September 22, 2015: Rachel Anderson-Rabern

pictured: Pamela Vail. photo credit: Rachel Anderson-Rabern.
Pictured: Pamela Vail. Photo credit: Rachel Anderson-Rabern.

Fragments of Chekhov, Memories of Wolves

In the early 20th century the last black wolves in Pennsylvania die out, in tandem with the premier of Chekhov’s Three Sisters on the other side of the world. In the early 21st century (or thereabouts) black wolves are reintroduced to Pennsylvania’s farmland via curated sanctuary, and a college in Lancaster County performs the “antiquated” Three Sisters. 

Inspired by these events, the talk investigates intersections of performance and theory, seeking to articulate vestiges of disappearing acts that coalesce into kaleidoscopes of perception for audiences and artists. A collage emerges, as creative writing converses with the words of contemporary undergraduate students, Anton Chekhov, Pennsylvania hunters and trappers, and theatre and performance scholars. Might this juxtaposition re-frame questions of pedagogy and performance that echo through Chekhov’s work? Can we distinguish loosening lines between wildness and domesticity, formality and apathy?

Rachel Anderson-Rabern holds a PhD in Drama from Stanford University and is an Assistant Professor of Theatre in F&M’s Department of Theatre, Dance, and Film. She researches contemporary collective creation, ensemble dynamics, and marginal aesthetics: slowness, smallness, fun; and her writings have appeared in Theatre JournalTDR: The Drama ReviewCollective Creation in Contemporary Performance, and Women, Collective Creation, and Devised Performance(forthcoming from Palgrave). She studied acting at the Moscow Art Theatre, and has directed plays and devised works for colleges and universities as well as for Bootstrap Theatre, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, Miracle Theatre/Teatro Milagro, Stanford Summer Theatre, and the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Rachel is co-founder (with mathematician Landon Rabern) of Wee Keep Company, an in-process rural arts space for collaborative thinkers and theatre-makers.

September 15, 2015: Guillermo Calderón

National Memory on International Stages: The Reinterpretation of Site-Specificity in Guillermo Calderón’s Villa + Discurso.

Alexandra Ripp in discussion with the artist.

In 2011, Chilean playwright-director Guillermo Calderón wrote two companion plays, VILLA+DISCURSO, which together consider how the country should—or could—memorialize the brutal dictatorship (1973-1990) whose unresolved legacy persists. Calderón wrote these to be performed at Chilean ex-torture centers and the Museum of Memory, in order to encourage critical consideration of official memorialization in situ, but subsequent U.S. and European stagings have occurred in theaters, lecture halls, and gallery spaces. While the themes of fractious collective memory and the delicacy of violent pasts resonate outside Chile, could the missing site-specificity detract from the plays’ power and even dramaturgy? How does the international touring of site-specific theater “work” when the work is bound up with national memory?

Alexandra Ripp will introduce the plays and critical considerations of these questions, before entering in dialogue with Calderón himself about his own perspectives and experiences.

Guillermo Calderón (Director, Playwright) is Chile’s foremost contemporary theatre artist. His plays include Neva, DiciembreClase, Villa, Discurso,QuakeSchool and Kiss.  Calderón’s productions have toured extensively through South America and Europe.  Festival stops include Buenos Aires International Theatre Festival, Chekhov Festival (Russia), Edinburgh International Festival, Festival d´ Automne (France), Santiago A Mil (Chile), Seoul Performing Arts Festival (Korea), TEATERFORMEN Festival (Germany), Wiener Festwochen (Austria), World Theatre Festival (Belgium). The Public´s Under the Radar Festival, and RADAR L.A. The English language version of Neva had its US Premiere at The Public Theater in 2013; a subsequent production toured to South Coast Rep, Center Theatre Group, and LaJolla Playhouse.  He has been commissioned by the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus (Germany), the Royal Court Theater (England) and the Public Theater.  His co-written screenplay Violeta Went to Heaven won the World Cinema Jury Prize for Drama at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He also co-wrote The Club, winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlinale in 2015.Villa and Speech were published in Theater Magazine (Yale and Duke).

Alexandra Ripp is a DFA candidate in the department of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at Yale School of Drama, where she is writing a dissertation on post-dictatorship Chilean theater and memory politics. She is former Associate Editor of Theater Magazine and is the current Ideas Program Manager at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, programming the Festival’s annual series of lectures and panels. Her writing has appeared in Theater Journal, Theater, and PAJ. She is also a translator of Chilean plays, providing subtitles for the U.S. tours of Trinidad González’s The Meeting (2014-15), Guillermo Calderón’s Escuela (2015-2016) and Teatrocinema’s Historia de Amor (2016).

model villa con silla

March 4, 2014 — Joseph Roach

Dangerous Men and Smart Women:  The Persistent Eighteenth Century

In a world of rake-hells, war-mongers, and the women who love them, a family tragedy unfolds against the backdrop of the threatened outbreak of global war among the European nations and their colonies.  Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams, British Ambassador to Russia, holds the key to world peace and the romantic fates of his two unmarried daughters back in England.  They write affectionate letters trying to distract him with lively descriptions of David Garrick’s latest acting triumphs at Drury Lane, but Sir Charles is tortured by the terrible secret that has estranged him from his wife and threatens his very sanity.   What is that secret?  Will he negotiate peace at home (literally) and abroad before he goes completely bonkers? Will his beloved Frances and little Charlotte find happiness?  Will Garrick’s Lear make a difference?

Come to PSWG this Tuesday and find out

**Join us Tuesday from 1-2 p.m. in room 202 of 220 York. A light, catered lunch will be provided.**

Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor of Theater at Yale University, is President of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.  His research explores the enduring legacy of eighteenth-century art, literature, and culture in the subsequent history of performance.  His books include Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance, which won the James Russell Lowell Prize for the best book by a member of the Modern Language Association in 1997, and his articles on the eighteenth-century stage have appeared in Eighteenth-Century Studies, The Eighteenth Century:  Theory and Interpretation, Modern Language Quarterly, PMLA, and elsewhere.  As a director, he has staged a number of plays and operas from the period, including Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer, Haydn’s La Cantarina, and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.

September 10, 2013 — Mary Isbell

“Maintaining the Dignity of the Stage” at Sea: Nineteenth-Century Shipboard Theatricals

On January 1, 1819, the ordinary sailor David C. Bunnell managed and took the leading role in a production of the farce The Weathercock (1805) aboard the USS Macedonian, which was approaching the Falkland Islands en route to the Pacific. Bunnell’s production was reviewed in The Thespian Critic and Theatrical Review and The Macedonian Scourge, two newspapers published by crew members aboard the ship; reviewers criticized Bunnell’s pronunciation and deemed the member of the carpenter’s crew playing the female lead “immeasurably disgusting.” When these reviews prompted retaliation from Bunnell, the editor of The Macedonian Scourge explained that the criticism was offered “with no other view than to maintain the dignity of the stage.” I argue that the majority of the spectators at Bunnell’s production did not perceive, much less mourn, any diminished dignity of the stage aboard the ship. This is because the most important feature of shipboard theatricals was the fact that spectators knew performers personally or recognized them as members of a common shipboard community.

Drawing on an archive of playbills, reviews, and images documenting shipboard theatricals in the British and US navy throughout the century, I argue that shipboard theatricals created alternate cultural hierarchies aboard naval vessels. I illustrate this with traces of the Macedonian performance, which reveal a theatrical manager and drama critics vying for the top position in the ship’s cultural hierarchy. I also consider the relationship between voluntary shipboard theatricals and compulsory participation in ritual hazing known as the crossing the line ceremony, which had taken place when theMacedonian crossed the equator on December 12. As I will show, both instances of shipboard performance carried the potential to displace the traditional naval hierarchy that placed officers from the elite class absolutely above lower-class sailors.



The Performance Studies Working Group (PSWG) is a group of graduate students, professional school students, professors, and post-docs who are interested in the interdisciplinary field of performance studies.  We meet for weekly lunches to hear talks and discuss current work in the field.  Join us each Tuesday from 1-2 p.m.  We will typically meet in Rm 208 of the Whitney Humanities Center.  A light, catered lunch will be provided.

If you have work to share or event suggestions, please email: Elise Morrison ( and/or Mary Isbell (

To subscribe to the PSWG email list (, please email one of the conveners listed above.

Past Events

Spring 2013

January 15 – Margaret Olin:  Shaping Community: Poetics and Politics of the Eruv 

January 22  – Carolee Klimchock:  Humor Hung Like a Horse: Coachmen and Coaches as Satirical Sites for Discussions of Class and Power in the Gilded Age

January 29 – Joey Plaster:  Vanguard Revisited: Co-Performing Queer Histories in San Francisco’s Tenderloin

February 5 –  Discussion of the film John Frum: He Will Come with guests Cevin Soling and director David Guinan.  Moderated by Elinor Fuchs.

February 12 –  Session cancelled due to inclement weather

February 19 – Kathy Foley:  Tangible Intangibles: Heritage and Performance in Bordered Worlds

February 26 –  Meeting with Mario Biagini, Director of the Open Program of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards.  Discussion of Open Program’s Electric Party Songs and other performance events.

March 5 –  Kee-Yoon Nahm:   “This Solidity and Compound Mass:” Material Objects and Authenticity in The Wooster Group’s Hamlet

March 26 – Willa Fitzgerald:  Playing at Representation, Playing at War:  An Examination of the Wooster Group and The Royal Shakespeare’s Company’s Triolus and Cressida 

April 2 –   Discussion of Masrah Ensemble (Lebanon) Yale Event Series on Middle-Eastern Theatre (March 27-29)

April 9 – Magda Romańska:  Of Drammatology: Form and Content in Performative Exchange

April 16 –  Joint session with Yale School of Art

April 23 – Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale: Past, Present and Future



Fall 2012

September 11 – Elise Morrison – Performing Citizen Arrest:  Surveillance Art and the Passerby

September 18 –  John Copper – Art / Performance / History

September 25 –  No meeting this week.

October 2 –  Elizabeth Wiet —  Jack Smith, Charles Ludlam, and the Objects of Camp

October 9 – Joseph Clarke – Sound of Architecture

October 16 –  Discussion of Richard Montoya’s American Night: The Ballad of Juan José (Yale Rep)

October 30 –  Cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy

November 6 –  Andrew Hannon — The San Francisco Diggers and Performance and Everyday Life

November 13 –  Lynda Paul — Las Vegas and Virtual Tourism: Sonic Shaping of Simulated Worlds

November 27 –  Discussion of David Adjmi’s Marie Antoinette (Yale Rep)

December 4 – Discussion of Sarah Ruhl’s Dear Elizabeth (Yale Rep)



May 1, 2012:  Alexandra Ripp (Dramaturgy MFA Candidate, Drama School) will present her paper entitled:  Remembering Atrocity On Site and Onstage: The Performance of Memory in Parque por la Paz Villa Grimaldi and Guillermo Calderón’s Villa.

April 24, 2012: Sara Shneiderman (Assistant Professor of Anthropology) will present her research on ritual performances and ethnic identity in the Himalaya regions of Nepal, Tibet, and China.

April 17, 2012: Carol Martin (Associate Professor of Drama, New York University) TBA

April 10, 2012: Brian Valencia (DFA Candidate, Drama School) will present a talk entitled “Musiturgy.”:

April 3, 2012: Madison Moore (Ph.D. Candidate in American Studies) will present new research on bass and American music and dance.

March 27, 2012: We will discuss the WPP production of The Rehearsal by Cuqui Jerez.

March 20, 2012: Alice Moore (Ph.D. Candidate, American Studies) will lead a discussion on the the first chapter of Rebecca Schneider’s recent book, Performing Remains.

February 28, 2012: Tanya Dean (DFA Candidate at the Drama School) will present her work-in-progress “Piano Guts and Other Mothers: Distance, Deconstruction and the Fantastic in David Greenspan and Stephen Merritt’s Coraline.”

February 21, 2012: Lucian Ghita (Ph.d. Candidate in Comp. Lit.) will lead a discussion on “presence”  and explore issues related to current conceptualizations of performance opened up by Amelia Jones’ recent TDR article “The Artist is Present:” Artistic Re-enactments and the Impossibility of Presence.  Please read Jones’ article in preparation for our discussion.

February 14, 2012: We will discuss the WPP production of Spectral Scriabin, designed by YSD professor Jennifer Tipton.

February 7, 2012: Anna Gawboy (Assistant Professor, Ohio State University School of Music) will discuss her 2010 collaboration with the Yale Symphony Orchestra and lighting designer Justin Townsend on a new staging of Alexander Scriabin’s Prometheus:  Poem of Fire based on her dissertation research.

January 31, 2012: Carolee Klimchock (Ph.D. Candidate in American Studies) will share her research on the nineteenth-century coachman craze.

January 24, 2012: Ilinca Todorut (Yale Drama School) will share her work-in-progress: a stage adaptation of Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. Click to download the play and Ilinca’s accompanying analysis/explanation.

January 10, 2012: Paige McGinley (Asst. Prof. in Theater Studies and American Studies) will present her research on variety theater in the South in the teens and twenties and blues singing on the popular stage.

December 6, 2011: In our last meeting of the semester, Lucian Ghita (Comparative Literature) will present his mock job talk on Shakespearean adaptations.

November 29, 2011: Lynda Paul (Musicology Ph.D. Candidate) will present her research on musical performance practice, technology, and aesthetics in Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas shows.

November 15, 2011: Daniel Larlham (Lecturer in Theater Studies) will present his job talk, entitled “The Meaning in Mimesis.”

November 8, 2011: Discussion of World Performance Project’s performance Engagement Féminin: An Evening of West African Contemporary Dance and symposium, “Think Jam: Improvisation across Disciplines.”  Engagement Feminin is a work created and performed by Art’ Dév/Compagnie Auguste-Bienvenue, based in Burkina Faso, West Africa [Performances November 3-5]. Think Jam [November 5 at 2 pm] is “an improvised jam session with dancers, musicians, poets, and scholars, in which artistic and scholarly disciplines commingle. More information about the performance and symposium is available at the website of the World Performance Project.

November 1, 2011: Matt Cornish (Drama School D.F.A. Candidate) will present an article-in-progress entitled “Stop Just Going Along: The Dysfunctional Theatrics of René Pollesch,” available for download here.

October 25, 2011: We will discuss an article-in-progress by James O’Leary (Musicology Ph.D. Candidate), entitled “Oklahoma!’s ‘Lousy Publicity’: The Politics of Formal Integration in the American Musical Theater.”

October 18, 2011 – We’ll be reading and discussing Robin Bernstein‘s award-winning article, “Dances with Things: Material Culture and the Performance of Race,” adapted from her recent book Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (NYU Press, 2011).  Robin, a graduate of the Yale American Studies program and a fellow explorer in interdisciplinary performance studies at Yale, is now a professor of African and African American Studies and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality  at Harvard University.  Her article is accessible here.

October 11, 2011 – Julia Fawcett will lead a discussion on the use of the first person in performance studies texts and the problems it presents to the theater historian trying to negotiate the objective stance of the traditional historian with performance theorists’ critique of presumed objectivity.

October 4, 2011Dominika Laster will give a talk on Embodied Memory in the work of Jerzy Grotowski in conjunction with Thomas Richard’s and Workcenter Focused Research Team’s visit to Yale and their performance of The Living Room.