To save this undefined to your undefined account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your undefined account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Maintaining and nurturing an ensemble theatre have been Anne Bogart’s foremost concerns in these past near-thirty years since she and Tadashi Suzuki founded the Saratoga International Theatre Institute (SITI) in 1992. Suzuki had established the Suzuki Company of Toga (SCOT) in 1976, making a secluded mountainous landscape of Japan its home to this day. Bogart’s venture in the United States, although inspired by Suzuki’s model of a production-based troupe of high artistic standards that, at the same time, developed its unique training methods, by no means merely duplicates its predecessor. In this Covid Conversation, Bogart briefly maps a segment of SITI’s history, reflecting on the company’s inter-arts endeavours with differing dance idioms and its engagement with Greek tragedy. She discusses the effects of the Covid pandemic on her troupe, also interrupting its performances of The Bacchae at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. Her most recent opera production, Tristan and Isolde, was closed for the same reason at the Croatian National Theatre – a key work in her portfolio of nineteenth-century grand opera as well as contemporary avant-garde opera. An acclaimed theatre director, Anne Bogart runs and teaches the Graduate Directing Programme at Columbia University in New York. At the SITI summer school in Saratoga, she and the company have workshopped the Viewpoints method that she has elaborated from Mary Overlie’s six principles for theatre and dance training. Bogart’s international workshops have further developed her method. She is the author of A Director Prepares (Routledge, 2001) and of many influential books that include (with Tina Landau) The Viewpoints Book (Theatre Communications Group, 2004). The Art of Resonance is forthcoming (2021, Bloomsbury). Maria Shevtsova is the Editor of New Theatre Quarterly whose most recent book is Rediscovering Stanislavsky (Cambridge University Press, 2020). The following conversation took place on 27 August 2020, was transcribed by Kunsang Kelden, and was edited by Maria Shevtsova. It is followed by a short coda announcing the transition of SITI into a resource centre.
The ecology of the rural setting in which Double Edge Theatre lives and works is as integral to its artistic work as to its principles of social justice, and these qualities mark the ensemble’s singular profile not only in the United States but also increasingly on the world theatre map. Stacy Klein co-founded the company in Boston in 1982 as a women’s theatre with a defined feminist programme. In 1997, Double Edge moved its work space to a farm that Klein had bought in Ashfield, Massachusetts, commuting from there back to Boston to show its productions. Within a few years, Klein and her collaborators were acutely aware of their separation from the local community, which necessitated a change of perspective to encompass personal and creative engagement with local people and to develop audiences within the area, while not losing sight of their international links. Carlos Uriona, formerly a popular-theatre activist from Argentina, had joined Double Edge and facilitated the local immersion that ultimately became its lifeline, most visibly during the Covid-19 pandemic, as Klein here observes. Klein, who had been a student of Rena Mirecka in Poland (starting in 1976), has maintained her friendship and professional relations with this founding member of the Teatr Laboratorium led by Jerzy Grotowski, inviting Mirecka to run wokshops at the Double Edge Farm. Collaboration with Gardzienice (also from the Grotowski crucible) through the Consortium of Theatre Practices (1999–2001) extended Klein’s Polish connections. She expanded her research on community cultures in Eastern and Central Europe and developed these experiences in her probing, distinctly imaginative explorations of theatre-making, while taking a new approach to participatory theatre-making in Ashfield. Her highly visual and sensual compositions are driven by her sense of the fantastic, no more strikingly so than in Klein’s Summers Spectacles, which are performed outdoors, in concert with the Farm’s natural environment – fields, trees, water, birds, animals, and heaven’s firmament. Double Edge’s profound commitment in the past decade to what it now terms ‘living culture’ and ‘art justice’ has taken root in multiracial collaborations, primarily with the indigenous peoples of Western Massachusetts. This Conversation took place on the winter solstice, 21 December 2020, a date that Maria Shevtsova, Editor of NTQ, had chosen symbolically. It was transcribed by Kunsang Kelden and edited by Shevtsova. Many thanks are extended to Travis Coe of Double Edge for assembling with such loving care the photographs requested.
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.
Elizabeth LeCompte co-founded The Wooster Group with like-minded pioneers in New York in 1975, leading and directing its collaborators as deaths, departures, and new arrivals have changed its composition and emphases over the decades, segueing into a world-wide uncertain present. Kate Valk joined in 1978, the last representative of The Wooster Group’s foundational period, apart from LeCompte herself, who is still a key member of the company. References in this conversation are primarily to works after 2016. LeCompte briefly remarks on the importance of Since I Can Remember – one of the Group’s ongoing works in progress in 2021 – as an archival project that draws on Valk’s memory of how Nayatt School was made during her formative years. Having become, since then, a quintessential Wooster Group performer, Valk extended her artistic skills to stage direction, undertaking, most recently, The B-Side (2017). Both the initiative and idea for the piece came from performer Eric Berryman, who had brought Valk the collection of blues, songs, spirituals, and preachings on the 1965 LP made from the research of scholar folklorist Bruce Chapman. Berryman had been inspired to approach Valk because of her exclusive use of unadulterated historical recordings in Early Shaker Spirituals (2014), her directorial debut. The main work in rehearsal during 2020 and which was still locked down by the Covid-19 pandemic at the time of this conversation is The Mother, a Wooster Group variant of Brecht’s dramatized version of Gorky’s novel, directed by LeCompte. LeCompte discusses the current situation, emphasizing the increased vulnerability of independent artists and small-scale theatre, while giving a glimpse of the disadvantages for such groupings built into the North American system of project funding. The Wooster Group is a salient example of small-scale theatre that, despite continually precarious conditions, which the pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated, has achieved its creative goals and has defined its place in the exploratory avant-garde flourishing vigorously in the 1960s and 1970s. This particular avant-garde, LeCompte believes, has seen various important developments over the years but might well now be counting its last days. The conversation here presented was recorded on 31 October 2020, transcribed by Kunsang Kelden, and edited by Maria Shevtsova, Editor of New Theatre Quarterly.
The ‘Theatre of the Absurd’, the popular label for Samuel Beckett’s theatre, has been challenged over the past decades before its implications were fully explored. This article reconsiders the ‘absurd’ with respect to Beckett and the human/nonhuman relations in the Anthropocene. It draws upon affect theory and posthumanism, arguing that the absurd in Beckett’s theatre takes root in the theatricalization of posthuman affects, which connect the human body and the non-human world. Posthuman affects subvert human sovereignty and disintegrate humans into nothingness. Yet they also give birth to a different cosmic ontology, which involves a call for change in the relationship between the human and the nonhuman. Revisited from the perspective of posthuman affect, the absurd in Beckett’s theatre acquires new complexities that bring glimmering possibilities of endurance and comfort in the face of catastrophe. Chen Chang is an assistant researcher of the English Department at Nanjing University, where she recently completed her PhD dissertation on Beckett and the posthuman body. She has published several articles on Beckett as well as in gender studies.
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).
As today’s catastrophic Covid-19 pandemic exacerbates ongoing crises, including systemic racism, rising ethno-nationalism, and fossil-fuelled climate change, the neoliberal world that we inhabit is becoming increasingly hostile, particularly for the most vulnerable. Even in the United States, as armed white-supremacist, pro-Trump forces face off against protesters seeking justice for African Americans, the hostility is increasingly palpable, and often frightening. Yet as millions of Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrated after the brutal police killing of George Floyd, the current, intersecting crises – worsened by Trump’s criminalization of anti-racism protesters and his dismissal of science – demand a serious, engaged, response from activists as well as artists. The title of this article is meant to evoke not only the state of the unusually cruel moment through which we are living, but also the very different approaches to performance of both Brecht and Artaud, whose ideas, along with those of others – including Benjamin, Butler, Latour, Mbembe, and Césaire – inform the radical, open-ended, post-pandemic theatre practice proposed in this essay. A critically acclaimed dramatist as well as Professor of English and Playwriting at California State University, Northridge, Mitchell’s published volumes of plays include Disaster Capitalism; or Money Can’t Buy You Love: Three Plays; Brecht in L.A.; and Ventriloquist: Two Plays and Ventriloquial Miscellany. He is the editor of Experimental O’Neill, and is currently at work on a series of post-pandemic plays.
Exceptional in demonstrating the political engagement emerging in twenty-first-century performance is the corpus of the writer and director Milo Rau, whose practice is distinguished by its (re)meditation of the real. With detailed reference to Mitleid (2016) and La Reprise (2018), this article examines Rau’s self-reflexive strategies in (re)presenting testimony or an event as a means not of depicting the real, but of making the theatrical representation itself real in order to change the world rather than merely to portray it. The article focuses in particular on strategies relating to the actor-character and spectatorship. Rau’s interest in the positions of the actor and spectator illuminates issues that have arisen in the discourse of theatre witnessing and in recent scholarship on dramaturgical approaches and spectatorship in contemporary political performance. Essentially, Rau makes the performer’s habitus transparent, and challenges the spectator’s reflexivity, effectively rebutting the largely unchallenged assumption that characters who perform witnesses necessarily leave little room for the spectator to be a performing witness. Stuart Young is Professor of Theatre Studies at the University of Otago. His recent publications include the co-edited Ethical Exchanges: Translation, Adaptation, Dramaturgy (Brill Rodopi, 2017), while his practice-led research into Theatre of the Real includes The Keys are in the Margarine: A Verbatim Play about Dementia (2014).
The actor is tasked with embodying text in order to portray the characters’ intentions. This article shows that such a complex task escalates when the actor performs in a second language. In South Africa, where eleven official languages are embraced, the multiplicity and crossover of spoken languages is a daily challenge for actors and theatre makers, leading to a preference for physical performances, which limits the use of text. The production of embodied sound patterns embedded in a text informed the creative process of an experimental production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. It was created with a second-language cast (speakers of Setswana and Afrikaans) whose over-arching goal was to consider the embodied patterns of pre-linguistic expression as a theatre-making tool. When reflecting on their work, the actors indicated that their explorations facilitated a connection with the text in English and generated the relevant dynamics for the play’s sociopolitical themes to be adequately ‘translated’ to a contemporary multilingual South African context. Karina Lemmer is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Performing Arts at Tshwane University of Technology in Gauteng, where she teaches acting and voice. She has directed a number of multilingual productions, including Buried Voices (2018) and Motlotlegi (2019), and has published in the Voice and Speech Review (2018).
Michael Walling here looks back over the first twenty-five years of Border Crossings, the company he founded in 1995. The article explores the company’s intercultural remit, placing it within the wider context of multicultural and intercultural performance and policy, and the relationship between intercultural theory and practice. Structural questions around finance and organization are juxtaposed with an assessment of the dynamics of cross-cultural devising and the ethics of these collaborations. This article also explores Border Crossings’ text-based work, its curation of the ORIGINS Festival of First Nations and related ceremonies, and the company’s direct engagement with policy in the European Union. It is accompanied by a comprehensive chronology of the company’s productions. Michael Walling is Artistic Director of Border Crossings and Visiting Professor at Rose Bruford College. He has directed numerous productions across four continents, including opera as well as theatre.
Katie Mitchell has been directing opera since 1996, when she debuted on the operatic stage with Mozart and Da Ponte’s Don Giovanni at the Welsh National Opera. Since then, she has directed more than twenty-nine operas in major opera houses around the world. Mitchell here speaks of her directorial approach when working with the genre, addressing various aspects of interest for those who want a better grasp of the dynamics of opera-making in the twenty-first century. Ranging from the director’s imprint, or signature on the work they put on the stage, to the relationships forged with people running opera institutions, Mitchell reflects on her experiences when staging opera productions. She sheds light on some fundamental differences between theatre-making and opera production, including the issue of text – the libretto, the dramatic text, and the musical score – and the very basic fact that in opera a director is working with singers, that is, with musicians whose attitude and behaviour on stage is necessarily different from that of actors in the theatre. Running throughout the conversation is Mitchell’s commitment to ensure that young and contemporary audiences do not see opera as a museum artefact but as a living performative experience that resonates with the aesthetics and political imperatives of our contemporary world. She speaks of the uncompromising political imperatives that remain central to her work ethic, even if this means deserting a project before it starts, and reflects on her long-term working relations with opera institutions that are open to new and alternative approaches to opera-making strategies. Mitchell underlines her respect for the specific rules of an art form that, because of its collaborative nature, must allow more space for theatre-makers to venture within its complex performative paths if it wants to secure a place in the future. Mario Frendo is Senior Lecturer of Theatre and Performance and Head of the Department of Theatre Studies at the School of Performing Arts, University of Malta, where he is the director of CaP, a research group focusing on the links between culture and performance.
Jauría (2019) was the first tribunal verbatim play in Spain and it had a great impact on audiences in the context of heated debate about how national legislation had a long-standing legacy of sexism. Based on the transcripts of the legal proceedings of the La Manada gang-rape case, Jauría not only clarifies this controversial case for different types of audiences, but it also poses very important questions concerning the nature of rape and how the judicial system treats the victims of rape. This article studies the performative force of tribunal verbatim in shaping the audience’s understanding of an actual gang-rape case and indicates how a feedback loop is created in the performance itself, transforming the spectators’ attitudes. Svetlana Antropova is a lecturer at Villanueva University in Madrid. Her recent publications include ‘Filming Trauma: Bodiless Voice and Voiceless Bodies in Beckett’s Eh Joe’, in Elspeth McInnes and Danielle Schaub, eds., What Happened? Re-presenting Traumas, Uncovering Recoveries (Brill/Rodopi 2019), and ‘De/Construction of Visual Stage Image in Samuel Beckett’s Play’ (Anagnórisis: Revista de Investigación Teatral, XXII, 2020). Elisa García Mingo is an associate professor in Sociology at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and is an associate member of the Centre for Transforming Sexualities and Gender at the University of Brighton.
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.
Throughout the history of western theatre, animals onstage have invariably been read in relation to human concerns. The reviews of Stef Smith’s Human Animals (2016) at the Royal Court followed in this tradition, interpreting the play’s central animal players as symbolic stand-ins for humans. By examining the particularity of the non-human animals at the centre of Human Animals’ urban eco-crisis, this article aims to rectify previous anthropocentric readings and acknowledge the agency and autonomy of the play’s non-human animals, namely pigeons and foxes. Building on Una Chaudhuri’s ‘Theatre of Species’, this article demonstrates Human Animals’ deep engagement with animal alterity, subverting conventional socio-zoological classifications of ‘pest’ animals and popular preconceptions of pigeons and foxes in British culture. While Smith’s play uses the dystopian mode to dramatize a small-scale, localized eco-crisis, this article highlights how its focus on urban animal encounters and zoonotic disease holds broader implications for re-imagining inter-species relations and planetary health. An award-winning playwright, Isla Cowan is also a PhD student at the University of Glasgow. Her current research investigates ideas of ecological consciousness in contemporary Scottish theatre and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (SGSAH).
The years 2014 to 2018 witnessed the centenary of the First World War, commemorated around different cities and other locations around the world. In the United Kingdom, public centenary commemorations were funded by the Tory government, Heritage Lottery Fund, and private and corporate donors with an overall budget of over fifty million pounds, including the cultural programme 14–18 NOW that encompassed television documentaries, educational programmes, art exhibitions, theatre, and dance performances. 2016 was also the year of the divisive Brexit referendum, when Leave voters won by a small margin to end Britain’s membership of the European Union. As Britain sought to redefine its global political role, artists devised a set of suggestive transcultural acts of remembrance to spur public debate about the colonial past and current resurging nationalism. This article discusses three important theatrical events commissioned by 14–18 NOW: Paul Cummins and Tom Piper’s Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red (2014), Akram Khan’s XENOS (2018), and William Kentridge’s The Head & the Load (2018). Each theatrical event refocused awareness regarding long-standing crises of identity conflicts at the heart of Britain’s contemporary politics, pointing towards an uncertain national future. Sabine Sörgel was Senior Lecturer in Dance and Theatre at the University of Surrey (2013–2019) and is now an independent scholar, writer, and dramaturge. Her most recent book is African Contemporary Dance Theatre: Phenomenology, Whiteness, and the Gaze (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).
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.
Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot has spawned several unauthorized sequel plays, which see Godot arrive on stage in 1960s Yugoslavia, 1980s Ireland, 1990s North America, and early 2000s Japan. The sequel play is a largely ignored phenomenon in literary scholarship, with the sequel form itself routinely dismissed as a derivative and inevitably disappointing text. Yet the sequel also re-situates and re-evaluates the original text, and its reiterative nature aptly parallels the paradox of non-ending in Beckett’s original Waiting for Godot. Focusing on four unauthorized stage sequels to Beckett’s play – Miodrag Bulatović’s Godo je došao (Godot Has Arrived, 1966), Alan Titley’s Tagann Godot (Godot Arrives, 1987), Daniel Curzon’s Godot Arrives (1999), and Minoru Betsuyaku’s Yattekita Godot (Godot Has Come, 2007) – this article examines how these sequels rework the cultural logic of Godot’s arrival to their own critical and political ends. These playwrights draw on the very recursive, even frustrating, nature of the sequel form itself as an exegetic framework, reproducing the trope of non-ending that characterizes Beckett’s own work. Hannah Simpson is the Rosemary Pountney Junior Research Fellow in British and European Drama at St Anne’s College, University of Oxford. She is currently working on two forthcoming Beckett-related monographs: Witnessing Pain: Samuel Beckett and Post-War Francophone Theatre and Samuel Beckett and Disability Performance.
Theaterwissenschaft was first developed as an academic field in Germany. In Berlin, Max Herrmann pursued a sociological and iconological approach; in Cologne and in Munich, Carl Niessen and Artur Kutscher followed an ethnographic and mythological direction, respectively. With the Nazi takeover in 1933, Herrmann was dismissed and replaced by a non-scholar, Hans Knudsen. Niessen’s open-air Thingspiel was co-opted to support Nazi ideas of Volkstum. Kutscher renounced his liberal background and joined the Party. In Vienna, Josef Gregor got the local Gauleiter to found a Central Institute for Theatre Studies that disseminated anti-Semitic propaganda. The most egregious case is that of Heinz Kindermann, who rose to be the most influential aesthetician of National Socialism, proposing a biological foundation to theatre studies and offering a racial-eugenic approach to theatre history. As this article demonstrates, in the post-war period, theatre studies sedulously avoided dealing with the Nazi interlude, where official denazification permitted these men and others to carry on teaching and publishing, winning honours and titles. It was not until the 1980s that attempts were made to confront this past. Laurence Senelick is Fletcher Professor Emeritus of Drama and Oratory at Tufts University, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Conference on Transglobal Theatre. His most recent books include Jacques Offenbach and the Making of Modern Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2018); Stanislavsky: A Life in Letters (Routledge, 2013); and (with Sergei Ostrovsky) The Soviet Theatre: A Documentary History (Yale University Press, 2014).