"You Are Invited Not to Attend: Answering the Call for a Cultural Boycott of the Shiraz Festival of the Arts," special issue of Performance Paradigm 14, pp.10-27
In 1976, a debate played out in the pages of The New York Times, The Village Voice, and The Drama Review over whether or not invited artists, among them John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Peter Brook, ought to join a boycott of the annual Shiraz Arts Festival in Iran. At the heart of the debate lay a complex set of ideas about the capacity for art in general, and theatre and performance in particular, to contribute to the construction of a public sphere when making and sharing artistic work depends upon accepting institutional support from a regime actively engaged in violently repressing political dissent. This article revisits the Shiraz debate and how the specificity of theatre as a mode of cultural production intersects with the goals and limitations of the cultural boycott. I consider in particular how invocations of the importance of the “free exchange of ideas” shift in meaning or significance when they refer to theatre and performance practices. I argue that the boycott, far from negating participants’ claims made for theatre’s productive/connective/disruptive, invites artists to recognize the possibility that the transformative potential they associate with performance might sometimes be found in the refusal to perform.
“The Body in the Margins: Alexandra Kollontai’s Command Performance,” special issue of Performance Research 20.6, pp. 12-16
This article examines the 1971 English edition of Kollontai's Autobiography of a Sexually Emancipated Communist Woman and editor Iring Fetscher's attempt to restore the words and passages the Russian revolutionary had chosen to excise prior to its initial publication in 1927. Moving between, on the one hand, a reading of the edited text's ambiguities and ambivalences—was it personal pride or party pressure that provoked specific alterations?—produced by Fetscher's opaque method of indicating excised passages and changed words, and, on the other, an imagining of the Autobiography’s theatrical embodiment, this article explores annotation as an editorial act capable of reconstituting the extra-textual body of a writer over and above her attempts to discipline that body into compliance with a desired or intended disembodied narrative. Annotation, by drawing our attention to the page's unstable temporality, foregrounds writing as a physical, durational activity that transfers the undecidability of performance on to and into the seemingly stable text. Taking into consideration the tendency for annotative practices to displace the historical context of a text's production in favour of the historical context of its annotation, Goss contends that Kollontai's Autobiography, in Fetscher's hands, usefully works against this stabilization and exposes its historiographical limits. The 1971 edition functions instead to unfix and revisit a critical historical moment on its own terms, revealing a performative negotiation of circumstance provoked by the vagaries of revolutionary time.
“Class/Work: Labor, Theatricality, and the Student,” special issue of Contemporary Theatre Review 25.3, pp. 327-343
This article argues that within the US, the contemporary student’s relationship to labor is usefully understood as theatrical: the student-as-student does not work, yet the student is not necessarily not-working. I propose that this relationship, insofar as it detaches the popular perception of the student from evidence of her ongoing employment and mounting debt, at once undermines and has the potential to provoke a recognition of the student as an interested party in questions of the organization of labor. In conversation with J.L. Austin’s theory of the performative, I examine a series of representational and self-representational practices that reflect and exploit the student’s temporarily indeterminate class status and the attendant requirement that she negotiate expressions of solidarity through performance. The article moves from revisionist (and anti-theatrical) histories of the student/worker protests of 1968, to the critical reception of Michael Weller’s 1971 Moonchildren as the definitive play of the ‘60s, to the concerns expressed by contemporary student labor activists that the work they do be understood as something other than ‘community service,’ to the hyper-exploitation of the student-as-worker who is willing to accept lower wages in exchange for the possibility (however rarely realized) of earning a degree. Through the figure and figuring of the student--at work and not-working--I explore the significance of defining solidarity as a performative political relation, and the stakes more generally of describing instances of protest “as performance.”
Review of Karen Jürs-Munby, Jerome Carroll, and Steve Giles, editors, Postdramatic Theatre and the Political: International Perspectives on Contemporary Performance, Theatre Survey 57.1, pp. 160-62
“At Home and Abroad,” Afterimage 41.2, September, pp. 6-8