Savas Patsalidis*

It has, from the very outset, been part of the mission of Critical Stages/Scènes critiques to nurture young scholars, help them develop and give them a platform to express their views. We want them with us because we believe in them, we count on them. This issue, like every issue of our journalconfirms our continuing commitment to seeking out and disseminating the work of young scholars and researchers.

That said, the articles published under the “puppetry” special topic have reached us through the open-submission process. The two editors, Margareta Sörenson and Jean Pierre Han, have selected papers that cover contemporary puppetry practice and theory from a range of different perspectives. Why have we chosen to run this special topic? A basic principle of the journal’s editorial policy is to bring to people’s attention genres, subgenres, issues and topics that we consider important in relation to the future development and enrichment of the field; and puppetry is a case in point.

Although it has been part of many countries’ artistic landscape for centuries, there are many societies in which it has been considered unimportant or, at best, a mere children’s pastime. Things have changed recently, however.  In the age of CGI and 3D films, puppetry is gaining more visibility and public attention. It has experienced a renaissance in response to the emergence of modern technological forms within our culture. Interest in avatars, the virtual world and social media has helped increase the appeal of puppetry. As Cariad Astles, one of the contributors to this special topic, suggests, puppetry “is, in its essence, a hybrid of the visual and performing arts; hybrid in its construction and conception: alive and not-alive; anthropomorphic, but not human; straddling worlds, cultures and identities.”  Puppetry forms arise and are born from cultural narratives and politics, which explains their heterogeneous, ever-changing and everlasting character.

The essays that make up this special topic stress the close relation between the puppet, the puppeteer and the cultural context. In the words of a leading artist of the field, Ilka Schönbein, “with puppetry, you can express all the characters you have within you.”  The consideration of puppetry in this edition of the journal is by no means exhaustive. It was never meant to be. Its main aim is to foreground a small part of what is going on now in the field, to show its diversity and cultural relevance by featuring a range of critical perspectives on the larger context of its creation and production.

In addition to the special topic the current issue carries an in-depth response to the collection of articles on the Shakespeare Authorship Question that appeared in the last issue of this journal (Critical Stages/Scènes critiques, no. 18). Dr Luke Prodromou claims that, read together, those articles not only confirm that there really is a case for reasonable doubt about the Stratford man as the author of the works, but also that they suggest that pursuing this question can actually be an effective critical tool for a better understanding of the “Shakespeare” plays.

In that very same Essay Section, there are three more interlinked essays, by Michel Vaïs, Nele Wynants and Maaike Bleeker et al, which open windows onto the intricate paths of performance practice and study.

In the National Section we have a survey of the contemporary theatre life of all three Baltic countries (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania), plus, among other articles, short surveys of contemporary theatre life in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Lebanon. As we always stress, it is our aim to provide a platform for theatre cultures that are not necessarily well presented in international theatre studies. We pursue that goal in every issue because we consider it important.

To sum up: we have in #19 of our journal 38 articles altogether from 25 countries (including South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Japan and Hungary, among others), plus two special pages which are constantly updated.

Our next issue, scheduled for publication in December 2019, will focus on a major problem many countries face nowadays; namely the issue of an aging population and its impact upon theatre. Yun Cheol Kim, former president of IATC, will be the guest editor, with the assistance of Manabu Noda from Japan.

For 2020 we have already circulated the two special topics which will keep us busy in the months to come: the first (due in June 2020) will focus on the “Theatricality of music, and the musicality of theatre.” It invites papers that examine the relationship between these two complex universes in the twenty-first century, a century of unprecedented changes.  How is this relationship affected by the new technology and the new media? To what extent is it influenced by the current social, economic and political developments of the world?

The second special topic is on “Arab Theatre and Performance.” The purpose of this special topic is to “reorient” Arab theatre and performance in light of the radical transformations shaping the Middle East and North Africa both aesthetically and politically.  We look forward to it.

I would like to thank Don Rubin and Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, who are, respectively, Managing Editor and Executive Editor of our journal, for their strong support and commitment to what we are doing. I owe many thanks to Matti Linnavuori for his professional editorial work in the Performance Review section. My special thanks also go to the language editors for their meticulous reading of all articles. I should also like to acknowledge my gratitude to all the authors of this issue whose contributions open Critical Stages/Scènes critiques to new perspectives and new theatre worlds.

Last, but not least, a big and very special thank you note to Jeffrey Eric Jenkins and his Theatre Department in Illinois University (Urbana) for their most valuable financial support. We are also grateful to Ms Jin Xing and her Dance School for their generous donation of 10,000 dollars. As a free access, non-profit publication, Critical Stages/Scènes critiques depends on your help. 

*Savas Patsalidis is Professor of theatre and performance history and theory in the School of English (Aristotle University, Thessaloniki), the Hellenic Open University and the Drama Academy of the National Theatre of Northern Greece. He is also a regular lecturer on the Graduate Programme of the Theatre Department at Aristotle University. He is the author of fourteen books on theatre and performance criticism/theory and co-editor of another thirteen. His two-volume study, Theatre, Society, Nation (2010), was awarded first prize for best theatre study of the year. His latest book-length study Theatre & Theory II: About Topoi, Utopias and Heterotopias was published in 2019 by University Studio Press. In addition to his academic activities, he works as a theatre reviewer for the ejournals lavartparallaxi, and thegreekplay project. He is currently the president of the Hellenic Association of Theatre and Performing Arts Critics, member of the curators’ team of Dimitria Festival and the editor-in-chief of Critical Stages/Scènes critiques, the journal of the International Association of Theatre Critics.

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