Renegotiating Traditions and Genres
51 writers from 21 countries (African, Asiatic, North American, and European) provide the content and shape the concerns and interests of the latest issue of Critical Stages/Scenes critiques now available to everyone online. All contributions, each in its way, directly or indirectly, reflect on questions of limits and possibilities, of negotiations and renegotiations. All together, they form an inviting mosaic of ideas and critical angles that take us a step further in the field of research and study of theatre and the performing arts. For example, in this issue, Special Topic guest editors Profs Ulf Otto and Azadeh Sharifi write in their CFP that despite the ruptures and interventions of several avant-garde movements, the continuity of the basic premises of German theatre still shapes its canon and repertoire, i.e. textual corpus, embodied practices and organizational structures. These traditions, the two editors claim, “ increasingly clash with the transnational and transdisciplinary reality of contemporary theatre practice.” And since both parts of the complex, the German/ic and the Theatre(s), have increasingly lost their self-evidence in recent years, “there is an urgency to rethink radically the composite itself and to reconceptualize the relations from which it springs.”
Their selection for publication of nine essays and one interview aims at complicating further the issues in question by turning their lens of inquiry away from masterpieces and celebrated artists and towards lesser-known names or traditions, hoping to show discontinuities of nationhood, the impact of colonial legacies in performance practice, the continuing presence of racism and strategies of artistic appropriation. Anselm Heinrich’s article, for example, focuses on Nazi Germany’s attempts to control and shape the cultural sector across occupied Europe. Alexandra Portman’s work investigates institutional dramaturgy at the Kaserne Basel, one of the largest production houses in German-speaking Switzerland. Hans Roth examines the crucial role of Gorki Theatre with respect to the canon of German theatre. Roth considers Gorki as an outstanding example of a municipal theatre that follows an agenda of radical diversity which turns against long-lasting mechanisms of exclusion in the German theatre landscape.
Coalescing migration histories, transnational theatre work and theories of the archive are foregrounded in the essay by Ela Gezen and Olivia Landry, which presents a cultural and historical intervention of Ballhaus Naunynstraße, one of the critical stages of early post migrant theatre in Berlin. The article by Corentin Jan examines the importance of Theatertreffen in promoting Germanophone plays from Austria, Switzerland and Germany. In her article “A Feminist Rewriting of Kleist?”, Priscilla Layne argues that Necat Öziri provides a new angle of reading Kleist’s novella Verlobung in St. Domingo (1811).
In the Essay Section, edited by Prof. Yana Meerzon, two theatre scholars from Nigeria, Oyewumi Olatoye Agunbiade and Ayobami Kehinde, discuss the issue of rulership in relation to a selected number of plays by Femi Osofisan. Another essay from Nigeria, by Ngozi Udengwu and Godwin Onuche, highlights a paradigm shift in theatre spectatorship in Nigeria from the traditional outdoor theatre practice to the drive-in mode that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic era. Elizabeth Swift argues that Western audiences have much to learn from storytelling cultures that pre-date Western drama, particularly through an engagement with emergent spectatorial practice.
In her article, Elise Deschambre claims that the binary logic of theatre training in Europe is the dominant mode, but also shows how recent attempts have transcended this model. As an example, she describes a Belgian playwriting workshop where a new format was developed.
Narges Montakhabi Bakhtvar examines Lisa Kron’s play Well from a socio-phenomenological perspective in order to unravel alternative interpretations of the notion well-being that are hinged upon race, gender, and healthcare policies in the U.S. Last but not least, Shailee Rajak explores the work of Teesri Duniya, a Montréal-based theatre company that has resisted cultural homogenization and domination for four decades.
The National Reports section has included, for the first time, an essay on Bangladesh Theatre, by Shafi Ahmed, which reviews its history, current difficulties, and future prospects. In her article, Renu Ramanath explains how The International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK) offers an important space for dialogue and free expression in a country where niches for free speech and expression have been increasingly curtailed.
David Willinger, a connoisseur of Flemish theatre, brings to the readers of Critical Stages four recent productions in Flanders whose innovative approaches hint at the arrival of a second Flemish Wave (the first took place in the 1980s). Agata Juniku shares with us her reflections on the Belgrade International Theatre Festival (BITEF) in the seven-year mandate of Ivan Medenica as its artistic director (2016 – 2022), his selection policy and its strengths and possible weaknesses regarding the local socio-political environment, his impact on re-constructing and re-defining the notion of the theatre community and its role in constituting the public sphere.
Lina Rosi’s essay is an attempt to map the theatrical landscape in Greece and explore the imprint left by COVID-19.
After a short absence, the section Critics on Criticism is back with an article by a renowned scholar of the classics J. Michael Walton, who revisits Euripides play Medea to consider the nature of the relationship between Medea and Jason.
The Interview Section features numerous interviews from Nigeria, Turkey, Portugal, Greece, U.S, India, Bulgaria, and Romania; three are interviews with playwrights and the others introduce theatre practitioners and managers to our readers.
Matti Linnavuori has edited for Critical Stages ten performance reviews of work staged in Japan, Canada, England, Kazakstan, Greece, Bulgaria, Finland, and Serbia. Don Rubin has selected three books to review for this issue.
Last but not least, the journal pays tribute to the contribution of two major theatre figures who passed away in 2022, Hans-Thies Lehmann (by Patrice Pavis) and Georges Banu (by Maria Zarnescu).
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, Linda Manney, Michel Vais 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).
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NOTE: The Special Topic of our Winter issue (#28) is Post-millennial Australasian Dramaturgy / Dramaturgie australasienne post-millénaire. Eds. Kathryn Kelly, Julian Meyrick, Fiona Graham, Moana Nepia and Emily Coleman. Publication date: Late December 2023.
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Cover Photo: Ayham Majid Agha, Karim Daoud, Tahera Hashemi and Hussein Al Shateli in “Die Hamletmaschine,” directed by Sebastian Nübling (Maxim Gorki Theater, 2018). Photo: Ute Langkafel/Maifoto (from Hans Roth’s article, Socialist Past, Postmigrant Present: Renegotiating the Canon at the Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin)
*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 and the Hellenic Open 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. 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.