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Traditionally, the role of theatre and performance scholars is to examine theatre from critical and theoretical perspectives that adopt an outside-in approach. That is to say, our vantage point locates at some disembodied, critical distance from the process and the practice, from the making and the moment of showing. Increasingly, however, there are signs of inside-out approaches to theatre where avenues of theatre and performance enquiry are shaped by means of getting closer to practice. The first three articles brought together in this issue have their own, distinctive inside-out routes to theatre and performance knowledge.
Queer theorists from across a broad range of disciplines argue that we are in a ‘normalizing’ or ‘homonormative’ period, in which marginalized subjectivities strive to align themselves with hegemonic norms. In terms of LGBTQ rights and representation, it can be argued that this has resulted in an increased visibility of ‘desirable’ gays (monogamous – ideally civil-partnered, white, financially independent, able-bodied) and the decreased visibility of ‘undesirable’ gays (the sick, the poor, the non-white, the non-gender-conforming). Focusing specifically on the effects of this hierarchy on the contemporary theatrical representation of gay HIV/AIDS subjectivities, this article looks at two performances, Reza Abdoh's Bogeyman (1991) and Lachlan Philpott's Bison (2009–10). The article argues that HIV/AIDS performance is as urgently necessary today as in the early 1990s, and that a queer dramaturgy, unafraid to resist the lure of normativity or the ‘gaystreaming’ of LGBT representation, is a vital intervention strategy in contemporary (LGBT) theatre.
The widespread discourse of ‘truth’ in theatre is problematic. Truth, as that which exists objectively before verification or as the correspondence between propositions and the world, may not fit with theatre as a creative process. While it might seem that there are correct or definitive choices on the rehearsal room floor, one might argue that these choices are merely subjective and relative. However, an alternative understanding of truth offered by Martin Heidegger's term aletheia might be helpful. In this article, I explore this notion of truth as ‘unconcealment’ by revisiting Gay McAuley's case study of a workshop for Sarah Kane's 4:48 Psychosis by the South Australian company Brink. I argue that the rehearsal was not simply about meaning-making, but about the ‘disclosure of Being’ made possible through the energized play-space of the performance process.
The profound spatial turn experienced by the humanities and social sciences over recent decades has prompted a re-examination of how space and place inform our understandings of theatre and performance. In this article we investigate the ways in which the theatrical labour that occurs within rehearsal and backstage spaces involves not only the making of theatrical performance but also the making of theatrical performers. Drawing on fieldwork-based research, and exploring the concepts of orientational metaphor, tactical inhabitation and training zones, we argue that performers’ use and inhabitation of rehearsal and backstage spaces is a key means through which they are formed as professional artists.
This article offers a reading of Friedrich Nietzsche's treatment of the actor and the concept of selfhood in The Gay Science and other works as an intervention in contemporary discussions of theatrical performance and the self, particularly Philip Auslander's critique of the logocentrism at work in various twentieth-century schools of acting. It argues that rather than representing an unproblematized or underproblematized constitutive selfhood, as Auslander suggests, the actor in Nietzsche's formulations becomes a prime vehicle for communicating the necessary but impossible fiction of the self. Nietzsche's vision of theatrical performance aligns with a number of recent theories of performance and agency as well as with the ideas on selfhood put forward in the stage work of director Tim Etchells and is explored for the way in which it offers contemporary theorists an avenue for moving beyond an epistemological critique of stage performance towards a greater appreciation of the theatre's potential for radically unsettling our notions of identity.
Scottish vaudevillian Harry Lauder epitomized Scottishness in the Anglo-American cultural imaginary for much of the twentieth century. Yet Lauder's Scottishness was a carefully crafted performance, a collaborative effort between Lauder and his American agent, William Morris, centred on Lauder's embodiment of the ‘canny Scot’ stereotype. The article argues that this performance served two primary objectives within the context of early twentieth-century vaudeville. First, stories of Lauder's ‘characteristic’ Scottish thrift worked to deflect commentary about the star's status as a highly paid foreign commodity. By planting stories and arranging interviews that represented Lauder as a skilled and cunning Scot, Morris addressed growing anxieties that men, as well as women, were becoming mere cogs in the machine of corporate Broadway capital. Second, Morris's representation of Lauder as the epitome of all things Scottish guaranteed the loyal patronage of the Scottish diaspora and supported expressions of nationalist pride that were not antithetical to Scottish membership within the Union.
Publications Dossier: Changing the Landscape of Irish Theatre Studies
This dossier aims to report on recent developments and interventions that are changing the landscape of Irish theatre-studies scholarship, revealing the ways in which discourses of nationalism, sexuality, gender, class and the family are being renegotiated. Critical analysis of Irish theatre has, up until recently, focused upon the dramatic text in a legacy of work that has traditionally been valued for its ‘literary’ merit. Now, we can see how an interrogation of the process of canonicity and a focus on the conditions and potential of performance are being addressed by a new generation of scholarship. Such research serves to critique the narratives leading up to, and beyond, Irish independence, repositioning the relationship between the founders of the Irish Literary Revival at the turn of the twentieth century and cultural nationalism, as well as resituating the dramaturgical praxis of a central figure such as John Millington Synge. Contributors to this dossier also draw attention to the ways in which recent publications on Irish theatre take social transformations into account, and give a sense of the ever-shifting trajectories of theatre, performance and culture on the island.
John Millington Synge (1871–1909) is the fulcrum upon which Irish drama and theatre studies is balanced. Synge's nodal position is predicated upon the dramatist's rock ‘n’ roll recalcitrance towards the dramaturgical praxis of his contemporaries; his subject matter was as shocking as the Anglo-Irish idiom in which it was articulated. After Synge's premature death in 1909, W. B. Yeats's fundamental concern was that Synge scholars would attempt ‘to mould . . . some simple image of the man’. However, W. J. McCormack's concentric biography of Synge, The Fool of the Family: A Life of J. M. Synge, and Ann Saddlemyer's The Collected Letters of John Millington Synge, have demonstrated that Synge's life was complex, multifaceted and in deep dialogue with Irish culture. But with respect to Synge's drama a simple image has surrounded critical discourse: the politics of Irish nationalism.
Women as playwrights, directors, designers and actors have played an indisputably integral part in cultivating the theatrical landscapes of Ireland, but their work, however, has largely been overlooked. That said, this is not a new lament: the last twenty years of Irish theatre scholarship have sought to redress this gender imbalance by looking to women's involvement in the ‘imagining’ of the Irish nation. Colm Tóibín's Lady Gregory's Toothbrush (Lilliput Press, 2002) famously confirmed Augusta Gregory's co-authorship (with W. B. Yeats) of Kathleen ni Houlihan (1902). C. L. Innes's widely known Women and Nation in Irish Literature and Society, 1880–1935 (The University of Georgia Press, 1993), shed light on the ideologies behind the iconography of Mother Ireland, and Mary Trotter's Ireland's National Theaters: Political Performance and the Origins of the Irish Dramatic Movement (Syracuse University Press, 2001) revealed the impact of Maud Gonne and the all-women society the Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Erin) on the development of the Irish National Theatre Society.
Feminist discourse has proven to be a vital component in the expanding field of Irish theatre studies owing to its exposure of elided work and the articulation of unrepresented voices. Irish women's participation in the public sphere and cultural fabric of society has been hindered in the course of the twentieth century and this is reflected in limiting representations of femininity as perpetuated by discourses of nationalism and Catholicism: the dominant imagery of the idealized mother which merges the feminized nation – Mother Ireland – and the Virgin Mary. In Hegemony and Fantasy in Irish Drama, 1899–1949, Paul Murphy highlights the ‘contradiction between the symbolic centrality of Woman as fantasy object and the social subordination of women as social subjects’. The incongruity between the shifting realities of Irish women's lives and the inflexible institutions that shape cultural representations is the focus of much feminist theatre research in Ireland. This research examines work which articulates the experience of estrangement from the dominant cultural imaginary and attends to the possibilities of staging more accommodating models through three interlinked strands: self-representation and the unhomely experience; constraint and freedom as explored through space and form; and a shift in focus to performance and the body.
Performance studies and queer studies are two of the most significant paradigmatic shifts to energize the analysis of Irish theatre and performance in very recent times. The development of these critical approaches can be seen to respond to the growth of more experimental, performance-centred methods of making and interpreting practice, and the emergence of a wide range of identities within theatre and performance sites, and the Irish social and cultural landscape more generally.
Authentic Irish manhood has long been the concern of several self-appointed vanguards. However, just exactly what may constitute authentic Irish manhood has not, until quite recently, been the subject of serious critical and theoretical reflection. Moreover, Irish playwriting (and theatre production) has a notoriously male-dominated history. Because of this masculinist and often misogynistic slant to Irish theatre writing, there is a sense, for the masculinities scholar at least, that any piece of erudite theatre scholarship can make critical inroads into the deconstruction of Irish masculinity in performance.
Irish-based dance practice has a long history of being culturally undervalued, underfunded and marginalized, with the 1995 annual Arts Council report stating a ‘recognition of the fact that dance as an art form has suffered severe neglect in Ireland’. Yet despite this neglect, Ireland has a rich and varied dance history and a vibrant contemporary dance scene, and dance research is emerging as an exciting new field of scholarship. The visibility of theatre dance in the cultural landscape of Ireland improved significantly in the first decade of the twenty-first century. In 2003 dance was finally included as a named art form in the Irish government's Arts Act, and the same year saw the founding of Dance Research Forum Ireland, a society formed to promote critical reflection and discussion about all forms of dance in Ireland. Another important development for dance scholarship was the announcement in January 2010 of Arts Council funding for the establishment of a national dance archive to be housed in the Glucksmann Library of the University of Limerick.