The Reserve Army of Affectivity: Surplus, Service, and Psychodrama in the work of William Greaves
Alex Pittman, Tue. Feb 11, 2-3pm. 220 York Street, Room 001.
This talk examines the uses of psychodrama, a therapeutic theory and technique that deploys theatrical strategies of role play and reenactment, in several works by the filmmaker William Greaves. It focuses in particular on In the Company of Men, a 1969 documentary that both tracks and attempts to contribute to efforts to use psychodrama to repair communication between white factory foremen and black men who had been labeled “the hard-core unemployed.” Situating psychodrama as simultaneously a cinematic technique, a gendered strategy of racial governance, and a model of workplace training that was anchored in the emergent social conditions of the deindustrializing United States, this talk proposes a theory of “the reserve army of affectivity” in order to understand the power dynamics that Greaves’s film documents but does not quite name: that is, the process of putting people who have been consigned to the status of industrial and social excess into service for the emotional training of capital’s managers.
Alex Pittman is a term assistant professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Barnard College. Currently he is working on a book titled Capital in the Flesh: Constrained Intimacies in Black Art after Deindustrialization, which examines the politics of gender in the work of black performing and visual artists as they grapple with transformations of labor and social reproduction in the United States since 1968. His research on the intersections of race, sexuality, labor, and aesthetics in the work of artists such as Doreen Garner, Harry Crews, Tehching Hsieh, and Lucille Ball has been published in Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts, Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, and Social Text’s Periscope.
Broadway Rehearsal Loft
294 Elm Street
New Haven, CT
Please join us in New Haven for a gathering to celebrate the life and work of Jessica Berson (1972- 2019), hosted by the Performance Studies Working Group at Yale.
Between 2011-2016, Jessica made major contributions to building the dance studies curriculum at Yale. She designed and taught such new courses as “Theories of Embodiment,” “Dance, Commerce, and Capital,” and “Dancing Desires,” and made her mark on the core course, “The History of Dance.” In 2016, she hosted an extended residency for dance-theater artist Tim Miller, and in 2017 she studied disability and sexuality in the UK on a Fulbright Fellowship. An inventive artist-scholar and a warm and generous colleague, she danced, directed, and authored numerous articles and the monograph The Naked Result: How Exotic Dance Became Big Business (Oxford University Press, 2016).
We will gather together to read excerpts from Jessica’s work, remember her incredible teaching, and make space for anyone who wishes to say a few words in her honor. Afterward, we’ll gather at The Study (1157 Chapel Street) for drinks.
Embodied Omniscience: The Production and Consumption of Virtual Reality
Lisa Messeri, Wed. Feb. 5, 2-3pm. 220 York Street, room 004 (this is a new location!)
This talk examines the production and experience of VR, particularly 360 film. Drawing on ethnographic research with the VR community in Los Angeles, I consider how one is expected to view and react to VR as well as how that expectation gets embedded in the production process. I attend to how the 360 camera is something that an actor performs for in a certain way and how this in turn shapes the experience of doing and seeing VR. In seeking to characterize the VR gaze, I propose embodied omniscience as a fantasy of presence that obscures the reality of a viewer’s absence.
Lisa Messeri is an Assistant Professor of sociocultural anthropology at Yale. Her training is in anthropology and science and technology studies and her research interests are in how science and technology stretches how we think about ideas of place and humanness. Her past work examined place-making practices amongst planetary scientists and astronomers and she is currently writing a book about women in VR in LA.
A MOMENT ON THE CLOCK OF THE WORLD is an anthology of new writing inspired by the Foundry Theatre and its twenty-five-year inquiry into how we make the world together. Published by Haymarket Books in the fall of 2019, the book collects the voices of artists, activists, cultural critics, and public intellectuals whose life and work intersected with that of the New York City-based company throughout its history. Contributors include Cornel West, Alisa Solomon, Taylor Mac, David Greenspan, Robin D.G. Kelley, and Laura Flanders, among others.
This presentation will feature the book’s co-editors Melanie Joseph, the Foundry’s founder and one of the contributors, and David Bruin. The two editors will read selections from the book and reflect on the project and its central themes, such as collaboration, leadership, time, and the many intersections of art and politics. A robust Q&A will follow.
You can read the preface to the book, written by Cornel West, here.
Recent articles about the Foundry and the book include:
Melanie Joseph is the founding artistic producer of the Foundry Theatre, which she has led for twenty-five years. For her work with the Foundry, she has twice been honored with a special Obie for “creating cutting edge work” and “engaging artists in some of the thorniest issues of the world we inhabit.” She is a recipient of the Doris Duke Artist Prize, the Skirball-Kenis T.I.M.E. Artist prize, and the Lucille Lortel Award for Artistic Producing.
David Bruin is a dramaturg, producer, critic, and the co-curator of the annual Prelude Festival at CUNY’s Martin E. Segal Center. As a dramaturg and producer he has collaborated with Jeremy O. Harris, Erin Markey, Robert Woodruff, Liz Diamond, Jeff Augustin, and Asa Horvitz, among others. He is a DFA candidate in dramaturgy and dramatic criticism at Yale School of Drama, where his dissertation project analyzes the role of abjection in contemporary American theater and performance.
Gavin Whitehead, “She Looks as if She’s Seen a Ghost”
Tue. Dec. 17, 2019, 220 York Street room 002 (note the change in location)
The final decade of the eighteenth century saw the ghoulish ascent of Gothic drama, the immense popularity of which largely owed to its show-stopping ghost scenes. These scenes revolve around two major players: the ghost itself as well as the witness, that unhappy figure who encounters said specter. Both feed the ghost scene’s sheer aesthetic power.
That said, not all Gothic dramatists craft scenes of this sort with the same set of priorities. Where some show greater interest in the horrifying power of a ghost on stage, paying little attention to the figure of the witness, others prefer to explore that character’s emotional and physical experience of encountering the spirit world. A compilation of excerpts from a dissertation chapter, this talk concentrates on two plays: The Castle Spectre (1797) by Matthew Lewis (1775-11818) and Orra (1812) by Joanna Baillie (1762-1851). While Lewis privileges ghost over witness, Baillie adopts the opposite approach.
Lewis’s ghost scene generated controversy. According to contemporary reviews of The Castle Spectre, female spectators became so frightened they fell into “hysterics.” This response raised questions about the dubious aesthetics and ethics of a playwright who seemingly sought to induce such violent reactions. Clearly inspired by The Castle Spectre, Baillie nevertheless critiques Lewis’s hollow sensationalism. When Baillie confronts the titular heroine of Orra with what she believes to be a ghost, Baillie does not do so to scare spectators out of their wits. Embarking on a morally instructive, medico-scientific experiment of sorts, she instead holds up for scrutiny the passion of fear in its most potent form, asking the audience to contemplate its devastating effects on the human mind and to sympathize with the harm it causes Orra.
Gavin Whitehead is a scholar, educator, theater artist, and translator who earned his MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from Yale School of Drama in 2017. A former Fulbright scholar, Gavin spent a year in Berlin studying theater after completing his undergraduate education. He holds degrees in German and Comparative Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he graduated with Highest Honors in 2012.
Kathryn Lofton, “Gospel Minstrelsy in Popular Music: The Case of Bob Dylan”
Tue. Dec. 10, 2019, 2-3pm. 220 York Street, room 100.
Kathryn Lofton is professor of religious studies, American studies, history, and divinity at Yale University. A historian of religions, she is the author of two books, Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon (2011) and Consuming Religion (2017), and one co-edited (with Laurie Maffly-Kipp) collection, Women’s Work. An Anthology of African-American Women’s Historical Writings (2010).
”The Temptations of Goodness: Brecht’s Enlightenment“
Joseph Roach, Dec. 3, 2019. 220 York Street, room 100
What happened to drama in the supposed “broad spectrum” of performance studies? What happened to history?
Addressing these urgent questions to all the participants in PSWG, “Brecht’s Enlightenment” refers first to the playwright’s fascination with eighteenth-century dramatists (including John Gay, George Farquhar, Denis Diderot, and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, “the world’s first officially appointed dramaturg”) and second to the underappreciated role of their theater in his formulation of the key concepts of estrangement and social gesture. In The Caucasian Chalk Circle Brecht deploys these techniques to challenge his audiences to face the sacrificial struggle toward a truly enlightened social contract, against all the odds and despite all the costs: “Terrible is the temptation to do good,” as “The Singer,” Brecht’s narrator, puts it, speaking to us today even more heart-piercingly now than at the play’s premiere seventy years ago.
Joseph Roach, founder of the Performance Studies Working Group in 2003, is Sterling Professor of Theater and Professor of English, Emeritus, at Yale University.
My new research explores two forms of improvisational performer training and performance, and Improv Comedy and Contact Improvisation, which emerged in the USA in the second half of the 20th century. Both live on today, partially assimilated into institutional training structures, but still sometimes serving as alternatives to more formal pathways of study and creative production. Thinking across dance and theater can better illuminate each practice, for instance clarifying how they arose from a shared cultural moment, during which the ideals of improvisation and collective creation swept across many disciplines. I assign much credit for that larger moment to Africanist approaches to musical improvisation, and particularly the popular awareness of 1940s bebop which grew in the 50s and 60s. I also find common roots in progressive theories of education, which date back to the 19th century but similarly expanded in popularity as the 20th century went on. Both Contact Improvisation and Improv Comedy boast an exciting rhetoric of inclusion, according to which the creative act is decentralized, and performances are generated as the common property of all bodies present. Yet these techniques must also reckon with a less pleasant reality that the rhetoric of inclusion cannot obscure: open improvisation within a collective does not always counter patterns of socially ingrained bias, and in fact can amplify them instead.
Katherine Profeta is a NYC dramaturg who has worked with choreographer/visual artist Ralph Lemon since 1997. Other collaborators over the years, both recent and long-past, include Alexandra Beller, Nora Chipaumire, Karin Coonrod, Annie Dorsen, Julie Taymor, David Thomson, Ni’Ja Whitson, and Theater for a New Audience. She is also a founding member and frequent choreographer with the New York City theater company Elevator Repair Service, lending her hand to the majority of its productions since 1991. Profeta holds an MFA and DFA in dramaturgy from the Yale School of Drama, where she is currently a Professor in the Practice of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism. Previously she taught in the theater departments of Barnard and Queens College, CUNY. Her first book, Dramaturgy in Motion, came out in 2015 from University of Wisconsin Press. Other writing has been seen in Performing Arts Journal, Theater magazine, Movement Research Performance Journal, TCG’s Production Notebooks, and MoMA’s Modern Dance series. She was proud to be a dramaturg last year with the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Initiative.
Post-dramatic performance in the aftermath of war describes performances whose practitioners and audiences have prior knowledge of the war(s) that have come before, are versed in the dramaturgies and narratives employed in the preparation and enactment of war, and have chosen deliberately to step beyond those habitual expressive structures into imaginative and embodied new vocabularies of peace. Centered on research conducted on a recent trip to Hiroshima and Okinawa, two communities that experienced such severe devastation in WWII that civic life has been defined by the aftermath for the 75 years since, Morrison discusses examples of artist-activists who submit martial interfaces and received narratives of war to “post-dramatic stress,” utilizing interactivity and participatory world making within the space of a performance as a means of facilitating “performative ethics” and “moral imagination” for local and international communities.
Elise Morrison is an Assistant Professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Yale, where she teaches courses such as Feminist Theater, Theater History, Embodied Communication, and Digital Media in Performance. Her book, Discipline and Desire: Surveillance Technologies in Performance was published by University of Michigan Press in 2016. In 2015 Morrison edited a special issue on “Surveillance Technologies in Performance” for the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media (Routledge, 11.2) and has published on this topic in the International Journal of Performance Art and Digital Media (IJPADM), Theater Magazine, and TDR. She is an associate editor for IJPADM and a consortium editor for TDR.
Steve Luber, Oct. 22, 2019 2-3pm. 220 York Street, Room 100.
Much has been made of the cross-pollination between video games and performance, including categories of analysis such as interactivity in performance, narrative and spectatorial dynamism. Given the cultural and economic juggernaut that gaming has become internationally, it is no surprise that theatre and performance begin to not only examine, but take on gaming phenomena. I will focus on repurposing the effects of remediation as older forms remediate newer forms remediate older forms.
Steve Luber is Associate Director of the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology at Connecticut College. His current book project is entitled Last Gasp: The Ends of Multimedia Performance.