Editorial Note

Tell It to the Bees, by Louise Ann Wilson. Photo: Lizzie Coombes

Transforming (Im)Possibilities to Realities

Savas Patsalidis*

Dear reader,

Issue 26 of Critical Stages/Scènes critiques, the journal of the International Association of Theatre Critics, has been published just in time for your New Year’s reading pleasure. In addition to a wide array of insightful articles and reviews, this issue offers, for the first time, two previously unpublished original dramatic texts: the first play, Town Hall, by renowned playwright Caridad Svich, is related to the ecological theme of the current issue; the second play, Crime/#AlwaysArmUkraine, by Asya Voloshina (pen name Ester Bol), is related to the war in the Ukraine.

As Svich writes in the preface to her play, the work “ultimately focuses on the geopolitical relationship of survivors to and of the aftermath of domestic terrorism and its targeted acts of violence while it simultaneously centers on the role of the individual in the Capitalocene and Anthropocene.” She identifies her work as a climate era play, in the sense that it springs from and reflects the context within which it came to life.

In this regard, Asya Voloshina/ Ester Bol’s play is also a climate play, reflecting the anger, disappointment, and frustration that predominate among Russian artists who oppose Putin’s imperialist war. Asya aims to depict the realities of the war, to use her art to elucidate the crimes committed by the invading Russian troops and demonstrate unflinchingly the full impact of the war. Her play unfolds on the iPhone of the major character and consists of both the protagonist’s correspondence and the news feeds posted primarily on Ukrainian telegram channels. Asya, who currently resides in Israel, left Russia in protest against Putin’s war.

Starting with these two plays, it is our hope to continue publishing new creative works, provided that they are related to the special topic of each issue or to a current and pressing matter of international interest (e.g. the war in Ukraine).

The editors of the Special Topic of Issue 26 (Theatre and Ecology), Professors Vicky Angelaki and Elizabeth Sakellaridou, have worked diligently and incessantly for nearly two years to prepare an impressive and inclusive volume of 16 cutting-edge and captivating works, covering a wide and diverse spectrum of practice and research perspectives. This substantial body of work explores topics such as the apocalyptic vision and the deconstruction of western modernity in Satoshi Miyagi’s Demon Lake in Japan, theatre under the Sal Trees in India, the performance of the iniquities of climate crisis in Australia, global networked learning initiatives, sustainable theatre, the changing roles and values of art documentation within the context of environmental practice, revisionist perspectives in contemporary adaptations of classical tragedy, naturalism and its relation to ecological concerns and matters, and others. By pointing out the intersection of ecology and performance, these works underline the impact of climate change on all aspects of human and nonhuman life.

We live in an era of new realities and geographies, of  transformations, interdependencies, transnational flows, and mobilities; as the two editors pointedly explain in their introductory note,

we sought to provide a ground and vehicle through which to reduce some of these distances, without transgressive acts: to provide a forum for international scholars and practitioners to share and disseminate their work, so that more of us can become aware of it, and so that borders might be crossed, without nature being transgressed upon – and without, at the same time, missing out on learning about, and from, each other’s work, on as broad and international a scale as possible.

Angelaki and Sakellaridou

Vicky’s and Elizabeth’s thoughtful, insightful, and inspiring final selection, out of dozens of submitted proposals, carves out new ways of thinking about theatre, performance, politics, community, resistance, and active citizenship.  It is, no doubt, a significant contribution to international theatre and ecological scholarship. I cannot thank them enough for their strong commitment and impressive achievement. 

The “Essay section,” edited by Yana Meerzon, also offers the reader an inclusive, engaging and enlightening set of perspectives, covering subject matters of great interest, such as performing solidarity in India, restaging the classics, the role of the dramaturg in contemporary theatre writing, collective strategies for playwriting pedagogy, generating  fear in live performance, new forms of performativity that have emerged during the pandemic, views on a science fiction dramaturgy, and marginalization, pollution and migration, among other thoughtful contributions.

Also featured in this 26th edition of Critical Stages/Scènes critiques, are interviews with theatre curators, managers, artists and producers from Italy, England/Germany, the U.S. and Canada.

Performance review editor Matti Linnavuori has once again curated a lively selection on 17 international reviews from around the world, ranging from Canada’s Shaw Festival and Stratford Festival, to  Uzo-iyi Masquerade Festival of Umuoji in Anambra State, South-Eastern Nigeria, to BITEF Festival in Belgrade, to Port à Port in Hamburg (the outcome of the collaboration between two companies, one from Togo and one from Germany), to Johan Simons’ staging of Alcestis at Epidaurus Festival, to Virgin Lab Fest 2022, which ran at the Cultural Center of the Philippines etc.  This represents a multiple, appealing, and absorbing collection of views, covering different performative acts, ranging from text oriented stagings to street theatre to ecological and gender matters.

Last but not least, the section of Matti features the (re)views of young critics who have attended the Young Critics’ Seminars, conducted by Jean-Pierre Han, the IATC’s director of the programme.

In “Focus on Ukraine (Part III)” we are proud to include the text to a speech by renowned Russian critic and theatre scholar Marina Davydova, now living as an exile in Germany.  In her speech, which inaugurated the 56the edition of BITEF, September 2022, Marina explores the horrors of war through the prism of culture. By invading Ukraine, she says, Russians not only attacked an independent country but also declared war against their own culture.

The number of directors, stage designers, and playwrights who have left Russia is enormous. All important institutions of contemporary art and contemporary theatre have de facto disappeared. The modern Russian culture that we so admire is once again being destroyed before our eyes.  Sometimes it seems that the war was started, not to win on the front lines, but rather to gain revenge for those who did not want to live in an open world.

Marina Davydova

In the same section Ukrainian professor and theatre critic Hanna Veselovska, gives us a panoramic view of  the impact of war on ukranian theatre; its reflexes; its survival tactics; its contribution to the country’s fight against Russia’s invading troops. The announcement of  the Ivano-Frankivsk Musical and Drama Theatre, is quite revealing and to the point: “We will become a national theatre bunker, offering refuge, salvation, and vital assistance to all who need it during the war.  We will provide not only humanitarian, medical, and financial assistance, but also morale-boosting creative support.”

We are also pleased that in this issue, professor Don Rubin offers his usual thoughtful and substantial collection of book reviews, four altogether, on topics related to theatre and performance.

A total sum of 58 published works appear in the current issue, signed by 75 contributors from 27 countries (Nigeria, Taiwan, Australia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, U.S, South Korea, Malta, Martinique, England, India, Greece, Italy, among many others); 13 articles are co-authored. Of the 75 contributors, 50 are women and 25 men, and include scholars, artists, activists, experimentalists, directors, theoreticians, reviewers/critics, performers, scenographers, playwrights, and PhD candidates. This inclusivity and richness is not accidental: our international perspective is our greatest asset, and we will continue to develop this tradition.

To the editors of the journal’s sections 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 thanks to the journal’s language editors Ian Herbert, Linda Manney and Michel Vais,  and all external readers who, whenever asked, provide excellent comments on papers 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 (see 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 see 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: Our next issue, currently underway (due June 2023), focuses on Renegotiating the Canon: Scenes of Germanic Theatre(s). Its aim, according to the guest editors Azadeh Sharifi and Ulf Otto, is to further complicate the narrative and discourse of German/ic theatre(s) by moving away from master pieces and celebrated artists, and seeking instead (re-) negotiations of canons and repertoires and (re-)constructions and (de-)constructions of Germanic theatre(s).

Stay tuned for more, and please let us know how the journal might better provide news, reviews, essays, and special topics of interest to you. Our journal is a space to reflect on live art, crossings, borders, intersections, imaginary and realistic possibilities.

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 Emeritus  at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, where he taught a variety of theatre courses, ranging from the problematics of theatre reviewing/criticism to theatre history to experimental theatre/performance, among many others. For many years he also taught at 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. In 2019 his book on Theatre & Theory II: About Topoi, Utopias and Heterotopias was published by University Studio Press. In 2022 his book-length study of Comedy (Comedy’s Encomium: The Seriousness of Laughter) was also published 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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