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In this article Gretchen Minton and Mikey Gray discuss an adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragicomedy Cymbeline that toured Montana and surrounding states in the summer of 2021. Minton’s sections describe the eco-feminist aims of this production, which was part of an international project called ‘Cymbeline in the Anthropocene’, showing how the costumes, set design, and especially the emphasis upon the female characters created generative ways of thinking about the relationship between the human and the more-than-human worlds. Gray’s first-person narrative at the end of each section reflects upon her role of Imogen as she participated in an extensive summer tour across the Intermountain West and engaged with audience members about their own relationship to both theatre and the natural world. This is a story of transformation through environmentally inflected Shakespeare performance during the time of a global pandemic.
Gretchen E. Minton is Professor of English at Montana State University, Bozeman, and editor of several early modern plays, including Timon of Athens, Troilus and Cressida, Twelfth Night, and The Revenger’s Tragedy. She is the dramaturg and script adaptor for Montana Shakespeare in the Parks and the co-founder of Montana InSite Theatre. Her directorial projects include A Doll’s House, Timon of Anaconda (see NTQ 145, February 2021), Shakespeare’s Walking Story, and Shakespeare for the Birds. Mikey Gray received her BA in Theatre and Performance from Bard College, New York, with a conservatory semester at NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) in Sydney. She has performed in four productions with Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, while other actor engagements include Chicago Shakespeare Theater, American Conservatory Theater, Strawdog Theater Company, The Passage Theatre, and McCarter Theatre Center.
This article uses historical-ecological insights for a re-reading of two little-known mid-twentieth-century Australian plays, Oriel Gray’s The Torrents and Eunice Hanger’s Flood, which highlight developments relevant to the environmental disasters of today. In particular, the article focuses on the significance of key cultural assumptions embedded in the texts – and a revival of The Torrents in 2019 – including those to do with land use in a period of accelerating development. This approach offers new insights into the dominance of mining, irrigation, and dam-building activities within the Australian ethos, landscape, and economy. One of these insights is the framing of development as progressive. The article thus also examines how development projected as progressive takes place amid the continuing denial of prior occupation of the land by First Nations peoples and of knowledge systems developed over thousands of years. The intersectional settler-colonialist-ecocritical approach here seeks to capture the compounding ecosystem that is modern Australian theatre and its critique. The intention is not to apply revisionist critiques of 1950s plays but to explore the historical relationship between humans, colonialism, and the physical environment over time. Denise Varney is Professor of Theatre Studies in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. Her research is in modern and contemporary theatre and performance, with published work in the areas of ecocriticism, feminism, and Australian theatre. Her most recent book is Patrick White’s Theatre: Australian Modernism on Stage 1960–2018 (Sydney University Press, 2021).
Literary scholars and linguists have argued extensively that language is not simply a purely representational vehicle of thought but its determining medium, whose ordering powers not only shape cognizance of reality but are also actively involved in processes of imperialism and cultural erasure. It is the determinative yet slippery quality of language, prompting the loss of meaning in attempts at translation, that colonial powers manipulated to violent effect and which, as enacted in the plays of Nyoongah Indigenous Australian playwright Jack Davis, continue to haunt history and the present. This article considers how a history and culture made unspeakable by colonialism through the erasure of Indigenous Australian oral traditions, languages, and historical perspectives is translated on to the Anglophone stage in the plays of Davis, one of the first Indigenous playwrights to be published and performed internationally, and how this was received by the witnessing audience. Davis achieves this theatrical translation not only through the negotiation and manipulation of colonial language and verbatim history alongside Indigenous languages, enacting a kind of linguistic double consciousness, but also through physical theatre and dance. The latter are the central means of communicating meaning and knowledge in Nyoongah culture. Jacqueline M. Brown is a graduate student at Worcester College, University of Oxford, studying for a Master of Studies in English (1900–present). This article received first prize in the 2022 TORCH Reimagining Performance Network Graduate Essay Prize competition run in collaboration between the University of Oxford and New Theatre Quarterly. For more information on the Reimagining Performance Network, see <https://torch.ox.ac.uk/reimagining-performance-network>.
At the 2021 Bangkok International Performing Arts Meeting (BIPAM), Southeast Asian dramatists presented new works that combined personal histories with the overarching political struggles in the region. One presentation, Deleted Scenes in SEA: Ownership Under Censorship, not only took up the issues of censorship and self-censorship but also entangled the distinct cultural identities of three countries – Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand – by reprising scenes formerly banned in them. The new versions were directed and performed in a language of one of the other countries. Adapting each other’s censored scenes, and re-enacting their similar experiences in countering political repression, required empathetic imagination, and could be a new theatrical platform for creating a sense of regional solidarity. Catherine Diamond is a Professor of Theatre and Environmental Literature at Soochow University, Taiwan. She is the author of Communities of Imagination: Contemporary Southeast Asian Theatres (University of Hawai’i Press, 2012) and the playwright/director of the Kinnari Ecological Theatre Project (KETEP) in Southeast Asia.
Since the 1990s, there has been a large number of ‘how-to’ manuals published in English for aspiring playwrights. By and large, these texts treat the pedagogy of playwriting as a recent phenomenon. However, a series of relatively unknown books from the mid-nineteenth century were written with the purpose of teaching the craft of dramatic writing, emphasizing the importance of a hands-on understanding of the theatre and the individual roles within it. This article argues that, while these books are representative of the historical context in which they were written, they also contain advice which is still useful for playwrights, along with fascinating individual characteristics. Texts featured include one of the earliest manuals discovered, written by the anonymous ‘A Dramatist’; a text by the first (known) woman to write a how-to manual in English; and a book which uses a mathematical formula as a foundation for writing a script. Karen Morash is Lead Academic Tutor on the BA Theatre Studies at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance. She is a playwright and poet, and works as a dramaturg with the theatre company Head for Heights.
This article analyzes the role of pain and torture in the construction and destruction of subjectivity by way of a comparison of the depictions of torture in the theatre of Sarah Kane and Elaine’s Scarry’s highly influential The Body in Pain: On the Making and Unmaking of the World. The essay uses Kane in conjunction with the phenomenology of Emmanuel Levinas, as well as relevant work on the history and sociology of privacy and private speech. Its purpose is to develop an account of what is here called pain’s bi-directional character, or its capacity to represent both the presence and the absence of the victim’s subjectivity, possibly at the same time. Using Kane to expand upon Scarry’s account of the role of subjectivity in torture, we can see how the logic of torture structures numerous relationships in Kane’s work, including Blasted, Phaedra’s Love, Cleansed, and Crave. The essay establishes Kane as not only a major playwright, but also a subtle and perceptive theorist of suffering for whom the question of intersubjectivity is a major site of dramatic struggle. Jeremy Colangelo is the author of Diaphanous Bodies: Ability, Disability, and Modernist Irish Literature (University of Michigan Press, 2021) and the editor of Joyce Writing Disability (University Press of Florida, 2022). His work has appeared in such journals as Modern Fiction Studies, Journal of Modern Literature, Textual Practice, and Modern Drama. He currently teaches at King’s University College, University of Western Ontario.