The English word “theory” comes from the Greek “theoria,” meaning contemplation, speculation, or sight. It is related to the word “theatron,” or place for viewing – the theater. Theater and theory are kin.
Section 1: Performance Theory
Read: Richard Schechner, “What is Performance?” from Performance Studies: An Introduction (2nd edition), (page 28-50, RK and BK).
If you haven't seen The Lion King (the movie) you can see it, streaming, on reserve ...
Also Required: For understanding Wickstrom: read a brief section from Marx on the "magic" of commodities from Das Kapital.
Surf clips from The Lyceum, London, Disney production. And other links, such as this one, or this one. Then look at "crank dat lion king." And others like this one, this one, and this one, and this one (which remakes the previous a few years later?). And this mashup by DJ DoYou and Lil Wayne. Do cranks and remixes complicate Wickstrom in any way? Is there an afterlife to theatre, and even "the commodity," that circles in ways not strictly determined by corporations such as Disney (speaking of the circle of life)? Is such circulation always "theatrical"?
Reading response – pick one of the two topic options below:
1. How does Schechner distinguish “is” and “as” performance? Observe an everyday encounter “as” performance. Does your observation of the encounter "as" performance change the encounter or not? If not, why not? If so, how? Would it be different if you carried out this observation in a group? If you can manage to get others to do this with you, try it.
2.Wickstrom’s essay on the Disnification of Broadway raises questions about art in the broader world of commerce. The line between the street (or store) and the theatre's art is porous -- and perhaps has always been so. Articulate in your own words Wickstrom’s major point (or one of her points that stands out to you as key in her essay). Provide a citation from Wickstrom that exemplifies or makes clear her point. Then agree or disagree with that point and say why you agree or disagree.
Thurs. Sept. 13: Play, Ritual, Theatre
Read Performance Studies: An Introduction, chapters on Ritual and Play. Pages 52-122. (RK, BK)
Reading response: Select an example of a rehearsed or repetitive behavior you regularly attend or participate in, or one in which you have participated in the past. Is it ritual? play? theatre? How would you determine the category? If you shifted the frame on the event/behavior would it be different? Discuss. Tie your response in to the reading where possible.
Tues. Sept 18: Performance as/in Culture
Read: Clifford Geertz, "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight" in The Interpretation of Cultures (BK, RK, AP, or OO )
Recommended critique of Geertz: Vincent Crapanzano’s essay “Hermes’ Dilemma: The Masking of Subversion in Ethnographic Description” – a critique of Geertz’s essay from Writing Culture (OO).
Also recommended as critique: John Emigh, "Culture, Killings, and Criticism in the Years of Living Dangerously," The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies, 2008 (OO).
Reading response question: Why, according to Geertz, do these “entertainments” exist? What is the general or main argument of his essay? Find at least one point that you would consider KEY to the general argument of the essay and, citing Geertz, say, briefly, why the point you have selected is key to his broader argument.
Thurs. September 20 – Counter-Mimicry, or Performance Across Cultures
Read: Death and the King’s Horseman, by Wole Soyinka, pg 1383 Worthen, Wadsworth Anthology (OO, BK, RK).
Visit this page and click on the links there for more study.
Recommended to read: An essay in Representations by Brown Professor Olakunle George.
Reading Response: Think about the following questions and choose one (or two) for your reading response paper.
1. How many types of performance are countenanced in this play. What are they? Does Soyinka delineate them and point to the differences in type? Does he illustrate their similarity? How?
2. List and compare the essential characteristics of British and native Nigerian figures in this play as you read them in this play (not in your knowledge of the cultures). What is the nature of the dialectic between these two cultures so far as you can tell from this play? Does the play seem to privilege one culture over another, in your opinion? Or is this an inadequate question to a complex problematic? How would you describe the problematic?
3. Discuss one or more of the ways in which Soyinka’s use of language, his visual imagery, or the play’s relationship to the audience shifts from scene to scene. Why do you think Soyinka employs these shifts?
4. What is Soyinka’s position on the phrase “culture clash” as articulated in his introduction? Why does he take this position? How is it exemplified in the play?
Check it out:
Tues. Sept 25 : Performance and Social Memory
Read: Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember, pages 1-40. [BK, RK]
Select one of the options below for a writing response. Note that the some of the same options will be available on the 30th and you can do one twice, expanding upon your insight, or choose differently:
1. Chose a sentence or paragraph from the Connerton reading for today that you feel is at the heart of his chapter and in some way expresses a major point central to his topic. Engage with Connerton's thesis through this citation in any way you choose.
2. Try the Halbwachs experiment suggested by Connerton on page 36 and write about it. Track the number of memories that you recall or that are invoked for you in the course of a day (or a few hours) by direct or indirect relations with other people. What conclusions might you draw? Does your experience substantiate what Connerton, through Halbwachs, suggests?
3. Think of something or some event in the past you'd like to commemorate. If you were to design a ritual to remember that thing or event, what would it be? Now think about writing a play or staging a performance to commemorate that thing or event. Would it be different from the ritual? In what way? Now think of making a performance designed to forget, or put to rest, that thing or event from the past. How would you make a piece designed to try and forget something? After you have conducted this thought experiment, write a response paper taking up some aspect of what you thought about -- what interested you most.
Thurs. Sept. 27:
Read: Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember, pages 41-104. [BK, RK]
Select one of the options below for a writing response:
1. Choose a sentence or paragraph from the Connerton reading for today that you feel is at the heart of his book and in some way expresses a major point central to his topic. Engage with Connerton's thesis through this citation in any way you choose.
2. This is the same as a previous prompt. If you've already done it, you can take it further if you'd like. If this is your first time -- fine too! Think of something or some event in the past you'd like to commemorate. If you were to commemorate that past as a ritual -- what would that ritual be? Now think about commemorating that same event as "theatre." Would a play be different from a ritual commemoration? How? Now think about making a piece of theatre or ritual designed to forget, or put to rest, that past thing or event. How would you make a piece designed to try and forget something? After you've gone through this thought exercise, right a reading response about what interested you most in the exersize.
GROUP ONE TO PERFORM. Group one can make a performance based on reading prompt #2. Or, make a performance designed to remember something and also make another performance designed to forget the same thing -- present both to the class.
Performance and Theory in the Ancient World--Greece
Tues. Oct. 2: Prehistory, Performance, and “Origin Rituals”
Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. Pages 28-29. (OO, AP)
Macgowan and Melnitz from 1959 (an example of how the story used to be told): "The Theater Begins with Primitive Man" in The Living Stage, 1-20. [OO, CV, AP]
Schechner, Performance Theory. Read first 14 pages of chapter titled “Toward a Poetics of Performance." [OO, BK, RK, AP]
Also read: Schechner, Performance Theory, pages 1-6 (section titled “The Cambridge Anthropologists” for those with different editions). [OO, RK, BK, AP]
Recommended: Diana Taylor, excerpt from The Archive and the Repertoire, page 1-52. [OO, RK]
Reading Response: Think about the following questions. Pick one or combine for your response paper.
1.In light of Schechner’s theory and in light of the Bernal excerpt, what can be said about the historiographical agendas and ideological investments in Macgowan and Melnitz’s text on "primitivity" versus "civilization”?
2. What does Schechner argue is the social reason propelling performance? Be able to turn to the text and point to the place where Schechner provides a theory.
3. Think of an example of theatre or ritual you would call "ecological" today and say why.
SECTION 2: ANCIENT GREECE
Thurs. Oct. 4:
Read: Euripides, The Bakkhai (405 BCE). [in Classical Tragedy, ed. Corrigan, BK, RK]
Read Wiles, chap. 1 and 2. (BK, RK)
Assignment: Bring in a piece clothing or an accoutrement that reads feminine. Bring it separately from what you are wearing or be able to take it off in class.
Reading response: Who in the play is most “unreasonable.” Why? Is there a clear sense of right and wrong? If so, what is it? If not, what does that imply?
Above is a photo of a pillar at the side of a Temple of Dionysus on the isle of Delos. The phallus is one symbol of Dionysus. Notice the cock on the side, an allusion, most probably, to cockfighting. On another side of the pillar are images of Dionysus's followers. This is one of two phallic pillars that stand of either side of a temple platform where a statue to Dionysus stood. The southern pillar pictured here, was erected ca. 300 BCE to celebrate a winning theatrical performance. The statue of Dionysus was originally flanked by those of two actors. The marble stage is a rebuilding of an older one, undertaken shortly after 300 BCE.
Above: komast cup, featuring padded male dancers. 575 BCE. Click to enlarge.
Above is a photograph of an Attic vase picturing Pentheus being torn apart by Agave and Ino.
The Theatre of Dionysus as seen from one of the caves in the hillside of the Acropolis.
Browse didiskalia. And a slide show.
Above, the orchestra. Below, choristers who would have danced in the orchestra.
Click on the map above to enlarge or click on the word map here to go to an interactive version. If you click there on the Acropolis or the Agora you can see greater detail.
The point is to check out the linked location of the theatre of Dionysus in relationship to the Agora (the market) and the Pnyx - the site of the democratic legislature, the Athenian ekklesia (assembly).
In these images of the Pnyx, you can see the Acropolis from the Bema. The flat stone platform is the Bema, the "stepping stone" or speakers' platform. As such, the Pnyx is the material embodiment of the principle of isēgoria (Greek: ισηγορία), "equal speech", i.e. the equal right of every citizen to debate matters of policy. The architectures of theatre, assembly, and market are linked. We'll discuss this in class.
Also check out the Getty exhibition for images.
View Ancient Greek Theaters in a larger map
Tues. Oct. 9 : Plato and Aristotle on Mimesis.
READ: Plato, selections from The Republic (373 BCE): Book 7 and Book 10. [AP, OO] You can listen to one of the sections here. Also read Aristotle, selections from The Poetics of Aristotle (335 BCE), 31-65 of Halliwell’s translation (AP, OO, BK, RK).
Also read the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, in Corrigan Classical Tragedy (BK, RK)
Recommended: Wiles, chapter 5. (BK, RK)
Reading response: What are the terms of agreement between Plato and Aristotle? Terms of disagreement? Or, articulate, in your own words, Plato's parable of the cave. How is vision key in this parable? Can you relate that to Sophocles' play at all?
Thurs. Oct. 11:
Read Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae (411 BCE). In Three Plays by Aristophanes, (BK, RK)
Read also Wiles, chapters 3 and 4 (BK, RK)
and Sue-Ellen Case, "Classic Drag: The Greek Creation of Female Parts" Theatre Journal, Vol. 37, No. 3, Staging Gender (Oct., 1985), pp. 317-327 (OO). Also in Wadsworth Anthology of Drama (Worthen in RK, pages 132-136).
Reading response: In what ways can (or in what ways can't) Thesmohoriazusae be seen as an example of free speech (where every citizen can have his say)? Or, for a different response: What is Sue-Ellen Case's main point? Do you agree or disagree and why?
Tues. October 16: Two Medeas
Calyx krater, South Italy, 400 BCE. Detail of the final scene from Euri- pedes' play
Read: Euripides, Medea (~420 BCE) and Seneca, Medea (1st c. CE) [note: I prefer you read both plays in Classical Tragedy, Corrigan (BK, RK), as the versions on the web are not translations we will use.]
Also read: "Early Roman Theatricals" through "Pantomime" from A. M. Nagler, Sourcebook in Theatrical History, pp. 17-36. [OO, RK]
Extra Credit: Read the Greek version of Oedipus The King (Sophocles) and the Roman version of Oedipus (Seneca), both in Corrigan Classical Tragedy (BK, RK), and write a 3-page paper comparing the two versions.
Why Circulate Images of Violence?
RECOMMENDED: polemic on contemporary images of violence: Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others, page 1-14 (OO).
Response paper: Euripides' Medea is a Greek version. Seneca’s Medea is Roman. What, in your opinion, are the most significant differences? Regarding the violence of the story and the ways it is depicted – do the versions differ? What do you suppose would be the effect of the two different approaches?
GROUP TWO TO PERFORM. I suggest outdoors on the green. Suggested Assignment – Pick a brief scene from Thesmophoriazusae or from Medea.
Performance and Theory in the Ancient World -- India
Thurs. October 18: 1. Intro to Theatre Anthropology
Read chapters titled "Introduction," "The Dictionary," "Anatomy," "Apprenticeship," "Balance," "Dilation," "Dramaturgy," and "Energy" in Eugenio Barba, Dictionary of Theatre Anthropology (BK, RK). I have listed these by chapter titles, as there are editions with differing page numbers.
ASSIGNMENT and reading response : Observe something that strikes you as beautiful. Take five minutes to sit quietly and pay an observant kind of attention in the presence of this beauty. Then, either shutting your eyes or going somewhere where you can be quiet and alone, meditate on the thing you have chosen for at least 15 minutes (do 20 minutes if you can, and some, experienced in meditation, go for 30 minutes). To “meditate” can mean many different things. You can decide what makes the most sense for you. The point is to deeply sense the “thing” even, perhaps, when not looking at it, and to hold your concentration in a suspended and relaxed mode. If your mind wanders, just watch where it goes, but gently bring it back if it seems to stray to everyday worries. The process here is more important than the product, so don’t skimp on the meditation time. After meditation, work organically to find a physical gesture the represents that beautiful thing. By organically I mean the following: try not to work solely from your critical, objective, analytical faculties (though of course these can be called “organic” as well), but include your faculties of intuition and sensation. The gesture should be “not intended to imitate nature realistically, but rather to recreate the experience” (you'll find this quote in the Miller reading for next class). That is, you need to meditate on the beautiful thing and experience it. Then, in finding a gesture, recreate the experience of the thing rather than the thing itself. Be prepared to show us your gesture in class and to discuss the process of discovering this gesture. For some of you this will be an excruciatingly hard – others will find it a breeze -- just try! Write a response paper on the following: Write about what it was like to find the gesture assigned above.
Recommended: the two chapters in Theatre of Memory titled "Sanskrit Dramatic Theory and Kalidasa's Plays” (by Edwin Gerow, Pages 42-62) ) and "The Theater of Kalidasa's Art" (by David Gitomer, Pages 63-81); there is a good summary of the Natyasastra’s “plot” constraints on pages 50-54.
Reading response -- choose from the following:
1. Return to your mediation on a beautiful thing and your finding the gesture. Does your experience with the process resonate in any way with the Kalidasa essay from Miller? Use at least two quotes from the Miller essay on Kalidasa to discuss relative to your gesture work. Did that exercise affect your reading of the play?
2. Work on pages 112-116. From the King's line: "This place is enchanted by the wind" to the bottom of 116. See if you can chart the string of metaphoric and/or metonymic substitutions that turn the wind into writing and the writing into bodies. Write up that chain.
Recommended: essay by Farley P. Richmond, “Kutiyattam,” in Indian Theatre: Traditions of Performance. Edited by Farley Richmond, et al. University of Hawaii Press, 1990. (OO, RK). See also Richmond’s CD, Kutiyattam, Sanskrit Theatre of India (on reserve) -- Farley's CD has a great deal of this material on Kutiyattam, including several film clips and is also available at http://kutiyattam.wikispaces.
Group THREE to perform. Devise a short piece exploring, as best you can, a performance that makes "rasa" an orienting principle. This must be no more than 10 minutes in total, given restraints of the class discussion time.
Tues. October 30: Continuities and Change in More Recent Indian Theatre
DUE TO HURRICANE-- SCHEDULE RESET BELOW
Tues. Nov 6:
Go to the Midterm Study Sheet for the grim details!
Performance and Theory in Precolonial Africa
3. Theatrical Legacies of Pre-Colonial Africa
Thur. Nov. 8: Yorubaland
Read: Margaret Thompson Drewal, Yoruba Ritual. Intro -47, 89-104 (BK, RK, MC).
Reading Response: Identify the major properties of Yoruban Ritual. What strikes you as essential here? Can you identify a current American practice with clear legacies to this aesthetic? Or, Compare/contrast with ancient Greek or Roman ritual/theatre.
Tues. Nov. 13:.
Read, "Pre-Colonial African Popular Theatre” and "Reaction of Indigenous African Theatre to Colonialism" in African Popular Theatre by David Kerr (1995). pp 1-15, 41-58 (OO, RK)
Also required: On Southern African Tradition – the Bushmen of Botswana-- read “Stories, Storytelling, and Story Gathering” in Tricksters and Trancers by Mathias Guenther. Blomington: Indiana University Press. (OO)
Recommended: “The Fourth Stage: Through the mysteries of Ogun to the Origin of Yoruban Tragedy” by Wole Soyinka, in Art, Dialogue, and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture by Soyinka. (OO)
Reading response: Make up your own topic, inspired by the readings or answer the following: Compare and contrast attitudes to repetition or mimesis and the copy in Plato on the one hand and Yoruban ritual on the other.
GROUP FOUR TO PERFORM: Performance based on some element(s) of Yoruban performance.
Above, a masker at an Egungun ceremony in Benin, West Africa. Masks are considered very dangerous. As they dance and swirl, the masks will run into the gathered crowd trying to catch the soul of the living person.
And below the Trinidad example, a mummer in whiteface (blackface has been banned for 40 years) at the Philadelphia's Mummer's Parade, January 2011.
Ancient Roman Performance and Theory to Medieval European Performance
Thursday, Nov. 15: Rome.
Roman Theatre at Orange
Plautus, from The Comedies: The Captives (200-190 BCE) [OO]
Odai Johnson, "Unspeakable Histories: Terror, Spectacle, and Genocidal Memory" in Modern Language Quarterly 70:1 (March 2009) [MC]
Selection from Saint Augustine (334-430 CE), "The City of God" in Dukore, Dramatic Theory and Criticism, pages 94-99 (OO, RK).
Recommended: Selection from Tertullian (155-220 CE), "On the Spectacles" in Dukore, Dramatic Theory and Criticism, pages 85-94 (OO, RK). Also recommended for more context: Richard C. Beacham, Spectacle Entertainments of Early Imperial Rome, ch.1, [OO, RK]. Also Recommended: “The Uncompleted Theatres of Rome” by Constance Campbell. In Theatre Journal 55.1, 2003.
Reading response: pick from the following:
Reading response: pick from the following:
1. What is the situation of "sons" and "slaves" as to duty and honor in The Captives? To whom or to what does one owe allegiance? Could one compare or contrast this in any way to the situation of filial duty and allegiance in The Bakkhai?
2. What is the crux of St. Augustine’s argument?
3. What strikes you as the most interesting aspect(s) of the Johnson essay?
Roman Theatre at Aspendos, exterior and interior views.
Tues. Nov. 20:
Read: A Christmas Mumming: The Play of Saint [Prince] George [MC]
Read: Hrothsvitha’s Dulcitius [MC]
Recommended: Wakefield’s Second Shepard’s Play [in Worthen (BK, RK)].
Reading Response -- Choose from the questions below:
1. What are the Christian elements in A Christmas Mumming? Can you tell whether there are Pagan or pre-Christian elements? What might they be? If this play fuses Christian and Pagan elements, what kind of "performance theory" might be crafted using this play as an example? That is, if one were to ask "What is a social or political purpose of performance?" what kind of answer might this play suggest?
Medieval Corpus Christi Pageant Wagon.
The 2005 Corpus Christi Procession in Rome.
Tue. Nov. 27 -- Popular Festive Forms
Read selections from Mikhail Bahktin on “popular festive forms.” Excerpts on carnival from Rabelais and His World. ([MC, RK] 50 pages)
Reading Response: Wrestle with the Bahktin text and ask yourself the following questions: What are some reasons for the “topsy-turvy” world of Carnival? What else besides the “pressure valve” theory might be suggested? What might be some of the functions of the profanity in the Gargamelle birth scene? After you've spent some time thinking about these questions, ask the following: Can you think of example of the Carnivalesque today? Does it still exist? Does it function in the same way? Jackson Lears, a historian, has suggested in Fables of Abundance that advertising is the arena of the contemporary carnivalesque. Can you find a print ad that has "carnivalesque" qualities? If so, bring it in to class. Or, devise your own question based on the readings. Articulate it, and then answer it. Feel free to expand your response to 2-3 pages (though not required).
recommended: Natalie Zemon Davis, “The Reasons of Misrule” from Society and Culture in Early Modern France, 1975 [RK].
Think about the following. On Oct 29, 2008, a group of right wing Christians declared it "Day of Prayer for the World's Economies" with the mandate to P.U.S.H. (pray until something happens). They went to Wall Street and prayed to the Wall Street Bull.
Other groups have made the bull a site for performance as well. The "zombie" event below utlilized the signature medieval element of blood. It was posted on at least one blog after the Christian bull-pray as, supposedly, a response to that event. It was not. Still...Kind of fun. Prompting questions about agency, ritual/performance, and "public space." The OWS zombie marches of 2011 also come to mind...
Thurs. Nov. 29: Selections from The Medieval Theatre of Cruelty by Jody Enders, Cornell University Press, 1999, pages 185-218. Also read the conclusion of the book -- discussing Reality TV -- pages 230-237. [MC, RK]
Recommended: "The Spectacle of Suffering in Spanish Streets" in City and Spectacle in Medieval Europe by Maureen Flynn, l994 (153-168). [RK]
An interesting read from The Nation on "Pop Torture" that has resonances with the Enders' reading is also recommended.
Note: The Enders picks up in the middle of a chapter, so it will take a moment of two to find your footing. Please befriend your dictionary.
Reading Response -- Choose from the following options:
1. What is Enders' primary thesis in this reading selection? Articulate that thesis in your own words but also support your articulation of her thesis by pulling out a key quote or quotes.
2. What is Enders' point about the link between the juridical and theatrical realms in medieval life?
3. What surprised you most about what you've learned about medieval performance practices from reading Enders' essay.
4. Devise your own question based on the readings, articulate it, and then answer it.
Again, longer responses are allowed at this point in the semester, if desired.
GROUP FIVE TO PERFORM: Stage a brief scene or event or … round or procession… based on some element of medieval performance. Be prepared to relate it to the Enders’ reading in some way.
CONCLUSIONS -- “OLD" AND "NEW" WORLDS
Tues, Dec 4: The “New” World.
Carolyn Dean, “Inca Bodies and the Body of Christ” (MC, RK). Also, read Shakespeare’s The Tempest (BK, RK) -- we will discuss it mostly on Thursday, but there’s lots of reading for Thursday so get a head start.
Reading response: How and why is “ambivalence” a key term in Dean’s essay? Expand in any way you like on "ambivalence" in relation to performance theory or practice in readings or ideas you have had across the semester. Or, devise your own question, pose it, and answer it.
Above: Corpus Christi in Cusco in the 16th century. Right: Corpus Christi in Cusco, Peru, today.
Thurs. Dec 6:
Read Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in Worthen.
Read Black Elk as told to Neihardt, selections from Black Elk Speaks on “vision” and performance (MC, RK)
Read Paul Brown, “This Thing of Darkness I Acknowledge Mine” in Political Shakespeare, ed. By J. Dollimore (MC, RK)
Reading Response: Are there differences between Prospero’s approach to “visions” and Black Elk’s? Or, devise your own question based on the readings, articulate it, and then answer it.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in England.
From a Spanish edition of Mandeville's Travels(Alcala, 1547).
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL, may or may not be additional class. Please stay tuned...
Read section of chapter on Performativity in Schechner, Performance Studies: An Introduction, pages 123-141; 167-168.
Read also from J.L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, chapters 1 and 2 (posted in pdf form on MC).
Read also: Emily Colborn-Roxworthy, "Role-Play Training at 'Violent Disneyland': The FBI Academy's Performance Paradigms." TDR: The Drama Review 48, no. 4, 2004. Scroll down TDR table of contents site here for PDFs.
Reading Response: What is performativity (in your own words). Think of an example from your life of a successful performative. Think of another example of a "failed" performative. How would you make a distinction between performativity and theatricality? Is "theatricality" always failed, or "etiolated," as Austin argues? Or, write some concluding thoughts on a semester that started with Disney and ended with Disney ...
Highly recommended, Branislav Jakovljevic's "Shattered Back Wall: Performative Utterance of A Doll's House" in Theatre Journal 54. Also recommended: Michelle Dent, "Staging Disaster: Reporting Live (sort of) from Seattle." Scroll down TDR table of contents site here for PDF.
This image depicts the Panotii - Very shy people with enormous ears. They are reputed in the Medieval imaginary of distant lands to use their ears like wings to fly away if they are approached by travelers. If you are one of these people, and have listened very well to lectures, you will fly effortlessly through your final project and right into the next semester!