view the full table of contents.



The Haunted Stage of Summer and Smoke: Tennessee Williams’s Forgotten Silent Film Sequences 
Sophie Maruéjouls-Koch

Recent re-evaluation of Tennessee Williams’s late plays has brought to light another side of the playwright, an avant-garde impulse ignored by his contemporaries because it did not match his image as a poetic realist. Read more… 

Mac Wellman’s Antigone: The Hegelian Theme
Michael Shaw

Mac Wellman, the contemporary American playwright, has said that there is a lot of George Steiner’s Antigones (where Steiner discusses the influence of Sophocles’s play on later writers and philosophers) in his Antigone of 2000. Read more… 

The Philippine Komedya and the Recuperation of the Cosmopolitan: From Colonial Legacy to Cross-Cultural Encounter
Sir Anril P. Tiatco

This article critiques the komedya vis-à-vis its institutionalization as national theatre form and proposes a cosmopolitan alternative in the critique. Read more… 

From Laundries to Labour Camps: Staging Ireland’s “Rule of Silence” in Anu Production’s Laundry
Miriam Haughton

Anu Productions premiered their site-specific devised performance Laundry in the former Magdalene Laundry building on Lower Seán McDermott Street, as part of their four-part artistic investigation of this historical city centre district at the 2011 Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival. Read more… 

Tragedy and Theatricality in The Island
Christian Dahl

The article discusses the theoretical and generic problems of defining classical and modern tragedy vis à vis contemporary re-adaptations of Greek tragedy. Read more… 


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Complete Modern Drama Online archive now available!
Modern Drama‘s complete archive of regular and special themed issues – including over 3000 articles and reviews, from 1958 to present – is now available online.

This comprehensive electronic resource of dramatic literature is now available at: Project MUSE  and  Modern Drama Online


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. No, wait. Actually, stop me if you’ve lived this before. A student takes a theatre class his freshman year. It starts as a means to an end: fulfilling a GE, but with an interesting subject. The professor is amazing—funny, engaging, articulate, brilliant. She changes the student’s life, altering his life path away from law school aspirations and towards ambitions in academia. The student later works with the professor as a TA, absorbing the content and style of her teaching. And she advises him as he attends conferences, meets scholars, applies to PhD programs, and finishes his thesis. The professor guides and instructs in a way that introduces the student into a world where they are colleagues. In short, she mentored.

So yes, perhaps, the details are a bit individuated to my personal experience, though I trust the tale remains familiar enough amongst this crowd—whether you have played the part of the student or the professor. One coda I might add, however, is the joy that comes with seeing the former mentor at conferences. We were actually enjoying one such reunion at a dinner one evening in Nashville during ASTR’s 2012 conference; but I had to excuse myself so I could attend the membership meeting for the Graduate Student Caucus (GSC). That evening, the incoming president of ASTR, Dr. Heather Nathans, addressed the graduate students present. She invited us to—among other things—rethink how most of us might approach mentoring … to reconsider the model of mentorship known so well in stories like I shared above. She asked us not only to pursue relationships where we receive mentorship “from above,” but rather also to explore and create opportunities where graduate students themselves do the mentoring.

I struggled with this call to action. Not that I disagreed with its intent or philosophy. I simply lacked vision of what it would look like in execution. For my short time in this field, an apprenticeship model—like the one between my former professor and myself—was all I knew. So, I did what we do in academia: I asked a question. I asked what this might look like. President Nathans explained that the New Paradigms committee in ASTR suggested one example: an instance where concerns and initiatives of graduate students resulted in an ad hoc committee that eventually became instituted as a standing committee; one that has had a significant impact on the institutional organization of ASTR, its conference, and conversations in the field(s) of theatre and performance studies. So, what other ways might graduates students actively serve as mentors? in ASTR specifically or our field of study more generally?

These questions became a central conversation in the monthly meetings of the GSC’s leadership between the conferences in Nashville and Dallas. At the time, I served as one of the two Vice-Presidents, with Kellyn Johnson as President, Eero Laine as the other Vice-President, Michelle Mensah as Secretary, and Michael Morris as the Representative to the New Paradigms Committee. Soon after the conference, we discussed this call issued on mentorship and the topic more broadly. At the time, we were also revising a variety of mentoring-focused programs that take place at ASTR, including efforts to arrange opportunities for graduate students to meet both with faculty mentors at other institutions and graduate student mentors.

Early in our conversations we discussed having a larger deliberation of what exactly mentoring is, particularly in relation to our field and in ASTR. Great work has been done in years past by our counterparts in ATHE’s subcommittee for graduate students; resulting in a wonderful publication on the topic by Jill Dolan in the March 2013 issue of Theatre Topics. There are also plenty of other academic organizations which have produced great resources on mentoring; the Southern Association for Women Historians ( is one great example. We hoped that one way that the GSC could, in fact, heed President Nathans’ call for graduate students to take an active role in mentoring would be to organize a panel on mentoring that would eventually result in an ASTR Mentoring Manifesto—a document that could define and describe what mentoring looks like in our field of study and in ASTR specifically; a document that would serve not only graduate students entering the field, but also scholars across all stages in career. We also intended this Manifesto to become a document that would add to the other resources housed on ASTR’s new website.

Throughout the year, ideas for the panel developed. We explored whether to pursue a working session model or submit the idea as a career session. Ultimately, we went with the latter for a number of reasons, one being because it had already been decided that the 2013 conference would allocate two time slots for career sessions. Since we hoped the resulting document would appeal to various members of the organization, we decided to assemble a panel of participants at various stages of their careers: scholars, people working outside the academy, and graduate students. Eventually, we invited Stacy Wolf, Scott Magelssen, Heather Barfield, and David Calder to share their thoughts on mentoring. Rather than generating a single set of questions for all participants, the GSC leadership generated three to four questions for each specific participant. We then encouraged our panelists to choose which questions they would like to address for a few minutes.

Some of the questions we included:

  • What are different models of mentoring?
  • Why pursue someone as a mentor rather than as a colleague?
  • In mentoring within the humanities, there are often topics, which might be part of a mentoring toolkit in any discipline. This might include advice on teaching, conferencing, seeking funding, working on publications, completing the dissertation, balancing time between work and life, and considering professional development both inside and outside of the academy. What might be other topics of mentorship?
  • Are there topics related specifically to the fields of theatre and performance studies?
  • How do members of ASTR build mentoring relationships with individuals beyond the academy?
  • How can ASTR shape or contribute to such relationships?
  • What is helpful for graduate students or junior faculty to know while seeking a mentor?
  • Jill Dolan expresses the traits of a mentor should include someone who can be brutally honest while communicating willingly and in a timely fashion. What traits might you add?
  • What traits should a mentee have?

The career session was held on the Saturday morning of the conference. And as I am sure was the case for the other sessions, attendance was low. However, the GSC leadership is very grateful for the thoughts shared by the panelists and the open discussion we were able to have afterwards. Though I cannot share everything that was shared here, hopefully the sentiments will soon be available in our forthcoming manifesto. For now, here are some highlights taken from my own notes and those of Michelle Mensah.

  • Stacy Wolf discussed the importance of thinking of mentoring basically as when someone who knows something imparts that knowledge to someone who does not yet have that information, knowledge or skill. And that they tend to occur at transitional moment. She also addressed that mentoring relationships can exist in different temporalities—some can last over a several year arc and others can occur while working on a single project or even just for the span of a conference. Mentoring relationships can have import even when they take after these briefer models. She suggests that a mentee needs to be brave and ask for specific advice; but also mentors need to be clear about what they can and what they cannot take on at certain times.
  • Scott Magelssen spoke towards the distinction between the organic and institutional models of mentoring that we tend to have. He also addressed the vulnerability inherent to mentoring relationships and which is a bit different than other professional relationships we form. Suggesting the need for the field to foster an environment of support, he acknowledged an equal need to avoid building an illusion that mentors are superheroes that can rescue. Rather than a single mentor model, he suggested building a family of mentors, one filled with relationships that wax and wane. I cannot recall if it was during his comments or later during the discussion, but he also addressed the reality that this will mean sometimes receiving advice from different mentors that is completely contradictory and the need to learn how to navigate that.
  • Heather Barfield addressed that one avenue the organization could pursue is mentoring artists. Her work specifically addresses that in guiding artists through the processes and realities of applying for grants. But she suggested that this could be a sentiment that ASTR explored as an organization—finding ways the organization could mentor artists. She also addressed the aspect of self-mentoring; that in looking for work outside the academy, one might need to train oneself in order to do certain jobs. The training of a PhD puts you in a position to do that, but then you need to be able and willing to put in the effort to do that.
  • David Calder spoke to the variety of mentors as well: institutional academic advisor, scholarly mentors, and professional development guides. He addressed the significance of a mentor’s capacity to invite the mentee to become the better version of him- or herself. A mentor continues to help the mentee believe their best work is just around the corner. One piece of advice he suggested was that mentees recognize and respect the other mentees their mentor has.

Two recurring ideas were a need to think of mentorship in more flexible terms (particular in terms of longevity) and the power of thinking of mentoring as something that you do, not something you are. Mentoring takes place in actions. Looking over a specific document; asking a particular question; encouraging and critiquing in certain ways.

I personally found in David’s remarks something that resonated with a question I had going into the session and that I would like to see articulated in our forthcoming Manifesto: how does the specificity of theatre and performance studies shape what mentoring looks like in ASTR? And there’s something about what David said about a mentor helping a mentee envision a better self—it just reminded me of Victor Turner’s work on performance’s capacity to create a “subjunctive mood.” Are there other vocabularies or methodologies of our field that might inform how we think about the shape or execution of mentorship?

Towards the end of the session, Dr. Robin Bernstein explained that in the current state of the field, with more graduate students wanting to find out how to get work outside of the academy, she is being asked to mentor students in something that she does not currently know how to do. I do not know how to answer that concern. And I do not know that my colleagues in the leadership of the GSC have a response for it yet either. However, we are hoping to explore the possibility of putting together another panel that might address something like that. We might not be able to tell faculty what to tell us in regards to new paradigms; however, graduate students might be able to provide the effort to organize something that might in turn provide training for beleaguered mentors. As we work towards framing our Manifesto, the leadership of the GSC is also invested in the practical exploration of how we can provide mentorship as well as receive it.


This past fall I taught an undergraduate seminar entitled “Medievalisms: Past and Present.” In previous years I’ve taught a first-year Writing seminar using this theme. But, after three attempts, I decided it was too complicated for that course. Ultimately I felt like some students weren’t ever able to master the medievalisms concept completely (or, at least, to the degree I’d hoped) and, consequently, it proved an obstacle to their writing efforts.

Instead, I developed this 300-level General Education seminar, thinking this was the better venue for students to explore the topic. The course could fulfill the upper-level “Cultural Perspectives” requirement, which meant it needed to investigate “the practices that allow for the production and reproduction of the systems of meaning (e.g., art, ritual, and beliefs) through which groups and individuals define and express themselves.” Arguably, no historical period has been produced and reproduced in culture in as many different ways as the Middle Ages, and therefore I was excited to use the theme to explore historiography—that ongoing production and reproduction of the system of meaning we call “history.”

Notably, I was asked to design the course as an Honors section. I’m not sure if this made a difference with respect to student interest, but I was very lucky to have students who were ready to grapple with a challenging topic. Most students not only don’t know anything about medievalism, but they also know very little about the Middle Ages, and what they do know tends to be a medievalism. Consequently, part of my work was to disabuse them of their medievalisms as I taught them about that very topic. I felt fortunate to have fourteen students ready to wrestle with that mental mobius strip and, since the course cap is lower for Honors sections, a bit more time to work individually with students who initially struggled.

The students and I examined the construction of the Middle Ages from a number of perspectives during the term (click here to see abbreviated syllabus). At the end, students wrote a major research paper and many chose challenging topics; one student wrote about how the media deploys the term “medieval” in discussions about the use of torture by the U.S. and presented extensive research on the actual use of torture in the Middle Ages as part of the argument. But the final assignment in the course was a collaborative project with the following context and objective:

A group of wealthy investors is planning to develop an edu-taining theme park about medievalism. This will be an immersive venue designed to entertain adults and children, while also educating them about medievalisms (past and present). By interactively engaging with examples of medievalisms—both obvious examples and some more unexpected—theme park visitors will learn how repurposing the Middle Ages has always been a way for post-medieval societies to reflect upon & discuss their own cultural, social, political, environmental, religious, and scientific issues. The theme park obviously cannot effectively cover all examples of medievalism. Instead, those who design the park will need to think strategically about what inclusions will best serve and successfully fulfill the investors’ goals.

Divide yourselves into teams of 2-5 people each. Each of your teams will propose its theme park concept to the investors. Each proposal must include a visual display that conveys the concept’s overarching principles, aesthetic, major components, and execution. Every team will have a maximum of fifteen minutes in which to pitch its concept to the investors and to convince the selection committee that its approach will best serve the goals for this theme park. You and your team members will need to determine how best to use these fifteen minutes in order to make your case. The selection committee has encouraged teams to think constructively and creatively about how you would create an immersive, edu-taining visitor experience.

Although I’ve assigned similar collaborative, context-specific projects in my Theatre courses, this one seemed slipperier; ultimately, I was asking students to transform historiography into an edu-taining experience. Is that possible? I truly had no clue what the students would do.

In the end, I was really impressed by the creative and professional presentations they developed, and by how different each was. My college has very large Theatre and Dance departments, so I was lucky to have a relatively diverse mix of majors—one Biology, one Business, one Art History/Theatre Design double major, one English & World Literature, six Theatre Performance (a mix of BA and BFAs), three Dance, and one Liberal Studies. This definitely impacted how each group approached their work; for instance, the group with the Biologist used evidence from a study on nostalgia published in a scientific journal as part of its presentation. All of the students invested fully in the assignment and the presentations became competitive at moments. During our wrap-up discussion afterwards, one student said she’d pretty much forgotten that this was “just an assignment” and was “kind of sad” to remember that their park wasn’t actually going to become a reality.

When reading their brief reflection papers I was gratified to see that the project did indeed help students think further about major themes in the course:

 “This is by far the coolest and one of the most challenging projects I have ever received, though I didn’t understand how challenging until our first group meeting…. During our first rather unsuccessful meeting, we kept falling into the trap of just doing a Middle Ages theme park filled with all the stereotypes and medievalisms. This was a type of place Renèe Trilling warns against in her article ‘Medievalism and its Discontents.’…. By asking us to design this park, you were asking us to take all the brain work we did this semester and apply it to real life.”

“To us, grasping the concept of re-appropriation is one of the most vital steps in understanding medievalisms.”

“[Our] unique and creative idea of making the entire park a medievalism that is ransacked by authentic [medieval] residents who interact with modern people at the park, would have been impossible to come up with without the concepts discussed in class. We picked this idea to emphasize the anachronisms and perceptions that modern society has of the Middle Ages.”

However, I was especially happy that it also encouraged them to think specifically about historiographic concerns:

“How could we pop the medievalism bubble while still making attractions fun and exciting for guests? …Harder still would be the creation of a theme park that debunks medievalisms without indulging in new ones. I soon realized that this was an impossibility…. Throughout history, civilization has constantly borrowed and reappropriated from the past in order to further a personal agenda. In our case, the agenda is to entertain and educate, but in order to do both we must use medievalisms ourselves.”

“This project forced me to seriously consider how we as consumers and makers of products view and treat the Middle Ages. Even in presenting a ‘true’ Middle Ages, our group picked and chose from parts of history that were convenient for us to make our point. We chose pieces of history that we saw as in direct opposition to common preconceptions and made those the focal points of half of our park. I believe our bias is incredibly apparent in this method, yet we all have learned that there is no way to remove from ourselves [sic] in order to present an ‘unbiased truth.’ I found myself carefully examining this, regardless of whether or not it was the intention of this project. Although I do believe our park serves its purpose to educate and entertain the masses, I also believe that this exercise was useful in forcing us to examine our own biases and how we choose to portray things under the justification of education and coming immediately from a semester full of critical analysis.”

There are certainly things I’ll change about this course when I teach it again; however, I don’t imagine changing this final project. Not only did it flip the classroom, but it also allowed the students to construct a space in which the problems and possibilities of historiography were made concrete and relevant—both in their own processes and in the environment of the theme park itself. And, as that final student comment suggests, it effectively illustrated the intimate links between our consumption and construction of history.

There may be ways to use a similar “theme park” assignment to explore theatre historiography, perhaps with different groups assigned to different periods. There was definitely something about the theme park genre that encouraged playfulness, but was familiar enough that students had to make very specific choices about many different experiential features. So, while their parks were specifically about medievalisms, the rides, games, and other elements students designed ultimately allowed for physical experiences with historiography. As we discussed after the presentations, their curation and design work was a form of historical editing. (For the full assignment description, click here.)


CTR 157 / Winter 2014 “Alternative Globalizations” 

Edited by Barry Freeman and Catherine Graham

This issue examines ways in which Canadian theatre companies and performers are working to create an alternative sense of what globalization could mean. The issue looks especially at how Canadian artists are connecting to those in other countries, creating horizontal networks of performance that function outside the logic of market-based consumption to make the flow of globalization visible. It aims to re-envision what it might mean to participate as a citizen, rather than simply as a consumer, in an increasingly globalized flow of performances, and what this emphasis on the global could mean for our understanding of Canadian theatre. Topics discussed include Occupy Newfoundland; Debajehmujig Theatre’s/Global Savages/project; Théâtre Parminou’s collaboration with French and Belgian theatre companies to produce a series of plays on how we measure wealth; Théâtre des Petites Lanternes’ international participatory Théâtre Citoyen projects; Canadian responses to the war in Afghanistan; and discussions of how local and global concerns are linked in new performance works by Human Cargo, Theatre Company Teesri Duniya Theatre, and Le Sensorium.

Click here to read the editorial and view the full table of contents.



About Face! Reenacting in a Time of War explores the cultural politics of commemorating American national history in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.  Told from the perspective of the filmmaker who learns how to portray an 18th century British Redcoat soldier in the course of making the film, About Face! ruminates on what it means to play “violent brutes” in reenactment events like the Battle of Lexington, whilst echoing in the role the position of contemporary American military professionals sent far from home.  It turns out, ironically, that many American service members who become Revolutionary War reenactors choose to play Redcoats and Hessians than members of the “ragtag” colonial militias, which lacked the sense of military discipline that these contemporary men find comforting in their hobby.  The film focuses on the intersection between the memories of war of such reenactors, and the experiences of war reenactment as a means of communicating about war across the veteran-civilian divide, all set against the backdrop of the media-saturated, anxiety inducing “War on Terror” that marked the years after the 9/11 attacks.

Click here to watch the film. Please comment! The filmmaker would love to hear your thoughts.

Click here for Andy Rice’s YouTube page.


The joint Association for Theatre in Higher Education/American Society for Theatre Research Subcommittee on Non-Print Publishing, convened last year by Bob Schanke, Chair of ATHE’s Committee on Research and Publications, recommends that digital scholarship be included as a legitimate indicator of achievement in hiring, tenure, and promotion in theatre and performance studies. Furthermore, it recommends that our organizations celebrate and promote excellence in digital scholarship in our conferences and publications.

The subcommittee shared its recommendations in the form of a white paper, presented at the ATHE conference in Orlando in August, and submitted to the ASTR Executive Committee this fall. ATHE and ASTR are currently in the process of vetting the recommendations.

The white paper can be viewed by clicking on this link:


The immortality of Foucault’s thought makes yet another mark on English-language scholarship with the arrival of the most recent edition of his lectures. Under the Nietzsche-inspired title, “Lectures on the Will to Know,” this publication offers Foucault’s first annual lecture to the Collège de France, 1970-71. For those of you familiar with the impressive dynamism of Michel Foucault’s life work—much of which exists in English translation thanks to dedicated translators such as Graham Burchell, A. M. Sheridan Smith, Lysa Hochroth, and Catherine Porter, and to editors such as Paul Rabinow, James D. Faubion, Arnold I. Davidson, and, of course, Daniel Defert—you already know that any simple application of this French thinker’s work, or any single use to which you may put his thought, misses the mark. That is, despite the tendency for theatre and performance scholars to poach theories and concepts from other fields, Foucault’s ideas offer so much more than a one-off frame for a study of, say, disciplined bodies, or an easy citation for further reading into the paradoxes of Victorian culture. Foucault, the name and the body of work associated with it, constitutes a mode of thinking, a tactical map for grappling with the discontinuities of history. If you dive head deep into this particular body of work, as I did about nine years ago, then you might experience the wonderful sensation of discovering the art of thinking that Foucault honed over the course of a lifetime which was, in a certain sense, cut short with his early death in 1984; in another sense, however, the art of thinking he developed lives on in his work and can never die.

Now, here’s a bit of information that will offer you a glimpse of how important Foucault’s work is to me and, more importantly, how excited it makes me. I visit the Palgrave-Macmillan website regularly (like, once a month) to check on the process of the upcoming publications from this lecture series. Once I see that a book is ready for publication, I order it in advance from Amazon, and I do this so that I might forget about it, and then, one day, a box arrives at my house or my office (I switch it up) and I get a wonderful surprise. This particular publication actually motivated a re-appraisal of my home library because, I mean, where do you put Foucault’s work? Philosophy? Cultural Studies? Having decided to rearrange the books in my library by subject, I had to think about Foucault’s home and who his neighbors might be. Ultimately, I settled on placing the books, the count of which is now up to twenty-five, in the “historiography” section because, again, what we’re dealing with is a method of study, a plan of attacking numerous historical conundrums, and an art that, given the discipline required to learn it, we might call martial. To me, historiography names a specific thinking practice motivated by a drive to think through, not about, the past, and I have developed this understanding thanks in large part to the work of Foucault.

But why should you care about this art, this body of work, and this particular publication? The answer has to do with Aristotle and the problem(s) that the Poetics poses to scholars in our profession. Foucault has demonstrated his appreciation and respect for classical Greek tragedy in previous works, most notably in the lectures from 19 and 26 January 1983 dedicated to Euripides’ Ion, but this appreciation appears to have existed from an early stage in his career since the 1970-71 lectures revolve around the appearance and articulation of Truth in Classical Greek tragedy. I would like to invite all of you who plan to teach classes related to or touching upon Ancient Greek tragedy to check out “Lectures on the Will to Know,” because the argument leveled there provides a model for engaging with Aristotle’s Poetics and the possibility that plays such as Oedipus Tyrannus express a worldview that the Poetics, and its subsequent uptake by theatre historians, has obscured.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the argument, mixed with my own commentary linking Foucault’s claims to our situation as theatre historiographers:

  • Aristotle’s Poetics cannot be understood without reference to all of his other treatises (Rhetoric, Politics, Physics, Metaphysics, etc., etc.) — AND YET, theatre scholars neglect this rule and like to ignore the material conditions of the Poetics
    • Namely, that it was written approx. 100 years after the golden age of Athenian drama and it was part of Aristotle’s scientific assessment of the world around him
    • This scientific turn marked Aristotle as distinctly different from his teacher, Plato, and that’s important because Plato’s philosophy was certainly linked to and motivated by the theatre of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, on the one hand, and steeped in a distinctly different sensibility from that of his student (Aristotle).
  • On a deeper level: Aristotle’s understanding of the world and of TRUTH (like, the big concept of TRUTH) differs tremendously from the understanding of TRUTH that exists in the plays he talks about in the Poetics
    • In other words, according to Foucault: Aristotle seemed to think that Truth was something that all people necessarily wanted, and they wanted it because it was good for them and even pleasurable
    • BUT, again pace Foucault, take a look at a play like Oedipus Tyrannus and you will notice that the TRUTH of that play is not at all something old Swollen Foot wants. Philosophically speaking, we can say that Oedipus drives toward the truth, but he does so despite the fact that the TRUTH of his identity scares the hell out of him and all but kills him
  • Foucault’s implicit conclusion (which he builds up to from 9 December, 1970, to 27 January, 1971) is that the philosophical stance toward TRUTH enacted by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides is altogether different from the philosophical stance adopted by Aristotle

-       Will’s historiographical conclusion: If we study Aristotle’s Poetics as a helpful tool for understanding Ancient Greek drama, then we first have to realize that Aristotle was trying to write history in his own way through his Poetics. It appears that he was trying to invent specific rules and goals for Ancient Greek tragedy, goals that help individuals of his time achieve Truth as he (i.e., Aristotle) understood it.

-       Add to all of this the fact that the Poetics is an incomplete set of notes transcribed by several students of Aristotle’s and then assembled years later, and we see that teaching Aristotle’s Poetics over and over again is quite problematic

Now, the thrust of this argument, which Foucault does not entirely flesh out but rather leads us toward, is that Classical Greek Tragedy was a kind of performance philosophy. Through theatre, the Ancient Greeks embodied and enacted Truth, one that, should we believe Foucault, we have a hard time viewing in the present because of the Poetics. Not only is our path to this Truth blocked, but so too is our view of the performance philosophy of the Ancient Greeks blocked because the practice of their theatre has been forgotten in favor of discovering the causes and/or (political) e/affects of said practice. But don’t take my word for it. Read Foucault.

Or for that matter, read any number of the exciting books out on this topic, such as Martin Puchner’s The Drama of Ideas, the collection edited by S. E. Wilmer and Audrone Zukauskaite titled Interrogating Antigone, or Freddie Rokem’s Philosophers and Thespians. But, and here’s my point, read these alongside Foucault’s work. We should fight the temptation to limit our understanding of Foucault’s work through the constant invocation of such terms as Discipline or The History of Sexuality, and reappraise the vast body of his life’s work as, perhaps, a form of performance philosophy in its own right, one that can offer tremendous insight into the teaching of theatre historiography and the doing of historical research.

Will Daddario is the Chair of the Performance and Philosophy Working Group within Performance Studies international and a core convener of Performance Philosophy.

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