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In examining the notion of entelechy – defined by Aristotle as the ‘final cause’ in drama – Zornitsa Dimitrova shows that depictions of ‘unsavoury’ content are only justified insofar as they are part of larger networks of aesthetic codification. The unsavoury cannot be an end in itself; neither can it function as an aesthetic category in its own right. Rather, it is a means related to pathos, or suffering, in Greek tragedy and bībhatsa, the ‘odious sentiment’ of the Sanskrit drama. Within such networks of codification, the purpose of the unsavoury is to carry forward the drama to an emotionally uplifting end: katharsis in the Poetics and ananda in Nāṭyaśāstra. This purposiveness – already visible in the entelechial nature of the dramatic plot – relates to a concept of mimesis implicitly understood as a term actional and interactionist in character. But only with the emergence of postdramatic theatre and the dissolution of plot does the unsavoury begin to function as an aesthetic category in its own right. Zornitsa Dimitrova is a doctoral graduate of Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster and holds degrees in Indology, Philosophy, and English Literature from the Universities of Sofia and Freiburg. Her research interests include performance and ritual studies, dramatic theory, and mimesis.
Commedia dell’arte was the most influential and widespread theatre movement in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Europe. A considerable part of its popularity can be accounted for by its comic representations of stressful occurrences within everyday life in early modern Europe, including its representations of the period’s widespread dissimulation. Among other things, the theatricality of commedia dell’arte provided a way for the audience briefly to dissociate itself from and to fantasize about ways of coping with dissimulation. A number of characteristics of commedia dell’arte, including disguise, lying,tricks, spying and gossip, and portrayals of honour, previously seen as separate, cohere in the concept of dissimulation. Natalie Crohn Schmitt is Professor of Theatre and of English, Emerita, University of Illinois at Chicago. She recently published Befriending the Commedia dell’Arte of Flaminio Scala: the Comic Scenarios (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014). In New Theatre Quarterly she has published ‘Stanislavski, Creativity, and the Unconscious’ (Vol. II, No. 8); ‘Theorizing about Performance: Why Now’ (Vol. VI, No. 23);‘ “So Many Things Can Go Together”: the Theatricality of John Cage’ (Vol. XI, No. 41); and ‘The Style of Commedia dell’Arte Acting’ (Vol. XXVIII, No. 4).
For two radical theatres formed in the 1930s, taking performances to their audiences was an important dimension of commitment to working-class politics and civic engagement. Separated by distance but joined ideologically, the New Theatre in Australia and Unity Theatre in the United Kingdom engaged in what they described as ‘mobile work’, as well as being ‘stage curtain’ companies. Based on archival research and drawing on mobility literature, Cathy Brigden and Lisa Milner examine in this article the rationale for mobile work, the range of spaces that were used both indoor (workplaces, halls, private homes) and outdoor (parks, street corners beaches), and its decline. Emerging from this analysis are parallels between the two theatres’ motivation for mobile work, their practice in these diverse performance spaces, and the factors leading to the decline. Cathy Brigden is an associate professor in the School of Management and Deputy Director, Centre for Sustainable Organizations and Work at RMIT University, Australia. Her current research interests include the historical experiences of women in trade unions, gender in performing arts industries, and union strategies and regulation. Lisa Milner is a lecturer in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Southern Cross University, Coffs Harbour, Australia. Current research interests include a comparative study of workers’ theatre, representations of workers and trade unions on screen, and labour biography.
In Writings on Cities Henri Lefebvre calls for a
‘renewed right to urban life’. He maintains that
‘we must thus make the effort to reach out towards a new humanism, a
new praxis, another man, that of urban society’. City spaces are used
in a number of contemporary Irish site-specific theatre productions to explore
histories of oppression and social injustice, and to imagine a new humanist
praxis for society. The international multi-artform production The
Conquest of Happiness (2013) was inspired by Bertrand
Russell’s commitment to human happiness in defiance of war and
suffering in his book The Conquest of Happiness (1930) and in
his many political and philosophical writings. In this article Eva Urban
critically examines the ways in which the performance in Northern Ireland
attempted to embody Russell’s humanism and related critical concepts
to encourage active citizenship. She considers to what extent the dramaturgical
options employed inthe production applied Russell’s ideas and those
of other thinkers by developing critical representations of inhumanity,
challenging authoritarianism, and exploring humanist ideals. Eva Urban is a
British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Faculty of English,
University of Cambridge, and an Associate of Clare Hall, Cambridge. She is
theauthor of Community Politics and the Peace Process in Contemporary
Northern Irish Drama (Peter Lang, 2011) and her articles on
political drama and Irish studies have been published in New Theatre
Quarterly, Etudes Irlandaises, and
Comparisons between King Lear and the biblical Book of Job have become commonplace in scholarship. This paper traces the impact of the Lear–Job connection on the staging and reception of Shakespeare’s play in Hebrew theatre. Due to this connection, King Lear was put within the orbit of a central cultural endeavour for Zionism: the re-appropriation of the Hebrew Bible for the formation of a new national identity. In the mid-twentieth century, the play appealed to directors who searched for Hebrew ‘biblical’ theatre, and a web of intertextual allusions in the press tied Shakespeare’s tragedy to the Book of Job and to rabbinic interpretations of it. However, the equivocal position held by Job within the Zionist imagination undermined the place of King Lear as well. Ultimately, the two were intertwined in the politics of their reception in Hebrew theatre. Yair Lipshitz is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Theatre Arts in Tel Aviv University. In his research, he explores the various intersections between theatre, performance, and Jewish religious traditions. He is the author of two books in Hebrew: The Holy Tongue, Comedy’s Version (Bar Ilan University Press, 2010) and Embodied Tradition: Theatrical Performances of Jewish Texts (forthcoming).
Charles Macklin, the celebrated eighteenth-century actor and playwright, is now
remembered as a comedian and a comedic writer; however, his first produced work
as an author was the historical drama Henry VII, or the Popish
Imposter. This was immediately condemned as a flop and, although it was
published, it was never again produced. In this article Michael M. Wagoner
examines the nature of the play’s failure by questioning the accepted
narratives of theatrical success. Specifically, he engages issues of audience
reception as well as the playwright’s persona to understand the
combined relationship between the two dynamics that can result in a
play’s failure. Ultimately, both Macklin’s persona and his
later work secured the flop narrative in order to temper the subsequent
expectations of his audiences. Michael M. Wagoner is a doctoral candidate at
Florida State University, and he holds an MFA in Shakespeare and Performance from
Mary Baldwin College. His research examines the performance and dramaturgy of
early modern drama, and his essay ‘Imaginative Bodies and Bodies
Imagined: Extreme Casting in Shakespeare’s The
Tempest and Fletcher and Massinger’s The Sea
Voyage’ will appear in The Bear Stage: Shaping
Shakespeare for Performance (Farleigh Dickinson University Press,
In 2015 the concept of live performance as having efficacy to instigate political change is contested, yet some politically motivated performance has demonstrably facilitated change, and critical frameworks have been developed that account for performances that hold clear political stances. However, even where arguments exist for the enduring relevance of political performance, certain models of practice tend to be represented as more efficacious and sophisticated than others. In this article, inspired by her recent experiences of making political theatre, Rebecca Hillman asks to what extent prevalent discourses may nurture or repress histories and futures of political theatre. She re-evaluates the contemporary relevance of agitprop theatre made in British contexts in the 1960s and 1970s by comparing academic analyses of the work with less well-documented critiques by the practitioners and audiences. She documents also the fluctuation and transformation, rather than the dissipation, of political activism in the final decades of the twentieth century. Rebecca Hillman is a director and playwright, and is a Lecturer in Drama at the University of Exeter..