Editorial Note

The Tragedy of our Life and Our Refusal to Learn

Savas Patsalidis*

The 24th issue of Critical Stages/Scènes critiques came into being in the midst of a global pandemic; the latest, Issue 25, has materialized in the midst of a new tragedy, a raging war, with no end in sight.  Putin’s megalomaniac ambitions show that human beings, especially those in power, refuse to learn from tragic setbacks of the past and resist living in the present with more purpose, less arrogance, less violence and fewer imperialist chimeras. As British author and lay theologian C.S. Lewis notes, “Out of all human events, it is tragedy alone that brings people out of their own petty desires and into awareness of other humans’ suffering. Tragedy occurs in human lives so that we will learn to reach out and comfort others.”

However, Brands and Edel write in their book The Lessons of Tragedy: Statecraft and World Order (2019), the contemporary world contrasts sharply with that of the ancient Greeks, who embedded a tragic sensibility into their culture in order to avert fate by reinforcing a communal sense of responsibility, ethics and courage; according to Brands and Edel, postmodern society has lost its sense of tragedy and any appreciation of the world’s tragic nature. As painful as it is to contemplate, the recent massacre committed by the Russian military on Ukrainian citizens demonstrates that tragedies have never made anyone wiser; if they had, we could not have forgotten what history has taught us, that a descent into violence and war is not an answer to problems, but rather encourages an escalation of problems. What we need, Brands and Edel rightly claim, is to discover how to cultivate our tragic sensibility in order to avoid repeating the same hamartia, the same hubris. Putin’s reckless and insulting actions toward an independent country betray all the signs of hubris syndrome which, according to ancient scholarship, sooner or later bring about nemesis, the implacable justice that aims to balance and harmonize human life.

In response to these and other timely issues of the day, Critical Stages/Scènes critiques continues to provide a platform for writers and artists to engage in dynamic discussion of themes that emerge or re-emerge within the performing arts across national and disciplinary boundaries.

Significantly, 35 women and 33 men from 31 countries entrusted us with 51 quality papers, important contributions to international theatre/performing arts scholarship.

The Special Topic of Issue 25, Human-Technology Interfacing in Performance, edited with care, knowledge and professionalism by Sebastian X Samur, features 9 outstanding articles that comment on new forms of intermedial performance currently being developed: how effective strategies can extend the performer through technology; how practitioners’ work can connect both performers and designers of technology; how performers inspire artists to anthropomorphize technology. More specifically, Dan Strutt’s essay examines emergent forms of interactive, immersive, and virtual performance. Jessica Del Vecchio  and Eamonn Farrell explore the work of video designer Eamonn Farrell and his company Anonymous Ensemble, Brendan McCauley demonstrates new avenues for artists to construct and utilize relational space through stereoscopic video, Maya Arad Yasur analyzes the intermedial hierarchy of embodiment modes, from live to virtual bodies, Jörgen Dahlqvist draws on two telematic theatre productions to understand better the possibilities of the digital medium as well as the artistic challenges it creates, whereas Antje Budde and Gustavo Sol investigate the potential of psycho-physical and playful forms of mental health support for their university students through interactive performative interfaces for self-learning, inspired by Brechtian theatre dialectics of learning. In their work Amy Chan and Natalie Cheung argue that rethinking and reimagining light through both technological and theoretical perspectives can reveal new dramaturgies of light and spectator in contemporary theatre. Last but not least, the sole francophone essay, written by Thomas Langlois and Robert Faguy, examines in practical terms the identification of the spectator vis-à-vis “performativité des systèmes technologiques … et au … transfert performatif.”

In addition to the special topic, this issue offers 8 essays in the ESSAY SECTION (ed. Yana Meerzon); topics covered range from a dance adaptation of Titus Andronikus to Jelinek’s Sports play and Papakonstantinou’s Oedipal landscapes. The NATIONAL REPORTS section (ed. Savas Patsalidis) provides a panorama of ecological issues in Australia, Latvia, Kazakhstan and Iraq, plus one essay on contemporary Romanian theatre life.

In this current issue, we have also interviews with noteworthy theatre professionals from Japan, Brazil, Latvia, Turkey and Mongolia (ed. Savas Patsalidis), performance and book reviews edited by Matti Linnavuori and Don Rubin respectively, a significant and enlightening essay on criticism by Italian critic Andrea Porcheddu and a thoughtful critique by German scholar Johannes Birringer on the Royal Academy exhibition of Francis Bacon’s paintings. The issue closes with a final section, edited (Part I) by the editorial team of Critical Stages and Kasia Lech (Part II), that considers on the ongoing brutal war in Ukraine.

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

I would also like to express my special 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, have commented expertly on manuscripts that benefit from their experienced reading.

That said, I would like to encourage those interested in having their articles, performance and/or book reviews, interviews, case studies and empirical research considered for publication to contact the editor of the respective section (click here).

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 click here.

If you have any other queries about the journal, or if I can be of help with anything, please do not hesitate to contact me (spats@enl.auth.gr).

NOTE: The Special Topic of our Winter issue (#26) is THEATRE AND ECOLOGY. Guest editors: Profs Elizabeth Sakellaridou and Vicky Angelaki. Publication date: Late December 2022.

Please forward the link to anyone who may be interested. Thank you.

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Please join us as we continue producing new ideas for the ever-evolving theatre arts around the world. 

*Savas Patsalidis is Professor of Theatre Studies at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Drama School of the National Theatre of Northern Greece. 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. He has just finished a book on comedy (Comedy’s Encomium : The Seriousness of Laughter) which will be published in 2022 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 International 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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