Performance Studies

Polish Culture Ministry Calls for Ban of Elfriede Jelinek’s Play

ddthe_36_2_coverPiotr Gliński, the new Polish culture minister, wants to ban a play by Nobel Prize-winner Elfriede Jelinek because of its pornographic opening scene. The play, Der Tod und das Mädchen (Princess Dramas: Death and the Maiden), is showing at the Poski Theater in Wrocław and is sold out. Despite Gliński’s call for a ban, the play opened on Saturday as planned. Read more about the controversy from the Guardian.

In 2006, Theater magazine published three of Jelinek’s plays in English, translations by Gitta Honegger, in addition to the article “Elfriede Jelinek: How to Get the Nobel Prize without Really Trying,” and an interview with the author. “We were one of the first and only journals to present her work in English even after she won the Nobel Prize. Her plays were hard to find,” said Theater editor Tom Sellar. “I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve been the place where you can find that work–and often you can find it before they win the Nobel Prize! In fact, the New York Times even cited our article about Elfriede Jelinek when they were writing about one of her plays when it premiered in New York.”

Read the plays in Theater magazine, made freely available:

Princess Plays: Snow White

Princess Plays: Sleeping Beauty

Princess Plays: Jackie

New Books in September

Here we finally are in September, which always means a welcome reprieve from the sticky summer heat, as well as a healthy roster of forthcoming books. These are the titles to keep an eye out for this month:

McCracken cover image, 5936-4Allison McCracken’s book,  Real Men Don’t Sing: Crooning in American Culture, charts the rise and fall of crooners between 1925 and 1934, showing how the backlash against crooners’ perceived sexual and gender deviance created stylistically masculine norms for white male pop singers that continue to exist today.

In The Repeating Body: Slavery’s Visual Resonance in the Contemporary, Kimberly Juanita Brown explores the literary and visual representations of how black women bear the marks of slavery, centers black women in narratives of slavery, and uncovers and critiques the refusal to see the violence done to black women’s bodies.

Lewis cover image, 5934-0In Muslim Fashion: Contemporary Style Cultures, Reina Lewis analyzes Muslim modest clothing as fashion and shows how young Muslim women (with a focus on Britain, North America, and Turkey) are part of an emergent transnational youth subculture who use fashion to negotiate religion, identity, ethnicity, and mainstream consumer culture.

Rachel Hall characterizes post-9/11 airport security practices in The Transparent Traveler: The Performance and Culture of Airport Security as operating under the “aesthetics of transparency,” which requires passengers to perform innocence and be open to inspection—those who cannot are deemed opaque and presumed to be a threat. Travelers are no longer innocent until proven guilty; they are guilty until proven transparent.

Anthes cover image, 5994-4In Edgar Heap of Birds, the first book-length study of contemporary Native American artist Edgar Heap of Birds, Bill Anthes analyzes Heap of Bird’s art and politics in relation to Native American history, spirituality, and culture, the international art scene, and how his art critiques the subjugation of Native Americans.

Petra R. Rivera-Rideau shows in Remixing Reggaetón: The Cultural Politics of Race in Puerto Rico how the popular music style reggaetón offers a space for Puerto Rican musicians to express identities that center blackness, forge links across the African diaspora, and critique the popular Puerto Rican discourse of racial democracy, which conceals racism and marginalizes black Puerto Ricans.

In Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of BlacknessSimone Browne shows how racial ideologies and the long history of policing black bodies under transatlantic slavery structure contemporary surveillance technologies and practices. Analyzing a wide array of archival and contemporary texts, she demonstrates how surveillance reifies boundaries, borders, and bodies around racial lines.

Anzaldua cover image, 6009-4Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro is the culmination of Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s mature thought and the most comprehensive presentation of her philosophy. Focusing on aesthetics, ontology, epistemology, and ethics, it contains several developments in her many important theoretical contributions.

Mayra Rivera outlines the relationship between the ways ancient Christian thinkers and Western philosophers conceive of the “body” and “flesh” in Poetics of the Flesh. Rivera’s analysis furthers developments in new materialism and helps us to better understand the influence of Christian texts on contemporary theorizations of social structure, gender, race, and faith.

Project on Vegas, 5967-8In Strip Cultures: Finding America in Las VegasThe Project on Vegas shows how the Las Vegas Strip concentrates and magnifies American culture’s core truths. Among others, the Strip’s buffets, surveillance, large scale branding and consumption, and transformation of nature reflects larger trends and practices throughout America. Includes over 100 photographs by Karen Klugman.

In Pipe Politics, Contested Waters, Lisa Björkman explores why water is chronically unavailable in Mumbai, India’s economic and financial capital. She attributes water shortage to economic reforms that allowed urban development to ignore the water infrastructure, which means that in Mumbai, politics is often about water.

Corbett cover image, 5870-1Microgroove continues John Corbett’s exploration of diverse musics, with essays, interviews, and musician profiles that focus on jazz, improvised music, contemporary classical, rock, folk, blues, post-punk, and cartoon music, as well as painting, design, dance, and poetry.

A Look at Theater: An Interview with Tom Sellar

Read the most recent issue of Theater by clicking the image above.

Read the most recent issue of Theater by clicking the image.

Tom Sellar, editor of Theater magazine, recently discussed with us the important topics and debates to which the magazine has contributed, future special issues, and how he sees the magazine developing in the next several years. As an undergrad, Tom used to read back copies of the magazine in used bookstores near his college campus and decided then that the magazine was “a debate about theater that I wanted to participate in.” He began his tenure at Theater in 1994 and was appointed editor of the magazine in 2003. In addition to editing Theater, Tom is also the lead theater critic for the Village Voice.

How do you differentiate yourself from other journals in your area?

We are more readable. We don’t regard ourselves as a strictly academic journal, we are a creative journal, I would say. Although we have some critical content that is scholarly, we are very careful to edit it so that it’s accessible to anyone who is interested in the subject matter. You don’t need a PhD in cultural theory to know what these ten-dollar words mean. It’s edited like the New Yorker, so that anybody could read it and get something from it; even if it’s a substantive critical essay, we work with the scholar or author to make sure that it is accessible to a general, non-specialized reader. I think what that means is that a lot of the writing has flair, what the French call élan. Theater has a kind of interesting, stylistic voice that hopefully makes it pleasurable to read. We hope that’s participating in a long tradition of theater criticism. So in any given issue you can find critical essays, interviews with directors or producers or artistic visionaries of one kind or another. There are photo dossiers showing set designs or photos of important productions, and there are reviews of performances, but you might also find manifestos by impassioned artists calling for a new form of theater that doesn’t exist yet. It can be a very inspiring journal to read. It’s there for artistic inspiration and reflection. I want that creative dimension to make it more inviting and readable.

What are the current hot topics in this field?

I think that there is a convergence of disciplines that were formerly separated. It is a debate that’s a little hard to follow if you’re not in the field. Performance Studies and Theater Studies, which were sort of separate fields (Theater Studies was sort of confined to aesthetic theater and its histories while Performance Studies took a more expansive view and anything could be considered a performance–a baseball game, a political protest—and an attendant set of theories were worked out around that anthropological investigation.) Those disciplines are coming together at this moment intellectually, which is very exciting. It’s unclear what the outcome will be. Dramaturgy, the area in the field that is rooted in artistic practice, has been a part of that as well, and that’s what Yale specializes in training, that’s the department our journal is based in. So we’ve been able to draw on those fields, I hope in an inspiring way.

What debates or subjects in the field has the journal significantly contributed to?

ddthe_36_2_coverTheater has a long tradition of being the first journal to publish in English many important and controversial dramatists, including Sarah Kane, a tremendous, incredible artist who died very young, and also the Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek. We were one of the first and only journals to present her work in English even after she won the Nobel Prize. Her plays were hard to find. You would think the English speaking world would seek them out and want to stage them. I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve been the place where you can find that work– and often you can find it before they win the Nobel Prize! It’s a place where you can discover important ideas about theater from foreign theater cultures. In fact, the New York Times even cited our article about Elfriede Jelinek when they were writing about one of her plays when it premiered in New York. I think as a link or conduit to new ideas in the art form, we’ve always contributed to the creative development of the theater in a very important way.

ddthe_39_3In two recent intellectual debates we’ve also been an important voice. One is about curation and the way that art forms are converging in performance. Also a slightly more esoteric debate has emerged over what has been called “Postdramatic Theater” by the very important German theorist Hans-Thies Lehmann proposing a category of contemporary theater beyond the dramatic, with some of its theatrical vestiges. A lot of people are asking if this is the future of theater. We published a significant response to Lehamnn’s book by another German author, Bernd Stegemann, reflecting on the impact and validity of Lehamann’s proposition that contemporary theater has rejected mimesis and evolved beyond “drama” itself.  Hans-Thies Lehmann’s book is very important, and I’m pleased that we’ve been able to continue the discussion about it.

What are some of the special issues you are most proud of?

ddthe_41_3I’m particularly proud of an edition we did about one of the greatest living stage artists, in my opinion; the Polish director Krystian Lupa, who I think is one of the great artists of the 20th century—and unjustly neglected and misunderstood in the English speaking world. I’ve followed his stage productions for more than a decade now and each one has completely blown my mind. It’s a revolutionary form of acting, a brilliant use of time and space on stage, and there was almost nothing about it in English as I started to look around to learn more. I commissioned first English translations of his writings about the stage, his aesthetic, journals, his essays on the art of acting, mise-en-scene, and design. So we did a special edition which I co-edited with a colleague from Poland in 2012, Piotr Gruszczyński, which is still one of the few English language publications on Lupa’s really important directing work. That’s the kind of project that can be quixotic to attempt; .when the edition comes out, no one knows who he is, but in 25 years, we will be really proud that we did that.

Similarly I’m proud of our Fall 2015 edition, which is a collection of new plays from Brazil, a very important global power on the rise, with which we have little cultural literacy here in the US. I hope that by presenting four new plays in first English translation with contextualizing information about each of those artists, we will be paving the way for more engagement with Brazilian theater. It’s surprisingly hard to find out about the theater there and they have some impressively innovative artists.

Can you tell me a little more about upcoming special issues?

ddthe_44_2In 2014 we did a special edition about the curation of performance, and we’re planning a second issue with curation-themed articles, interviews, and creative dossiers. I think it’s going to be very exciting. We have enjoyed a tremendous response to the first one both in the theater world and the art world. (The art world is interested in how to use performance and the theater world wants new ideas from the art world and thinks that maybe they have some answers. The curators are kind of go-betweens.) The issue will appear in 2016 and I’m hoping that this sequel edition will be more global in scope, perhaps including practitioners in the Middle East and Asia, because the first one was mostly North and South American and European. This will be a chance to look at the different kinds of strategies that people are taking to reinvent the presentation of the performing arts. It’s not just theater; it’s dance, performance art, social-engagement experiments that can’t be described by any single category. There’s generally a feeling that the old ways and old institutional thinking isn’t working anymore and has to be reimagined. Festival and art-organizations’ curators are on the front lines: . They must reinvent the context for their public, for their audience, or these institutions are going to fall by the wayside. So it’s interesting to talk to the pioneers who are leading the way, and I’m hooked. As an editor, I want to talk to all of them. I love doing the interviews, I’ve learned so much from making site visits and seeing what they’re doing and then asking them about it. And I think the interviews have been lively to read.

How do you see the journal developing in the next few years?

I hope that we will be more of a platform for artists and critics and scholars who are engaged with political questions because I think we’re entering a very turbulent political period. I hope that we will engage in the right ways. I hope that we will build on the success of our curation projects to include performance curators in the critical dialogue that we are building–using them more often as authors, presenting more of their work in dossier forms–because I think they are significant cultural agents and I would like to involve them in the published conversation.

Ultimately, as someone who is entering the curation field a little bit on the side, I wonder whether there could be a live component to a journal. If a journal is a convening of people with ideas that relate to each other, organized into the rubric of print or web discussion, is there a live equivalent of that? What if we brought all the artists who work on, say, surveillance themes–or migration issues–together to talk on these topics, as we would in the pages of Theater? If we had an event where their theater projects could be seen side by side, we could really discover some connections. I don’t know what the answer is to this exactly. But as a theater person, I aspire to find a live incarnation of what we already do in print and online.

To subscribe to Theater, visit dukeupress.edu/theater.

Listen to Joanna Frueh on Sex Talk Radio

978-0-8223-4040-9_pr Performance artist Joanna Frueh discussed sexuality and the body long before it became fashionable.  Now a feminist icon in the art world, you can hear her talk about the dominant culture's beauty myths and the feminist paradigms which tend to deny the merits of beauty on a podcast from Sex Talk Radio. Veronica Monet interviews Frueh on her show The Shame Free Zone. And check out Frueh's book Clairvoyance (For Those In The Desert): Performance Pieces, 1979–2004 to read some of Frueh's performance pieces and images of her performing.

Deborah Paredez talks about Selenidad

Check out our latest YouTube video! In her new book, Selenidad: Selena, Latinos,
and the Performance of Memory
(2009), Deborah Paredez looks at the Latina
performer, Selena, and her place in American culture at the turn of the
21st century.