Upcoming Events

April 19, 2016: Claire Solomon, Michael Garber, Katherine Hollander, Debra Caplan, and Alisa Sniderman

Collaborative Scholarship

What Can Theater Scholarship Learn from Theater? Methodology and a Collaborative Turn

In spite of seismic shifts in how scholars conduct and conceive of their research in the digital age, humanists still tend to research in isolation, publish single-author articles in journals, and rarely collaborate on peer-reviewed publications. For theater scholars, there is thus a massive disjuncture between how we produce our scholarship and how the works we study are created. Theater studies considers the cultural, historical, and literary dimensions of events that are intensely collaborative by definition; yet we rarely discuss or reenact this collective dimension in our scholarly writing. At the same time, collaborative forms and strategies are frequent topics of conversation among theater artists, since collaborative currents, and the obstacles that get in their way, are crucial elements of the production process. While there may not always be a relationship between methods and objects of study, we believe that collaboration is important both as a topic for theater scholarship and also in the methodologies we employ. The Working Group for the Study of Collaboration in Theater is committed to bridging the gap between theatrical practices and scholarly perceptions by theorizing scholarly collaboration. In this informal round table, we discuss our process and preliminary findings.

Michael G. Garber, PhD in Theatre, is an interdisciplinary teacher, historian, theorist, critic, and artist in drama, dance, music, film, and media. His book-in-progress is about the complex collective authorship of early twentieth-century American Broadway songs.

Debra Caplan is Assistant Professor of Theater at Baruch College, City University of New York. Her research focuses on Yiddish theater and global artistic networks, and her work has appeared in Theatre SurveyTheatre JournalModern DramaNew England Theatre Journal, and Comparative Drama.

Katherine Hollander holds a PhD in modern European history from Boston University. Her work focuses on collaborative practices among a small group of German-speaking theater professionals in the 1930. Also a poet and librettist, she teaches at Simmons College.

Alisa Sniderman is Assistant Professor / Faculty Fellow in Drama at NYU Tisch. Her research centers on the intersection of theatre studies and economics, and her work has appeared in Modern Drama and Theatre Journal.

Claire Solomon is associate professor of Hispanic studies and Comparative Literature at Oberlin College. Her book Fictions of the Bad Life: The Naturalist Prostitute and Her Avatars in Latin American Literature 1880-2010 explores how the literary prostitute of the late nineteenth century incarnated racial, ethnic, and sexual tensions in tropes that have persisted into the twenty-first century. Her current research focuses on how the popular and the avant-garde overlap in “minoritarian” theater of the 1920s-40s in North and South America.

April 12, 2016: Vivian Huang

Inscrutability, Hospitality, and the Parasitic Performance of Laurel Nakadate

Notorious for staging scenarios that maximize awkwardness, Laurel Nakadate might be thought of as a contemporary artist who sculpts loneliness and discomfort as her materials of choice. As she once stated in an interview, Nakadate has a penchant for putting herself in places she does not belong, with people she seemingly does not belong with. The artist’s costars and subjects predominantly fall into one of two groups: the first, people whom one critic describes as “beer-bellied, awkward loners who seem remarkable mainly for how unremarkable they are,” and the second, pretty and bored teenage girls in domestic and rural spaces. Whether Laurel is accompanied or alone, however, the challenge and urge to belong remain recurrent themes in her work. While critics have described some of her co-stars as being pathetic and the activities practiced in her videos as exploitative, Nakadate has insisted that her work is optimistic and collaborative.

This talk will focus on Nakadate’s three-channel video installation Oops! (2000) in order to discuss the relationship among Asian/American femininity, inscrutability, and hospitality in her filmed encounters dancing alongside male strangers to Britney Spears’s 2000 smash hit. I will turn to writings on hospitality and the parasite by Jacques Derrida and Michel Serres to ask: if Orientalist discourse produces and eroticizes an affinity among Asianness, femininity, inscrutability, and hospitality, then can attunements to hospitality and inscrutability perform Asian femininity otherwise? How and when is inscrutability a useful aesthetic mode for minoritarian subjects, and can performances of inscrutability enact ethical modes of being?

Vivian L. Huang is currently the Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow in Comparative Literature and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at Williams College. She completed her doctoral work in performance studies at New York University and is working on her book manuscript entitled Some Island Unknown to the Rest of the World: Inscrutability and Asian American Performance. Huang’s writing has appeared in the Journal of Asian American Studies and Criticism: A Journal for Literature and the Arts.


April 5, 2016: Sarah Piazza

Irreverent Calypsos in Derek Walcott’s The Joker of Seville

people-1-2In his 1972 cultural manifesto The Trinidad Carnival:  Mandate for a National Theatre, playwright, actor, and theater historian Errol Hill states, “the carnival illustrates vividly that speech, song, dance, and music should be inseparable components in the Trinidad and Tobago theatre” (Hill 116).  Nobel prize-winning playwright and poet Derek Walcott, a native of Saint Lucía who has dedicated his artistic career to theater in Trinidad, professes a much more ambivalent attitude toward incorporating carnival and folk arts into theater.  In his essay “What the Twilight Says,” Walcott accuses the state of debasing and commercializing Trinidad’s music, dance, and carnival rituals.

Nevertheless, in his musical The Joker of Seville, first performed by the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 1974, Walcott includes an abundance of calypso—a Trinidadian song genre.  The Joker constitutes a creative rewriting of Tirso de Molina’s Spanish Golden Age classic, El burlador de Sevilla, first performed circa 1640.  Walcott’s inclusion of song distinguishes his Caribbean transformation from de Molina’s original, which only incorporates several songs sung off-stage to communicate moral messages.  Indeed, when the Royal Shakespeare Company commissioned Walcott to write and direct an adaptation of de Molina’s famous play in 1973, Walcott stipulated that he would write and produce a play for Caribbean actors and audience members.   An important part of Walcott’s Trinidadian setting is calypso song.

More than simply adding a touch of local color, the calypsos, I argue, comprise an important mode of expression within the dramatic action of The Joker of Seville.  The songs’ lyrics showcase Walcott’s creation of a distinctly Trinidadian dramatic language that constantly mixes cultural registers and weaves West Indian phrases and syntax into so-called standard diction.  In The Joker of Seville, song, and specifically the calypso, enables characters—including the most disenfranchised—to deliver social critique, express censored desires, and threaten hierarchies.  In short, the calypsos challenge vestiges of colonialism rooted in societal norms, especially those governing sexuality.  The sung interludes, separated by speech only through italics and a parenthetical direction–(sings), create dramatic spaces in which irreverence and ambiguity flourish.  The way that Walcott integrates song throughout both acts of The Joker of Seville supports Errol Hill’s advocacy of organically including music, song, and dance in Trinidadian theater.

Sarah Piazza, a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at Yale, is excited to have handed in her thesis:  Performing the Novel and Reading the Romantic Song:  Popular Music and Metafiction in Tres tristes tigresSirena selena vestida de penaLa importancia de llamarse Daniel SantosLe cahier de romances, and Cien botellas en una pared.  In it, she analyzes how references to popular musical genres heighten the novels’ metaliterary abilities to reflect on creative processes, including musical performance and writing.  While her thesis focuses on contemporary novels from the Hispanic Caribbean, she is broadly interested in Latin American literature that creates connections between art forms.  Work related to her thesis has appeared in Latin American Theatre Review and in the forthcoming issues of Retorno and MESTER.  She is currently a teaching assistant for Professor Joe Roach in his undergraduate course, Survey of Theater Studies.  Her PSWG presentation grows out of the performance project that she is working on with her creative Theater Studies students!

March 29, 2016: Anne Erbe

Playing in the Ruins: En Garde Arts and the Millennial American City


In the last decade of the 20th century—as American culture careened between feelings of decline and triumphalism, of one world lost and another yet to be played out—ruins gained a renewed prominence as cultural, aesthetic, and economic objects of interest. Focusing on the seminal work of En Garde Arts, this presentation examines the ruin as both a cultural figure and a material site of urban performance at the end of the millennium. Operating in New York from 1985 to 1999, En Garde sought out locations in which physical, imaginary, and economic space converged to create the theater event, producing works by artists such as Charles Mee, Reza Abdoh, and Mac Wellman in and among the city’s abandoned monuments of the 19th and 20th century. The fictional narratives of collapse and/or reinvention within these works are trailed by historical narratives of the sites they occupy—from the aspirations of initial construction to the forces that occasioned their fall into dereliction—provoking audiences to consider how liminal urban space could and ought to be used in the future. Operating in an increasingly tight real estate market, En Garde’s productions also took part in more material acts of reclamation, displacement, and renewal, claiming “unproductive” places, albeit temporarily, and transforming them into sites of circulation, exchange, and consumption. In these ways, I will argue, En Garde’s theater of ruins participated in debates on how urban space is used, by whom, and for whose benefit, demonstrating ways in which performance can shape the landscape in which it is situated, both in opposition to and support of the status quo.

Anne Erbe is a lecturer and creative producer in Yale School of Drama’s playwriting program. She is a former Co-Producing Artistic Director of The Foundry Theatre, where she currently sits on the Board of Directors and the Artist/Activist council. As a production dramaturg, she has worked with Lear deBessonet (Good Person of Szechwan), Aya Ogawa (Ludic Proxy), Charlotte Brathwaite (Sun Ra Visitation Series), and Maureen Towey (Black Mountain Songs), among others. Her essays have appeared in Theater magazine, where she was an Associate Editor.

March 8, 2016: Brian Herrera

Bad Auditions: Reality TV’s Spectacular Precarity

The scenario of the “bad audition” has long been essential to many a showbiz story, providing a thrilling plot point while burnishing the arc of stardom’s exhilarating curve. Yet something’s happened to the “bad audition” lately. As the previously hidden machinery of hiring and firing has been retooled as a entertainment commodity, the “bad audition” has become a core convention within what is perhaps the ascendant US television genre of the twenty-first century: reality TV. Surveying a popular culture landscape littered with failed and forgotten American Idols, Apprentices, and Top Chefs, this talk posits that “starmaking” has become but an alibi for reality TV’s arguably more urgent and contemporary reward: the affective spectacularization of unemployment for scores of aspiring workers. This talk demonstrates how the “bad audition” — as dramatic scenario and narrative conceit — activates an idea, widely rehearsed since the middle of the twentieth century, that the auditioning performer is not a skilled craftsperson seeking employment but is instead a spectacularly failed affective subject, ever and always in debt to the industry responsible for (not) employing them. Charting how the dramatic utility of the audition scenario shifted in the 1970s (especially subsequent the blockbuster success of the musical A Chorus Line), the talk details how the “bad audition” emerged as a productive, even privileged, device through which to enact narratives about the before-and-after precarity of those yet seeking the increasingly impossible dream of employment.

Brian Eugenio Herrera is Assistant Professor of Theater at Princeton University. His work, both academic and artistic, examines the history of gender, sexuality and race within and through U.S. popular performance. He is the author of The Latina/o Theatre Commons 2013 National Convening: A Narrative Report (HowlRound, 2015) and his first book Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in Twentieth-Century U.S. Popular Performance (Michigan, 2015) was recently awarded the George Jean Nathan Prize for Dramatic Criticism. He is presently at work on two new book projects: Starring Miss Virginia Calhoun and Casting – A History, a historical study of the material practices of casting in US popular performance.


March 1, 2016: Eleanor Skimin

ulay-and-marina-1The Artist is Sitting—Marina Abramovic’s sedentary performance works and the ghosts of bourgeois domestic drama

This presentation is part of a larger project that explores the sedentary figure as a critical problematic in theatre history since the Enlightenment. The project takes up three of the modern theatre’s signature sedentary figures – the performer, the spectator and the dramaturg – and situates them in the broader political context of two preeminent spaces designed for the seated activities of the bourgeoisie: the home and office. The talk itself will focus on my research on the sedentary performer and the history of the bourgeois sitting room by responding to a series of works by performance artist Marina Abramovic that have staged bodies sitting face-to-face. In perhaps the most famous of these, The Artist is Present, Abramovic sat opposite visitors to the Museum of Modern Art in New York during the museum’s opening hours from March to May in 2010. I examine these works in relation to the convention of the intimate sedentary face-to-face encounter of the domestic dramas of late 19th century bourgeois realism and ask: what connections might be drawn by placing a tête-à-tête between Nora and Torvald of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House alongside the spectacle of Marina Abramovic sitting tête-à-tête? By setting these seemingly disparate sedentary scenes in relation to each other I attempt apply pressure to received accounts of the history of performance art which have posited it as a practice developed in counterpoint to theatre. Instead I consider ways of thinking about performance art as the inheritor of the bourgeois realist theatre’s powerfully persuasive legacies and conventions.

Eleanor Skimin is a dramaturg and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies at Brown University. Prior to commencing the PhD she was Humanities Manager at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) from 2006 until 2008. Dramaturg credits at Classic Stage Company (CSC) in New York City include Brian Kulick’s Hamlet; Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s Three Sisters and Kasimir and Karoline; Kristjian Thorgeirsson’s The Blind; and Kate Whoriskey’s Camille at the Bard Summerscape Festival. She was literary manager at the New Theatre in Dublin, Ireland. Eleanor has a law degree and is a graduate of the MFA program in Dramaturgy at Columbia University. She has taught at Brown University, the University of New South Wales and at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney where she has created courses on dramaturgy for directors and writers. Eleanor is currently an interdisciplinary graduate fellow at the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women at Brown and is assistant editor at differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. In the summer of 2016 she will be undertaking a playwriting residency at the Ingmar Bergman estate on Fårö island, Sweden.

February 23, 2016: Matthew Ferrari


Replay Culture: The Mediated Afterlives of Combat Sports

This paper considers one aspect of the afterlives of action media –the re-play, re-mediation and re-narration of combat sports, and in particular cage fighting (or MMA) in the form of ultra slow-motion highlight videos. The UFC’s Phantom Cam highlights are one example of an afterlife of cultural objects, in the sense of Walter Benjamin’s historiographical concept. In her essay, “Why Media Aesthetics,” Miriam Hansen argues for the importance of interrogating the interrelations between industrial technology and aesthetics. I consider the phantom cam as just such an industrial technology. These highlight videos are not merely an extension of, but also a re-iterating and a transforming of a prior historical event. I propose that the plentitude of the image (and in this sense, quite literally, more information) compels an impulse of refinement, in the sense of a technological act of removing unwanted substances from something. Furthermore, anticipation of media afterlives arguably propels the adoption of new technologies informing the making of the initial object. I also consider the performative dimensions of associated fan replay cultures, one that offers up new possibilities for understanding desire, fantasy, and commodity fetish involved in these genres. These evolving technologies of visualization, pushing spectator ecologies towards greater intensification and customization, affirm Steven Heath’s point that “narrative never exhausts the image.”  While these are re-narrations, they are also moving away from narrative, further removed from the original event –as rationalized by commentators, by liveness of duration, and by generic expectations. Drawing from Benjamin, then, I argue that these replays might be best understood as a cultural objects whose afterlife is motivated by an attempt to remove rationalizing consciousness, to bring already anaesthetized viewers closer to the shock they seek.

Matthew Ferrari earned his doctorate in the Department of Communication at The University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2014. He earned a B.A. in Art History and Visual Culture from Bates College, and an M.A. in Film studies from Ohio University. Matthew’s work has appeared in the edited collections Storytelling in World Cinemas (Columbia University), Reality Television: Oddities of Culture (Lexington), Fighting: Intellectualizing Combat Sports (Common Ground), in the journal Environmental Communication, and in the online media studies forums Flow and In Media Res. He is currently a lecturer in the Department of Communication at UMass.

February 16, 2016: DINA ROGINSKY

Performance in Israel: Ideology and Sociology

Immediately following the announcement of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine in November 1947, which laid the basis for the declaration of the State of Israel, thousands of Jewish people in Palestine, men and women, young and old, spontaneously burst into dance in the streets, singing and dancing in circles, linking hands over shoulders. This collective emotional outburst physically and symbolically signaled the birth of the new nation. It also drew upon an Israeli dance movement that had been developing among young Zionist settlers in Palestine. Since then Israeli dances have represented an important though little-researched component of the Israeli nation-building project.

In this talk I explore the social history and the current reach of the Israeli folk dance movement as a cultural manifestation of Zionist ideology in motion. I will start my discussion in the early thirties of the 20th century, which marks the beginning of this movement in Palestine, and will continue the analysis until the present day, both in Israel and abroad, as the dances have expanded beyond the geo-national borders of Israel.

Dina Roginsky is a senior lector of Modern Hebrew language and culture in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University. Her research interests focus on the intersection between the sociology of culture, history, politics, and performance. Her doctoral dissertation, Performing Israeliness, analyzes the one-hundred-year social and ideological history of the Israeli folk dance movement. Roginsky is a co-editor of the book Dance Discourse in Israel (2009), which explores the field of Israeli dance research, and the book Sara Levi-Tanai: A Life of Creation (2015) which acknowledges the multifaceted contribution of an extraordinary Yemenite woman artist who operated in pre-state Israel. Roginsky is currently working on her third book titled: Conflict in Dance: Jewish-Arab Relations in Israeli Dance.

לבון ללא שנה

February 9, 2016: T.L. Cowan

Transmedial Drag: Cabaret Methods, Digital Platforms and Technologies of Fabulous

Jess Dobkin, How Many Performance Artists Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb? (2015). Photo by David Hawe.
Jess Dobkin, How Many Performance Artists Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb? (2015). Photo by David Hawe.

For over a century, cabaret—or the often satirical, adult-oriented variety show— has been of central importance to trans- feminist and queer subcultural social, political and aesthetic formations in cities and towns around the world. This presentation considers the long-standing cabaret method as one that has necessarily thematized ‘presence’ and ‘the live’ as essential characteristics of these events, while simultaneously drawing attention to the mediated qualities of that presence and liveness. Through their perpetual disappearance, many cabarets are never documented, or retain only fleeting ephemeral traces of their existence. And because cabarets tend to happen quite regularly, just as one would fade away, a new one would come into existence. The cabaret cycle of presence and disappearance has, at times, been interrupted by rare video and photo documentation, often accompanied by anecdotal evidence. With the emergence of consumer mobile photo and video technologies, online social media, digital archiving and other forms of ‘new media,’ it might seem that cabaret socialities, politics and aesthetics are dramatically shifting, and that the new possibilities for digital presence through transmedia reproduction might eclipse an earlier devotion to ‘liveness.’ This presentation focuses on this old/new tension and argues that cabaret methods continue to shape translocal trans- feminist and queer subcultures, and that cabaret’s transmedial history provides necessary community experience for the political and ethical dilemmas posed by digital culture.

T.L. Cowan is the 2015-2016 Bicentennial Lecturer of Canadian Studies in the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies and Digital Humanities Fellow at Yale University. T.L. is visiting from The New School, where she is Chair of Experimental Pedagogies in the School of Media Studies and Lecturer of Culture & Media at Eugene Lang College. T.L. is also co-facilitator of the Feminist Technology Network. T.L.’s recent publications include articles in ephemera: theory and politics in organization (2014), Transgender Studies Quarterly (2014), Women’s Studies Quarterly (2014), and Ada: Gender, New Media, and Technology (2014), as well as chapters in Queer Dramaturges: International Perspectives on Where Performance Leads Queer (Palgrave 2015) and MOOCs and Open Education Around the World (Routledge 2015). T.L.’s first book, entitled Poetry’s Bastard: The Illegitimate Genealogies, Cultures and Politics of Text-Based Performance in Canada is under contract with Wilfrid Laurier UP. She is currently completing two additional books: a monograph entitled Sliding Scale: Transfeminist and Queer Cabaret Methods – Mexico City, Montreal, New York City, and a co-authored book, with Jasmine Rault, entitled Checking In: Transfeminist and Queer Labour in Networked Economies.

February 2, 2016: Miriam Felton-Dansky

Towards an Audience Vocabulary: General Idea’s Viral Performance

General Idea, "Going Thru the Motions," 1975.
General Idea, “Going Thru the Motions,” 1975.

Decades before YouTube, Twitter, and Vine, decades before the Internet inaugurated the phenomenon of fleeting, digitally-enabled popularity—back in the early 1970s—three underground artists declared themselves viral. A.A. Bronson, Jorge Zontal, and Felix Partz, of the Toronto-based collective General Idea, employed this charged concept to describe their modes of creation and dissemination in visual, performance, and conceptual artistic practice. Virus was a form of art, a means of making art, and above all, a description of the relationship between General Idea’s art and its audiences. Virus meant political subversion, cultural infiltration, and subtly radical satire.

It also meant audience participation. In this talk, I trace the central role of live performance in the group’s pathbreaking viral vision. At the heart of General Idea’s work between 1969 and 1978 was a series of elaborate, playfully strange beauty pageants, in which contestants competed for the elusive title of Miss General Idea. From the original pageant, which accompanied a media-saturated staging of Gertrude Stein’s play What Happened, through an escalating series of participatory performances, General Idea developed a mode of viral art that explicitly relied upon the live presence of performers and spectators. Art-historical scholarship has frequently sidelined these works in favor of the group’s visual art. I seek to restore General Idea to performance history, arguing that the live encounter shaped and propelled their viral vision—and that their viral vision marks a fundamental turning point in the history of radical participatory performance.

Miriam Felton-Dansky is assistant professor of Theater & Performance at Bard College and acting director of Bard’s Experimental Humanities Initiative for 2015-16. Her essays and articles have appeared in Theatre Journal, Theater, PAJ, and TDR, and she is a regular contributor to the theater section of the Village Voice. A contributing editor of Theater, she is also a guest co-editor of two themed issues: Digital Dramaturgies (2012), and its sequel, Digital Feelings, forthcoming in 2016. She is currently working on a book about viral performance.

December 8, 2015: VK Preston

Baroque Relations:
Performance and Extractivism in Circum-Atlantic Worlds, 1626

“Baroque Relations” investigates precious metals associated with Andean mining in the archives of early modern ballets in France. Identifying events and tropes of Inca protest within early French ballet, this study situates dances in an Atlantic world vortex, drawing the ‘parts of the world’ into international political disputes, extractivism, and scenes of Indigenous and African slavery. The work invokes a ‘performative commons’ (Maddock Dillon) of an early baroque-era, addressing global circulations of metals through proto-industrial mining, trade, and ecology as well as performance in the early modern Anthropocene. This talk is based on a chapter from my current book project, expanding my research on performance and aesthetics of emergent sites of global trade and capital. Another essay on these sources is forthcoming in a collected volume edited by Mark Franko, with Oxford University Press.

VK Preston is a visiting assistant professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University. She pursues contemporary as well as historical research, writing on the witches’ Sabbath in the early modern Atlantic World, Franco-Indigenous North American and Caribbean intercultures pre-1800 and in contemporary performance, early ballet, transmedia, choreography, and queer theory. She has published essays in The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theatre, TDR / The Drama Review, TheatreForum, and History, Memory, Performance. As guest editor for Canadian Theatre Review she has also ‘Views and Reviews’ on curating performance. She teaches contemporary political and engaged performance, performance historiography (1500-1850), and performance studies. VK comes to performance research with an interdisciplinary background in practice, and she teaches Laban-based movement research and interdisciplinary performance fundamentals.


December 1, 2015: Jacob Gallagher-Ross

Mediating the Method: Lee Strasberg, Marlon Brando, and the Sound of Authenticity

Marlon_Brando_Streetcar_1948_f Method acting, the mid-twentieth century performance style developed at the Actors Studio in New York City, was both renowned and reviled for its monomaniacal pursuit of emotional authenticity in performance: sacrificing textual integrity, and sometimes even intelligibility, to feeling. (Marlon Brando’s infamous mumbling is a case in point.) But our obsession with the Method’s psychological contortions can cause us to overlook its creative dialogue with new technologies. In this talk, I’ll examine the media behind the Method: Recording undergirded the exercises and thought of Lee Strasberg, the Method’s Svengali. And Brando’s mumbling, upon closer scrutiny, reveals itself as a canny sound experiment.

The Method, in Strasberg’s conception, purported to be a system bringing the vast trove of affective experience registered in the unconscious mind into rehearsal rooms and auditoriums. But I’ll consider the Method as investigating a different unconscious, what Walter Benjamin called the “optical unconscious”: those uncanny aspects of everyday life revealed by the surgical incursions of the camera and microphone into reality. The Method’s most salient legacy may have more to do with media—with the ways that recording had already changed performance and spectatorship—than emotional recall.

The debates about Method acting were symptomatic of a new postwar landscape of theatrical performance—and a new conception of everyday life— in which theater was only one of many possible modes of encountering spoken art, most of them mediated to greater or lesser degree by technologies of recording. And these technologies of reproduction and transmission were becoming ubiquitous: squalling radios, TVs rattling in the background, Muzak in elevators. Life was getting noisier, and so was acting.

Jacob Gallagher-Ross is assistant professor of theatre at the University at Buffalo, where he is interim director of the MA and PhD programs in theatre and performance studies. His essays and articles have appeared in Theatre Survey, TDR, PAJ, Theater, Contemporary Theatre Review, and Canadian Theatre Review, among other journals. A contributing editor of Theater, he is also a guest-co-editor of two special themed issues: Digital Dramaturgies, from 2012, and Digital Feelings, forthcoming in 2016. A frequent contributor to the Village Voice’s theater section since 2009, he also writes criticism for other national publications.

This talk is based on a chapter from his current book project, Re-Enchanting the World: American Theaters of the Everyday, which is under advance contract with Northwestern University Press. An article-length version of the chapter appeared in the September 2015, issue of Theatre Survey.

November 17, 2015: Lilian Mengesha

A Different Kind of Cont(r)act:
Building a Record of the Missing in Rebecca Belmore’s Vigil 

This talk is concerned with the following question: how does one build a record of disappearance through a medium, like performance, that troubles the foundations of traditional record keeping? To answer this question, I examine a 2002 performance entitled Vigil by Anishanaabe artist Rebecca Belmore. On a street corner in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the artist nailed her red gown to a wooden electric pole. Belmore nails her dress repeatedly, and then tears her body away from the fabric, until there is nothing left of the material and we only see Belmore in her under garments. This is the same downtown intersection where First Nations and Aboriginal women haunt the sidewalks looking for ways to survive, often times by participating in sex work. Many of these women have gone missing, were murdered or have disappeared. The precarious labor of many of these workers lands them in a tight paradox: they are both publicly recognizable and spectacularly visible yet invisible, or negligible, when it comes to securing their protection and safety in the economic sphere. Belatedly, in 2014, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported a total of 1,181 missing and murdered women between 1980-2012. This amount is staggering given that Aboriginal women make up 10% of the homicides in Canada, yet they are only 3% of Canada’s total population. What these percentages tell us is that First Nations and Aboriginal women are often forced to occupy some of the most precarious social positions in order to survive. These disappearances and murders are at the heart of Belmore’s performance and we see her persistence in questioning where they might be.

The redundancy of Belmore’s hammering asks audiences, both local and otherwise, to consider the relationship between time and action differently, repetitively, as a measurement that is a function of syncopation. Rebecca Schneider’s concept of syncopated time asks “what is the time of the live act when a live act is reiterative” arguing that live acts happen “then” as well as “now” (Performance Remains 37). How do Belmore’s actions in the live moment, through a reiterative act of putting her body at this intersection stretch time or stretch through time to recall the “then” of disappearance prior to the performance? This talk will trace these genealogies of time and redundancy to reconsider a different kind of contact between life and death, particularly through Indigenous worldviews, as well as a different kind of shared agreement that the action of nailing might suggest.

Lilian Mengesha is a PhD Candidate in Theater and Performance Studies at Brown University. Her dissertation, tentatively titled Hard to See: Disappearance, Indigeneity and Performance, examines the widespread disappearances of Indigenous women throughout North and Central America and performances and plays that use abject aesthetics and affects of/in violence to respond to the lack of  accountability of these deaths. Her work folds together Indigenous and Third World Feminisms, decolonial thought, aesthetic theory, and performance theories around liveness and disappearance. Her work seeks to bring together the resonances between Native Studies and Performance Studies in their shared concern around states of dispossession.

Still from Rebecca Belmore's 2002 Vigil, Video by Paul Wong.
Still from Rebecca Belmore’s 2002 Vigil, Video by Paul Wong.

November 10, 2015: Elizabeth Wiet

Jack Smith, Thomas Pynchon, and the Spectacularly Disappearing Self

Thomas Pynchon hides from a photographer, placing a pig piñata in his stead.
Thomas Pynchon hides from a photographer, placing a pig piñata in his stead.

This talk explores two of the twentieth century avant-garde’s most unlikely bedfellows: performance artist Jack Smith and novelist Thomas Pynchon. Paradigmatic examples of maximalist performance and maximalist fiction, Smith and Pynchon show an investment in creating artistic works that explore the possibilities of spectacular self-effacement. Though homophobic structures of the closet and cold war conspiracies create an atmosphere of paranoia for both, neither decide to go completely “off-grid.” Instead, they flirt endlessly with the possibility of disappearance — and in fact do so in the most spectacular way possible. Pynchon may refuse to appear in public or make his whereabouts known, but this refusal has also birthed endless hoaxes and reported sightings. He makes a brief and uncredited cameo in the cinematic adaptation of Inherent Vice (2014) knowing that it will incite inordinate gossip. Smith may have deliberately refused to advertise his performances and he may have been a notoriously guarded (and even hostile) performer, but he was also notoriously camp. He retreats from his audience, but he does so by layering upon his body an excess of colorful and intricately adorned scarves. His face is effaced, though not by a mask — it is effaced by glittery stage makeup.

In other words, this talk attempts to untangle — through a discussion of celebrity, paranoia, and maximalist aesthetics — what we mean when we use the seemingly contradictory term “reclusive persona”. By bringing together the cases of Smith and Pynchon, it also hopes to call into question traditional narratives about the insignificance of experimental fiction to American avant-garde theatre.

Elizabeth Wiet is a fifth-year PhD candidate in the English department at Yale University whose work focuses on the aesthetics and material conditions of American avant-garde theatre. She is currently completing a dissertation titled Minor Maximalisms: Theatre and the American Novel since 1960, which explores the confluence of experimental theatre and experimental fiction vis-a-vis the aesthetics of maximalismHer writing has appeared in TDR: The Drama Review.

November 3, 2015: Christine Mok

On The Face of It: Nikki S Lee’s Layers

Christine Mok’s work in theatre and performance studies, critical race theory, and American cultural history focuses on the people, places, and performances where the limits of theatrical representation rub up against the limits of racial representation. This talk is a meditation on failure, frustration, and Asian American visuality through the photography and photographic practice of Nikki S. Lee.  From 2007 to 2008, Lee, the Korean-born, New York City-based photographer, traveled to different cities around the world, from Prague to Madrid to Bangkok to Rome. In each city, Lee asked street artists to draw portraits of her on translucent tracing paper. Back at her studio, Lee arranged the images, layering drawings by artists in the same cities, one on top of the other atop a light box. She then photographed the resulting portrait. While each image, the composite of three separate drawings, from each city, is different; the multilayered images enact the difficulty of reading and seeing the Asian/American face. Defying its photogenic surface, Lee’s Layers performs the complexity and complicity of racial surveillance by frustrating viewers and reviewers alike across continents, uncovering the burdens placed upon the (Asian/American) face of the other.

Christine Mok is assistant professor of Drama and Performance in the department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati. At UC, she is the Director of the Helen Weinberger Center for the Study of Drama and Playwriting.  She is currently completing her first book project, which uses intermediality and theatricality as critical optics to examine the shifting politics and poetics of inauthenticity in contemporary Asian American performance. She has published in Theatre Survey, Modern Drama, and PAJ: A Performing Arts Journal. 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.

Nikki S. Lee, Layers, Istanbul 1, 2, 3, 2007
Nikki S. Lee, Layers, Istanbul 1, 2, 3, 2007

October 27, 2015: Elise Morrison

Remote/CTRL: Theatrical Responses to Digital Warfare

As martial investments in drones and other remote-controlled forms of surveillance and lethal weaponry increase each year, contemporary warfare has come to resemble (and even depend upon for training soldiers) “first-person shooter” video games. Virtualized, remote images of battle are contained within screenal interfaces that simulate, but also cleanse and limit the multivalent realities and “lingering destruction” of war. As these frames both enact and hold “war at a distance,” the need to use theatrical representation to help audiences think and act with empathy across the remote distances, political differences, and cultural divides of post-9/11 warfare has become all the more urgent. This presentation analyzes several recent theatrical works that reimagine screenal interfaces of war as sites through which to create empathetic understanding across the great divides and distances of contemporary warfare. In particular, I look at George Brant’s Grounded (2012), Christine Evans’ You Are Dead. You are Here. (2013), and Wafaa Bilal’s Domestic Tension (2007) for the ways they employ digital interfaces to at once reference and counteract the desensitizing and distancing effects of remotely controlled, digitally rendered warfare. Through a range of representational strategies, these works attempt to stage screenal interfaces of war as sites of intersubjective identification and communication that might instead facilitate ethical and empathetic understanding.

Elise Morrison received her PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies from Brown University in 2011. Her book project, Discipline and Desire: Surveillance Technologies in Performance, forthcoming from University of Michigan Press, focuses on artists who strategically employ technologies of surveillance to create performances that pose new and different ways of interacting with and understanding apparatuses of surveillance. Morrison has published on this topic in International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media (IJPADM), Theater Magazine, and TDR. She recently edited a special issue on “Surveillance Technologies in Performance” for IJPADM (Routledge: Fall 2015, 11.2), where she has served on the editorial board since 2010 and previously co-edited a special issue on “Digital Performance and Pedagogy” in Fall 2012. Prior to coming to Yale, Elise worked as Associate Director for Speaking Instruction at Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. As a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale (IPSY) from 2012-2015, Elise taught courses on Digital media in performance, Feminist theater and performance, Surveillance and society, and Public speaking. As the new Director for Undergraduate Studies for Theater Studies at Yale, Elise continues to teach these courses and to convene the Performance Studies Working Group.

October 20, 2015: Maurya Wickstrom

Black Spartacus: Césaire, C.L.R.James, and the New Present

vertieres This talk is derived from a book project that advocates the re-thinking of time as a political urgency. It looks to theatre and performance for a singular kind of exploration of radical temporalities. These temporalities – penultimate time, kairos, and the new present – are presented as experiences, and new forms of politics, with the potential to challenge chronological and capitalist time.

The talk itself will focus on two plays about the Haitian revolution, which took place alongside of and in deadly tension with the French Revolution and its ideals. The first is Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in History by C.L.R. James, Trinidadian author of the Black Jacobins, and an internationalist, Pan-Africanist, and revolutionary socialist. The second is The Tragedy of King Christophe: A Play, by the founder of the Francophone Negritude movement, Martiniquean Aimé Césaire. The former premiered in 1936 and the latter in 1963. Both plays are explored against the genre designations they are given, including “tragedy” or “chronicle play” or “history play”. Instead, they are treated as a resurgence of the slave Spartacus in Louverture that opens a revolutionary new present in Saint-Domingue (later renamed Haiti). This new present unfolds within, and in opposition to, the temporal logic of French, English and Spanish colonial expansion and its dependence on slavery, the accumulation of private property and European nationalism.

Maurya Wickstrom is currently teaching as a Visiting Professor in the Yale School of Drama’s Dramaturgy Department. She is on sabbatical leave from the City University of New York where she is Professor of Theatre at the Graduate Center and the College of Staten Island. She is the author of Performing Consumers: Global Capital and Its Theatrical Seductions (Routledge 2006) and Performance in the Blockades of Neoliberalism: Thinking the Political Anew (Studies in International Performance series: Palgrave Macmillan 2012). Her articles and essays have been published in Theatre Journal, TDR:The Drama Review, Performance Research, Modern Drama and others, as well as in edited volumes. Her book, Fiery Temporalities in Theatre and Performance: The Initiation of History is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Methuen Drama’s Engage series.

October 13, 2015: Christopher Grobe

Why It’s “Easier to Act with a Telephone than a Man”

IMG_0042Among theater critics, then among their film counterparts, a strange consensus emerged in the early 20th century: the greatest performances were drawn out of actors by a particular scene partner, the telephone. “If I could figure out why, I’d write an essay on the subject,” wrote theater critic George Jean Nathan in 1928. The telephone, this talk argues, was like a set of training wheels, steadying many actors’ first wobbly attempts at realism. Only when acting with a telephone, as one actress relates, can you learn to exist “subconsciously” onstage.

Scholars tend to present technology as a disruptive force, one that can deconstruct the deep and centered self. The opposite is true, though, in the case of the telephone: this technology helped mystify this sort of self in the first place. Through a wide-ranging exploration of the telephone’s stage and film career, this talk affords new perspectives on media studies and suggests new applications for acting theory. Media history has tended to ignore performance culture, much to its detriment; this talk demonstrates what performance studies can contribute to that discipline. Meanwhile, the talk suggests new pathways from the study of acting to larger cultural histories: new technologies birth new acting techniques, which, in turn, make whole new technês of the human feel suddenly possible.

Christopher Grobe is Assistant Professor of English at Amherst College. Broadly speaking, his research concerns the fluid and reciprocal influence of America’s literary, performance, and media cultures. He is currently completing a book called Performing Confession: From Robert Lowell to Reality TV. His reviews and essays can be found (or are forthcoming) in PMLA, Theater, Modern Drama, New Literary History, Public Books, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

October 6, 2015: Kimberly Jannarone

French Revolutionary Festivals and the Invention of Tradition

Federation, big

In 1793, the Committee of Public Safety dispatched functionaries into small villages in the French countryside to refashion local customs of public assembly.  Traditional gatherings, such as those at churches, were outlawed.  Instead, officials re-routed loyalties by instructing citizens to gather under secular circumstances to communally praise the nation. They introduced elaborately conceptualized ceremonies in which the young and old would embody unity and fraternity in new mass ceremonies: Dancing, physical exchanges of symbolic objects, and group participation in just-devised celebrations formed necessary parts of solidifying the new republic.

These ceremonies demonstrate how the French Revolution conceived of the power of bodies in space as a defining element in organizing the new, post-monarchical nation.  This talk will focus on two aspects of these festivals: how they embodied what Eric Hobsbawm has called “the invention of tradition” and how they demonstrate the power of live performance in the process of crafting a new social and political world.

Kimberly Jannarone is a scholar, director, dramaturg, and translator.  She received her MFA and DFA from the Yale School of Drama and is currently on leave from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she is Professor of Theater Arts, Digital Arts and New Media, and History of Consciousness, and where she holds the Gary D. Licker Memorial Chair.

She is the author of Artaud and His Doubles, winner of the Honorable Mention for the Joe Callaway Prize for best book in drama. She has published in journals including Theatre Journal, French Forum, Modernism/Modernity, TDR, the Chinese journal Theater Arts, and others.  She won the Gerald Kahan Scholar’s Prize and Honorable Mention for the Oscar Brockett Essay Prize for essays on Artaud.  Forthcoming books include Mass Performance, History, and the Invention of Tradition and the edited volume Vanguard Performance Beyond Left and Right (University of Michigan Press).

September 29, 2015: Claire Pamment

Dancing at the Edges of Section 377:
Hijraism and Colonial Legislation in Contemporary Pakistan

Copyright: Claire Pamment.

Hijras, the South Asian community of transgender women, were subject to criminalization by nineteenth century colonial laws. The Criminal Tribes Act (1871) targeted their feminine public appearances and long tradition of performance at Hindu and Sufi festivals, fairs, celebratory gatherings and badhai, the giving of fertility blessings births and weddings (hijras believed to grant auspicious prayers or curses), as a means to police and prohibit sexual ‘intercourse against the order of nature’ as defined in Section 377 (1860). Stripped of its cultural and religious significance, hijraism was re-visioned in public discourse to signify deviant sexuality and outlawed. Yet hijraism proved an unstable signifier; impossible to police and dislocate from culturally embedded knowledge, lending to repeal of CTA in 1910. In contemporary Pakistan, though Section 377 still exists, hijras/khwajasaras have recently been awarded legitimate citizenship identities (2009). I explore how recent media and legal attention that accompanied these reforms, reasserts the legacies of the colonial past; extending the anti-performance imperatives, to police ‘unnatural’ bodies and ‘unnatural’ sexuality in favor of making ‘good’ Pakistani citizens. In turn, I explore how khwajasaras are drawing upon their traditional performance repertoire to redress their marginalization beyond the microscopic gaze of Section 377, to re situate themselves in cultural space.

Claire Pamment is a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. She is a performance practitioner and scholar, working in South Asian theater and performance, with a focus on the popular, comedic, burlesque and queer in Pakistan. Her Ph.D. thesis from Royal Central School of Speech and Drama explored comic performance in Pakistan with a focus on the bhand tradition through Sufi wise fools, and transformations in contemporary culture. Her book ‘Comic Performance in Pakistan: The Bhand’ is forthcoming from Palgrave. Over the last two years, with the support of a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant, she has been working on the performance culture of the Pakistani transgender community of khwajasaras (hijras). During her fellowship at Yale she will further this research by investigating how Sufism informs khwajasara identity and history in Pakistan, and shapes performance practices that enable this transgender community to negotiate a variety of restrictive social scripts.

September 22, 2015: Rachel Anderson-Rabern

pictured: Pamela Vail. photo credit: Rachel Anderson-Rabern.
Pictured: Pamela Vail. Photo credit: Rachel Anderson-Rabern.

Fragments of Chekhov, Memories of Wolves

In the early 20th century the last black wolves in Pennsylvania die out, in tandem with the premier of Chekhov’s Three Sisters on the other side of the world. In the early 21st century (or thereabouts) black wolves are reintroduced to Pennsylvania’s farmland via curated sanctuary, and a college in Lancaster County performs the “antiquated” Three Sisters. 

Inspired by these events, the talk investigates intersections of performance and theory, seeking to articulate vestiges of disappearing acts that coalesce into kaleidoscopes of perception for audiences and artists. A collage emerges, as creative writing converses with the words of contemporary undergraduate students, Anton Chekhov, Pennsylvania hunters and trappers, and theatre and performance scholars. Might this juxtaposition re-frame questions of pedagogy and performance that echo through Chekhov’s work? Can we distinguish loosening lines between wildness and domesticity, formality and apathy?

Rachel Anderson-Rabern holds a PhD in Drama from Stanford University and is an Assistant Professor of Theatre in F&M’s Department of Theatre, Dance, and Film. She researches contemporary collective creation, ensemble dynamics, and marginal aesthetics: slowness, smallness, fun; and her writings have appeared in Theatre JournalTDR: The Drama ReviewCollective Creation in Contemporary Performance, and Women, Collective Creation, and Devised Performance(forthcoming from Palgrave). She studied acting at the Moscow Art Theatre, and has directed plays and devised works for colleges and universities as well as for Bootstrap Theatre, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, Miracle Theatre/Teatro Milagro, Stanford Summer Theatre, and the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Rachel is co-founder (with mathematician Landon Rabern) of Wee Keep Company, an in-process rural arts space for collaborative thinkers and theatre-makers.

September 15, 2015: Guillermo Calderón

National Memory on International Stages: The Reinterpretation of Site-Specificity in Guillermo Calderón’s Villa + Discurso.

Alexandra Ripp in discussion with the artist.

In 2011, Chilean playwright-director Guillermo Calderón wrote two companion plays, VILLA+DISCURSO, which together consider how the country should—or could—memorialize the brutal dictatorship (1973-1990) whose unresolved legacy persists. Calderón wrote these to be performed at Chilean ex-torture centers and the Museum of Memory, in order to encourage critical consideration of official memorialization in situ, but subsequent U.S. and European stagings have occurred in theaters, lecture halls, and gallery spaces. While the themes of fractious collective memory and the delicacy of violent pasts resonate outside Chile, could the missing site-specificity detract from the plays’ power and even dramaturgy? How does the international touring of site-specific theater “work” when the work is bound up with national memory?

Alexandra Ripp will introduce the plays and critical considerations of these questions, before entering in dialogue with Calderón himself about his own perspectives and experiences.

Guillermo Calderón (Director, Playwright) is Chile’s foremost contemporary theatre artist. His plays include Neva, DiciembreClase, Villa, Discurso,QuakeSchool and Kiss.  Calderón’s productions have toured extensively through South America and Europe.  Festival stops include Buenos Aires International Theatre Festival, Chekhov Festival (Russia), Edinburgh International Festival, Festival d´ Automne (France), Santiago A Mil (Chile), Seoul Performing Arts Festival (Korea), TEATERFORMEN Festival (Germany), Wiener Festwochen (Austria), World Theatre Festival (Belgium). The Public´s Under the Radar Festival, and RADAR L.A. The English language version of Neva had its US Premiere at The Public Theater in 2013; a subsequent production toured to South Coast Rep, Center Theatre Group, and LaJolla Playhouse.  He has been commissioned by the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus (Germany), the Royal Court Theater (England) and the Public Theater.  His co-written screenplay Violeta Went to Heaven won the World Cinema Jury Prize for Drama at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He also co-wrote The Club, winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlinale in 2015.Villa and Speech were published in Theater Magazine (Yale and Duke).

Alexandra Ripp is a DFA candidate in the department of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at Yale School of Drama, where she is writing a dissertation on post-dictatorship Chilean theater and memory politics. She is former Associate Editor of Theater Magazine and is the current Ideas Program Manager at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, programming the Festival’s annual series of lectures and panels. Her writing has appeared in Theater Journal, Theater, and PAJ. She is also a translator of Chilean plays, providing subtitles for the U.S. tours of Trinidad González’s The Meeting (2014-15), Guillermo Calderón’s Escuela (2015-2016) and Teatrocinema’s Historia de Amor (2016).

model villa con silla

April 18th, 2015: “Farewell Performances” An IPSY Conference

This conference of Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale will be held at the Whitney Humanities Center, rm 208.  The schedule is as follows.

10:30-12:00 Valediction, Self, and Society

Julia Fawcett, Ryerson University
“Save the Last Dance: Performance as History in Restoration London”

Justin Sider, Yale University
“The Consummated Spell: A.C. Swinburne’s Farewell Address”

Elizabeth Wiet, Yale University
“Ron Vawter/Jack Smith: Queer Goodbyes and the New York Avant-Garde”

Andrew Brown, Yale University (Respondent)


12:00-1:30 Lunch


1:30-3:00 Memorials and Traumas of Nationhood

Michelle Martin-Baron, Hobart and William Smith College

“Farewell Performances and Futuristic Hauntings”

Jessica Rizzo, Yale University
“Trauma as Performance: Lola Arias’s El Año en Que Nací”

Carrie J. Preston, Boston University
“Undead Plays: Yeats’s Irish National Theater and Japanese Noh Drama”

Joey Plaster, Yale University (Respondent)


3:15-4:45 Resisting Farewell

Dominika Laster, Yale University
“Agency for Hiring the Dearly Departed”: Surrogation in Tadeusz Kantor’s Theatre of Death”

Paige McGinley, Washington University in St. Louis
“(Don’t) Take a Bow: On Curtain Calls and Concluding Songs”

Elise Morrison, Yale University
“Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: Practices of Re-Membering through Digital Surveillance”

Tina Post, Yale University (Respondent)


5:00 Closing Remarks
Joseph Roach, Yale University

March 3, 2015: Arkadi Zaides

Please join us for this special session of the PSWG on Tuesday, March 3rd, from 12-1 pm.

The dancer and choreographer Arkadi Zaides will discuss his new work, Archive, based on video filmed by volunteers of the B’tselem Camera Project. B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, distributes cameras to Palestinians living in high-conflict areas. Participants document human rights violations and expose the reality of life under the occupation. Through his appropriation of gestures and voices, Zaides engages with the materials and embodies them, turning his body into a living archive.

We will meet in the Whitney Humanities Center, rm 208. A light lunch will be provided and all are welcome.

This discussion will precede Zaides’ performance of Archive in the Off Broadway Theater that evening at 7pm. The artist’s related installation Capture Practice will be on view at the Off Broadway Theater Thursday, March 5 – Saturday, March 7. Please find more information about the performance, panel discussion, and exhibit here.


December 2, 2014: Justin Sider

Parting Words: Valedictory Performance in Victorian Poetry

Drawn from my dissertation project, this talk explores the relationship among leave-taking, self-presentation, and public address in Victorian poetry. From Tennyson’s “Ulysses” to A.C. Swinburne’s “Anactoria,” the era’s poems of retreat and departure, I argue, take the measure not only of poets’ disenchantment or exclusion from the public sphere, but more importantly, of their engagement with poetry’s changing status in an emergent mass culture. When critics have attended to Victorian poetry’s role in the public sphere, it has generally been through that poetry’s engagement with political or cultural discourse. My project considers instead the rhetorical possibilities that poets employed to grapple with the idea of publicness itself. In their valedictory poems, poets present speakers who imagine leave-taking as their entrance into circulation as exemplary figures and cultural icons. As scenes of performance, their speeches manage problems of distance and relation: taking leave makes public the personal and, in doing so, comments on the forms of publication—the books and pages and print—that are presumed to survive the departure of the speaker.

Justin Sider is a PhD candidate in English at Yale University and will receive his degree this December. He has recently completed his dissertation, entitled “Parting Words: Address and Exemplarity in Victorian Poetry,” which explores the relationship among poetic address, public speech, and cultural authority in Victorian poetry’s valedictions and scenes of leave-taking. He has published articles on Alfred Tennyson and John Ruskin in Victorian Poetry and Studies in English Literature respectively.

November 18, 2014: William Fleming

Restaging the Forty-Seven Rōnin: Performance and Print in Late Eighteenth-Century Japan

As two of the principal spheres of cultural production in early modern Japan, performance and print naturally developed a close relationship. In the case of pictorial fiction, which rose to enormous popularity in the mid- to late eighteenth century, this relationship is particularly complicated, with performance informing many aspects of such works. This talk explores this dynamic through an examination of a “comicbook” parody of the play Chūshingura, or A Treasury of Loyal Retainers (1748). Almost from its premiere, Chūshingura became the definitive version of the story of the forty-seven rōnin, a group of masterless samurai who carried out a sensational vendetta at the dawn of the eighteenth century. The play quickly became the most popular in the repertoire, and inspired numerous adaptations and parodies. As one such parody, the comicbook considered in this talk has a debt to the stage that is, on the surface, obvious. Yet it is precisely as a parody of a play that it offers valuable insights into the relationship between performance and the printed page. There are many ways one might retell a play in fiction, but the author and illustrator instead rely extensively on kabuki visuality, performance practice, and even specific performances. At the same time, the comicbook, like other works in its genre, is a richly allusive, witty, and palimpsestic text in its own right that is by no means reducible to a representation of the stage. Kabuki and other forms of performance are appropriated as organizing principles, but the end result is an altogether unique form of performance that weaves together many of the diverse strands of Japan’s eighteenth century.

William Fleming is assistant professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures and Theater Studies at Yale. His writings have appeared in journals including Sino-Japanese StudiesAsian Theatre JournalJapan Forum, and The International Journal of Comic Art. He is currently working on a book exploring aspects of the reception of Chinese fiction in early modern Japan, and his co-authored catalogSamurai and the Culture of Japan’s Great Peace, written in conjunction with an exhibition he is jointly curating at Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History (opening early next year), is forthcoming in February, 2015.

November 11, 2014: Kate Kokontis

Cultivating Critical and Humane “Young Intellectuals”:

or, how some formal and conceptual mandates from performance studies have contributed to NOCCA’s Integrated Humanities curriculum


In this talk, Dr. Kate Kokontis will discuss how an innovative interdisciplinary humanities curriculum – which was created collaboratively by scholars with backgrounds in fields such as performance studies, critical race theory, history, and literature – has been implemented at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. The Integrated Humanities program is a four-year course that meets Louisiana state requirements for History and English/Language Arts (ELA) coursework; it is a unique, and uniquely interdisciplinary, high school humanities program framed around four years of world history or global studies.  Students read literature, examine visual culture, study the arts, look at primary documents, and read social and political theory that is situated historically or thematically within our field of study at any given time, so that their encounters with the arts, governments, economies, religions, social life, and cultural production are contextualized.  It is, at its heart, a critical cultural studies program.  The faculty members have PhDs in humanistic and social science disciplines and expect a level of intellectual rigor and critical thinking that is in keeping with what students do in colleges and universities.  Dr. Kokontis will attend both to the particularities of the curriculum itself – its content, arc over four years, interdisciplinary structure, team-teaching model, pedagogical approaches, implementation of differentiated learning, and examples of the questions and projects that students engage – and to the ways in which it is both indebted to, and aspires to challenge some of the limitations of, the epistemological, pedagogical, and political frameworks that are articulated within critical humanistic disciplines in universities.

Kate M. Kokontis earned her Ph.D. in Performance Studies at UC Berkeley in 2011, a post-baccalaureate certificate in painting from Studio Art Centers International | Florence in 2005, and her B.A. from Yale in 2004. Currently she teaches and develops curriculum at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), a public arts conservatory high school.  There she is Assistant Chair of the Humanities department, and was founding member of the Academic Studio.  She teaches Integrated Humanities, and is very involved in the Plessy Project, an endeavor shared by the Plessy & Ferguson Foundation, the Crescent City Peace Alliance, the NOCCA Institute, students, and other community organizations to commemorate and continue the long history of the Black freedom struggle in New Orleans and beyond. She is working on a novel and an academic book project emerging from her dissertation, “Performative Returns and the Rememory of History: genealogy and performativity in the American racial state,” and is involved in anti-racist organizing in New Orleans, within and outside her home institution.

November 4th, 2014: Lars Jan

HOLOSCENES: Spectacle, Climate Change, and Experimental Plumbing



created by Early Morning Opera

conceived and directed by Lars Jan

produced by Mapp International Productions

+ + +

For nearly four years, together with an expansive team of artists, engineers and scientists, I have been developing HOLOSCENES, a large performance installation that is a visceral, visual, and publiccollision of the human body and water. HOLOSCENES is born from my concern that our troubled relationship to water will become the central issue of the 21st century.

Sited in public space, HOLOSCENES features a totemic aquarium-like sculpture inhabited by a rotating series of performers carrying out an everyday human behavior gathered from video submissions from around the world. Filled and drained by a custom-designed hydraulic system, the aquariums flood with up to twelve tons of water a minute, transforming the movements of the performers within.

We’re using the aquarium of HOLOSCENES to weave the unraveling story of water — the rising seas, melting glaciers, intensifying floods and droughts — into the patterns of the everyday. The ebb and flow of water and resulting transfiguration of human behavior offers an elemental portrait of our collective myopia, persistence, and, for better or worse, adaptation.

— Lars Jan, October 2014


Civilization has evolved primarily within the geologic epoch of the Holocene, the period since the last ice age approximately twelve thousand years ago. However, there is debate as to whether we have already entered the Anthropocene — an epoch initiated by the industrial revolution and characterized by man’s impact on the earth over these dozen decades at a scale previously measured only in the thousands of years. The projected rise of sea level is central to this dramatic shift in the biosphere, foreshadowed by receding glaciers, melting polar ice caps, and the countless catastrophic floods of recent memory.

The development of HOLOSCENES has been informed by a broad spectrum of issues critical to a consideration of climate change, including those surrounding water; climate data, paleontology, and modeling; and the social and cognitive evolution of human capacities for decision-making, long-term thinking, and empathy.


HOLOSCENES is co-commissioned by the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

HOLOSCENES has received generous support from the Surdna Foundation, The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The MAP Fund (a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), Awesome Without Borders, the Panta Rhea Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and many individual donors.

Additional research and critical residency support has been provided by Scotiabank Nuit Blanche (Toronto), the Experimental Media Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) (Troy, NY), and the Center for the Art of Performance (CAP) UCLA (Los Angeles, CA).





LARS JAN is a director, writer, and artist. He is the founding artistic director of Early Morning Opera (EMO), a genre-bending performance + art lab, whose works explore emerging technologies, live audiences, and unclassifiable experience. His work has been presented by The Sundance Film Festival, Whitney Museum, Guggenheim Museum, and BAM Next Wave Festival, and supported by the NEA, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Surda Foundation, MAP Fund, and many others. He is a TED Senior Fellow.


October 28, 2014: Patrick McKelvey

Ron Whyte’s Bureaucratic Drag

In the 1970s, disabled artists, activists, and their allies repurposed the material culture, stock characters, and mise-en-scène of bureaucratic institutions to produce a new performance genre: bureaucratic theatre. This emergent form circulated across a diverse array of theatrical institutions and locations, from Upper West Side foyers to political protests at conferences for vocational rehabilitation professionals. This talk focuses on one such example of bureaucratic theatre, a multi-year epistolary project in which playwright Ron Whyte and art critic Gregory Battcock assumed the identities of senior university administrators at Onassis University, a fictitious institution of higher learning. Tellingly, Whyte and Battcock began this performance of bureaucratic drag in the months preceding the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which included provisions that allowed – or compelled – people with disabilities to enter the labor market. McKelvey argues that in their staging of bureaucratic drag, Whyte and Battcock rehearsed ambivalences about efforts to transform people with disabilities into workers and performed a complex politics of affective attachment to social institutions in the age of their material deprivation. Whereas the activist performances that populate the annals of disability often mobilized against the glacial pace and inefficiency of bureaucratic procedures, Whyte and Battcock mined both the theatrical and temporal meanings of such drag, and refused to relinquish it.

This work is excerpted from McKelvey’s dissertation, which examines the intertwined cultural, institutional, and theatrical histories of efforts to professionalize people with disabilities as artists in the United States since the 1970s.


Patrick McKelvey is a PhD Candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies at Brown Univeristy. He has published reviews in Theatre Journal and Modern Drama, and his essay, “Choreographing the Chronic,” is forthcoming in a queer dance studies anthology published by Oxford University Press.

October 21, 2014: Jason Fitzgerald

Presence as Technique: Joseph Chaikin and Authenticity
This presentation will attempt to place Joseph Chaikin’s notion of “presence” in relation to forms of radical humanism and personal “authenticity” that permeated the 1960s New York counterculture of which Chaikin was a part. Debates over theatrical “presence” often falter over a tension between aesthetic effect or technique, on the one hand, and reality or authentic “being present,” on the other. Because the latter sense of “presence” has been thoroughly critiqued by post-structuralism, the persistence of presence as a term of theatre and performance art continues to trouble theorists of these forms. I will attempt to argue that Chaikin’s concept of “presence” derives from his attempt to secularize and permanently complicate any stable concept of authentic subjectivity. By suggesting a relationship between what Chaikin calls “presence” and what Victor Shlovsky calls (in Benjamin Sher’s translation) “enstragement,” I hope to point toward a compatibility between Chaikin’s presence and a permanently problematized humanism. This argument represents the latest phase of my dissertation project, which relates experimental theatre aesthetics from the U.S. 1960s to countercultural notions of authentic humanism.
Jason Fitzgerald earned his MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at the Yale School of Drama, and he is currently a PhD Candidate in Theatre at Columbia University. His book and performance reviews have been published in Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, Modern Drama, PAJ, and Public Books. He is also a part-time theatre critic and dramaturg in NYC.

October 14, 2014: Caleb Smith

Race and Performance in the Prison Archives: ‘The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict’

This presentation will introduce the working group to “The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict,” an 1858 autobiography by Austin Reed. Unpublished during the author’s lifetime and recently acquired by the Beinecke Library, the manuscript is the earliest known prison memoir by an African American writer. Reed’s narrative describes his life as an indentured servant, an inmate of the nation’s first juvenile reformatory, and a prisoner at New York’s Auburn State Prison, the model of the industrial penitentiary in the antebellum period. The presentation will focus on scenes of performance in the memoir and explore some of the problems involved in reading the memoir as a kind of performance.  More about Reed’s manuscript can be found in this New York Times piece:

Caleb Smith is professor of English and American Studies at Yale and the author of The Prison and the American Imagination (Yale UP, 2009) and The Oracle and the Curse (Harvard UP, 2013). He is working on an edition of Austin Reed’s “The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict,” to be published by Random House in 2016. He has written about contemporary media and the arts for Avidly, BOMB, Paper Monument, and other venues, and he is co-editor of No Crisis, a special series on criticism in the twenty-first century, to appear from the Los Angeles Review of Books in 2015.


October 7th, 2014: Peter DiGennaro

Check Your Head: 

Somatic, Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Techniques in Performance Art Education and Practice

In an effort to inspire and strengthen innovative thinking, problem solving skills and authentic expression from students while working outside of the typical system of dichotomized and/or binary goal sets, Pete DiGennaro engages the neuro-somatic practice of synaesthesia in tandem with the formal technical and compositional studies of “mixing” the elemental topography of a performance context.  This knowledge and practice is then used to engage and couple the personal social, cultural, political and historic contexts which art and the artist experiences and addresses.

At the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, CT, his class “The Rhythm is the Rebel” brings together students of disparate disciplinary, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds to collaborate and inform each other’s explorative practices and expository artwork.  A group performance/installation effort is the culmination of each semester’s work.  The study of synaesthesia is a distinct study and practice point for directly transmitting personal experience through one’s art and to the artistic witness, as well as transmuting and transgressing personal binaries in order to engage a clearer and wider personal understanding of the subject matter, one’s own experience of it and its possible causal relationships to the world. Likewise, this past summer, Mr. DiGennaro directed a program of students and teachers at the Neighborhood Music School working from both interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches as they drew from World Music sources in their personal and collaborative efforts  – embodying other cultures’ compositional structures, as well as the rhythmic and melodic topography of other instruments. Furthermore, NMS’ yearlong Rock Program under his direction engages students of all ages in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary curriculum through Ensemble work.  While studying both the historical and cultural significance of genres and performers, as well as the somatic relationship of people to art, students in both programs are, ultimately, practicing the contextualization and recontextualization of  both original material, pedagogy and different scenarios in order to develop creative problem solving skills, innovative thinking and the constitution to express and publicize it within a social context.


Peter DiGennaro is a New Haven based writer, musician and sound designer teaching primarily middle school and high school age students through interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary curriculum at both the Educational Center for the Arts and The Neighborhood Music School where he is also Director of the NMS Summer Rocks! Program.  As an Artist-Instructor, Mr. DiGennaro’s work centers around the examination of social, cultural and political phenomena through artistic movements and, most importantly, practices.   In particular, Mr. DiGennaro engages a synaesthetic approach to teaching and art practices.

In addition to his 20 years of teaching and performing, Mr. DiGennaro is a member of the National Association of Music Educators, has scored many film, theatre and, most of all, dance projects (Elm Shakespeare, CPTV, HartBeat Ensemble, Wesleyan University, Pedro Allejandro and others) and is the Director of Vesper Studios in the Westville Artist Village in New Haven.  He has worked in the Wesleyan University Dance Department for the last fifteen years as a music consultant and accompanist and taught at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts from 2005 – 2011.  In 2007 and 2008, he taught songwriting in Cape Verde, Africa through “CCY in Cape Verde”, a program sponsored by the Capital Region Educational Council and the Department of Sports and Culture of Cape Verde.

September 30, 2014: Wills Glasspiegel

Icy Lake, a short film and discussion with director and Yale Phd student Wills Glasspiegel

Filmmaker Wills Glasspiegel shows his recent documentary short, Icy Lake, that traces the quirky transit of a “tribal house” dance song from mid 90s New York into the contemporary moment via YouTube. Through Glasspiegel’s film, “Icy Lake” ( the song) becomes a thread that knits together disparate DJ and dance subcultures across time. After the short film, Glasspiegel opens up a discussion about the relationship between his academic projects and his ongoing work as a visual artist and documentarian operating in subcultural spaces across the world.
Wills Glasspiegel received his BA from Yale in 2005 in English and his masters at NYU in Media, Culture and Communications. He is currently a second-year PhD student in African American Studies and American Studies at Yale. As a journalist working in and out of the academy (and as an academic working in and out of the public sector), Glasspiegel produced work on the Nollywood film scene in Nigeria for NPR’s Morning Edition, covered the Chicago footwork story for NPR’s All Things Considered, and produced several hour-long radio documentaries with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Glasspiegel spent the late 2000s developing his interests in the the computerization of African and African diaspora culture, focusing most on the digitization of traditional musics in Sierra Leone (bubu music) and South Africa (Shangaan electro), projects that have led him to the study of footwork in Chicago, Glasspiegel’s hometown.  Glasspiegel’s work at Yale focuses on footwork, a style of black electronic music and dance from Chicago. For a window into the world of Chicago footwork, Glasspiegel’s short documentaryMaking Tracks (2013) is available from VICE: http://thump.vice.com/videos/thump-video/making-tracks-chicago-footwork-pitchfork-boiler-room-battlegroundz

September 23, 2014: Ayesha Ramachandran

From Theatre to Atlas: Cartography as Performance

 In the sixteenth century, collections of maps were frequently described as “theatres of the world”—the first world atlas, compiled by Abraham Ortelius, is called Theatrum orbis terrarum (1570). But by the end of the century, the term had been replaced by a new one: “atlas,” named after Gerhard Mercator’s 1595 Atlas or cosmographic meditations. This talk traces the conceptual shift—in cartographic practice and in the mapmaker’s identity as an author—signaled by the turn from theatre to atlas. But rather than suggesting a movement away from the underlying theatrical metaphor, I argue that the conception of the mapbook as an “atlas” marks a deeper embrace of cartography itself as performance. Mercator’s Atlas identifies the image of the world with a muscular man on its famous title page. But why does a human body become the symbol for a cartographic portrait of the world? What does this conjunction tell us about the literary history of the world atlas as a textual form? Drawing on recent work in the history of cartography and the notion of text as performance, I suggest that mapmaking in the early modern period drew on emerging notions of theatrical space and textual performance even as it influenced the imagination of early modern drama.


Ayesha Ramachandran received her BA from Smith College (2001) and her PhD in Renaissance Studies from Yale University (2008). Her research and teaching focus on the literature and culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, primarily on Europe’s relations with an expanding world. She has just completed a book-length study, “The World-Makers: Global Imagining in Early Modern Europe,” which explores the reshaping of the concept “world” and its implications for theories of modernity across a range of disciplines. She has published articles on Spenser, Lucretius, Tasso, Petrarch, Montaigne and on postcolonial drama. She was awarded a Junior Fellowship at the Harvard Society of Fellows in 2007.

September 16, 2014: Rebecca Prichard

Carnevale by Rebecca Prichard – Race and Gender in Performance

In her account of Black London in the eighteenth century Gretchen Gerzina writes “By the eighteenth century the work of all kinds of artists – Hogarth, Reynolds, Gillray, Rowlandson – as well as work by poets, playwrights and novelists… reveals that not everyone in that elegant, vigorous, earthy world was white….there were black pubs and clubs, balls for blacks only, black churches, and organisations for helping blacks out of work or in trouble. Many blacks were prosperous and respected…others..were successful stewards or men of business. But many more were servants or beggars, some turning to prostitution or theft. Alongside the free black world was slavery, from which many of these people escaped” My play Carnevale  explores the lives of two black female ex-slaves in Venice in the eighteenth and twenty first century and is is a fantastical mash-up of languages and contemporary and early modern worlds.  By mixing contemporary representations of race and gender with historical representations, the play aims to critique modern day trafficking and slavery and also raise questions about the way race, gender and sexuality are constructed in ’the (neo)colonial context’. In this session I will discuss the role of language and visual imagery in creating reflexivity around race and gender and ways to create counter narratives to the dominant discourses around race, gender and trafficking.


Playwright Rebecca Prichard is currently under commission to The National Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company. She has written plays for BBC Radio 4 and her play Parallax was performed at The Almeida Theatre in 2012 and shortlisted for the Brian Way Award in 2013. Dream Pill was performed in 2010 at the Soho Theatre and 2011 at Latitude Festival and The Edinburgh Festival and toured Scotland in 2012 and was shortlisted the Human Trafficking Foundation Awards in 2011. Rebecca’s  first play Essex Girls was performed at the Royal Court Theatre in 1994, as part of the Royal Court Young Writers Festival. The script was later published in Coming on Strong: New Writing from the Royal Court Theatre (1995). Fair Game, a free adaptation of Games in the Backyard by Israeli writer Edna Mazya, was commissioned by the Royal Court and first produced there in 1997. Yard Gal which won the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright, was first produced at the Royal Court in 1998, and was co-produced with Clean Break, a theatre company specialising in work with ex-offenders. Her play Delir’ium was performed at The Royal Court and Tricycle Theatre in 2003  and Futures produced at Theatre 503 in 2006.

Rebecca has been appointed as the Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery Fellow at Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition for the 2014~15 academic year.  Prior to this, she was a lecturer in the theatre studies department at Essex University (2011~14) and an AHRC fellow at Lancaster University from 2007~2010.

Image: Matrixial by Christine McPhee

September 9, 2014: Nancy Rosenberger

Cultivating transgression: Young organic farmers in Japan

 From the point of view of elder organic farmers in Japan, younger farmers are not supporting the pure principles of the original organic movement as they consort with the market, the government, consumers, and conventional farmers in new ways. Instead, younger farmers are themselves consumers, concerned with identity and lifestyle, acting within a neoliberal context of governance by subjectivity.  In this presentation, Nancy Rosenberger uses her ethnographic investigations of the lives of organic farmers in Japan to explore shifts from cultures of resistance to a different politics, one of positive engagement that may be better called transgressive: embodied, performative, place-based, self-oriented, and rhizomatic. Interviews show that younger farmers value their own quality of life, adequate livelihood, and their rural communities as well as nature and non-commodified relations with soil, food and humans. Those with fields contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima disaster claim that the sudden uncertainties they face and innovate through form the harbingers of change for all of Japan. Young organic farmers enact roots that are both residual and emergent; rhizomes that reach outside rural communities and transgress prescribed binaries; aesthetics of non-alienated selves; and creative performativity in markets.  By exploring writings on new social movements, the performativity of power, and processes of everyday lifeworlds within neoliberal capitalism, Rosenberger sheds light on the process of how change is occurring in alternative food systems, Japan, and our contemporary world.


Nancy Rosenberger received her PhD from University of Michigan and is a Professor of Anthropology at Oregon State University. Her research interests bridge food and agriculture, work, and gender in the context of global development, cultural uncertainty, and resistance. She is the author of such recent works as Dilemmas of Adulthood: Japanese Women and the Nuances of Long-term Resistance; Seeking Food Rights: Nation, Inequality and Repression in Uzbekistan; and a 2014 Ethnos article entitled ”Japanese Organic Farmers: Strategies of Uncertainty after the Fukushima Disaster.”

September 2, 2014: Dana Milstein

Manga de dokuha as Visual Novel: 

Ren’Py and Reading Marx through textual gameplay

Japanese publisher East Press published a manga edition of Karl Marx’s multivolume Das Kapital in 2007, and in that same year sold 507,000 copies. Since then, the company has annually released at least one Western canonized literary or philosophical work-as-manga to the Japanese public, and these are now being translated and sold abroad. Several scholars have written on (and created) the practice of transposing difficult philosophy or classic literature into graphic novels and comic books. However, what happens when the manga themselves are transposed into a more interactive art form—that of the visual novel?

 Visual novels are interactive fiction games or multimedia novel forms that incorporate game play, and they are usually centered on dialogue, non-linear narratives, and multiple perspectives. As part of a digital humanities project, I have translated the manga version of Das Kapital, and have been developing a prototype visual novel using Ren’Py, a visual novel engine based on simplified Python scripting.

 For purposes of teaching and learning, Visual Novels have value for three reasons:

1.     This is a method for promoting literacy of and exposure to inaccessible philosophical texts whose ideologies are vogue in culture and criticism.

2.     The form of the visual novel is gaining popularity, and might find some use value in education (is it serious game, edutainment, or literary).

3.     The issues of digital learning—to code in Python, techniques for storyboarding, and translation issues—are paramount.

Biography: Dana Milstein joined Yale ITS as the Academic Technology Specialist to the Humanities in May 2014. Dana earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she also completed a certificate in Instructional Technology and Interactive Pedagogy, and a M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies at NYU. She held faculty and academic technologist positions in the Humanities at several New York universities and distance education institutions, and worked as a freelance curriculum designer and writer for the W. W. Norton series for World Literature and World Drama. Initially trained as a classical saxophonist, Dana enjoys songwriting and learning new instruments. Her hobbies include fiber arts, gaming, yoga, and manuscript illumination. She is a specialist in Nineteenth Century French and German poetry and music, and also researches and participates in anime, video game, and Steampunk material cultures.

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!

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.

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.

November 5 — La Marr Bruce

Interlude in Madtime: Madness, Black Music, and Metaphysical Syncopation

Proceeding from a meditation on the music and lifeworlds of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden (b. 1877) and hip hop heroine Lauryn Hill (b. 1975)—two African-American musical iconoclasts widely mythologized as “crazy”—this presentation forwards a tentative notion of “madtime.” As I theorize it, madtime is calibrated to psychosocial alterity and concurrent with rhythms and energies of “madness”: the slow time of depression; the quick time of mania; the backward-forward, zigzagging, spiraling time of melancholia; and, via Foucault, the infinite now of schizophrenia. A critical supplement to theories and praxes of “colored people’s time” and “queer time,” madtime contravenes the linear, unidirectional, teleological trajectory of normative Western time and historiography. This presentation imagines an encounter—a jam session, as it were—between Bolden and Hill and yields a phenomenological account of black music, madness, and metaphysical syncopation.

La Marr Jurelle Bruce earned his Ph.D. (2013) in African American Studies and American Studies from Yale University. His budding book project, “‘Inversions of the World’: Black Art Goes Mad,” 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.


October 29, 2013 — Amy Hughes

Embodying Atatürk: Public Performances of Nationalism in Modern Turkey

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, once declared, “There are two Mustafa Kemals. One is the flesh-and-blood Mustafa Kemal who now stands before you and who will pass away. The second is you, all of you here who will go to the far corners of our land to spread the ideals that must be defended with your lives if necessary.” In this talk, Amy E. Hughes explores how echoes of this declaration persist in Turkey today by examining some of the scripted actions that citizens perform as part of an enduring cultural mandate to celebrate Atatürk’s legacy. When Turks embody the “second Kemal” in daily life, Atatürk’s various reforms—instituted in the early twentieth century to secularize and “modernize” Turkey—are invoked, memorialized, and sustained. Recent attempts by the religious right to deconventionalize or eliminate these traditions signal the crucial and sometimes controversial role that performance continues to play in Turkish culture.


October 22, 2013 — Patricia Hardwick

The Body Becoming: Transformative Performance in Malaysian Mak Yong

Mak yong is a Malay dance drama found in southern Thailand, northern Malaysia, and the Riau Islands of Indonesia.  The form of mak yong, currently performed in the northern Malaysian state of Kelantan, requires its practitioners to be storytellers, actors, singers, dancers, musicians, and in the context of ritual performances, healers. Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, or PAS, the Islamic party that controls the Kelantanese state government, issued a ban on mak yong as a form of entertainment in 1991, yet performances of mak yong incorporated into main ‘teri healing rituals continues in present day Kelantan.

Scholars of ritual and healing performances emphasize the emergent quality of performance as essential to the physical, emotional, and temporal transformations that often take place during these events. While music, dance, and the vocalized recitation of prayers are aspects of ritual that are externally observable, other aspects of transformative performances are internal to a patient or practitioner.  An investigation of the embodied experience of a performer provides a unique perspective on simultaneous internal and external performance and the phenomenology of transformation that often takes place during ritual and healing performances.

Drawing upon interviews with performers, Hardwick’s talk will explore first-hand accounts of the embodied experiences of individual Kelantanese mak yong practitioners during their performances of the opening song and dance of a mak yong performance. I will also investigate how fetal gestation and birth are intertwined with a traditional Kelantanese philosophy of the body, and how individual performers engage these concepts while undergoing a process of transformation during their performances.


October 15 — Emily Coates and Sarah Demers

Physics and Dance  

Emily Coates is a dancer, writer, choreographer, lecturer, and director of the dance curriculum in Theater Studies at Yale, while Sarah Demers is a particle physicist and assistant professor of Physics at Yale. Together, the two will deliver a dialogic presentation entitled “Physics and Dance.” Concerning their PSWG talk, they write   What does a true dialogue between dance and physics look like?  In our presentation, we will traverse macro and subatomic rules of motion, placing these into conversation with choreographic aesthetics that range from George Balanchine’s reinvention of the pirouette to the Higgs boson discovery.   Emily and Sarah’s current projects include “Discovering the Higgs through Physics, Dance, and Photography,” undertaken with funding from the Greater New Haven Arts Council’s REINTEGRATE initiative. They co-teach PHYS 115/THST 115, “The Physics of Dance,” and are in the process of co-authoring an interdisciplinary course book on physics and dance, forthcoming from Yale University Press.

* * Please note the room change for our October 15 meeting. We will meet in Room 116 of the Whitney Humanities Center, at 53 Wall Street, from 1pm to 2pm. * *

October 1, 2013 — Daniel Sack

Staging the Genesis of a World: the Unknown Unknowns of Romeo Castellucci  

Performance and theatre studies scholars have hailed the “liveness” of performance in terms of a disappearance and loss that resists reproduction, but have generally neglected to consider alternative definitions of the live as that which is “full of active power” or “contains unexpended energy.” In other words, we have often overlooked the creative power of the live event and the fact that what is to come remains more or less unknown. How might one retain this future-bound dimension of the live event–what might be called its potentiality as a medium–without succumbing to an anticipated end, without killing off the full range of its active power? How might the blank page of the theatre contain its unwritten future statements? As part of a larger book project on the Futures of Performance, this talk seeks to isolate such potentiality by looking at a theatre event that suspends a world in the process of becoming. But in order to speak of a field rich with the potential for differentiation we must also speak of the nature of this ground, some source or medium from which emergence may come. There is no emergence ex nihilo or, as Lear would have it, “nothing comes of nothing.” By narratively restaging a brief 10-minute performance by the Italian experimental director Romeo Castellucci of Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio, I will explore how creation in the theatre is an inherently apocalyptic venture; it must destroy a world in order to create another.

September 24, 2013 — Amanda Lahikainen

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

Paper money – which had been circulating in Britain since the founding of the Bank of England in 1694 – was taken as a medium for advertisement starting in the early 1780’s. Imitation notes made theatrical promises to their viewers by borrowing the social capital of paper money for their own purposes, often masquerading as actual currency. Once the culture of paper credit expanded beyond merchants and business owners after the specie crisis of 1797, satirists and radicals seized on the idea of paper currency as a subject of and medium for social criticism in a tradition often thought to culminate in William Hone’s Bank Restriction Note and accompanying “barometer” of 1819. This presentation will widen the history of imitation bank notes to include unpublished material and related graphic satires in Britain, focusing on a few satirical bank notes by John Luffman, Samuel Knight and some unknown artists, arguing that this form reflected and helped produce the changing cultures of paper money during and after the bank restriction period (1797-1821). In addition to forming an important part of the history of visual culture and capitalism, these fake bank notes track two major dual and dueling cultural reactions to engraving: the naturalization of paper currency and the decline of graphic satire in Britain.

September 17, 2013 — Tanya Dean

Theatricalism at Play in Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce and The New Electric Ballroom

In Saint Genet: Actor & Martyr, Jean-Paul Sartre observes that, “For Genet, theatrical procedure is demoniacal. Appearance, which is constantly on the point of passing itself off as reality, must constantly reveal its profound unreality.” This demoniacal element finds itself embodied in Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce and The New Electric Ballroom. Both plays are exemplars of theatricalism at play. The two investigate themes of performance as ceremony and the generation of simulacra through reciprocity in imitation. Both plays fit neatly within the rubric of Manfred Pfister’s theory of levels of fictionality; “a primary dramatic level, whose ontological status is characterized by the fictionality of dramatic presentation, contains within it a secondary dramatic level that introduces an additional fictional element.”

Walsh’s dramaturgy frequently focuses on storytelling as a mode of performance (for example,The Small Things, Bedbound). With both The Walworth Farce and The New Electric Ballroom, Walshconstructs a play and a-play-within-the-play, demarcating the theatricalist notion of the “Real” (a world within (or without) the play that constitutes the theatrical incarnation of reality) and the “Illusory” (a performative sub-world which is highlighted by and contrasted to the Real). Of course this is contrasted against the Real of the theatre itself with its seats and audience, and the Illusory of the playworld with its sets and actors. Walsh replicates a basic pattern in the two plays: the audience enter the playworld on a day when a new element enters to change the endlessly repeated, endlessly identical play-within-the-play. For the families in both plays (the emotionally stunted men of The Walworth Farce and the toxically nostalgic women of The New Electric Ballroom), performance serves as both the sustaining structure of their lives but also as a trap, confining them to seemingly inescapable roles. The catalytic act (the arrival of Tesco checkout girl Hayley in The Walworth Farce, the revelation of new information by Patsy in The New Electric Ballroom) fatally destabilizes the frame of the Illusory.

September 10, 2013 — Mary Isbell

“Maintaining the Dignity of the Stage” at Sea: Nineteenth-Century Shipboard Theatricals

On January 1, 1819, the ordinary sailor David C. Bunnell managed and took the leading role in a production of the farce The Weathercock (1805) aboard the USS Macedonian, which was approaching the Falkland Islands en route to the Pacific. Bunnell’s production was reviewed in The Thespian Critic and Theatrical Review and The Macedonian Scourge, two newspapers published by crew members aboard the ship; reviewers criticized Bunnell’s pronunciation and deemed the member of the carpenter’s crew playing the female lead “immeasurably disgusting.” When these reviews prompted retaliation from Bunnell, the editor of The Macedonian Scourge explained that the criticism was offered “with no other view than to maintain the dignity of the stage.” I argue that the majority of the spectators at Bunnell’s production did not perceive, much less mourn, any diminished dignity of the stage aboard the ship. This is because the most important feature of shipboard theatricals was the fact that spectators knew performers personally or recognized them as members of a common shipboard community.

Drawing on an archive of playbills, reviews, and images documenting shipboard theatricals in the British and US navy throughout the century, I argue that shipboard theatricals created alternate cultural hierarchies aboard naval vessels. I illustrate this with traces of the Macedonian performance, which reveal a theatrical manager and drama critics vying for the top position in the ship’s cultural hierarchy. I also consider the relationship between voluntary shipboard theatricals and compulsory participation in ritual hazing known as the crossing the line ceremony, which had taken place when theMacedonian crossed the equator on December 12. As I will show, both instances of shipboard performance carried the potential to displace the traditional naval hierarchy that placed officers from the elite class absolutely above lower-class sailors.


September 3, 2013 — Joseph Roach

Invisible Cities

“Invisible Cities” tells a ghost story that also solves a mystery. The mystery is this:  born after the Second World War, I became an eye-witness to the First World War.  How is that possible?  Only the dynamically interdisciplinary field of performance studies has a satisfactorily rational, albeit emotionally harrowing, answer.  My purpose is to keynote this semester’s IPSY presentations and demonstrate the efficacy of our research as the single most exciting catalyst for a national revitalization of the arts and humanities K-12 as well as in colleges and universities.

Arguing for an intensified historical consciousness in performance studies generally, “Invisible Cities” derives from my work leading an intensive seminar for the Yale National Initiative for Public School Teachers last summer.  These are the best teachers from the public school systems most at risk today, and they work with Yale faculty to develop innovative Curriculum Units to bring back to their students in inner city and Native American reservation schools.


October 8, 2013 — Todd Madigan

Perfect Fools: Sanctity, Madness, and the Theory of Ambiguous Performance

Cultural pragmatics views social interaction as the effort of actors to convey the meaning of their social situation to others. From this theoretical perspective, we are all continuously engaged in performances designed to convince our audiences that we really are the characters we portray. This theory has until now relied on a single understanding of performance, one through which an actor communicates a solitary, monosemous role to her intended audience. But the hammer of such a limited understanding makes every performance look like a nail. Accordingly, I develop the concept of an ambiguous performance—a performance that projects a single role to its audience, but a role that is multistable. Such a performance comprises essential elements of incompatible roles, but so unifies them as to form a single persona. The audience is then compelled to choose between these incompatible elements when interpreting the meaning of the persona, inevitably basing their selection not on the actor’s social situation, but on their own.
Once the concept of ambiguous performance is delineated, I apply it to the performance of holy fools, a centuries-old category of Christian saint that exemplifies the need for such a concept. After this, I suggest that unitary and ambiguous performances actually form the poles of a performance continuum, and I point toward other sorts of performances that might be better understood using the ambiguous end of this performance continuum.

Please join us in Rm 208 of the Whitney Humanities Center from 1-2pm for this presentation.

A light, catered lunch will be provided.

April 16th – Performance Art at Yale, a session of the PSWG at the Yale School of Art

The PSWG’s penultimate session of the academic year will be hosted in the Yale School of Art and bring together scholars of performance with practitioners of performance art.

MFA Kenya Robinson will perform live.

MFA graduate and performance artist Tamar Ettun and Lecturer in Theatre Studies, Emily Coates will be in conversation.

Scholars and artists from all disciplinary backgrounds are invited to meet together and contribute to the formation of a shared dialogue on performance art at Yale. We hope it will be the first of many such conversations.

Lunch will be served.

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.

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.

January 29 – Joey Plaster: Vanguard Revisited: Co-Performing Queer Histories in San Francisco’s Tenderloin

“Vanguard Revisited” was an imagined conversation between two groups of queer homeless youth activists based in San Francisco’s Tenderloin: one that in 1966 founded the seminal organization Vanguard, and another which in 2011 “reconstituted” Vanguard around contemporary concerns by reenacting the organization’s street theater, artistic productions, and organizational structure. The project’s goal was not merely to reenact a discrete historical moment, but through these temporal pairings to “body forth” a lineage of Tenderloin-based cultural activism that may be partially obstructed by the archive. I draw on my experiences with this project to suggest, more generally, approaches to generating historical material through co-performances with the individuals who embody the consequences and promises of the histories we hope to represent.

January 22 – Carolee Klimchock: Humor Hung Like a Horse: Coachmen and Coaches as Satirical Sites for Discussions of Class and Power in the Gilded Age

Humor “by its nature tends to seek out and reveal incongruities” and the site of the Gilded Age horse-drawn coach was one of drastic visual, social, and performative contrasts, making it especially ripe for staging humor about power imbalances.[1] Rich and poor alike being pulled by four unpredictable animals endowed the scene with a sense that ‘anything could happen,’ which is rich terrain for comedy.  Add to which, real sex scandals between heiresses and coachmen in the Gilded Age enrapt the public.  Thus humor pieces about class conflicts often used the site of the coach or the person of the coachman as it material, turning them easily into caricatures, puns, and double entendres.  A coach in motion inhabited a liminal space: being on it was to be neither here nor there, and to not know if you were coming or going.  On the coach the servant–not the master–held the reins, and coachmen got into trouble by horsing around with society belles who were sometimes driven by passion to elopement. (Puns intended.)

[1] (Jerry Farber, “Toward a Theoretical Framework for the Study of Humor in Literature and the Other Arts” Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 41, No. 4 (Winter, 2007), p. 84.  

January 15 – Shaping Community: Poetics and Politics of the Eruv with Curator Margaret Olin

Shaping Community: Poetics and Politics of the Eruv

Three exhibitions exploring a Jewish spatial practice curated by Margaret Olin in three parts at the ISM Gallery of Sacred Arts, the Allan and Leah Rabinowitz Gallery (Slifka Center), and the 32 Edgewood Gallery.


guided tours available. Call 203.436.5955

Israel: Gated Community

October 8 – November 16 Extended through January 2013
Allan and Leah Rabinowitz Gallery*

Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale 
80 Wall Street

Hours: M-F: 10am-5pm; Weekends: noon-4pm



This Token Partnership

October 10 – December 14

ISM Gallery of Sacred Arts  
409 Prospect Street

Hours: W-F: noon-6pm; Weekends: noon-4pm


Internal Borders

October 17 – November 30

32 Edgewood Gallery

Yale University School of Art
Hours: M, W-Sun:1-6pm; closed Tuesdays

*The exhibition at the Slifka Center is made possible through the vision and leadership of Barbara Slifka, the Hauptman Arts and Media Endowment, and the Rothko Fund of Slifka Center.


November 13 – Discussion of David Adjmi’s Marie Antoinette (Yale Rep)

The young queen Marie Antoinette delights and inspires her French subjects with her three-foot tall wigs and extravagant haute couture. But times change and even the most fashionable queens go out of style. In David Adjmi’s humorous and haunting Marie Antoinette, idle gossip turns more insidious as the country revolts, demanding liberté, égalité,fraternité!


David Adjmi’s recent Off-Broadway plays, Elective Affinities and Stunning,were hailed by The New Yorker for their “gorgeous blend of narrative, girl talk, and politics.” The world premiere of Marie Antoinette reunites the playwright with director Rebecca Taichman, who staged Adjmi’s play, The Evildoers, at Yale Rep in 2008.


November 6 – Drew Hannon – The San Francisco Diggers and Performance and Everyday Life

In their short time of existence the Diggers of San Francisco had a profound impact upon the their immediate surroundings in San Francisco and on the American Counterculture as a whole.  In the nineteen-sixties radicalism and resistance to cold war hegemony took many forms, from the lunch counter sit-ins to demonstrations that attempted to levitate the Pentagon.  The Diggers arose as a part of, and in response to, the radical zeitgeist sweeping the nation. Popular perception and scholars of the American youth movement of the 1960s have divided it into the expressly political and earnest New Left and the apolitical and superfluous Counterculture.  Drawing on the written records of the Diggers (their broadsheets, pamphlets, and manifestos), the memoirs of former members (in particular Emmett Grogan and Peter Coyote), as well as interviews and contemporary mediarecords, I will demonstrate the ways in which the Diggers problematize this distinction. Understood within the context of the growing community of Haight-Ashbury, the growing radicalization of young Americans, and a growing political theater movement the Diggers disrupt this categorization and reveal it to be a false dichotomy.  As an expressly political street theater group the Diggers strove to make what some have described as the micropolitics of resistance, those everyday acts by which ordinary people resist the dominant culture, expressly political.  They sought to use the methodology and tools of experimental street theater to promote a revolutionary praxis.  They attempted to transform daily life through the power of everyday acts.  By acknowledging the power of average people they strove to harness individual acts, to teach people that they could act as if the world they imagined already existed, and through this enacting, they would create the condition they described.  They sought to transform individuals into life actors– self conscious agents of social change.

November 13 – Lynda Paul – Las Vegas and Virtual Tourism: Sonic Shaping of Simulated Worlds

In 1998, anthropologist Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett noted that, “Increasingly, [tourists] travel to actual destinations to experience virtual places.” Over a decade has passed since Kirshenblatt-Gimblett demonstrated this phenomenon in Destination Culture: Tourisms, Museums, and Heritage, but the observation remains pertinent today: physically real locations—such as Las Vegas, Macau, and Disneyland—serve increasingly as the material grounds upon which virtual tourist experiences are carefully constructed. In such places, visitors from afar travel physically to one location in order to be immersed in sights and sounds that simulate other places and times. In the case of Las Vegas, the visual dimensions of such simulations (architectural replicas, etc.) have been theorized in a number of studies, but the role that sound plays in these virtual touristic experiences is only beginning to be addressed. This paper contributes to this discussion by investigating the multi-layered ways in which sound contributes to the creation of virtual touristic worlds on the Las Vegas Strip. I move from the sounds of the Strip itself (the hawkers’ cries, the casinos’ themed music) to the elaborate and frequently exotic sound worlds of the Strip’s most prominent entertainment today: its seven Cirque du Soleil shows. I argue that these shows self-reflexively mirror Las Vegas’s strategies of virtual tourism, using music in particular to evoke a sense of experiential travel by asking the audience to be virtually absorbed in a spatially or temporally distant world, and ultimately creating a sense of expansive touristic experience within the otherwise emphatically site-specific shows.


October 9 – Joseph Clarke: Theater Acoustics and Immersive Aesthetics

In the early nineteenth century, German architects used a brief enthusiasm for technical research on theater acoustics as an occasion to consider the experiential aesthetics of bourgeois collectivity. When the designer Carl Ferdinand Langhans rejected as sonically problematic the classic French model of the elliptical theater — with the performer stationed at one focus and the royal box at the other — he effectively overturned the assumption that each performance had one “correct” instance of perception, defined as whatever reached the privileged sensorium of the enlightened despot. His challenge to the old optical model and his new theorization of building sound as an immersive medium paved the way for aesthetic theories of empathy later in the century.

We invite you to attend the “Sound of Architecture” Symposium in preparation for our discussion session and Joseph Clarke’s talk on October 9th.


John Cooper – 18th September – Art / Performance / History

'Spanish Dance. (El Jaleo de Cadix.)'
‘Spanish Dance. (El Jaleo de Cadix.)’ (mid 19th C, New York) hand-coloured lithograph, N. Currier (publisher) Victoria and Albert Museum

John Cooper, a phd candidate in the Art History department, co-convenor of the PSWG and Graduate Research Assistant at the Yale Center for British Art, will workshop a part of his dissertation Imperial Balls: the Arts of Sex, War and Dancing in India, England and the Caribbean, 1800-1850.

This session will present a body of colonial images drawn from India, England and the Caribbean which show dancers dancing from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  These medium-sized graphic works on paper broadly represent: nautch dancing in India, ballet in England and social dancing in the Caribbean. Being the remains of both art works and performances, what particular status do they have in the history of art and empire? How might the disciplines of Art History and Performance Studies collaborate to produce readings of such interdisciplinary documents?

The starting point for addressing an answer to these questions will be the practice of ‘adornment’ which lies nested and as yet unclaimed in the etymology of the word ‘performance’. Close visual analysis of key images in the history of art, dance and empire will investigate how context adorns the dancing figure with the complexity and contradictions of colonial history.

September 11 – Elise Morrison – Performing Citizen Arrest: Surveillance Art and the Passerby

Elise Morrison, the newest IPSY postdoctoral fellow, will present work from her current book project on ‘surveillance art’. The presentation will focus on several contemporary performance art pieces that stage critical artistic interventions into quotidian scenes of contemporary sociopolitical surveillance. These ‘surveillance art’ works strategically redeploy mainstream surveillance technologies in order to defamiliarize and disrupt the normalized operations of surveillance within public space and everyday life. In doing so, they seem to ‘arrest’ subjects of everyday surveillance in the habitual action of ‘passing by’ publicly installed surveillance cameras, and, within the arrested moment, foreground and reimagine aspects of surveillance society that have become so routine and normalized as to be invisible. Works by contemporary artists Jill Magid and the Surveillance Camera Players serve as particularly effective examples of this process, as these artists utilize theatrical methods to draw attention to normalized blindspots in the surveillant interface and to explore the range of possibilities for affective expression and human interaction available through publicly installed surveillance cameras.


Kimberly Jannarone // March 23, Noon-1pm EST

Physical Culture and the Nationalist Socialization of the Body

Dr. Jannarone will be presenting work in progress from her book Mass Performance: Systems and Citizens, a book that investigates the way the power of synchronized mass movement has been recognized and regularized by ruling powers in the era of nationalization.  This excerpt focuses on the path from German physical culture clubs in the immediate aftermath of World War II to the system of rallies, gestures, and unison calls-and-response so well known from the rallies of the NSDAP in the 1930s.  Taking a close look at the physiological bonding generated by thousands of bodies moving together in synchrony, the work elucidates how the harnessing of visceral and kinesthetic energies was integral to modern mass politics, and how performance studies might help us understand a little piece of the unthinkable.


Kimberly Jannarone is Professor in the Practice of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at the Yale School of Drama and Affiliate Faculty with the Theater and Performance Studies program.  She spent 2017-18 at the National Humanities Center working on her book, Mass Performance: Systems and Citizens (forthcoming, University of Michigan Press).  From 2001-19, she was Professor of Theater Arts at UC Santa Cruz.  Her books include Artaud and His Doubles (Honorable Mention, Joe Callaway Prize for best book in drama) and Vanguard Performance Beyond Left and Right.  She directs experimental performance and has co-translated, with Erik Butler, several contemporary French plays.


PSWG Statement on COVID-19 // Cancellation of Spring 2020 Events

Dear all,⁣

First, Kimberly and I would like to thank all of you for your sustained, vigorous, and passionate engagement with the working group this year. We’ve noticed a pronounced uptick in attendance this year, and our speakers have mentioned to us many times that they’ve appreciated the engagement and generosity of our members.⁣

In keeping with the restrictions that Yale has implemented for the rest of the year, we are cancelling the rest of the PSWG meetings for the year. We’re devastated to lose these voices and the opportunity to engage with them, but it is what we must do to keep us all as healthy as possible. We’re in the process of rescheduling as many of these speakers as we can for next year, and we hope to be able to announce plans for the next year by the end of the summer.⁣

We’ll be in touch with information and other announcements throughout the rest of the semester. We’re cancelling all our scheduled presentations, but we’re holding open the possibility of an online gathering, celebration, or exploration of community, collaboration, and liveness at the end of the semester. If you’re interested, just keep it in mind, think of what you’d like, and contact us if you have ideas.

Should you like to share your work with us next year, or if you have a person you’d like us to hear from, please reach out to Kimberly and me.⁣

Our best,⁣

Charlie & Kimberly

Sumarsam // March 3, 2020

Epistemology, Lights, and Power in Javanese Wayang Puppet Play

Sumarsam, Tue. March 3, 2-3pm. 220 York Street room 001

Integrated with gamelan, dance, and visual arts, and its endemic to socioreligious life, Javanese wayang puppet play commands deep aesthetic, religious, and emotional adherence. However, since the 1980s wayang performance has gone through radical transformation, involving the adaptation of Western technology and theatrical idioms. The tendency to spectacularize the play—the use of bright electric light sources (sometimes with many colors) and elaborate amplification systems with large speakers, the featuring of several female singers and stand-up comedians, the incorporation of Indonesianized Western pop music and Western instruments, and so forth—has brought about pro and con discussion of the present and future wayang.

Sumarsam has played Javanese gamelan since childhood. He was also trained as puppeteer. He holds a BA from Indonesia music academy, MA from Wesleyan, and PhD from Cornell. Currently, he holds the status of Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music at Wesleyan. His research on the history, theory, and performance practice of gamelan and wayang, and on Indonesia-Western encounter theme has resulted the publication of numerous articles and two books: Gamelan: Cultural Interaction and Musical Development in Central Java (1995) and Javanese Gamelan and the West (2013). Sumarsam’s recent research focuses on the intersections between religion and performing arts. He is the recipient of a number of fellowship grants and awards, including the NEH and the ACLS fellowship, and Indonesian Bintang Satyalencana Cultural Award. He was recently named the 2018 honorary membership of the Society for Ethnomusicology. This year, he is a Yale ISM Fellow.

Jonah Westerman // Feb. 18

Performance ca. 1979: The Invention of an Artistic Medium and Some Consequences

Jonah Westerman, Tue. Feb. 18, 2-3pm. 220 York Street, room 001. 



This talk details how the discursive invention of “performance” (circa 1979) in the pages of journals and scholarly histories dedicated to new modes of artistic activity blazed a decisive trail through roughly thirty years’ worth of critical confusion. Over that period, art historians and critics had struggled to come to terms with a postwar emphasis on process in artistic production—from Jackson Pollock’s “action painting” to the globally dispersed form of the “Happening” to Fluxus “Events” to new collaborations between the visual and performing arts (like Robert Rauschenberg’s projects with Merce Cunningham). “Performance” (as an all-encompassing term) arrived at the end of a thirty-year expansion in art and claimed this multi-faceted territory as its own. This invention of “performance” secured legitimacy for a widely disparate range of practices. This paper not only traces this process of invention, but also elaborates its unintended consequences. First, I argue that the critical construction of performance as a medium brought artistic practices designed to flout convention under the regulatory gaze of a new essentializing vision. Second (and more importantly), these artworks’ claims to social and political experimentation became limited as well, insofar as the newly codified medium privileged individuality as the site of cultural significance. Each of these disciplinary presumptions has constrained and haunted our discussions of performance art ever since.

Jonah Westerman is Assistant Professor of Art History at Purchase College, State University of New York. In 2016-17 he was Chester Dale Senior Fellow in Art History at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. From 2014-2016 he was Postdoctoral Research Associate at Tate in London, where he collaborated with Curatorial, Research, Collection Care, and Archive departments on Performance at Tate, a project that produced an institutional history, as well as new strategies for collecting, displaying, and commissioning performance. He is co-editor of Histories of Performance Documentation: Museum, Artistic, and Scholarly Practices (Routledge, 2018). Most recently, he has published an essay on work by Anne Imhof in the summer 2019 issue of Artforum and completed an article about performance and museums for the forthcoming edited volume, The Methuen Drama Companion to Performance Art (Bloomsbury, 2020). He is currently working on a book titled The Invention of Performance: An Archaeology of Contemporary Art, which historicizes and theorizes the changing meanings of the word “performance” in relation to the artworks it is meant to describe over the last forty years.



Alex Pittman // Feb. 11, 2020

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.

A detail from the Criterion Collection cover of Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, which features a still from the set overlaid with a psychodramatic tool known as a sociogram.

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 ArtsWomen & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, and Social Text’s Periscope.

Celebrating Jessica Berson at Yale // Fri. Feb. 28, 2020


Celebrating Jessica Berson at Yale

Friday February 28, 2020: 2-5 pm

Dance Studio
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.

Lisa Messeri // Feb. 5, 2020

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.

Melanie Joseph and David Bruin // Jan. 28, 2020

“I Never Cared Much for Models”: The Foundry Theatre and A MOMENT ON THE CLOCK OF THE WORLD
With Melanie Joseph and David Bruin
Jan. 28, 2020 2-3pm // 220 York Street, room 001 (basement level)

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 // Dec. 17, 2019

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 // Dec. 10, 2019

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).