Editorial Note

Changing World/Changing Theatre

Savas Patsalidis*

Our world is undergoing radical changes at an accelerating speed, changes that transform industries, reshape consumer demands and taste, challenge conventional logics, issues of gender and justice, sexual mores, politics of identity and established dichotomies, and certainly education. Mastering content knowledge is no longer sufficient in the age of Google. Changes are intimidating for some, while promising for others.

The world is constantly changing. Yet at no other time in recent history has the world experienced so many radical and slippery shifts that require caution and serious analysis. Everything seems to be in a state of flux and uncertainty. Innovation, digitalization, interconnectedness, and technological progress move fast, in fact so fast that people are left with little time to understand what is going on, to wonder, to seriously reflect on values and practices, to reconsider, to regret. What becomes obvious is that remnants from the past abound in today’s society, remnants of structures that were designed for a world that no longer exists.

Clearly, it is no longer possible to live as we have been living up to the present time. And since the entire fabric of life is drastically changing, the life of people and their arts will somehow have to be redesigned, replanned or at least rethought. This is no news, of course, for theatre. Since the advent of the postmodern, theatre, in its broadest sense, has been experiencing an unstable time of readjustments and adaptations which has been further intensified by the devastating pandemic experience.

With the world economy in shambles, theatre is now called on to radically reconsider, once again, new strategies for navigating its survival and new paradigms for solving problems, and to promote ideas and lead change with inspiring, supportive and visionary front liners. And who is better fit to provide these cutting-edge paradigms than the young, those who were born in the heart of the more recent crises that have plagued the world, economically, socially, technologically and culturally.

Having experienced firsthand the impact of these crises, young people are better equipped to recognize the nature of what is really happening and effectively face the obstacles of this moment of transition and multiple crossings of borders, genres, genders, roles, aesthetics, and definitions. They are better prepared to raise questions about the kind of theatre needed in contemporary settings, to ask how meaning is shaped, and by whom and for whom, to reexamine the role of the artist in a world of dis-placements, re-positionings and re-discoveries, in short, to wonder, What is real? What is fake? Where are we? What are we? Where do we and our arts go from here?

Today’s theatre needs artists who are not only good talkers but also good listeners. Listening requires enthusiasm, commitment, energy and patience to capture the essence of what is going on and then transform this experience into meaningful theatre. Listening is a form of action.

All this, of course, is not easy, and never has been. Let us remember, however, that in all crises lie great opportunities. In our darkest moments, new ideas and innovations give beacons of light. All we need is the glow of great ideas, a spark of the future.

With regard to Critical Stages/Scènes critiques, this forum continues to bring to the world the latest news from the theatre front, with essays, interviews, book and performance reviews. The “Special Topic” of the journal’s latest issue, #23, Unstable Grounds: A Critical Rethinking of Performance and Politics, is a telling example of what all these recent changes imply. The contributors explore operations of theatre/performance during unstable conditions marked by socio-political, environmental, economic, educational, ideological and other challenges.

A total of 17 high quality papers, submitted by scholars and artists who live in Europe, Asia, North America and Africa, provide a panoramic, an enlightening and diverse view of cross-fertilizations, reconfigurations and mutations of performance practice around the globe. Such instances encapsulate the notion of belonging to a larger world; they reconceptualize the relationship between performance and eco/politics, performance and de/colonization, performance and Black womanhood, performance and the pandemic, performance and Indigenous people, performance and the circum-Atlantic routes that have linked Africa, African-America and Europe for centuries, performance and cross-cultural encounters of race and privilege, among others. As noted by Gigi Argyropoulou and Stefanie Sachsenmaier, the two guest editors of the special topic issue, “The issue aims to trace how performance might critically question social imaginaries and offer structures of being and living otherwise.” 

In addition to the above academic contributions, there are eight more academic articles in the “Essay Section,” edited by Yana Meerzon, that further expand the horizons of the “Special Topic” by providing more perspectives for understanding the interconnectedness of the contemporary world-scape and media-scape. Three articles in this section deal with education and teaching models, thus catering mostly to students and actors; the others focus on various subjects ranging from the Arthur Laurents-Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim musical Gypsy to autobiographical one-woman shows which foreground the theme of celebration as an occasion for looking back at past trauma and current identity.

The “National Reports” section, whose main goal is to cover current theatre life in various countries around the world, features essays from Guatemala, Brazil and England which discuss issues related to post pandemic policy problems, gender problems, salary equality, the avant-garde and the new knowledge required for online theatre work largely unknown in the recent past. These issues are also discussed at length in the “Interview Section” by artists, scholars, artistic directors and managers from Sweden, Norway, Mexico, China, EE, Poland and Romania.

Last but not least, Volume #23 includes six performance reviews and five book reviews edited with great care, as always, by Matti Linnavuori and Don Rubin, respectively, and one special section that pays tribute to the latest winner of IATCs Thalia Prize, the Japanese director and author, Tadashi Suzuki.

To the editors of these contributions I owe my deepest gratitude, as much as I owe my heartfelt thanks to the authors themselves who have entrusted us with their work.

I would also like to extend my thanks to the two co-editors of the journal, Don Rubin and Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, whose assistance has always been so generous. Last but not least, my thanks go to Ian Herbert and all external readers who, whenever asked, furnish excellent comments on papers that require their experienced reading.

That said, those interested in having their articles, performance and/or book reviews, interviews, case studies and empirical research considered for publication should contact the editor of the respective section.

Once a manuscript has been peer reviewed and recommended for publication, it undergoes further language copyediting, typesetting and reference validation, following the latest guidelines of the MLA style sheet, in order to provide the highest publication quality possible.

Submissions should not be published earlier or be under consideration for publication elsewhere while being evaluated for this journal. They must also adhere to the style and ethics of the journal (for more on the journal’s Publication Ethics/Procedure please visit: https://www.critical-stages.org/submission-guidelines/)

NOTE: The latest CFP on Human-Technology Interfacing in Performance (guest editor Sebastian Samur)—scheduled to appear in June 2022—is now online (www.critical-stages.org). Deadline for proposals: 1 August 2021. All inquiries/submissions should be sent to: sebastian.samur@mail.utoronto.ca.

Our doors are open to all.
Please join us as we continue producing new ideas for the ever-evolving theatre arts around the world.  

*Savas Patsalidis is professor of theatre and performance history and theory in the School of English (Aristotle University, Thessaloniki), the Hellenic Open University, the Drama School of the National Theatre of Northern Greece, and for many years 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 writes theatre reviews for various ejournals. 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.

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