By E.J. Westlake
As I sit down to write the introduction to this issue of Theatre Journal, I am impressed by the ways in which each of our authors engages with the labor of theatre scholarship. Much of the work involved putting together an issue of an academic journal is invisible. The four essays that follow involve hours and days and years of intense research and writing and revising. The scholars then collaborate with a team of peers to make the research available to the wider scholarly community. In this issue, as each scholar poses pressing questions about the ways in which the labor of the theatre affects and is affected by the shifts in cultural meaning in the spheres in which they are made. And I am reminded that this is labor performed under increasingly difficult circumstances in our field.
I am fortunate that I serve both the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and the American Society for Theatre Research. But working on the editorial staff of Theatre Journal and within the leadership of ASTR during the administrative transition for both organizations has made the difficulty of our labor painfully clear. The decrease in the availability of positions in higher education and the increasing reluctance of our institutions to provide support for our service and research have placed stress on us all. While our economy hums along, stimulated by tax cuts for the wealthy, we watch funding for education and the arts evaporate. And yet, we persist.
The four scholars whose work is represented here apply their unique skills to read the labor that is missing, erased, or hidden. While Misha Hadar examines a piece that was never performed, Barbara Fuchs attends to what is revealed. Judith Hamera takes a closer look at the repertoire less examined, as Ania Nikulina pores through the erased archive in search of the repertoire that is hidden.
In "Performing Multiculturalism: The Turkish Ensemble at the Schaubühne," Misha Hadar explores the development of Turkish theatre in Berlin. Hadar examines the performance of Giden Tez Geri Dönmez (Those who leave do not easily return) by the Turkish Ensemble in 1980, and an imagined Türken Projekt (Turkish project) by the group, which was never performed. The Türken Projekt was abandoned, he proposes, because it dealt in complex ways with the experience of migration and cultural encounter, whereas Giden presented a more romanticized past and Turkish identity, appealing to both the Turkish and general German audience.
Barbara Fuchs examines intermediality in her essay "Staged Work: Intermediality and the Labor of Performance in Christiane Jatahy's Julia and Kid Koala's Nufonia Must Fall." Fuchs observes that the use of live film on stage can allow the audience to consider the labor involved in creating performance. Intermediality, then, "enables a particular kind of engaged performance that reflects upon its own conditions." This, Fuchs argues, creates the critical distance that allows for the demystification of live performance.
In the next essay, Judith Hamera engages with the recording of the 1980 television broadcast of Gus Giordano's The Rehearsal in "Rehearsal Problems: Gus Giordano's The Rehearsal and the Serious Business of Middlebrow Dance." Through her analysis, Hamera considers the role of middlebrow dance in both American culture and dance scholarship. She cites the limited engagement with the middlebrow in dance scholarship as a symptom of ambivalence, in that middlebrow dance is "neither virtuosic nor innovative nor oppositional." It is worth examination, however, in that it reveals something about a paradigm shift in American life, and offers a particular opening through which to understand performances of middle-class whiteness during the 1970s and '80s.
The final essay in this issue also deals with dance, but with its attempted erasure and subsequent survival with the archives and the discourse of dance scholarship. Ania Nikulina writes about The Carmen-Suite in "Maya Plisetskaya's The Carmen-Suite: Recovering a Hidden Repertoire." The politically subversive dance, based on Prosper Mérimée's novella Carmen and choreographed by Plisetskaya and Alberto Alonso in 1967, was banned by the Soviet Ministry of Culture as soon as it was staged. Afterward, the Soviets waged a relentless campaign to erase the dance from the archives and to rewrite its history as meaningless. Nikulina uses her experience as a post-Soviet dancer to read and interpret the "hidden repertoires" that emerge from a reading of what is and what is not in the archives.
Together, these essays demonstrate the ways in which the labor of theatre reflects the cultural contexts of each performance. They reveal the complex ideologies that shape the spectator's reception and the forces that reveal and erase representation. As I meditate on the enormity of the work that lies ahead for all of us, I am grateful for the labor of my colleagues in making this journal the rigorous interrogation that it is.