NOH MASTER CLASS AND PERFORMANCE DEMONSTRATION
WITH IZUMI ASHIZAWA
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 30th, 4:00-5:30 PM
Underbrook Theater, Saybrook College, 242 Elm Street
Izumi Ashizawa is the artistic director of Izumi Ashizawa Performance. She teaches at the State University of New York Stony Brook and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.
Staging the Genesis of a World: the Unknown Unknowns of Romeo Castellucci
Performance and theatre studies scholars have hailed the “liveness” of performance in terms of a disappearance and loss that resists reproduction, but have generally neglected to consider alternative definitions of the live as that which is “full of active power” or “contains unexpended energy.” In other words, we have often overlooked the creative power of the live event and the fact that what is to come remains more or less unknown. How might one retain this future-bound dimension of the live event–what might be called its potentiality as a medium–without succumbing to an anticipated end, without killing off the full range of its active power? How might the blank page of the theatre contain its unwritten future statements? As part of a larger book project on the Futures of Performance, this talk seeks to isolate such potentiality by looking at a theatre event that suspends a world in the process of becoming. But in order to speak of a field rich with the potential for differentiation we must also speak of the nature of this ground, some source or medium from which emergence may come. There is no emergence ex nihilo or, as Lear would have it, “nothing comes of nothing.” By narratively restaging a brief 10-minute performance by the Italian experimental director Romeo Castellucci of Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio, I will explore how creation in the theatre is an inherently apocalyptic venture; it must destroy a world in order to create another.
The cast of Dutchman will host talk-backs immediately following the Thursday 8PM and Friday 8PM performances. Students are encouraged to attend.
The Theatrical Promises of Imitation and Satirical Bank Notes: Visual Cultures of Paper Money in Britain, 1780-1850
Paper money – which had been circulating in Britain since the founding of the Bank of England in 1694 – was taken as a medium for advertisement starting in the early 1780’s. Imitation notes made theatrical promises to their viewers by borrowing the social capital of paper money for their own purposes, often masquerading as actual currency. Once the culture of paper credit expanded beyond merchants and business owners after the specie crisis of 1797, satirists and radicals seized on the idea of paper currency as a subject of and medium for social criticism in a tradition often thought to culminate in William Hone’s Bank Restriction Note and accompanying “barometer” of 1819. This presentation will widen the history of imitation bank notes to include unpublished material and related graphic satires in Britain, focusing on a few satirical bank notes by John Luffman, Samuel Knight and some unknown artists, arguing that this form reflected and helped produce the changing cultures of paper money during and after the bank restriction period (1797-1821). In addition to forming an important part of the history of visual culture and capitalism, these fake bank notes track two major dual and dueling cultural reactions to engraving: the naturalization of paper currency and the decline of graphic satire in Britain.
Theatricalism at Play in Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce and The New Electric Ballroom
In Saint Genet: Actor & Martyr, Jean-Paul Sartre observes that, “For Genet, theatrical procedure is demoniacal. Appearance, which is constantly on the point of passing itself off as reality, must constantly reveal its profound unreality.” This demoniacal element finds itself embodied in Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce and The New Electric Ballroom. Both plays are exemplars of theatricalism at play. The two investigate themes of performance as ceremony and the generation of simulacra through reciprocity in imitation. Both plays fit neatly within the rubric of Manfred Pfister’s theory of levels of fictionality; “a primary dramatic level, whose ontological status is characterized by the fictionality of dramatic presentation, contains within it a secondary dramatic level that introduces an additional fictional element.”
Walsh’s dramaturgy frequently focuses on storytelling as a mode of performance (for example,The Small Things, Bedbound). With both The Walworth Farce and The New Electric Ballroom, Walshconstructs a play and a-play-within-the-play, demarcating the theatricalist notion of the “Real” (a world within (or without) the play that constitutes the theatrical incarnation of reality) and the “Illusory” (a performative sub-world which is highlighted by and contrasted to the Real). Of course this is contrasted against the Real of the theatre itself with its seats and audience, and the Illusory of the playworld with its sets and actors. Walsh replicates a basic pattern in the two plays: the audience enter the playworld on a day when a new element enters to change the endlessly repeated, endlessly identical play-within-the-play. For the families in both plays (the emotionally stunted men of The Walworth Farce and the toxically nostalgic women of The New Electric Ballroom), performance serves as both the sustaining structure of their lives but also as a trap, confining them to seemingly inescapable roles. The catalytic act (the arrival of Tesco checkout girl Hayley in The Walworth Farce, the revelation of new information by Patsy in The New Electric Ballroom) fatally destabilizes the frame of the Illusory.
“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.
“Invisible Cities” tells a ghost story that also solves a mystery. The mystery is this: born after the Second World War, I became an eye-witness to the First World War. How is that possible? Only the dynamically interdisciplinary field of performance studies has a satisfactorily rational, albeit emotionally harrowing, answer. My purpose is to keynote this semester’s IPSY presentations and demonstrate the efficacy of our research as the single most exciting catalyst for a national revitalization of the arts and humanities K-12 as well as in colleges and universities.
Arguing for an intensified historical consciousness in performance studies generally, “Invisible Cities” derives from my work leading an intensive seminar for the Yale National Initiative for Public School Teachers last summer. These are the best teachers from the public school systems most at risk today, and they work with Yale faculty to develop innovative Curriculum Units to bring back to their students in inner city and Native American reservation schools.