Upcoming Events

November 10, 2015: Elizabeth Wiet

Jack Smith, Thomas Pynchon, and the Spectacularly Disappearing Self

Thomas Pynchon hides from a photographer, placing a pig piñata in his stead.
Thomas Pynchon hides from a photographer, placing a pig piñata in his stead.

This talk explores two of the twentieth century avant-garde’s most unlikely bedfellows: performance artist Jack Smith and novelist Thomas Pynchon. Paradigmatic examples of maximalist performance and maximalist fiction, Smith and Pynchon show an investment in creating artistic works that explore the possibilities of spectacular self-effacement. Though homophobic structures of the closet and cold war conspiracies create an atmosphere of paranoia for both, neither decide to go completely “off-grid.” Instead, they flirt endlessly with the possibility of disappearance — and in fact do so in the most spectacular way possible. Pynchon may refuse to appear in public or make his whereabouts known, but this refusal has also birthed endless hoaxes and reported sightings. He makes a brief and uncredited cameo in the cinematic adaptation of Inherent Vice (2014) knowing that it will incite inordinate gossip. Smith may have deliberately refused to advertise his performances and he may have been a notoriously guarded (and even hostile) performer, but he was also notoriously camp. He retreats from his audience, but he does so by layering upon his body an excess of colorful and intricately adorned scarves. His face is effaced, though not by a mask — it is effaced by glittery stage makeup.

In other words, this talk attempts to untangle — through a discussion of celebrity, paranoia, and maximalist aesthetics — what we mean when we use the seemingly contradictory term “reclusive persona”. By bringing together the cases of Smith and Pynchon, it also hopes to call into question traditional narratives about the insignificance of experimental fiction to American avant-garde theatre.

Elizabeth Wiet is a fifth-year PhD candidate in the English department at Yale University whose work focuses on the aesthetics and material conditions of American avant-garde theatre. She is currently completing a dissertation titled Minor Maximalisms: Theatre and the American Novel since 1960, which explores the confluence of experimental theatre and experimental fiction vis-a-vis the aesthetics of maximalismHer writing has appeared in TDR: The Drama Review.

November 3, 2015: Christine Mok

On The Face of It: Nikki S Lee’s Layers

Christine Mok’s work in theatre and performance studies, critical race theory, and American cultural history focuses on the people, places, and performances where the limits of theatrical representation rub up against the limits of racial representation. This talk is a meditation on failure, frustration, and Asian American visuality through the photography and photographic practice of Nikki S. Lee.  From 2007 to 2008, Lee, the Korean-born, New York City-based photographer, traveled to different cities around the world, from Prague to Madrid to Bangkok to Rome. In each city, Lee asked street artists to draw portraits of her on translucent tracing paper. Back at her studio, Lee arranged the images, layering drawings by artists in the same cities, one on top of the other atop a light box. She then photographed the resulting portrait. While each image, the composite of three separate drawings, from each city, is different; the multilayered images enact the difficulty of reading and seeing the Asian/American face. Defying its photogenic surface, Lee’s Layers performs the complexity and complicity of racial surveillance by frustrating viewers and reviewers alike across continents, uncovering the burdens placed upon the (Asian/American) face of the other.

Christine Mok is assistant professor of Drama and Performance in the department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati. At UC, she is the Director of the Helen Weinberger Center for the Study of Drama and Playwriting.  She is currently completing her first book project, which uses intermediality and theatricality as critical optics to examine the shifting politics and poetics of inauthenticity in contemporary Asian American performance. She has published in Theatre Survey, Modern Drama, and PAJ: A Performing Arts Journal. She received her Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance Studies from Brown University and holds an MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from the Yale School of Drama.

Nikki S. Lee, Layers, Istanbul 1, 2, 3, 2007
Nikki S. Lee, Layers, Istanbul 1, 2, 3, 2007

October 27, 2015: Elise Morrison

Remote/CTRL: Theatrical Responses to Digital Warfare

As martial investments in drones and other remote-controlled forms of surveillance and lethal weaponry increase each year, contemporary warfare has come to resemble (and even depend upon for training soldiers) “first-person shooter” video games. Virtualized, remote images of battle are contained within screenal interfaces that simulate, but also cleanse and limit the multivalent realities and “lingering destruction” of war. As these frames both enact and hold “war at a distance,” the need to use theatrical representation to help audiences think and act with empathy across the remote distances, political differences, and cultural divides of post-9/11 warfare has become all the more urgent. This presentation analyzes several recent theatrical works that reimagine screenal interfaces of war as sites through which to create empathetic understanding across the great divides and distances of contemporary warfare. In particular, I look at George Brant’s Grounded (2012), Christine Evans’ You Are Dead. You are Here. (2013), and Wafaa Bilal’s Domestic Tension (2007) for the ways they employ digital interfaces to at once reference and counteract the desensitizing and distancing effects of remotely controlled, digitally rendered warfare. Through a range of representational strategies, these works attempt to stage screenal interfaces of war as sites of intersubjective identification and communication that might instead facilitate ethical and empathetic understanding.

Elise Morrison received her PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies from Brown University in 2011. Her book project, Discipline and Desire: Surveillance Technologies in Performance, forthcoming from University of Michigan Press, focuses on artists who strategically employ technologies of surveillance to create performances that pose new and different ways of interacting with and understanding apparatuses of surveillance. Morrison has published on this topic in International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media (IJPADM), Theater Magazine, and TDR. She recently edited a special issue on “Surveillance Technologies in Performance” for IJPADM (Routledge: Fall 2015, 11.2), where she has served on the editorial board since 2010 and previously co-edited a special issue on “Digital Performance and Pedagogy” in Fall 2012. Prior to coming to Yale, Elise worked as Associate Director for Speaking Instruction at Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. As a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale (IPSY) from 2012-2015, Elise taught courses on Digital media in performance, Feminist theater and performance, Surveillance and society, and Public speaking. As the new Director for Undergraduate Studies for Theater Studies at Yale, Elise continues to teach these courses and to convene the Performance Studies Working Group.

October 20, 2015: Maurya Wickstrom

Black Spartacus: Césaire, C.L.R.James, and the New Present

vertieres This talk is derived from a book project that advocates the re-thinking of time as a political urgency. It looks to theatre and performance for a singular kind of exploration of radical temporalities. These temporalities – penultimate time, kairos, and the new present – are presented as experiences, and new forms of politics, with the potential to challenge chronological and capitalist time.

The talk itself will focus on two plays about the Haitian revolution, which took place alongside of and in deadly tension with the French Revolution and its ideals. The first is Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in History by C.L.R. James, Trinidadian author of the Black Jacobins, and an internationalist, Pan-Africanist, and revolutionary socialist. The second is The Tragedy of King Christophe: A Play, by the founder of the Francophone Negritude movement, Martiniquean Aimé Césaire. The former premiered in 1936 and the latter in 1963. Both plays are explored against the genre designations they are given, including “tragedy” or “chronicle play” or “history play”. Instead, they are treated as a resurgence of the slave Spartacus in Louverture that opens a revolutionary new present in Saint-Domingue (later renamed Haiti). This new present unfolds within, and in opposition to, the temporal logic of French, English and Spanish colonial expansion and its dependence on slavery, the accumulation of private property and European nationalism.

Maurya Wickstrom is currently teaching as a Visiting Professor in the Yale School of Drama’s Dramaturgy Department. She is on sabbatical leave from the City University of New York where she is Professor of Theatre at the Graduate Center and the College of Staten Island. She is the author of Performing Consumers: Global Capital and Its Theatrical Seductions (Routledge 2006) and Performance in the Blockades of Neoliberalism: Thinking the Political Anew (Studies in International Performance series: Palgrave Macmillan 2012). Her articles and essays have been published in Theatre Journal, TDR:The Drama Review, Performance Research, Modern Drama and others, as well as in edited volumes. Her book, Fiery Temporalities in Theatre and Performance: The Initiation of History is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Methuen Drama’s Engage series.

October 13, 2015: Christopher Grobe

Why It’s “Easier to Act with a Telephone than a Man”

IMG_0042Among theater critics, then among their film counterparts, a strange consensus emerged in the early 20th century: the greatest performances were drawn out of actors by a particular scene partner, the telephone. “If I could figure out why, I’d write an essay on the subject,” wrote theater critic George Jean Nathan in 1928. The telephone, this talk argues, was like a set of training wheels, steadying many actors’ first wobbly attempts at realism. Only when acting with a telephone, as one actress relates, can you learn to exist “subconsciously” onstage.

Scholars tend to present technology as a disruptive force, one that can deconstruct the deep and centered self. The opposite is true, though, in the case of the telephone: this technology helped mystify this sort of self in the first place. Through a wide-ranging exploration of the telephone’s stage and film career, this talk affords new perspectives on media studies and suggests new applications for acting theory. Media history has tended to ignore performance culture, much to its detriment; this talk demonstrates what performance studies can contribute to that discipline. Meanwhile, the talk suggests new pathways from the study of acting to larger cultural histories: new technologies birth new acting techniques, which, in turn, make whole new technês of the human feel suddenly possible.

Christopher Grobe is Assistant Professor of English at Amherst College. Broadly speaking, his research concerns the fluid and reciprocal influence of America’s literary, performance, and media cultures. He is currently completing a book called Performing Confession: From Robert Lowell to Reality TV. His reviews and essays can be found (or are forthcoming) in PMLA, Theater, Modern Drama, New Literary History, Public Books, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

October 6, 2015: Kimberly Jannarone

French Revolutionary Festivals and the Invention of Tradition

Federation, big

In 1793, the Committee of Public Safety dispatched functionaries into small villages in the French countryside to refashion local customs of public assembly.  Traditional gatherings, such as those at churches, were outlawed.  Instead, officials re-routed loyalties by instructing citizens to gather under secular circumstances to communally praise the nation. They introduced elaborately conceptualized ceremonies in which the young and old would embody unity and fraternity in new mass ceremonies: Dancing, physical exchanges of symbolic objects, and group participation in just-devised celebrations formed necessary parts of solidifying the new republic.

These ceremonies demonstrate how the French Revolution conceived of the power of bodies in space as a defining element in organizing the new, post-monarchical nation.  This talk will focus on two aspects of these festivals: how they embodied what Eric Hobsbawm has called “the invention of tradition” and how they demonstrate the power of live performance in the process of crafting a new social and political world.

Kimberly Jannarone is a scholar, director, dramaturg, and translator.  She received her MFA and DFA from the Yale School of Drama and is currently on leave from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she is Professor of Theater Arts, Digital Arts and New Media, and History of Consciousness, and where she holds the Gary D. Licker Memorial Chair.

She is the author of Artaud and His Doubles, winner of the Honorable Mention for the Joe Callaway Prize for best book in drama. She has published in journals including Theatre Journal, French Forum, Modernism/Modernity, TDR, the Chinese journal Theater Arts, and others.  She won the Gerald Kahan Scholar’s Prize and Honorable Mention for the Oscar Brockett Essay Prize for essays on Artaud.  Forthcoming books include Mass Performance, History, and the Invention of Tradition and the edited volume Vanguard Performance Beyond Left and Right (University of Michigan Press).

September 29, 2015: Claire Pamment

Dancing at the Edges of Section 377:
Hijraism and Colonial Legislation in Contemporary Pakistan

dhammal
Copyright: Claire Pamment.

Hijras, the South Asian community of transgender women, were subject to criminalization by nineteenth century colonial laws. The Criminal Tribes Act (1871) targeted their feminine public appearances and long tradition of performance at Hindu and Sufi festivals, fairs, celebratory gatherings and badhai, the giving of fertility blessings births and weddings (hijras believed to grant auspicious prayers or curses), as a means to police and prohibit sexual ‘intercourse against the order of nature’ as defined in Section 377 (1860). Stripped of its cultural and religious significance, hijraism was re-visioned in public discourse to signify deviant sexuality and outlawed. Yet hijraism proved an unstable signifier; impossible to police and dislocate from culturally embedded knowledge, lending to repeal of CTA in 1910. In contemporary Pakistan, though Section 377 still exists, hijras/khwajasaras have recently been awarded legitimate citizenship identities (2009). I explore how recent media and legal attention that accompanied these reforms, reasserts the legacies of the colonial past; extending the anti-performance imperatives, to police ‘unnatural’ bodies and ‘unnatural’ sexuality in favor of making ‘good’ Pakistani citizens. In turn, I explore how khwajasaras are drawing upon their traditional performance repertoire to redress their marginalization beyond the microscopic gaze of Section 377, to re situate themselves in cultural space.

Claire Pamment is a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. She is a performance practitioner and scholar, working in South Asian theater and performance, with a focus on the popular, comedic, burlesque and queer in Pakistan. Her Ph.D. thesis from Royal Central School of Speech and Drama explored comic performance in Pakistan with a focus on the bhand tradition through Sufi wise fools, and transformations in contemporary culture. Her book ‘Comic Performance in Pakistan: The Bhand’ is forthcoming from Palgrave. Over the last two years, with the support of a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant, she has been working on the performance culture of the Pakistani transgender community of khwajasaras (hijras). During her fellowship at Yale she will further this research by investigating how Sufism informs khwajasara identity and history in Pakistan, and shapes performance practices that enable this transgender community to negotiate a variety of restrictive social scripts.

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

April 18th, 2015: “Farewell Performances” An IPSY Conference

This conference of Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale will be held at the Whitney Humanities Center, rm 208.  The schedule is as follows.

10:30-12:00 Valediction, Self, and Society

Julia Fawcett, Ryerson University
“Save the Last Dance: Performance as History in Restoration London”

Justin Sider, Yale University
“The Consummated Spell: A.C. Swinburne’s Farewell Address”

Elizabeth Wiet, Yale University
“Ron Vawter/Jack Smith: Queer Goodbyes and the New York Avant-Garde”

Andrew Brown, Yale University (Respondent)

 

12:00-1:30 Lunch

 

1:30-3:00 Memorials and Traumas of Nationhood

Michelle Martin-Baron, Hobart and William Smith College

“Farewell Performances and Futuristic Hauntings”

Jessica Rizzo, Yale University
“Trauma as Performance: Lola Arias’s El Año en Que Nací”

Carrie J. Preston, Boston University
“Undead Plays: Yeats’s Irish National Theater and Japanese Noh Drama”

Joey Plaster, Yale University (Respondent)

 

3:15-4:45 Resisting Farewell

Dominika Laster, Yale University
“Agency for Hiring the Dearly Departed”: Surrogation in Tadeusz Kantor’s Theatre of Death”

Paige McGinley, Washington University in St. Louis
“(Don’t) Take a Bow: On Curtain Calls and Concluding Songs”

Elise Morrison, Yale University
“Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: Practices of Re-Membering through Digital Surveillance”

Tina Post, Yale University (Respondent)

 

5:00 Closing Remarks
Joseph Roach, Yale University