Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig//October

Snow in Midsummer: A Parable of Global Capital

 

SPEAKERS:

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, playwright

Christine Mok, University of Rhode Island

Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson, Northwestern University

 

ABSTRACT:

“Men were born with mouths that could right wrongs with a few words. Why are you too timid to speak?” In Snow in Midsummer, playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s contemporary adaptation of a Yuan Dynasty classic, a young woman in a factory town is executed for a crime she did not commit. Her body, now property of the state, is scavenged and auctioned across the world. At her execution, Dou Yi vows that if she is innocent, snow will fall in midsummer and a drought will devastate the town. In the world of the play, the injustice to Dou Yi moves heaven and earth, but justice can only be wrought by human hands and truths spoken by human mouths.  Playwright Cowhig and co-editors Christine Mok and Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson will delve into the play to discuss four crises (pandemic, ecological, human, racial representation) and present on the newly published collection, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s China Trilogy: Three Parables of Global Capital.

BIOS

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig is an internationally produced playwright whose work has been staged in the United Kingdom at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Hampstead Theatre, the National Theatre, Trafalgar Studios 2 [West End] and the Unicorn Theatre. In the United States her work has been staged at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Manhattan Theater Club and the Goodman Theatre.

Her plays have been awarded the Wasserstein Prize, the Yale Drama Series Award (selected by David Hare), an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, the David A. Callichio Award,  the Keene Prize for Literature and a United States Artist Fellowship.

She has benefited from artist residencies at Yaddo, Macdowell, Hedgebrook, Ragdale, the Sundance Playwright Retreats at Ucross and Flying Point, and the Santa Fe Art Institute.  Her work has been published by Yale University Press, Glimmer Train, Methuen Drama, Samuel French and Dramatists Play Service. 

Frances was born in Philadelphia, and raised in Northern Virginia, Okinawa, Taipei and Beijing. She received an MFA in Writing from the James A. Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin, a BA in Sociology from Brown University, and a certificate in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre.  She was formerly an Associate Professor of Drama at UC Santa Barbara, where she had the pleasure of mentoring undergraduate playwrights and directing the New Works Lab.

Christine Mok is a dramaturg, designer, and scholar. Her work, in scholarship and practice, focuses on the people, places, and performances where the limits of representation rub up against the limits of racial representation. She is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Rhode Island. She has published in Journal of Asian American Studies, Theatre Survey, Modern Drama, and PAJ: A Performing Arts Journal. A founding member of Wingspace Theatrical Design, 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. She is currently completing her first book project, which charts a genealogy of Asian American performance as an un-disciplining aesthetic and political strategy to imagine affiliation in inauthenticity and failure.

 

Joshua Chambers-Letson is Professor of Performance Studies and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University and, for the ’21-’22 academic year, a Presidential Fellow and Visiting Professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Yale University. He has published in the areas of contemporary art and performance, critical race theory, and queer of color critique and is the author of After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life (NYU Press, 2018) and A Race So Different: Law and Performance in Asian America (NYU Press, 2013) as well as other edited volumes, articles, and art writing.

Siobhan Angus//Septermber 24, 2021

Siobhan Angus//September 24th

Here-now, there-then, and the yet-to-come: Temporalities of Crisis

 

Talk

The temporal paradox that Roland Barthes observed in photographic time—the photograph is here-now that was there-then—has something in common with climate breakdown, for while climate catastrophe is here-now, it was caused by something that was there-then. As climate crisis has materially demonstrated, the traces of the past never fully disappear, but forms the existing material conditions of the present, and the future is always prefigured in the present. Photographic time, like climate crisis, is also yet-to-come. To consider the temporalities of crisis—which help us track the causes of climate breakdown and also, point to where we might go—this presentation turns to Warren Cariou’s photographs made with bitumen from the Athabasca Tar Sands. The Athabasca Tar Sands are the largest and most ecologically destructive industrial project in the world and this eco-system introduces complex questions about settler colonialism, extractive capitalism, and the role of the state in promoting extraction. I read Cariou’s photographs in dialogue with Metis anthropologist Zoe Todd’s work on fossil-kin, which asks what responsibilities we might have to fossil fuels in addition to the other human and extra-human species that make up the Athabasca region. Cariou makes the connection between extraction and representation tangible, and in doing so, prompts the question, what does it mean to see through oil?

Bio: Siobhan Angus is an art historian, curator, and organizer who specializes in the history of photography and the environmental humanities. Her book project, Camera GeologicaMateriality, Resource Extraction, and Photography, explores the visual culture of resource extraction with a focus on materiality, perceptions of nature, and environmental justice. She is currently a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Art at Yale University and a visiting scholar at the Yale Center for British Art. Her research has been published in Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art, Radical History Review, and Capitalism and the Camera (Verso, 2021) and is forthcoming in Geohumanities and October.

Sean Metzger//Sept 17, 2021

Sean Metzger//September 17

 

Talk

Sean Metzger presents research from his recent book, The Chinese Atlantic: Seascapes and the Theatricality of Globalization, on 9/17/21 at 12pm-1pm EST.

“In The Chinese Atlantic, Sean Metzger charts processes of global circulation across and beyond the Atlantic, exploring how seascapes generate new understandings of Chinese migration, financial networks and artistic production. Moving across film, painting, performance, and installation art, Metzger traces flows of money, culture, and aesthetics to reveal the ways in which routes of commerce stretching back to the Dutch Golden Age have molded and continue to influence the social reproduction of Chineseness. With a particular focus on the Caribbean, Metzger investigates the expressive culture of Chinese migrants and the communities that received these waves of people. He interrogates central issues in the study of similar case studies from South Africa and England to demonstrate how Chinese Atlantic seascapes frame globalization as we experience it today. Frequently focusing on art that interacts directly with the sites in which it is located, Metzger explores how Chinese migrant laborers and entrepreneurs did the same to shape—both physically and culturally—the new spaces in which they found themselves. In this manner, Metzger encourages us to see how artistic imagination and practice interact with migration to produce a new way of framing the global.”

BIO: Sean Metzger is Associate Dean for Faculty and Students and a professor in the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. He has published Chinese Looks: Fashion, Performance Race (2014) and The Chinese Atlantic: Seascapes and the Theatricality of Globalization (2020) both with Indiana University Press. He has coedited six collections of essays and a volume of plays and authored more than 50 articles and reviews. He is the former president of Performance Studies international and the editor of Theatre Journal.

Michael Wang//Oct 5, 2021

Techno Nature

Michael Wang will present a selection of recent works that emerge out of entanglements of human and natural systems. His most recent large-scale work, 10000 li, 100 billion kilowatt-hours (2021) re-creates a fragment of the glacier at the origin of the Yangtze River. Exemplifying Wang’s use of the materials and processes under examination as artistic media, the work is made up of Yangtze water (via the Shanghai tap) and Yangtze power (via the Shanghai electric grid). The work is a piece of infrastructure that reveals the distant natural and technological phenomena that fuel Shanghai. Continuing the theme of the origins of modern energy, Wang will speak on a series of works collectively titled “The Drowned World,” which make visible the organic origins of fossil fuels, including First Forest, in which he assembled a living facsimile of a Carboniferous Period swamp within the ruins of a coal gas plant. Wang will also speak on his ongoing investigation into species categorized as extinct in nature (“Extinct in the Wild” 2014-) and the related work “Extinct in New York,” in which he cultivated species once found in the historic landscapes of New York City, but which no longer grow autonomously in any of the five boroughs.

Bio
Michael Wang is an artist based in New York. His practice uses systems that operate at a global scale as media for art, addressing climate change, species distribution, resource allocation and the global economy. Wang’s work was the subject of solo exhibitions at LMCC’s Arts Center at Governors Island, New York, USA (curated by Swiss Institute, 2019) and the Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2017). His work has also been included in the 13th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai, China (2021), Manifesta 12 in Palermo, Italy (2018) and the XX Bienal de Arquitectura y Urbanismo in Valparaíso, Chile (2017). In 2017, he was a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant.
You can read up on Michael’s work here:

 

May Joseph//Sept 10, 2021

May Joseph//September 10, 2021

Performance, Oceans, Praxis: Sinking New York and the Ethics of Livability

Talk

New York City is an archipelago of over forty low-lying islands. The ethics of livability of coastal peoples around the world has been exacerbated and foregrounded by the extreme weather phenomena of Hurricane Ida and its tropical storm impact on the Northeast, particular the island city of New York. How might a performance studies praxis engage with questions of climate change and the rising seas? Drawing on ten years of site specific performance work with oceans, Joseph excavates the tensions between land, water and the body in performance.

BIO

May Joseph is the founder of Harmattan Theater, Inc.,  an environmental theater company based in New York City and Professor of Global Studies in the Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies at Pratt Institute, New York. Her scholarly research combines critical cultural theory and environmental practice, and to that end, she has written widely on globalization, urbanism, performance and visual culture.  She is interested in the junctures between cities, performance, water ecologies and coastal futures.

Since 2009, Joseph has created community based, site specific performances addressing water issues along river and ocean cities around the maritime world including Istanbul, Venice, Amsterdam, Cochin, Delhi, Cape Town, Lisbon, New York.  Her directorial interests lie in bringing together questions of Water politics, dance, trance movement traditions, ritual, performance art, mime, images and text into conversation with coastal societies. Her training in the Indian and Tanzanian environmental and folk theater traditions, including Jatra, Chautu Nadagam, Indian street theater movements, Japanese Kyogen, and the experimental theater techniques of Jerzy Grotowski, Eugenio Barba, Bertolt Brecht and Marina Abramovich, have syncretically shaped my experiments with ecology, urban space and climate change.

Books  include Ghosts of Lumumba (Poetics Lab, 2020); Sea Log: Indian Ocean to New York (Routledge, 2019); Fluid New York: Cosmopolitan Urbanism and the Green Imagination (Duke University Press, 2013); Nomadic Identities: The Performance of Citizenship (Minnesota, 1999). Joseph is Editor of two book series: Critical Climate Studies and Ocean and Island Studies, both from Routledge (forthcoming), and coeditor of Performing Hybridity (Minnesota, 1999). Other co-edited volumes include City Corps (Journal of Space and Culture), New Hybrid Identities (Women and Performance, 1995) and Bodywork (Women and Performance, 1999).  Her writings have appeared in Liberation MondeSocial TextMy doctoral work was in British Cultural Studies with a focus on Black British and African Film and Theater, at the Department of Theater and Dance, the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I got my PhD. My Masters, also from UCSB, emphasized Directing and Playwriting.Beyond Biopolitics, Clark University Series, Black RenaissancePassage to ManhattanBowery Womens PoemsArchitectural DesignProblematizing BlacknessEmbodied Utopias, Corpus DelectiTalking VisionsSportcultSoulThe Ends of PerformanceThe Visual Culture ReaderInterventionsNew ObservationsPraxisOxford Literary ReviewLate Imperial CultureAfrican American Review, Movement Research.  She has been a guest editor for Women and Performance and is currently completing a book on Indian Ocean maritime networks.

Fellowships and Awards include a Cornell Society for the Humanities Fellowship (Declined), Mellon Grant, Ford Foundation Grant, Rockefeller Fellowship at the Asian/American Center, CUNY, Pembroke Center Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Brown, a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a University of California, Humanities Research Institute Fellowship at Irvine.

Lisa Woynarski Nov 5, 2021

Decolonising Ecodramaturgies

Ecodramaturgies: Theatre, Performance and Climate Change

This presentation is premised on recent critiques of the Anthropocene as homogenising, erasing difference and ignoring the unequal effects of climate change. Settler colonialism has been suggested as one the key markers in the shift in epochs to the Anthropocene, placing the exploitation of Indigenous peoples and lands at the heart of the concept (Lewis and Maslin 2015). With a focus on a British context of colonialism, I take an intersectional ecological approach based on the idea that, on a global scale, ecological effects are unevenly disrupted and tied to social structures that disproportionately affect marginalised people such as women, people of colour, Indigenous peoples and the poor. I consider how forgotten histories and the ongoing ecological effects of British colonialism in India are uncovered in the show-and-tell performance Common Salt (2018, 2020) by Sheila Ghelani and Sue Palmer. Salt also functions as an ecological material and metaphor in Salt. (2016–2019) by Selina Thompson as she retraces the British transatlantic slave trade, revealing the hidden connections between colonialism, enslavement, bodies and ecological elements. I argue that ecodramaturgies can bring to light ecological injustices in theatre and performance through an approach of intersectional ecologies.

 

Bio:

Lisa (she/her) was born on traditional Anishinabewaki territory in Ontario, Canada. She is of white European settler/immigrant ancestry. She is now an immigrant herself as well as Associate Professor in Theatre in the Department of Film, Theatre & Television at the University of Reading, UK. As a performance-maker and scholar, her work connects performance and ecology, from an intersectional lens. She is the author of Ecodramaturgies: Theatre, Performance and Climate Change (Palgrave, 2020).

Joshua Chambers-Letson//Nov 12, 2021

Felix + Ross, Queer Love and Loss, or, There’s flowers growing on the grave of Alice and Gertrude

Félix González-Torres' bed billboards – Beautifully confrontational – Public Delivery

Abstract: Creating work in the overlapping time of another pandemic and cultural crisis—during the first wave of the AIDS crisis—the artist Félix González-Torres framed his practice as an oblique critique of the orders of white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, and capitalism. The work also staged an intervention into the structural crises these systems effect as they produce an uneven distribution of death towards queer people and people of color. This talk revisits the queer intimacies and love affairs that animated and have posthumously preserved the life and art of Félix González-Torres. It brings a performance studies perspective to bear on the complex dynamics of love’s interarticulartion and confrontation with loss, fear, and death in FGT’s work and relationships (especially with his partner Ross Laycock). Here, his work is theorized as a lesson on loving and continuance in the face of loss’s inevitability, just as it stages and names a queer of color practice of living and loving both before and after death.

 

Bio: Joshua Chambers-Letson is Professor of Performance Studies and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University and, for the ’21-’22 academic year, a Presidential Fellow and Visiting Professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Yale University. Widely published in the areas of contemporary art and performance, critical race theory, and queer of color critique, he is the author of After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life (2018), A Race So Different: Law and Performance in Asian America (2013), as well as a host of academic articles, book chapters, and exhibition catalogue essays. With Tavia Nyong’o he is the editor of José Esteban Muñoz’s The Sense of Brown (2020) and with Christine Mok the coeditor of Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s China Trilogy: Three Parables of Global Capital (2021). Along with Ann Pellegrini and Nyong’o he is a series co-editor of the Sexual Cultures series at NYU Press. He is currently at work on two book projects: a meditation of the aesthetics of queer love and loss and a study of the dynamics of racial object relations in contemporary art and performance.

Jonathan Howard Oct 29, 2021

Black Life, Blue Planet: On August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean.

Gem of the Ocean | Goodman Theatre

Abstract

Gem of the Ocean, is the first play of August Wilson’s famed “Century Cycle,” a series of ten plays chronicling black life over the course of the 20th century. This talk considers how the play positions blackness fundamentally in the water, imagining blackness as an ongoing inhabitation of the deep haunted by Middle Passage. But far from what black studies sometimes finds occasion to theorize as black “social death,” I uncover how the play pushes us to reconsider Middle Passage as the origins of uniquely black practice of ecological life on a blue planet.

Jonathan Howard's picture

Bio

Dr. Jonathan Howard is an Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies at Yale University. His research and teaching broadly interrogate western ideas about race and nature, weighing their entangled contribution to the formation of a modern world in ecological peril while also exploring black expressive culture as an alternative site of ecological thought and practice.

Dr. Howard is an African American literary scholar whose research places the literary and intellectual traditions of the African Diaspora in conversation with the environmental humanities. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including generous support from the Fulbright Program, The Institute for Citizens and Scholars (formerly the Woodrow Wilson Foundation), The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Harrington Fellows Program. His articles can be found or are forthcoming at CallalooSouls, and Atlantic Studies. His current book project, Inhabitants of the Deep: The Blueness of Blackness, illuminates the abiding relationship between blackness and the oceanic by undertaking a black ecocritical study of the trope of water in African Diaspora literature. It argues that the blackness which dawned in the oceanic encounter of Middle Passage constitutes not social death, but ecological life. This black, which was first blue, indexes a global species event, whose expressive legacy harbors an ecological recalibration of human being on a blue planet.

Dr. Howard teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in African American literary studies, black studies, and the environmental humanities. His teaching surveys the literary, expressive, and intellectual traditions of the African Diaspora as a crucial reserve of environmental and ecological thought. Above all, and in deep collaboration with his students, his courses aim to facilitate the phenomenon of “black study.” That is, to attend, again and again, in literature and more, to black death and life, to no smaller end than the end of the antiblack world and the celebration and magnification of black life on earth.

Dr. Howard earned an M.A. and PhD from Duke University and a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Jennifer Parker-Starbuck Nov 18 2021

The Sea is on Fire: Machinic Crustaceans and Ecological Promises

Machines de l'Île : les nouvelles oreilles de l'Éléphant en fabrication

This work-in-progress begins to think through how machinic (and substitute) nonhuman animals stand in for their real and fictitious counterparts, and how these stand-ins might draw attention to the technologies that both help and hinder environmental concerns and nonhuman futures. Focusing largely on Les Machines des L’ȋle in Nantes, France, a “theme park” of mechanical animals and sea creatures (and also drawing upon a new play, Yellowfin, which projects a world in which “the fish have gone”) this talk reflects on the power of the machinic or substitute creatures to both point to and at the same time override environmental concerns. At a time when the sea was actually on fire due to a pipeline leak, can exposure to machines and substitute nonhuman animals, or the ability to encounter them physically, cultivate an “awakening,” as the Les Machine website suggests? Will riding on a giant manta ray increase awareness later in life toward the environmental challenges the seas will face? Can embodiment shift the human-animal-technological balance?

 

Bio:

Professor Jen Parker-Starbuck is the Head of the School of Performing Arts and Digital Media at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is author of Cyborg Theatre: Corporeal/Technological Intersections in Multimedia Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, paperback 2014), Performance and Media: Taxonomies for a Changing Field (co-authored with Sarah Bay-Cheng and David Saltz, University of Michigan Press, 2015), and co-editor of Performing Animality: Animals in Performance Practices (with Lourdes Orozco, Palgrave, 2015). Her “Animal Ontologies and Media Representations: Robotics, Puppets, and the Real of War Horse” (Theatre Journal, Vol. 65, Number 3, October 2013) received the ATHE 2014 Outstanding Article award. Her essays and reviews have appeared in Theatre JournalPAJWomen and PerformanceTheatre TopicsInternational Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, The Journal of Dramatic Theory and CriticismWestern European Stages, and others. She served as the Editor of Theatre Journal from 2015-2019 and is a Contributing Editor to PAJ, the International Journal of Performing Arts and Digital Media, and is an Advisory Board member of Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture. She is a Theme Leader for Story Lab, a strand of the ARHC funded Creative Clusters Programme StoryFutures.

Phoenix Gonzalez

Phoenix Gonzalez
Feb 23 noon-1pm EST

“‘The Fleetinge Fludd’: Ecological Thinking in a Contemporary Performance of Two Medieval Noah Pageants”
Phoenix Gonzalez is a Master of Arts in Religion student at Yale Divinity School and the Institute of Sacred Music. In her work, she combines medieval drama and climate activism, staging medieval texts today to explore how they can forge community and help us question our assumptions, beliefs, and practices, both about religion and our environmental crisis. She received her BA in Religion at Princeton, where she first caught the medieval “bug.” Prior to her work at Yale, she lived in New York, where she performed in various new musicals and plays.
The Noah story was well known in late medieval English iconography, appearing frequently in striking stained glass windows and elaborate, emotional illuminations in personal Bibles, Books of Hours, and manuals for sermons such as the Holkham Bible. It was also one of the few Hebrew Bible stories to be found across the English mystery plays, those plays that added contemporary issues to stories in the Bible and then staged them for their communities each summer on the Feast of Corpus Christi. The importance of the Noah story in the medieval biblical narrative and its cosmic proportions beg the question, what sort of ecology did this pageant put forth for its medieval audiences? What image of nature would an audience have walked away with? This essay explores how two medieval plays performed at Yale Divinity School’s Marquand Chapel were staged to redefine the ecology of human relationships and their material surroundings, thereby reinterpreting what it means to interact with the wildness of God, each other, and the natural world. What can we learn from this reinterpretation today?