For 2017-18 the committee were:

  • Amy Michelle Borsuk
  • Sofia Vranou
  • Charlotte Emily Young

Wednesday 11th October 2017

Professor Jen Harvie, Queen Mary University

Boom! Adversarial Ageism, Chrononormativity, and the Anthropocene in Split Britches’ Ruff and Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone

In this presentation, I argue that emerging ‘chrononormatives’ of ‘generational warfare’ and ‘ageing crisis’ are culturally damaging and powerfully addressed by two of the most important feminist theatre companies/artists working in English, Split Britches in 2013’s Ruff, and Caryl Churchill in 2016’s Escaped Alone. Both works are entirely populated with women performer/characters aged around 70.
Elizabeth Freeman defines chrononormatives as ‘manipulations of time [that] convert historically specific regimes of asymmetrical power into seemingly ordinary bodily tempos and routines’. In this presentation, I propose as ‘chronormative’ the ‘generational warfare’ attributed to relations between so-called baby boomers (born between the mid-1940s and mid-‘60s) and Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000), and the ‘age crisis’ attributed to an increasingly ageing population. I argue that neither ‘generational warfare’ nor ‘age crisis’ is necessarily true; both are manufactured to legitimate what activist-author Naomi Klein identifies as the kind of ‘shock’ reform that is now pervasive in neoliberal capitalist cultures and that works against almost everyone’s best interests. I argue that RUFF and Escaped Alone stage intergenerational relations, old age, history, and time as more complex, dynamic, and non-linear than the chrononormative binary categorization that ‘generation war’ relies on.
Both works insist on intergenerational interdependencies, old age’s innate age-intersectionalism, time’s complexity, human connections to our epoch, and interdependencies of humans and our planet. The works critique chrononormative fetishisations of the now and the heteronormative. They refute binary narratives of generational competition which structure and legitimate inequalities and violence, including ecological neglect.

Jen Harvie is Professor of Contemporary Theatre and Performance at Queen Mary University of London. Her monographs are ‘Fair Play – Art, Performance and Neoliberalism’, ‘Theatre & the City’, ‘Staging the UK’, and ‘The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance’ (with Paul Allain). She has co-edited issues of Contemporary Theatre Review on globalization (with Dan Rebellato, 2006), the London 2012 Olympics/Paralympics (with KerenZaiontz, 2013), and feminism (with Sarah Gorman and Geraldine Harris, forthcoming 2018), and collections on devising with Andy Lavender (2010) and the work of Lois Weaver with Weaver (2015). With Rebellato, she co-edits Palgrave Macmillan’s series Theatre &and is currently co-editing The Cambridge Companion to British Theatre since 1945 (forthcoming 2020). Her other current work is on UK austerity culture and feminist theatre and performance.
Her Stage Left podcast is available on Soundcloud (https://soundcloud.com/user-148494537), iTunes, and Exeunt.

Twitter: @ProfJenHarvie and @StageLeft3

Wednesday 25th October 2017

Dr Amy Bryzgel, University of Aberdeen

Performance Art in Eastern Europe since 1960

The contributions of artists from Eastern, Central and Southeastern Europe to the history of performance art have largely been ignored in academic and theoretical texts. My book, Performance Art in Eastern Europe since 1960, demonstrates the manner in which performance art in the region developed concurrently with similar developments in the West. In my talk, I will outline a range of sources for the work, from music and architecture to Fluxus and other local phenomena, and note the various meanings of the art form in different contexts: for some artists, performance functioned as a form of experiment, while others found in it a space of freedom. In this talk, I will present several case studies from my book and highlight the main discoveries from several years of research in the field.

Dr Amy Bryzgel is Senior Lecturer in Film and Visual Culture at the University of Aberdeen, where her research focuses on performance art from Eastern Europe. She has just published a monograph with Manchester University Press (2017) entitled Performance Art in Eastern Europe since 1960. In addition to her research and teaching on contemporary art, she is Director of the George Washington Wilson Centre for Visual Culture at the University of Aberdeen, a Director of the Demarco Archive Trust, and Director of Postgraduate Studies at the University of Aberdeen.

Wednesday 15th November 2017

Dr Arabella Stanger, University of Sussex

Separate but Equal:
Merce Cunningham, Black Mountain College, and Choreographies of White Ideality

Studies of choreographer Merce Cunningham have been consistent in attributing to his dance environments qualities of civic situations involving democracy, the individual, and freedom. This talk begins by asking how the complex of political metaphors that cloudCunningham’s practice might be disaggregated in a way that is attentive to this work’s historical contingency and situatedness.By drawing from Henri Lefebvre’s (1974) theorization of spatial sociality and Saidiya Hartman’s (1997) critique of the racializing apparatus of U.S. liberalism, I propose a rethinking of the ‘politics’ of Cunningham’s work in relation to cultures of spatial inhabitation developed at Black Mountain College–Cunningham’s spring and summer residence over three years between 1948 and 1953 and the ground from which the liberal utopianism of his work was initially wrought.When considered in the light of the practices of utopia with which his early work shared a material context within the surrounds of a Jim Crow rural South, Cunningham’s choreographic modelling of a distributed and individuated relationality in space can be understood to produce a certain kind of social imaginary where communal harmony resides in the protection of individual liberty and spatial availability is figured as the guarantor of a white settler conception of the land of the free. Byfocussinghere upon the choreographic arrangements of Black Mountain College’s dining rooms, I examine a set of spatial ideals concerning land, community, and racial dispossession in order to clarify the social particularity of Cunningham’s conjuring of ‘democracy’ through human bodies dancing on stage.

Arabella Stanger is Lecturer in Drama: Theatre and Performance at the University of Sussex. She was previously Lecturer in Dance Studies at the University of Roehampton, was awarded her PhD in Theatre and Performance by Goldsmiths, University of London and before embarking on her academic studies trained in ballet and contemporary dance. Arabella’s research moves across dance, theatre, and performance studies and is concentrated in theoretical explorations of the choreographic. She has published recently on heterotopia, choreography, and the Middle Passage slave ship (Performance Research); on sabotage as a dramaturgical mode in theatrical and industrial protest (Valiz); and on the nature of epic timespace in choreographic and literary modernisms (OUP). She is currently preparing a monograph on the materialist theorisation of choreographic space.

Wednesday 29th November 2017

Dr Duška RadosavljevićCSSD

The Heterarchical Director: A model of authorship for the twenty-first century

Most of the directors presented in David Bradby and David Williams’s seminal 1988 volume Directors’ Theatre are also renowned as leaders of ensembles. This position has often been problematised in terms of authorship and the implied hierarchies. Simon Shepherd (2012) has noted that director figureheads in ensembles became increasingly unfashionable in the aftermath of poststructuralist anti-authoritarianism. At the turn of the 21st-century ensemble, directors have sought to emphasise the element of co-authorship in their work or a relativisation of their own authority. Mermikides and Smart (2010) have identified a contemporary prevalence of ensembles led by tandems. My own previous research has encountered reluctant ensemble leaders, directorless ensembles and leaders interested in facilitating self-determination of their groups (Radosavljevic 2013).

Using notions of heterarchy and eco-leadership, this paper will take the investigation forward in an attempt of defining a 21st century model of ensemble director. More specifically, the paper looks at the case study of Improbable Theatre’s directorial tandem Phelim McDermott and Lee Simpson and their use of improvisation as a type of self-sustaining systemic leadership. The case study expands the theme of ‘improvisation’ established in the original volume and represents an addition to a revised anniversary edition of the book, edited by Peter Boenisch and David Williams (due in 2018).

Dr Duška Radosavljević is a Reader in Contemporary Theatre and Performance at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She is the author of the award-winning Theatre-Making: Interplay Between Text and Performance in the 21st Century (2013) and editor of The Contemporary Ensemble (2013) and Theatre Criticism: Changing Landscapes (2016).

Wednesday 24th January 2018

Dr Mojisola AdebayoQueen Mary University

An Afriquia Theatre Retrospective

Mojisola will introduce what she describes as Afriquia Theatre (black / queer theatre), through a retrospective on her work. She will share extracts and discuss her plays and collaborative performance productions including: Moj of the Antarctic: An African Odyssey, the story of a black woman who cross-dresses as a white man to escape slavery and becomes a sailor bound for Antarctica; Muhammad Ali and Me, a performance paralleling the life of boxing legend and black liberation leader Muhammad Ali with a queer girl child surviving abuse in foster care; I Stand Corrected, a dance-theatre with Mamela Nymaza addressing so called ‘corrective’ hate rape of lesbians and trans men and the equal marriage debate. She will also refer to her most recent project, The Interrogation of Sandra Bland, a verbatim performance with a huge cast of women and part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Lastly, Mojisola will offer a sneak preview of her latest work, STARS, all about a very old lady who goes into outer space… in search of her own orgasm.

See www.mojisolaadebayo.co.uk for more!

Mojisola Adebayo has a BA in Drama and Theatre Arts, an MA in Physical Theatre, a PhD in black queer theatre (Goldsmiths, Royal Holloway and Queen Mary, University of London) and she trained extensively with Augusto Boal. She has worked in theatre, radio and television, on four continents, over the past two decades, performing in over 50 productions, writing, devising and directing over 30 plays and leading countless workshops, on four continents, from Antarctica to Zimbabwe. Her publications include several of her plays in Mojisola Adebayo: Plays One (Oberon), 48 Minutes for Palestine in Theatre in Pieces (Methuen) and The Theatre for Development Handbook (with John Martin and Manisha Mehta, available through www.pan-arts.net) as well as numerous academic chapters. She is an Associate Artist with Pan, a Visiting Artist at Rose Bruford College and a Lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London.

Wednesday 7th February 2018

Dr Kate GrahamUniversity of Westminister

 “You mean some strange revenge”:
The Jacobean Intersections of Revenge and the Strange

In Thomas Middleton’s ‘The Revenger’s Tragedy’, we learn that a revenger must be ‘strange-disposed’ or ‘strange-composed’ (1.1.86/96), and in Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher’s ‘The Maid’s Tragedy’ the wronged Amintor, unable to take revenge, claims ‘[w]hat a strange thing am I’ (2.1.298). In these utterances, the speakers tie their desires for vengeance into their affective state. As both plays progress, however, the evocations of strangeness shift, moving from an association with the revenger to an association with the act of revenge in-and-of itself. Thus, the audiences’ attention is drawn to the ‘strange spectacle’ of the Duke’s murder in ‘The Revenger’s Tragedy’ (5.1.88), and in ‘The Maid’s Tragedy’ to the way in which the revenge plot is ‘so strangely carried’ (4.2.269).

I am interested here in considering the rhetoric of strangeness as it relates to revenge on the early Stuart stage and in working to unpack the interrelationships between the revenger, the strangeness of their affective experience and the strangeness of the act of revenge itself. Centrally, in tracing the shift in the rhetoric of strangeness from revenger to act, I consider the questions this realignment forces us to ask about the tension between revenge as an embodied or disembodied act.

Kate is Senior Lecturer in English Literature (Theatre) at the University of Westminster, where she is Course Leader for the BA Theatre Studies & English Literature and Theatre Studies & Creative Writing programmes. She is co-director of the Queer London Research Forum, which she runs with Simon Avery. Drawing on the work of the forum, Kate and Simon have published the edited collection ‘Sex, Time and Place: Queer Histories of London’ (Bloomsbury 2016). She has work on the relationship between objects and gender in ‘The Revenger’s Tragedy: State of Play’ (Bloomsbury 2017); the queerness of female revenge in ‘The Maid’s Tragedy’ (Early Theatre journal 2018); and forthcoming work on the relationship between bees, anger and time in early modern drama.

Wednesday 28th March 2018

Dr Ashley Thorpe, Royal Holloway University

The Arts Britain Utterly Ignored: Or, Arts Council Funding and State Intervention in British East Asian Theatre in the Late 1990s and Early 2000s

This paper maps the simultaneous existence of two British East Asian (BEA) theatre companies: Mu-Lan Theatre, which was founded in 1988 and folded in 2004, and Yellow Earth Theatre, which was launched in 1995 and continues into the present. It argues that by ending the funding for Mu-Lan in 2002 and revenue funding only one BEA theatre company (Yellow Earth Theatre), not only were Arts Council policies on diversity tokenistic, but they also seeded frustration amongst BEA practitioners about the narrow possibilities for participation in British theatre. The paper suggests that the logic of the “diversity of diversity” – a cornerstone of Arts Council policy – was not enacted. Until recently, an ongoing lack of funding for BEA theatre practitioners has paradoxically resulted in a growing plurality of voices, but as many continue to work without even basic expenses being covered, the paper suggests that BEA performance practice remained one of the arts that Britain has utterly ignored. The paper concludes by raising questions about Arts Council policy as it embarks on a new funding initiative for BEA theatre.

Ashley Thorpe is Senior Lecturer in Theatre in the Department of Drama, Theatre & Dance at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has published the monographs Performing China on the London Stage: Chinese opera and global power, 1759-2008 (Palgrave 2016), and The Role of the Chou (‘Clown’) In Traditional Chinese Drama: comedy, criticism and cosmology on the Chinese stage (Edwin Mellen Press, 2007). He is the co-editor of Contesting British Chinese Culture (forthcoming, Palgrave 2018) and British East Asian Plays (forthcoming, Aurora Metro, 2018). The co-founder of the Noh Training Project UK (in 2011) and member of the theatre company Theatre Nohgaku, he has also written an English language Noh play on the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, which will be performed on Royal Holloway’s own Noh stage in May 2018.