We are delighted to announce the winners of the Reimagining Performance Graduate Essay Competition, run in collaboration with New Theatre Quarterly.
Entries on any subject in the field of modern and contemporary theatre were assessed on:
- timely and original contribution to the field of theatre and performance scholarship;
- innovative approach to the material under discussion;
- scholarly rigour in contextualising the discussed material and in engaging with recent scholarship and/or theory in relevant fields;
- clarity and liveliness of voice.
Jacqueline M. Brown
“Translating Unspoken History to the Stage: The Issue of Language in the Postcolonial Plays of Jack Davis”
Literary scholars and linguists have argued extensively that language is not simply a purely representational vehicle of thought, but its determining medium: the ordering powers of which not only shape cognisance of reality but are actively involved in processes of imperialism and cultural erasure. It is the determinative yet slippery quality of language, prompting the loss of meaning in attempts at translation, that colonial powers manipulated to violent effect and which, as enacted in the plays of Indigenous Australian playwright, Jack Davis, continue to haunt history and the present. This paper will consider how a history and culture that was made unspeakable by colonialism, through the erasure of Indigenous Australian oral traditions, languages, and historical perspectives, is translated onto the Anglophone stage in the plays of Davis, one of the first Indigenous playwrights to be published and performed internationally, and how this was received by the witnessing audience. I argue that he achieves this theatrical translation not only through the negotiation and manipulation of colonial language and verbatim history alongside Indigenous languages, enacting a kind of linguistic double-consciousness, but also through physical theatre and dance: the central means of communicating meaning and knowledge in Nyoongar culture.
Jacqueline M. Brown is the Drue Heinz Graduate Scholar at Worcester College, University of Oxford, studying for a Master of Studies in English (1900 to the present day). Her research focuses on postcolonialism and ecocriticism in twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature.
Jacqueline M. Brown’s winning essay will be published in the November 2022 issue of New Theatre Quarterly.
“A Journey into Democratic Performances with Jana Natya Manch”
In the Winter 2020, the theater group Jana Natya Manch produced in New Delhi’s suburbs several street performances that dealt with discriminatory laws discussed at the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha). This essay offers an analysis of one of these performances, a “game,” or “interactive presentation” (based on a short script translated and attached here) which involves impromptu spectators and have them speak publicly – for the first time – about burning political issues. Thus Indian “people theater” (log natak) creates “democratic performances” that question both artistic and political representation.
Aurélien Bellucci is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at Harvard University, conducting research on political theater in modern China, France and India. His work combines close reading of a range of texts, performance analysis, and fieldwork with theater-makers around the world.
“Unsilencing the Past, Unsilencing the Present: Diasporic Voice in Confinement and Ethics of Care in Wajdi Mouawad’s Pandemic Performances”
As Wajdi Mouawad’s most famous tetralogy (Incendies, Littoral, Forêts, Ciels) has lent itself to generous readings in the field of migrant writing, Canadian and performance studies, I turn away from his well-established œuvre and focus instead on the corpus the artist created during the Covid-19 pandemic. Echoing the political and cultural realities Lebanon and its diaspora experienced in the aftermath of the Civil War, the explosions that shattered Beirut in August 2020 marked the diasporic voice in confinement of the Francophone artist born and raised in Lebanon. Through an analysis of Mouawad’s recent performances and mises-en-voix, I explore the ways in which this event challenged his approach of care ethics, from global community-building initiatives to concentrated diasporic efforts for his country of origin and the Lebanese people whose voice has long been ignored. Bringing together diaspora studies and care ethics through a hauntological framework, my paper argues that Mouawad’s artistic strategy to unsilence the present through his mises-en-voix as part of his pandemic ethics of care is in fact a ritual of unsilencing the past.
Felicia Cucuta is a PhD candidate in Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, focusing on contemporary Francophone literature and theatre. She works on cultural and performance studies, playwriting, and the intersections of theatre and digital humanities.
Thank you to everyone who entered the Reimagining Performance Graduate Essay Prize Competition, and congratulations to our three winners!