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In this profoundly dialogical exchange, Peter Sellars, theatre director, researcher, and teacher, and Maria Shevtsova open out a whole array of questions on the integral relation between politics and the theatre in its multiple manifestations. These questions not only concern the damages inflicted by the present Covid-19 pandemic but also those developed by the neoliberal economics and politics of the past forty years and more. In Sellars’s view, neoliberalism has been the hotbed of social injustices, inequities, market and other forms of current enslavement, migrations, refugee and related precarities, and the havoc of the world climate in which the plight of humanity and that of the planet are indelibly interconnected. His and Shevtsova’s discussion links such vital concerns with his theatre practice, which ranges from his engagement with local communities and indigenous peoples – he details some of his work with the collective, community organization of two Los Angeles Festivals of the early 1990s – to the various forms of his music theatre in which he collaborates, in institutional structures, with highly proficient musicians, singers and dancers. The focus chosen here from his music theatre is The Indian Queen (2013), which Sellars dramaturgically invents using pieces by Henry Purcell combined with prose fragments by Nicaraguan novelist Rosario Aguilar. Peter Sellars is an internationally renowned theatre director among whose more recent productions is Mozart’s Idomeneo, premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 2019. Maria Shevtsova, Professor of Drama and Theatre Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London, is editor of New Theatre Quarterly. This conversation took place on 16 August 2020, was transcribed from the recording by Kunsang Kelden, and was edited by Maria Shevtsova.
In this article Gretchen E. Minton describes her adaptation of William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton’s 1606 play Timon of Athens. This adaptation, called Timon of Anaconda, focuses on the environmental legacy of Butte, Montana, a mining city that grew quickly, flourished, fell into recession, and then found itself labelled the largest Superfund clean-up site in the United States. Timon of Anaconda envisions Timon as a wealthy mining mogul whose loss of fortunes and friends echoes the boom-and-bust economy of Butte. The original play’s language about the poisoning of nature and the troubled relationship between the human and more-than-human worlds is amplified and adjusted in Timon of Anaconda in order to reflect upon ongoing environmental concerns in Montana. Minton explains the ecodramaturgical aims, site-specific locations, and directorial decisions of this adaptation’s performances, which took place in September 2019. Gretchen E. Minton is Professor of English at Montana State University, Bozeman. She has edited several early modern plays, including Timon of Athens, Troilus and Cressida, Twelfth Night, and The Revenger’s Tragedy. She is the dramaturg for Montana Shakespeare in the Parks and Bozeman Actors Theatre, and her directorial projects include A Doll’s House (2019), Timon of Anaconda (2019–20), and Shakespeare’s Walking Story (2020).
Reflecting on Derek Walcott’s early relationship with movement, dance and ritual, this article sheds light on the centrality of embodied memory in Walcott’s work for the stage and reflects on the relationship between memory and materiality in his epistemology of performance. Walcott’s ideas shaped his approach to dramaturgy in the late 1950s and position his work in relation to global debates around materialism (Brecht) and ritualism (Grotowski) in the theatre. A discussion of two plays, Dream on Monkey Mountain and Pantomime, examines the use of gestural language in specific performances of each. Such an approach demonstrates that the importance of embodied memory, as reflected in the staging of these plays, relates to certain Afro-Caribbean belief systems, which have exerted much influence on Walcott’s work. The article also emphasizes how Walcott’s theatre functions as a decolonial praxis that fosters the emergence of empowered subjectivities and Africanist modes of humanness that challenge the cultural order of colonialism. Jason Allen-Paisant is a lecturer in Caribbean Poetics and Decolonial Thought at the University of Leeds, and Director of the Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. He is currently at work on the monograph Staging Black Futures in the Twenty-First Century.
In this article, Angela Butler explores postdigital community through an analysis of Complicité’s The Encounter. All facets of personal and civic life are permeated by the digital to such a degree that we are living through a period termed ‘the postdigital’. Postdigital communities are commonly formed, and nearly always sustained, through online networks. Drawing on Jill Dolan’s utopian performative and Victor Turner’s communitas, the article argues that rather than acting as an ancillary commentary platform, postdigital communities are now a principal component of certain theatrical experiences. With increasingly isolated lives, there is an evident appeal to work that taps into the joy of being alone, together. Angela Butler is an independent scholar based in Dublin who works in the technology sector. Cultural transformation is the central pillar of her ongoing research. With an eye to new and future technologies, her work is concerned with posthumanism, identities in transformation, and affective encounters.
Chiara Guidi, along with Romeo and Claudia Castellucci, was one of the founders in 1981 of Societas Raffaello Sanzio (now renamed Societas), the Italian company that, above any other, has been at the forefront of the international theatre scene since the early 1980s. She was the soul of dramatic rhythm and vocal composition for the company’s productions, directing numerous plays and researching each actor’s spoken part. Author and producer of sound theatre since the 1990s, she has also created an intense artistic experience with children as part of her research and analysis of the relationship between voice and childhood, which has earned her several awards, including an Ubu Prize in 2013. In this interview1 she discusses the early projects of Societas Raffaello Sanzio, which explored immersive, environmental performances for and with children – a line of research within the company’s multidirectional and overlapping experimental activity that she led. Dominika Laster is Associate Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of New Mexico. She is the author of Grotowski’s Bridge Made of Memory: Embodied Memory, Witnessing and Transmission in the Grotowski Work (2016), and is Executive Co-Director of the ‘Performance in the Peripheries’ initiative (see https://www.performanceperipheries.com).
The world around Tennessee Williams in the 1960s, 1970s, and into the 1980s was changing at an astonishing pace, the cultural revolution of the period rendering most of his themes of sexual closeting and repression almost inconsequential. At least the entrenched cultural taboos against which he wrote seem to have disappeared by the mid-1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, Broadway productions of his work grew infrequent, while those mounted tended to have short runs. He told interviewers from Theatre Arts magazine: ‘I think my kind of literary or pseudo-literary style of writing for the theatre is on its way out.’ European productions of his work, on the other hand, seemed regenerative: Howard Davies’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1989), in which the director used Williams’s original third act and not the version rewritten by Elia Kazan for the New York premiere; Peter Hall’s revival of Orpheus Descending (1989–91); Benedict Andrews’s A Streetcar Named Desire (2014), followed by his 2017 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – a revival deemed ‘so courageous’; and in Italy, Elio De Capitani’s productions of Un tram che si chiama desiderio (1995) and Improvvisamente, l’estate scorsa (2011), both in fresh, new, up-to-date translations by Masolino D’Amico – all these have maintained an edge to Williams’s theatre lost in so many American productions. All seem to suggest the continued vitality of Williams’s work in Europe by directors willing to probe and rediscover Williams’s depths, who consider him ‘a playwright worthy of further artistic investigation’, as European audiences, correspondingly, seem less inclined to dismiss him as an artist whom history has overtaken. S. E. Gontarski is Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University. His critical, bilingual edition of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire was published as Un tram che si chiama desiderio / A Streetcar Named Desire (Pisa: Editioni ETS, 2012). His Włodzimierz Staniewski and the Phenomenon of ‘Gardzienice’, co-edited with Tomasz Wiśniewski and Katarzyna Kręglewska, is forthcoming (Routledge).