GIVE US YOUR THOUGHTS!
COMMITTEE PROCESS AND BYLAWS
Page, Stage, and Beyond Post-Conference Summary
Identity in Motion in Renaissance Drama
Panel summary coming soon! Please check back.
Giving Props to Puppets, Mascots, and Tyler Perry
Amber West's paper "Through the Funhouse, Towards the Dead World: An Argument for a Puppet-Based Production of Adrienne Kennedy's 'Funhouse of a Negro'" argued for a staging of Adrienne Kennedy's often misunderstood play with puppets. Using "Funhouse of A Negro" (first staged in 1964) as the primary example of the power and difficulty of Kennedy's work, West concluded that puppetry might benefit the "Funhouse" by changing the relationship between "low" and "high" art. Timothy Lyle presented "Check with Yo' Man First; Check with Yo' Man: Tyler Perry Appropriates Drag as a Tool to Recirculate Patriarchal Ideology." Lyle argued that the character of Madea might be subverting the feminist empowerment that she seemingly endorses. Calling on Judith Butler's theory of drag, Lyle concluded that Madea's role in plays and films endorses the male patriarchal ideology. Katie Daily then presented "Mascots: Performance and Fetishism in Sports Culture." Relating the ritualistic nature of athletics and sports fandom, Daily focused on the power of "mascot-magic" in creating an object. Citing examples of the Yale bulldog and the Atlanta Brave's Chief "Knock-a-Homa," Daily used mascots to describe how fetishized objects become part of the ritual of athleticism. Daily concludes that sports must supply a fetishized object to embody the spirit of competition and the fortune of the team as a whole. Gene Gorman finished moderating the session with a question-and-answer section. Race and objectification were two main topics of discussion. Finally the session ended with questions to individual panelists concerning the problems with puppetry as a "low" art form and the difference between mascots and totems.
Lauren Ellis Holm's paper, "Lady Audley's Secret and the Drama of Publication" examined 19th century British copyright law and its impact on novelists and dramatic adaptation. It questioned the relationship between a staged performance and a printed document of such an event. Next, Nick Frangipane's paper, "Inside Molly's Mind: The Trouble with Film Adaptations of Ulysses" argued that it is impossible for filmmakers to accurately depict Molly's stream-of-consciousness monologue at the end of James Joyce's Ulysses. With this final chapter of Ulysses, Joyce reminds us that the novel as a genre is necessary. Finally, Mary McCleary's paper: "Literary Adaptations in Operatic Libretti: Travesty or Justice?" describes the development of the libretto through the nineteenth century and attempts to establish criteria for a model to assess adaptations of literature into libretti. While these topics are in many ways vastly different, what they have in common is an examination of the changes that occur as a result of an adaptation. With change, of course, come questions. What is the relationship between one piece of art and its adaptation? Is transfer between art forms always possible? Does an adaptation enhance or diminish an original piece of art? These are just some of the questions the Adaptations panel sought to answer.
Acts of Faith: The Rituals of Religion Performed
The moderator Carolann Madden opened this panel with the guiding question concerning "performance's effect on religion and religion's effect on performance." Joseph Mendes discussed the role of violence in the Wakefield Play of the Crucifixion. He argued that the play's violent depiction of the crucifixion was not just a gimmick but the means by which the magnitude sacrifice was conveyed. Humor further complicated the performance, which may have elicited laughter from the spectators. Mendes argued that the play made its audience complicit in and thus personally responsible for Jesus's death.
Alyssa Connell delivered "The Undigesting Multitude" in which she examines the various written responses made to seventeenth-century execution speeches. She noted how men of a nobler class, when executed for treason, were allowed to give a speech before their death. These speeches would be subsequently distributed. Further comprising this "distinct literary sphere" were the responses made in print by anti-Catholic authors and other "treasonous" agendas these "execution speeches" were believed to promote. Connell's reading sees a common attitude held by the various attacking authors: a contempt for the intelligence of the common reader and a powerful fear that such an "unlearned multitude" could be won over.
Corey Wronski-Mayersak delivered "'Quem Quaertis?': Seeking and Signifying the Spiritual in Late Medieval Drama" and examined the way the Mary Play responded to the challenge of depicting the spiritual with human actors. Thus the play relied on "linguistic signification" over the corporeal. By performing the inexpressible these plays reproduced for their audiences the mystery of the invisible in the visible in a manner quite similar, Wronski-Mayersak observers, to how the Eucharist makes Jesus visible in bread.
Gender Performances Across Time and Culture
Panel summary coming soon! Please check back.
Acting Out of Bounds: Performing Hybrid Identities
Ally Day presented Praying Indian as Playing Indian: An Analysis of Performativity in the Construction of Sampson Occom's Indian Identity". She argued that Native American identity was placed in binary opposition to white Christian identity by Christian missionaries and settlers in the 17th century and asked, "What then, is the identity of a 'Praying Indian?'" Using Butler's theories of performativity, Day interrogated the idea of the hybrid identity of the Christian Indian and placed it in a "transitory, ambiguous space." She concluded "ethnicity, like gender, is absolutely performative" and stated that Native American Christians like Samson Occom provide scholars with an example of the "ultimate queer identity."
Margaret Wilson presented "Ceremony as Communication." She focused on two playwrights, Hanay Geiogamah and William Yellow Robe Jr., and explained that their works attempt to answer the question, "how have tribal histories of being silenced affected the way tribal members communicate now?" Ceremony emerges in the texts as a powerful way of expressing oneself in the historical and contemporary Native American landscape. In one memorable point of her talk, Wilson said, "these characters are not mute; they are yelling, and no one is listening; the idea of the silent, stoic Indian is not correct: they have not been silent, they have been silenced." She concluded that these artists have attempted to find ways to respond to centuries of being silenced.
Finally, Ariel Nereson turned our attention to racial identity as portrayed by documentary film. In her talk, "'Krump or Die': Racism in the Armchair Tourism of David LaChappelle's Rize", she argued that this documentary is a "valuable introduction to the dance form" but "supports an essentialist view of blackness and particularly black artistry." Rather than placing the form in the traditions of American social protest dancing, LaChappelle shows the dance in parallel with tribal African dance. "His theory," Nereson said, "is that blackness equals Africanness." The documentary form opens up possibilities for "visual seduction" of the audience and allows the director to define the boundaries of the racial and cultural identities of his subjects.
In the Q & A, questions were raised about the agency of the individual in the project of identity/subjectivity formation and performance. Day pointed out that in performance theory, there is no essential identity beneath the performance, and, particularly for the preoccupations of her research, the "agency of the individual is questionable."
Martin Puchner's Keynote
This page was prepared by Emma Perry, with the assistance of Zdenko Juskuv.