Editorial Note

About Theatre Criticism

Savas Patsalidis*

The pandemic is still making headlines around the world, despite the arrival of the vaccines. As far as theatre is concerned, and given the state of world economies, it is not easy to imagine how the “new reality” of a post-COVID world will turn out. History has shown that the arts emerge triumphant after major and devastating events. It happened after the First and Second World Wars, so we have good reason to believe (or, at least, to hope) that it will happen again now.

However, I feel that this experience is far more serious than any other in the past. COVID has been a truly unprecedented global disaster, which makes predictions very risky. We cannot foretell with any certainty whether the performing arts will pick up exactly where they left off.  For example, will they face radical structural changes as a consequence of major sociopolitical changes?  Will emergency funds be available from governments, or will scarcity of money drive thousands of arts workers into unemployment?

It is also hard to imagine how the Festival circuit will operate, perhaps with fewer productions able or willing to travel. Will theatre artists pursue solutions online? Only time will tell.

For now, we are left guessing, trying to square the new realities with the uncertainties that this new world is bringing along. There is no doubt that most theatre fans long to sit together and breathe the same air. And they will, hopefully, soon. However, at the same time, a new, more information technology savvy generation is getting ready to enter the field with its own understanding of theatre presence and communication.

No matter what happens, Critical Stages/Scenes critiques will continue to do what it has been doing over the last ten years: namely, to seek ever more ways to contribute to a thriving culture in theatre and theatre criticism. We seek to do this by reaching out to the world, generating discussion and understanding of the theatre, especially at critical moments like this.

In our last issue we ran a special topic on how various countries responded to the outbreak of COVID-19 in relation to their own national theatre cultures. In this issue (#22) Yana Meerzon, the editor of the Essay Section, Aisling Murphy, a young and promising theatre scholar, and myself decided to pursue further this initial response. We circulated a call for papers  inviting theatre critics, bloggers, artists, scholars and students to share their critical observations, reviews, personal statements, theoretical proposals, historical accounts and dramaturgical explorations; all of these dedicated to recording, documenting and archiving the art of theatre-making and the craft of writing about it in the period of self-isolation and social distancing. The response was quite impressive. In this issue we selected for publication 22 submissions which, seen together, provide the reader with a revealing panorama of all these changes, and, particularly, their impact on theatre criticism.

At the same time, another trio of guest editors (Anette Therese Pettersen, Diana Damian-Martin and Rui Pina Coelho) has prepared for us the second special topic of issue #22 (Theatre Criticism for Young Audiences: New Directions), which will be published in February 2021. This will be a meticulous, compelling selection of essays which will tackle questions like: Do theatre and performance for children and young people invite, require or facilitate a different type of criticism? What is specific to the experience of adults writing about young people and children’s theatre? These are pressing questions that widen the discussion and bring into focus the complex ethics of writing and of intergenerational dialogue.

In addition to these two special topics, the Essay Section carries six more essays (four in English and two in French): ranging from Georges Banu’s insightful reflections on the frontiers of contemporary art, to Amy Green’s “Plays for Dialogue in a Rwandan College.”These essays are accessible texts that represent a wide spectrum of contemporary theatre practice and scholarship. In the National Reports section, the article by Bernice Chan introduces us to the contemporary theatre scene in Hong Kong, the problems involved, and also the promises that have emerged following the recent crisis.

 In the Interview Section” (a total of ten, two of which in French) the interviewees discuss their work, make connections and illustrate their points on theoretical, practical and historical levels. With this issue, the section launches its online interview discussions with significant scholars and practitioners from around the world. The first scholar invited to open this series of talks is Maria Shevtsova, a theatre professor at Goldsmith University (London).

Two recipients of the AICT/IATC Thalia Prize, Eric Bentley and Kapila Vatsyayan, died recently, and Critical Stages, with the editorial guidance of Don Rubin, devotes a special  section to honour their significant contribution to world theatre. 

Last but not least, 13 performance and book reviews, edited by Matti Linnavuori and Don Rubin respectively, enhance further the global reach of the journal.

I would like to express my gratitude to Don Rubin and Jeffrey Eric Jenkins (managing and executive managers of our journal), to all section editors (Yana Meerzon, Matti Linnavuori, and Don Rubin), our external readers/reviewers and, of course, our language editors who have tended to the authenticity of the journal’s official languages, English and French, in those texts written by non-native speakers. Finally, I would like to express my special thanks to all the contributors to this issue for their insightful critical articles that help Critical Stages to remain a frontrunner.

Forthcoming special topics:

  • #23 (June 2021) Unstable Grounds: Reconfigurations of Performance and Politics. Guest Editors: Gigi Argyropoulou and Stefanie Sachsenmaier
  • #24 (December 2021) Aural/Oral Dramaturgies. Guest Editors: Duška Radosavljević and Flora Pitrolo

Let us all hope that the COVID-19 nightmare will soon be over and 2021 will be a truly happy New Year!

If you have any queries about the journal or I can help with anything please do not hesitate to contact me.

Mark the date: In February the second special topic of this issue (on Theatre Criticism and Young Audiences) will go public. 

*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 School 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 Forest Festival (organized by the National Theatre of Northern Greece) and the editor-in-chief of Critical Stages/Scènes critiques, the journal of the International Association of Theatre Critics.

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