April 22, 2014 — Season Finale

On TuesdayApril 22 from 1pm to 2pm, we will convene at 220 York Street in Room 202 for a group conversation about the state of the field of performance studies as it pertains to our work. We will discuss interdisciplinarity, pedagogy, ideology, institutionalization, professionalization, and other issues in the contemporary academy and broader cultural sphere.

Some questions to kick off discussion will include:

  •  What is the state of performance studies as an interdisciplinary field?
  • In a “disciplinary” institution such as Yale, how does this “interdisciplinary” group serve your work as a teacher and scholar?  How might the group better serve the “interdisciplinary” at Yale and beyond?
  • What are pedagogical strategies that seem to work particularly well when teaching interdisciplinary courses?  (do you define disciplinary borders? are there interdisciplinary methodologies that you have established?)
  • What challenges arise when marketing scholarly work as interdisciplinary (particularly in the realms of publishing and job market)?  What strategies help to meet these challenges?


Come prepared for a lively discussion as we send off the 2013-2014 season of PSWG. As always, a light lunch will be served.

April 15, 2014 — Isaiah Matthew Wooden


Reading Eisa Davis’s semi-autobiographical play, Angela’s Mixtape (2009), alongside Tanya Hamilton’s film, Night Catches Us (2010), this talk investigates the emergence and significance of what I term “Black Power Nostalgia” in contemporary black expressive culture. A remixing of urban ethnographer Michele Boyd’s theorization of “Jim Crow Nostalgia”—what Boyd cite as the reimagining of contemporary blackness through nostalgia for the Jim Crow past—“Black Power Nostalgia” signifies a longing for the past that acknowledges the incredible systemic and personal violences of it as a means to celebrate the ability of resistance movements—notably, Black Power movements—to imagine, if not effect, social change while also opening space to critique investments in the time of progress. I turn to Davis’s play and Hamilton’s film to consider the ways that, through a series of backward glances, both use the leverage of performance to stake a claim for the currency of blackness in and against a moment awash in rhetorics of the “post.

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

Isaiah Matthew Wooden is a director-dramaturg and Ph.D. Candidate in Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford University with creative and research interests in popular culture and contemporary black theater and performance. His critical writings have appeared in academic journals including Callaloo and Theatre Journal and on popular sites such as The Huffington Post and The Feminist Wire, among others. Isaiah’s dissertation, “The Afterwards of Blackness: Race, Time, and Contemporary Performance,” analyzes the aesthetic strategies and practices that contemporary black cultural producers deploy to critique concepts of normative or “modern” temporality. Isaiah is currently a Guest Artist in Theater and Performance Studies at Georgetown University, where he is directing Robert O’Hara’s Insurrection: Holding History.

April 8, 2014 — Dominika Laster

Discussion of Back to Back Theatre’s Ganesh Versus the Third Reich 

(from the Back to Back website) The story begins with the elephant-headed god Ganesh travelling through Nazi Germany to reclaim the Swastika, an ancient Hindu symbol. As this intrepid hero embarks on his journey a second narrative is revealed: the actors themselves begin to feel the weighty responsibility of storytellers and question the ethics of cultural appropriation.

Cleverly interwoven in the play’s design is the story of a young man inspired to create a play about Ganesh, god of overcoming obstacles. He is an everyman who must find the strength to overcome the difficulties in his own life, and defend his play and his collaborators against an overbearing colleague.

The show is made before our very eyes and takes on its own life. It invites us to examine who has the right to tell a story and who has the right to be heard. It explores our complicity in creating and dismantling the world, human possibility and hope.

Ganesh Versus the Third Reich is a work for the near future, seemingly impossible to make.

Film Screening
Ganesh Versus the Third Reich (Bruce Gladwin, dir.)
Monday, April 7
5:30pm – 7:15pm
220 York Street, Room 202
Group Discussion (light, catered lunch provided)
(Facilitated by Dominika Laster, DUS, Department of Theater Studies)
Tuesday, April 8
1pm – 2pm
220 York Street, Room 202
Dominika Laster is a native of Wrocław, Poland.  Her areas of research include:  20th century theatre, Eastern European theatre, intercultural performance, nonwestern theatre, postcolonial studies, immigration, memory and trauma studies, abjection, and the politics of performance.  In addition to her scholarly research, Laster has worked as a director and performer in work ranging from pantomime to opera.


April 1, 2014 — Hans Vermy

The Lightest Distinction

“The Lightest Distinction” looks beyond the invention of the photograph to the spread of the electric grid as a focal point for the modern disciplinary distinction between moving image media and theatre. The talk focuses on two transitions in luminous media–the transition from gas to electric light and the change from real to digital light–exploring how the modern turn to electricity and the digital revolution extend and mirror each other both in theatre and animation. These themes and light sources are explored through Anne Washburn’s Mr Burns: a post-electric play (2012), its many media inspirations, such as the popular television series The Simpsons, and other narratives of theatrical luminescence.

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

Hans Vermy hails from the redwooded Santa Cruz Mountains. After graduating with a B.A. from Cornell University, he went on to work in production management at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence and as a film editor and production director in California. In 2007 his work on the short film The Replacement Child won the Suzanne Petit Film Editing Award from the Santa Fe Film Festival. Other film highlights include filming off the side of Half Dome for Moving Over Stone and directing the never-ending, mostly animated, folk musicalWondered Quest featuring 15 Bay Area artists. Hans is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies at Brown University. His current interests hover about notions of liveness, new media, and the performance of identity in cyberspace.

March 25, 2014 — Tina Post

Expressionlessness and Affective Materiality
(The Black Blackface Edition)

Black minstrel performances are often dismissed as unfortunate occurrences in the history of African American self-representation—and not without some reason. Their performers are generally assumed to have stepped (tragically, or greedily) into the minstrel form without significantly disrupting its racist tropes. Yet an attention to the obvious excess of burnt cork on an already “black” face suggests a far more complex representation of blackness, especially when these minstrels shared the stage with uncorked black performers. In this talk, I consider the ways in which blackface acts as a form of masking in the theatrical pairing of Williams and Walker, transfiguring the affects and meanings of blackness through a play of surfaces.

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

Tina Post is a doctoral student in Yale’s African American and American studies programs. Her work explores black expressionlessness as an aesthetic and performative gesture. She previously earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage and has published literary essays in The Appendix and Stone Canoe.

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.

February 25, 2014 — Elise Morrison

Through the Looking Glass: Performing Gender in Surveillance Art

While surveillance technologies are commonly figured as masculine, protective instruments of patriarchal power, referred to as “the Man” and “Big Brother,” there is a particular blind spot in cultural studies of surveillance when it comes to critically examining the gaze of surveillance as gendered and gendering. My presentation addresses this oversight by exploring the work of surveillance artists that stage surveillance as a “technology of gender”, a term coined by feminist film theorist Teresa de Lauretis to describe dominant visual media, such as Hollywood cinema, that produce and maintain gender norms. I explore a feminist line of inquiry in these works that, while they do not all draw explicit allegiances to feminism, are implicitly in conversation with feminist approaches to defining, critiquing, and building alternatives to a disciplinary “male gaze” in visual culture. We will look at work by artists and activists such as Jill Magid, Steve Mann, Mona Hatoum, and Giles Walker that make visible the gendered and gendering gaze of surveillance, and produce alternative, even transgressive performances of gender under and through surveillance.

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

Elise received her PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies from Brown University in 2011 and is currently a postdoctoral associate in Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale.  Her book project, Discipline and Desire: Surveillance Technologies in Performance, forthcoming from University of Michigan Press, looks at artists who strategically employ technologies of surveillance to create performances and installations that pose new and different ways of interacting with and understanding apparatuses of surveillance.

February 18, 2014 — Elizabeth Wiet

Minor Maximalisms: Theater and the American Novel Since 1960

What would it mean to disentangle American experimental theater from historical narratives of twentieth-century music, visual art, and poetry, and to re-entangle it with the history of twentieth-century fiction?  In my dissertation, I explore the confluences of experimental theater and experimental fiction in the United States from 1960 to the present by tracking their mutual use of a “maximalist” aesthetic. Given its interest in historicity, publicity, and various forms of play, I argue that the aesthetic dimensions of the maximalist novel are acutely theatrical—and it is for this reason that maximalism provides a particularly crucial point of entrance into the intersections between these two forms. Though each chapter of my dissertation draws on the work of a number of different artists, they are structured around the pairing of one theater artist with one novelist: in the first chapter, Thomas Pynchon and Jack Smith; in the second, William Gaddis and Robert Wilson; in the third, Kathy Acker and Laurie Anderson; in the fourth, David Foster Wallace and The Nature Theater of Oklahoma.

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

Elizabeth Wiet is a third-year PhD student in the department of English at Yale University.


February 11, 2014 — Alexandra Ripp

Re-localizing Globalized Theater: The Revisionary Performances of Post-Dictatorship Chile in Guillermo Calderón’s Neva, Diciembre, and Villa

Over the last seven years, the productions of Chilean playwright-director Guillermo Calderón have toured the world to great acclaim. Although the globalization of theater—primarily via the international festival circuit—has brought his work to non-Chileans who appreciate it without deep contextual knowledge, Calderón’s work specifically reflects and engages its particular post-dictatorship context. As an artist, Calderón is motivated by national goals: to encourage Chileans to acknowledge their country’s past and criticize today’s democracy for perpetuating problems of that past. How can we, as international audience members, be responsible spectators of this “local” work in global circulation? Examining Calderón’s artistic trajectory through his plays Neva (2006), Diciembre (2008), and Villa (2011), I suggest that his work shows an evolving negotiation between a “local” Latin American model of performance and a “global” one applicable to diverse cultures. I see this shifting negotiation between models as bound up with Calderón’s increasingly direct call for Chileans to reassess their past, present, and future—and as one that demands that we be agile and discerning in our spectatorship.

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

Alexandra Ripp is a first-year DFA candidate in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at the Yale School of Drama. She is a former managing editor of Theater magazine and is the 2012 winner of the John Gassner Memorial Prize for criticism. Her translation of Teatro de Chile’s Rey Planta was produced at the Yale Cabaret in 2011, and she continues to translate for the group. She is the Ideas Program Manager at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas.

February 4, 2014 — Sarah Piazza

Music and Metafiction: Creative Reading in Le cahier de romances

Creole and French lyrics to romantic ballads color Raphaël Confiant’s autobiographic portrait of boyhood in Fort de France, Martinique in Le cahier de romances (2000). The narrator and author figure, Raphaël, delights in the sonorous pleasure of listening to sung and spoken Creole. He also discovers a delectable refuge in reading French novels. Le cahier shows how vicarious experiences, like appreciating music and reading, cause pleasure by momentarily suspending reality. In addition to provoking pleasure, representations of writing, reading, and song also problematize aspects of Martinican society, such as racial and linguistic hierarchies. I argue that the way in which vicarious experiences inspire Raphaël to question his childhood space convert them from simple pleasures into forms of joy. Confiant reveals that creating and appreciating music and literature are not merely an evasion of reality but rather constitute a transformative reimagining of the past and the present. Intertextual representations of reading in Le cahier de romances invite us to creatively interpret the complex relationship between different vicarious experiences and Martinican society as represented in the novel.

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

Sarah Piazza is currently working on a doctorate in Comparative Literature at Yale University. She earned her Master of Philosophy in Spanish from Yale’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese in 2013. Her prospectus examines uses of popular music in Francophone and Hispanic Caribbean novels. She is delighted to learn about the interdisciplinary intersections of Performance Studies thanks to PSWG!