Savas Patsalidis[1]


For many years theatre scholars and students had only a vague idea of what Asian theatre is. The East/West dichotomy provided a convenient tool for the construction of “imaginary theatre communities” which endowed the West with a uniquely privileged status. The available bibliography that covers world theatre, testifies to the truth of this statement. Oscar Brockett, for example, in his bulky study of world theatre (1995) gives only five per cent to Asian theatre. And so does Wilson and Goldfarb (1994). Wickham  (1992) and Cheney (1972) devote only four per cent and Nicoll (1976) a paltry three per cent, which, in toto, amounts only to 31 pages, whereas 118 pages are devoted to Euro-American theatre in the few years between the two world wars. It goes without saying that neither the traditional methodologies nor their scope and research interests are sufficient enough to help us unravel the similarities and differences within world theatre and, indeed, world criticism.

Critical Stages, true to the aims of its original concept—to connect theatre and theatre criticism with the wider socio-cultural forces which thread through so many spheres of human activity—is devoting the pages of its sixth Conference Section to some of the papers presented at the AICT/IATC International Symposium with the telling title “International Collaboration and the Role of Criticism,” which took place in Tokyo in November 21 through 24, 2010 (the second Asian Forum after Beijing in 2007), with the participation of 14 critics and scholars from six Asian countries and five critics and scholars from five European countries (mainly IATC members). As one of the organizers, Akiko Tachiki, member of IATC executive committee and of the Japanese section of IATC, told us, 2010 was the centennial year of Japan’s annexation of Korea and it was significant to examine the theatrical endeavors of Asia’s theatre communities to “achieve collaboration beyond boundaries of politics and cultural differences, to explore the potential of the performing arts, to pursue a more harmonious co-existence and to help us look deeper into questions now faced on the global theatre scene.” Or, in the words of the president of the Japanese section of IATC, Kohjin Nishido, the whole idea behind this meeting was to “create the future together, to build a sincere and heartfelt exchange between us and to examine the existing problems with a new awareness so that we overcome them.”

Indeed, all of the papers presented in Tokyo (as well as the very enlightening and inviting dialogue that followed the presentations—which for practical reasons we are unable to present here) succeeded in providing a fresh and promising look at the realities of (re)making theatre and criticism both locally and internationally. The papers published here give the reader only a small portion of what really took place during the exciting four-day proceedings. Yun-Cheol Kim’s paper eloquently talks about the shifts Korean theatre has experienced in the last few years with the coming of feminism, later on the “in- yer-face” aesthetic and then the importance of rewriting local history through theatre. In his conclusion Yun-Cheol Kim claims that theatre, one way or another, will always be “language or communication, if you will.” Ian Herbert writes of how the increasing ease of international travel enables people to have a more global look at things and be close to international trends and developments. He claims that “East and West will always be some way apart in their perceptions of what theatre means and does, and that attempts on both sides to bring the various theatre traditions together have not always been successful.” Or at least as successful as in film, a genre which, according to him, is the “most fruitful field of intercultural exchange today.” As for Andrzej Żurowski’s paper on multicultural Shakespeare, the focus is on “the mutual interpenetrating of performing styles and cultural conventions,” a cosmopolitan reading of various stagings of the Renaissance bard around the world which is both a neat conclusion to the trans/inter/cultural critical concerns of the present Conference Papers section of Critical Stages and a fitting conclusion on the aims of the Tokyo Conference.


[1] Savas Patsalidis is professor of theatre history and theory in the School of English, in the Graduate School of the Theatre Department of Aristotle University (Greece) and also theatre critic for a Greek daily newspaper. He is the vice president of the Greek branch of ITI, chair of the Selection Committee of ITI’s Best Plays of the year (Athens System) and member of the editorial board of Critical Stages.

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