PSWG – Fall 2013 Program

*Unless otherwise specified, all meetings will be held from 1-2 p.m in  Rm 208 of the Whitney Humanities Center.

September 3  – Joseph Roach: Invisible Cities

September 10 – Mary Isbell:   “Maintaining the Dignity of the Stage” at Sea: Nineteenth-Century Shipboard Theatricals

September 17 –  Tanya Dean: Theatricalism at Play in Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce and The New Electric Ballroom

September 24 – Amanda Lahikainen: The Theatrical Promises of Imitation and Satirical Bank Notes: Visual Cultures of Paper Money in Britain, 1780-1850

October 1 – Daniel Sack: Staging the Genesis of a World: the Unknown Unknowns of Romeo Castellucci

October 8 – Todd Madigan: Perfect Fools: Sanctity, Madness, and the Theory of Ambiguous Performance

October 15 – Emily Coates and Sarah Demers

October 22 – Patricia Hardwick

October 29 – Amy Hughes

November 5 – La Marr Bruce

November 12- Kedar Kulkarni

November 19 – Lindsay Goss

December 3 – Elinor Fuchs


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

 Of Drammatology: Form and Content in Performative Exchange

In Of Grammatology, Derrida analyzes the relationship between speaking and writing, and the order of their appearance: did speaking appear before writing, or vice versa? The notion that speaking appeared before writing, for Derrida, comes from a certain ethnocentric attitude of Western philosophy according to which illiterate tribes are of somewhat inferior intelligence compared with literate Westerners. The question of the order of appearance also creates a certain pressure to establish the point of origins, to define the difference between speaking and writing and to place the concept of writing in an ontological framework. Looking at graphic writing, Derrida suggests that instead of writing being a representation of oral language, oral language “already belongs to writing” (55). In this sense, “‘the natural,’ ‘original,’ etc. language had never existed, never been intact and untouched by writing, [. . .] it had itself always been a writing” (57). This would suggest that the thought is already a symbolic thought, a graphic image, which does not exist outside of language (“il n’y a pas de hors-texte”). This is, Derrida believes, an essential question of literature, as it redefines speech as a form of archi-writing.

If speech is a form of archi-writing, would that mean that performance is a form of archi-drama? The problem with that definition of the dramatic text is that the field trapped itself in the Derridean aporia of Lehmann’s concept of the post-dramatic. Is the postmodern theatre then fundamentally a theatre of ontological aporia? Performance Studies scholars, like Richard Schechner, for example, argue that performance appeared before text; that performance is that “primitive” pre-dramatic impulse, a visceral response of the body to the world (embodied experience). Simultaneously, Hans-Thies Lehmann asserts that our postmodern theatre is predominantly post-dramatic, post-textual. What are the implications of that dialogue about the point of origins between text and performance in performative exchange? Is this dichotomy between text and performance (Performance Studies’ own deconstructive “elemental opposition”) fundamentally anachronistic? Did Performance Studies misread Derrida’s foundational thesis?

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

The clearest thesis I was able to draw from my work with The Wooster Group and The Royal Shakespeare Company on their joint production of Troilus and Cressida this past summer was that “play”, as conceptualized by the performance theories of Richard Schechner, is critical to the work of The Wooster Group. “Play” (specifically game play) serves three critical functions for The Wooster Group’s director Liz LeCompte.
1. It gives rise to the raw material in the creation of a piece.
2. It provides a clear means for communicating with actors.
3. It enables the creation of a “new naturalism” with an awareness of the theatrical spectacle within the performances themselves.
In London, this game play became murkier (“deeper” and “darker” as Schechner might describe it) as The Wooster Group played Indian with the RSC. In my talk I will explore the various levels of play in The Wooster Group’s production of Troilus and Cressida and the implications of these forms of play.

There Are Still So Many Things Left to Say (1997) a film by Omar Amiralay

Thursday, March 28, 2013   |  8 PM

Linsly-Chittenden Hall  |  Room 101  |  Open to the public

There Are Still So Many Things Left to Say



The film was based on an interview with the late dramatist Saadallah Wannous a few months before he died of cancer. Wannous narrates his somber and relentless reflections – an adieu to a generation for whom the Arab-Israeli conflict has been the source of all disillusion. The playwright recounts, with some regret for the lost opportunities that resulted, how the Palestinian struggle became a central part of intellectual life for an entire generation.

Followed by a discussion with Mohammad Al Attar, Dalia Basiouny, and Eyad Houssami with Ronald Gregg.

Doomed by Hope Theatre Series: March 27-30, 2013

Doomed by Hope Theatre Series

March 27-30, 2013



The nonprofit theatre organization Masrah Ensemble (Lebanon) is organizing an international series of events and activities featuring leading playwrights, directors, cultural administrators, and scholars from the Middle East and the United States, whose work is featured in Doomed by Hope: Essays on Arab Theatre. The series of events will include conversations about the ideas at the core of the artists’ work; readings from their plays; lecture performances; workshops for theatre students; and screenings of films and documentaries.


ABOUT Doomed by Hope

Doomed by Hope: Essays on Arab Theatre

Edited by Eyad Houssami with a foreword by Elias Khoury Pluto Press, 2012 (English) – Dar Al Adab, 2012 (Arabic)


In this unprecedented collection featuring original photography, vanguards of the stage reflect on the legacy of the late Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous, whose monumental plays incited audiences to rise up against tyranny decades ago. Doomed by Hope is a collection of fourteen essays in which playwrights, directors, and scholars capture the zeitgeist of Arab theatre as revolts unfurl across the Middle East. The book maneuvers from intimate memoir to incisive analysis of dramatic literature. From the bowels of Lebanon’s most notorious prison to the drama school of Damascus to the theatres of Cairo and Sanaa, Arab theatre artists are propelling the collective imagination of this pivotal historical moment.



Program of Events

Thursday, March 28, 2013

9:45 AM  |  Classroom Workshop  | Open to all Theatre Studies students


Dalia Basiouny and Margaret Litvin will be guest speakers in Dominika Laster’s Performance Studies seminar.  Basiouny will  perform extracts from Tahrir Stories.  Litvin will share her response and present on the “instant memorialization” of the revolts in Arab performing arts. For the first time, the theatre practitioner and author ofTahrir Stories will be able to discuss the political and social factors that have shaped her work on the stage with theatre scholar Margaret Litvin. Eyad Houssami and Dominika Laster will moderate the session.  To register contact Dominika Laster at


4 PM  | Master’s Tea at Pierson College  | Open to all Theatre Studies students

Doomed by Hope: Theatre in Beirut, Damascus, and Cairo Today 

by Eyad Houssami with Dalia Basiouny and Mohammad Al Attar


In a world of screens and speeds so great, theatres are padlocked and threatened with demolition. Live public dialogue, as a literary and artistic practice, remains a luxury – if not an impossible cultural phenomenon – in the Arab Middle East. Decades of invasion, occupation, and internecine conflict have ruptured the intangible and tangible infrastructure requisite for theatre. And yet, despite the stifling forces of dictatorship and colonialism, theatre endures. In this talk, Houssami narrates the emergence of alternative infrastructures of and for theatrical artistry in such difficult contexts and discusses the opportunities and challenges of establishing an international, multilingual theatre company based in Beirut, Lebanon. The interactive presentation incorporates video, excerpts of performances and plays, and extracts from Doomed by Hope: Essays on Arab Theatre to share a story about contemporary theatre today.


8 PM  |  Film screening |  Linsly-Chittenden Hall, Room 101  | Open to the public

There Are Still So Many Things Left to Say



The film was based on an interview with the late dramatist Saadallah Wannous a few months before he died of cancer. Wannous narrates his somber and relentless reflections – an adieu to a generation for whom the Arab-Israeli conflict has been the source of all disillusion. The playwright recounts, with some regret for the lost opportunities that resulted, how the Palestinian struggle became a central part of intellectual life for an entire generation.


Followed by a discussion with Mohammad Al Attar, Dalia Basiouny, and Eyad Houssami with Ronald Gregg.


Friday, March 29, 2013 | 4 PM 

Yale Drama Coalition (YDC) Theatre Workshop:  The Personal Revolution 

Dalia Basiouny (with Eyad Houssami and Mohammad Al Attar)  — Open to all Yale students.  Advance registration required.  For more information, please contact Kate Heaney:




Basiouny is a writer, theatre director, translator, and university professor in Egypt. She has directed 18 plays in Egypt, United Kingdom, and the United States, and her plays have been performed in Morocco, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and Germany. She is a contributor to Doomed by Hope.


Playwright and dramaturg, Al Attar is a graduate of the Faculty of English Literature – Damascus University and the Faculty of Theatre Studies – High Institute of Dramatic Arts. He received his MA degree in Applied Drama from Goldsmiths College. In 2006, Al Attar joined the Studio Theatre Company in Damascus, participating in projects in rural and impoverished areas as well as in a juvenile institute. His play Withdrawal has been adapted for stages in London, New York, New Delhi, Berlin, Tunisia, and Beirut. His play Online premiered at Royal Court Theatre. Could You Please Look into the Camera? premiered at the National Theatre of Scotland’s Traverse Theatre, and his recent short play “A Chance Encounter” debuted with Theatre Uncut 2012 at the Young Vic.


Margaret Litvin is assistant professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at Boston University and the author of Hamlet’s Arab Journey: Shakespeare’s Prince and Nasser’s Ghost (Princeton, 2011). Her current research (working title Another East: Arab Writers, Moscow Dreams) explores Russian-Arab and Soviet Arab literary and cultural ties, tracing their effects on Arabic cultural production. She also writes about contemporary Arab drama and intercultural theatre.


Houssami makes and writes about theatre. He is the founding director of Masrah Ensemble and the editor of the English and Arabic editions of Doomed by Hope: Essays on Arab Theatre. He has performed in dead Byzantine cities in Syria; produced a monodrama in a 13th century mansion only to be shut down by the government; and his play Mama Butterfly received a staged reading at the Between the Seas Festival (New York 2010). A recipient of Rotary and Fulbright grants, he also co-founded and served as President of the Yale Arab Alumni Association.


Mama Butterfly

by Eyad Houssami

How do war and diaspora fragment the meaning of family and reshape the experience of loneliness? In Mama Butterfly, a lonely widow conjures up ghosts of her past, holding her family together in the face of the centrifuge of history. It is he story of a woman, from French-occupied Damascus, who falls in love with a man from Beirut and adopts the city as her own.  Globalization, war, and occupation dismember her city and launch her and her family into a state of

migration. Bereaved of her husband, going blind, and left with two children in the Gulf and no family in Beirut, she withstands the pressure to leave and, instead, chooses a life of fixed solitude in Beirut, the city she calls home. In so doing, she and the city together become the axis of family.  The text, originally authored in Arabic and French, is based on a series of interviews conducted in Beirut in 2007. The performance runs 50 minutes. Although the inaugural production was shut down by the Syrian government, the play enjoyed a reading in Between the Seas Festival (New York, 2010).



by Dalia Basiouny

Solitaire is a play by Egyptian writer and director Dalia Basiouny. This production is a multi-media performance that connects the events of September 11th in the United States to the Egyptian Revolution, highlighting them as two main catalysts in the change the world is experiencing in the 21st Century.  It opened in Cairo March 2011 and was presented in Iraq in April and Morocco in June. It toured the US in summer 2011.


Tahrir Stories

by Dalia Basiouny


Tahrir Stories was among the first performances to document the Egyptian revolution through testimonies of the demonstrators and to honor those who fell during the revolution.



Sarab Al Ani, Arabic Lector, Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and Council on Middle East Studies

Dominika Laster, Postdoctoral Associate, Lecturer, Theatre Studies

Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor of Theater and English, Theatre Studies



Council on Middle East Studies, Frank Griffel

Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale, Joseph Roach

Arab Students Association, Hana Muasher

Yale Drama Coalition, Katherine Heaney

Film Studies Program, Ronald Gregg

Pierson College, Harvey Goldblatt and Susan M. Anderson


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

This paper looks at the impact of institutions such as the UNESCO “Intangible Cultural Heritage” designation on art forms, national rivalries evoked when forms are shared across national boundaries, and issues of cultural documentation, preservation, and development with examples drawn from  Southeast Asia and beyond.

Kathy Foley is professor of theatre at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has also taught at the University of Hawaii, Yonsei University, and Chulalongkorn University. She is author of the Southeast Asia section of The Cambridge guide to World Theatre and editor of Asian Theatre Journal, and her articles have appeared inTDR, Modern Drama, Asian Theatre Journal, Puppetry International, among others. She trained in mask and puppetry in the Sundanese region of Indonesia, and was the first non-Indonesian invited to perform in the prestigious all-Indonesia National Wayang Festival. As an actress her performance of Shattering the Silence: Blavatsky, Besant, Ruukmini Devi toured the U.S. and England in 2005. She performs frequently in the US and Indonesia and has curated exhibitions of puppets of South and Southeast Asia and masks of Southeast Asia for many institutions. She worked on typology and cosmology with recent fieldwork in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Plays include Farewell to Manzanar (with Jeannie and Jim Houston), Baba (with Belle Yang, and Fox Hunts and Freedom Fighters. At Yale, she will work on a manuscript on Islamic mysticism, music, and mask dance, and puppetry in West Java; the fellowship will also result in performances of wayang(Indonesian traditional theatre).

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

Since it was first presented in 2007, The Wooster Group’s Hamlet has motivated scholars to rethink conceptual binaries commonly employed in theater and performance studies such as the original and the copy, the live and the mediated, the archive and the repertoire. My presentation examines the The Wooster Group’s playful, self-reflexive recreation of the filmed 1964 Broadway production starring Richard Burton through another such binary: human performers and material objects. I attempt to theorize the role material objects play in a reenacted performance’s claim to historical and canonical authenticity by focusing on how The Wooster Group meticulously emulates not only the actors’ performances but also the stage as it is documented in the film, which remains as a constant presence on screen in stark contrast to the actors that are frequently edited out of the image.

Joey Plaster’s project featured on NPR’s Hearing Voices

PSWG member Joey Plaster spent a year gathering 70+ oral histories from people experiencing Polk Street’s transition from San Francisco’s working class queer neighborhood to an upscale entertainment district. This radio special, based on the project, was distributed nationally via NPR’s HearingVoices:

Georgetown University is now adapting the piece for the stage, with performances scheduled for March:

February 5 – Discussion of the film: John Frum: He Will Come

During World War II, America arrived for the first time in Vanuatu and impressed the natives with their advanced technology and generous gifts of cargo. Instead of threatening them or forcing religious ideologies upon them, American soldiers treated the Tannese with dignity and respect and donated medical supplies, food, clothes, and other necessities. In addition, the Tannese were amazed to see black officers among the ranks of soldiers.

America became their beacon of hope against the European occupiers and a resistance movement that had begun before the war assumed religious dimensions that now included America. A mysterious deity named John Frum emerged who embodied these sentiments. After the war, the United States left and the John Frum spirit also departed. A prophecy arose that John Frum would return to Tanna with an abundance of American goods and lead them to salvation from the Christian missionaries. Believers were thrown into prison by the British and French for blasphemy until they were granted religious freedom in 1957. The John Frum followers patiently wait for their American savior to return.

Upon discovering the existence of the John Frum Movement, Cevin Soling, a Harvard graduate student and filmmaker, traveled to Tanna with an abundance of American goods in the hopes of fulfilling the John Frum prophecy. “John Frum, He Will Come” chronicles Mr. Soling’s attempt at becoming an island god.


David E. Guinan is a writer, producer, and director who works in the world of converging media. He studied artistic applications of emerging technologies and comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin, as well as the Sorbonne.  In 1998, he joined MTV Networks to develop and produce original multimedia programming.  He went out on his own in 2001 and began an intense exploration of more experimental types of filmmaking. David produced and directed John Frum, He Will Come a feature length documentary about cargo cults that worship America on the island of Tanna in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu.  John Frum, He Will Come had its world premiere and headlined the 20th annual Hot Springs Documentary Festival.  He also produced Freeloader, a narrative feature that premiered opening weekend at Rooftop Films and was featured in the New York Times, Time Out, and New York 1. He also continued his collaboration with artist Liz Magic Laser producing Flight and I Feel Your Pain, both of which received glowing reviews in the New York Times, Art Forum, Modern Painter, and New York Magazine.  He continues to work with other notable artist including Frances Stark, Michelle Abeles, Simone Leigh, and Ryan McNamara.

Cevin Soling  is a writer, director, producer, artist, and academic.  He produced and directed The War on Kids, which illustrates how American public schools are now modeled after prisons and why they cannot be reformed.  The film was honored as the best educational documentary at the New York Independent Film and Video Festival and received accolades from The New York Times, Variety, and The Huffington Post.   Soling has been a guest on numerous radio shows including “The Lionel Show” (Air America), “The Joey Reynolds Show” (WOR), and “The Leonard Lopate Show” (WNYC).  Additionally, he has appeared on national television on the RT network, “The Dr. Nancy Show” (MSNBC), and as a featured guest on “The Colbert Report.”  Soling is currently enrolled in graduate school at Harvard University.