March 7, 2014 — Performance and the Sea

An IPSY Symposium featuring

Stuart M. Frank, Senior Curator Emeritus, New Bedford Whaling Museum; Director, Scrimshaw Forensics® Laboratory; Director Emeritus, Kendall Whaling Museum

Anita Gonzalez, Professor of Theatre and Drama, University of Michigan

Eleanor Hughes, Associate Director of Exhibitions and Publications, and Associate Curator, Yale Center for British Art

Mary Isbell, Postdoctoral Associate in Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale

Jason Mancini, Senior Researcher, Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center

Jason Shaffer, Associate Professor of English, United States Naval Academy

Friday, March 7, 2014
continental breakfast and light lunch provided
Whitney Humanities Center, Room 208

8:30: Continental Breakfast
9:00 Joseph Roach, Opening Remarks
9:30 Jason Shaffer: “Theatre of War, 1812”
9:45 Mary Isbell: “Crossing the Line: Compulsory and Voluntary Shipboard Performance”
10:00 Eleanor Hughes: “Spreading Canvas: Marine Painting and Theater”
10:15 Q&A
11:00 Stuart Frank: “Jolly Sailors Bold: Ballads and Songs of the American Sailor”
11:15 Anita Gonzalez: “Black Stewards, Sea Acts, and Vernacular Port Performance”
11:30 Jason Mancini: “Artifacts of Performance from the Indian Mariners Project”
11:45 Q&A
12:30 Lunch

January 28, 2014 — Joseph Cermatori

Re-reading The Case of Wagner, or the Stakes of Philosophy as Theatrical Performance

In the field of theater studies, Friedrich Nietzsche’s late essay The Case of Wagner has typically been read as his indictment of the conspicuously theatrical strategies at play in Richard Wagner’s musicology, in the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk or ‘total artwork,’ and in late nineteenth-century cultural production more generally. Broadly put, this argument is the central one advanced about Nietzsche in Jonas Barish’s Anti-Theatrical Prejudice (University of California Press, 1981), to name just one celebrated instance. And yet, as numerous scholars and philosophers have more recently noted (Fuchs, Puchner, Sloterdijk, Agamben), various aspects of Nietzsche’s own writing can be seen regularly to perform certain theatricalizing maneuvers all their own. In light of these claims and the more general turn in recent theater studies toward the intersections of performance and philosophy, this presentation will use Nietzsche’s Case of Wagner to trace the contours of the precarious and critical ambivalence (as opposed to opposition) he cultivated toward theater in his later years. How, if at all, might we best distinguish between these two conceptions of theatricality in performance, Nietzsche contra Wagner’s? How might doing so help produce a new reading of The Case of Wagner, one that is informed by dramaturgical and performance-based methods of analysis? And how does construing Nietzsche’s writings on Wagner as a form of immanent critique help us to shift our understanding of his larger philosophical body of work?

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

Joseph Cermatori is a Ph.D. candidate and Javits Foundation graduate fellow at Columbia University, where his research focuses on transatlantic modernism with an emphasis on the interrelationships between theater, historiography, theater theory, and philosophy. His dissertation project draws upon a variety of critical discourses to examine the concept of the baroque as it was developed in aesthetic theory around the turn of the twentieth century, arguing that this period’s emergent avant-garde theaters and its attempts at understanding seventeenth-century cultural production shaped each other in decisive, dynamic ways.

He holds an M.F.A. in dramaturgy and dramatic criticism from Yale University, where he worked as a graduate fellow and assisted with teaching classes on theater history, Shakespeare, and collaborative theater-making. He has worked as a production dramaturg for projects at a number of theaters, including Classic Stage Company, Yale Repertory Theatre, and the McCarter Theatre Center.

Joseph is an active arts critic and a theater artist, an occasional contributor to the Village Voice’s theater section, a member of the Brooklyn-based theater design collective Wingspace, and an assistant editor at PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art. He is also a co-founder of the UNSCRIPTED, an interdisciplinary working group on performance at Columbia University.  Joseph is currently a lecturer on the theater and interdisciplinary arts faculties of Eugene Lang College, the New School for Liberal Arts.

January 21, 2014 — Alice Rebecca Moore

Admiral Nimitz Touches Time: The Dilemma of Tragic Alternatives in the History Pageant of Fredericksburg, Texas

When Fleet Admiral Nimitz toured the country in 1945 as the national hero credited with winning the war in the Pacific, he visited San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and his birthplace of Fredericksburg, Texas, which welcomed Nimitz back with a sort of awe-filled reverence. Local Esther Mueller, too, journeyed to her hometown to see the great man and to “catch a new thrill” for the end of the town history pageant. In the previous two iterations of the pageant (1929, 1936), something had seemed off. The history of Fredericksburg—time itself—effectively stopped just after the Civil War. Where Mueller expressed the need to produce a “thrill,” performance theorist Rebecca Schneider employs the theory “touching time.” In this talk, I investigate the problem of time posed by the Fredericksburg history pageant in conjunction with performance theory in order to trouble the codependence of coherent community with an investment in linear time. I argue that, when touched, time can only explode, fragment, and transform into the dramaturgy of fairytale.

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

Alice Rebecca Moore is currently completing her PhD in American Studies at Yale University. Her research investigates crossings of memory, performance, and time as evidenced in the visual and performance culture of a small town in central Texas founded as a German colony in the mid-nineteenth century. Alice also holds an MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from the Yale School of Drama.

La Marr Jurelle Bruce awarded Joe Weixlmann Award at MLA

We’re delighted to announce that La Marr Jurelle Bruce was awarded the Joe Weixlmann Award for Best Essay Representing Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century African-American or Pan-African Literature and Culture. This award is given by African American Review, the Publication of the Black Literature Forum of the Modern Language Association. The essay, entitled “‘The People Inside My Head, Too’: Madness, Black Womanhood, and the Radical Performance of Lauryn Hill,” appeared in a special issue of AAR, “On Black Performance.”

Mary Isbell – Amateur Stages: Nineteenth-Century Theatricals on Land and at Sea

Amateur Stages recovers the “theatrical” as a distinct type of performance in the period, documents the widespread popularity of the practice with diverse social groups including aristocrats, middle-class families, university students, office clerks, and sailors aboard naval vessels, and theorizes the unique features of theatricals through concepts derived from nineteenth-century literature.

La Marr Jurelle Bruce – ‘Inversions of the World’: Madness, Blackness, and Radical Creativity

“‘Inversions of the World’: Madness, Blackness, and Radical Creativity,” considers a cohort of twentieth- and twenty-first-century African-American artists who have instrumentalized “madness” for radical art-making, self-making, and world-making. Proposing a theory of madness that addresses its floating signification—and engages its phenomenological, clinical, sociocultural, and political dimensions—he confronts “the mad” in the work of writers Amiri Baraka, Adrienne Kennedy, Gayl Jones, and Ntozake Shange; jazz musicians Buddy Bolden and Charles Mingus; comedians Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle; legal theorist Patricia J. Williams; and hip hop musician Lauryn Hill.

December 3 — Elinor Fuchs

Notes on EstrAGEment: Age, Theater, Theory

Deconstructions of such fixed binaries as Male and Female, White and Black, and Straight and Gay, produced valuable analytic tools. Why have theater and performance theorists left Youth and Age unexamined? Elinor Fuchs’s talk is a first attempt to bring Critical Age Studies into conversation with the concerns of Theatre and Performance Studies.


November 19 — Lindsay Goss

Screening the ‘Emancipated Spectator’: The FTA’s Soldier-Spectator on Display

In 1972, American International Pictures released FTA!, a documentary film following the 1971 tour of an anti-war variety show to soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines stationed in Okinawa, Japan, Hawaii, and the Philippines. Led by Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland, the FTA show (for “Free” or “Fuck the Army”) offered an alternative to the patriotism (as well as sexism and racism) of Bob Hope’s iconic USO performances.  The documentary shows in no uncertain terms the enthusiasm of the FTA’s enlisted audiences. Through interviews with and images of the soldier-spectators, it provides vivid evidence of what was by then a well-organized and militant GI movement within the Armed Forces. My talk focuses on the film’s representation of its soldier-spectators and examines the FTA’s dependence upon maintaining and even emphasizing an actor-spectator divide that most radical theatre groups of the period were committed to challenging as inherently politically problematic.  In conversation with Jacques Ranciere’s “The Emancipated Spectator,” I examine the strange acting practice of the spectated soldier-spectator.


November 12– Kedar Kulkarni

Genre and the Space of Social Emotion in Nineteenth Century Indian Theater  

Farces, comedies, melodrama—among other theatrical genres—all contributed to a multifaceted experience of the theatre in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Perhaps the only truly “public” space (physical, discursive, and performative) in the nineteenth century, the theater nurtured, interrogated, and reconstituted new subjectivities. Theater created new subjectivities by integrating the emotional understanding of rasa and equating it with concepts of liberal humanism as theorized by Adam Smith and David Hume. It functioned as a marketplace of ideas, where the humor of a farce or the sentiment of a melodrama addressed the most pressing social issues of the day in very different ways. In my talk, I will examine a few different plays—all of which consider companionate marriage and women’s education—from the differing perspectives of various genres. My purpose is not to provide a social commentary on these issues myself. Instead, I take a broader perspective and think about the ways in which the theater functions to facilitate the free exchange of ideas, tempered by genre and emotion.