Past Events

Rebecca Schneider
Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, Brown University

4pm, Friday, April 24, 120 Communications
Reception to Follow in Simpson Center.

Extending a Hand: Gesture, Duration and the (Non)Human Turn

What are the limits of “liveness” in so-called live artwork? What is the duration of gesture? Thinking about call and response, or hail and acknowledgement, Schneider asks: How long can call lie in wait for response? How far can a hail extend? Schneider looks at mid-century art works emphasizing gesture and hands. She also considers negative hand prints at Paleolithic cave sites as well as the rock face itself to address questions of agency and “inter(in)animacy.” If hands are vehicles of extension, what is extended in extending a hand? If we can be done with the limits of “representation” what about the slippery skin of mimesis as rock touches (or enters) hand, hand rock? What are the vulnerabilities of geologic time in relationship to human time? Who performs? Who calls? Who responds?

Rebecca Schneider, Professor in the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, teaches performance studies, theater history, and theories of intermedia. She is the author of  Theatre and History (Palgrave 2014), Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment (Routledge 2011) and The Explicit Body in Performance (Routledge, 1997). She has coedited the anthology Re:Direction: A Theoretical and Practical Guide to 20th-Century Directing  and a special issue of TDR: The Drama Review on Precarity and Performance (2012) . She is a consortium editor for TDR, contributing editor to Women and Theatre, coeditor with David Krasner of the book series "Theatre: Theory/Text/Performance" with University of Michigan Press, and consulting editor for the series "Performance Interventions" with Palgrave Macmillan.

Organized by the Performance Studies Research Group, a Crossdisciplinary Research Cluster sponsored by the Simpson Center for the Humanities.

D. Soyini Madison

Performance Studies Research Group

The talk will discuss the embodied and critical artistry of performance ethnography and how the felt-sensing experiences of fieldwork research are enacted and translated both on the public stage and within the intimate, ethnographic encounters of those everyday moments in the field. As more and more people, across academic disciplines and grass roots initiatives, are committed to ethnographic work they are compelled to share their experiences, to become unapologetic advocates, and to communicate lessons learned from their field research across landscapes and borders—distant and near—to their home-place locations as well as to others, e.g., friends, colleagues, collaborators, and strangers extending and transforming ethnographic inquiry forward to multiple constituencies and artistic expressions. The keynote will share examples of performance ethnography as an affective, felt-sensing politics staged across private and public ethnographic spaces. The talk will also call upon beauty as a communicative tactic for justice in bringing forth storied ethnographies as embodied experiences and enfleshed critique.

D. Soyini Madison (PhD 1989, Northwestern University) is professor of Performance Studies at Northwestern University School of Communication, with appointments in the Department of African American Studies and the Department of Anthropology. Professor Madison lived and worked in Ghana, as a Senior Fulbright Scholar conducting field research on the interconnections between traditional religion, political economy, and indigenous performance tactics.

This lecture is the second of three lectures presented by the Performance Studies Research Group, and is free and open to the public. A reception to follow. For questions, please contact Scott Magelssen, Associate Professor of Theatre History, at

The lecture and reception are in the Communications Building Room 120.

Shannon Jackson


In the last two decades, readers, critics, artists, curators, and citizen-spectators have been contending with a new--or newly redefined--ethos of performance. Curators now regularly install choreography in galleries.  Visual artists are staging operas. Performances are staged in the lobbies of museums as well in at the center of its exhibitions. Meanwhile, civic leaders tout the importance of “creativity” in vitalizing cities, seeking to attract designers, new restaurants, and technology entrepreneurs to their neighborhoods. Cities stage site-specific festivals and promote themselves within an expanding roster of international biennials. Cultural centers around the globe consistently use a performance-centered vocabulary to frame their aesthetic contributions and their public programming and outreach. In this expanded cultural landscape, all participants are encouraged to act, to experience, to stage, and to try out alternate selves and behaviors. Meanwhile, many wonder whether this compulsion to perform is symptomatic of a wider global shift, one that sees cultural economies fueling and being fueled by the pressures of so-called “post-Fordist” service economy. 

In her lecture, Shannon Jackson takes stock of recent trends in a wide cultural landscape. Recalling some of the central debates in the field of performance studies, she explores and juxtaposes the very different vocabularies and histories that artists, critics, curators, and citizens bring to bear in this scene of aesthetic and social experiment. She also examines key sites of experimentation and debate, asking how artists and organizers are incorporating but also questioning the experiential ethos of a service economy.

Shannon Jackson is the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Chair in the Arts & Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is a professor of Rhetoric and of Theater, Dance, & Performance Studies. She is also the Director of the Arts Research Center.

University of Washinton School of Drama

Cathy Madden 
Principal Lecturer, School of Drama

Pioneering Spirit in the Celebrity of the Discontented Everyman:  F.M. Alexander
One function of celebrity is to hold up to us what is possible. The kind of celebrity represented by F.M. Alexander is one that reminds us we can pioneer our lives: responding to discontent with constructive desire and steadfast in our ability to be a celebrity in our own world.

Cathy Madden leads workshops on the Alexander Technique around the world. Her book Integrative Alexander Technique Practice for Performing Artists: Onstage Synergy is scheduled for publication in January 2015.



2014/2015 Performing Arts Lecture Series
From Helen of Troy to the Kardashian sisters, celebrities, or (in Joseph Roach’s definition) “abnormally interesting people,” have fascinated the public imagination over the centuries. This series of lectures from scholars and art practitioners across academic disciplines considers why certain historical figures or fictional characters have possessed a special power to fascinate their public.

University of Washinton School of Drama

Ruby Blondell
Professor, Classics

"Advertised for 2700 Years and Now You Get Her!" - Helen of Troy on the Silver Screen
In an era that believes beauty is in the eye of the beholder, how can one possibly cast any individual performer as the most beautiful woman in the world? This talk explores how harnessing the glamour of stardom is the most persuasive means of capturing Helen of Troy’s mythical celebrity on screen.

Professor Ruby Blondell is a Helen of Troy expert and has presented on the subject at GeekGirlCon 2013 and the Getty Villa. Her current book project focuses on the portrayal of Helen in popular film and television.



2014/2015 Performing Arts Lecture Series
From Helen of Troy to the Kardashian sisters, celebrities, or (in Joseph Roach’s definition) “abnormally interesting people,” have fascinated the public imagination over the centuries. This series of lectures from scholars and art practitioners across academic disciplines considers why certain historical figures or fictional characters have possessed a special power to fascinate their public.

University of Washinton School of Drama

Odai Johnson
Professor, School of Drama

The Predatory Gaze of Looking

Bob Dylan wrote of the great loss of artistry he suffered after Woodstock, when he no longer could look at the world because he had become instead the thing looked at. This first talk of the series considers the predatory relationship of celebrity to the artist it feeds upon. Sometimes it feasts upon the private life, but usually it begins with the choice bits – the artistic impulse itself.

Odai Johnson is a professor of theatre history and the head of the School of Drama’s PhD program, as well as a founding member of the Center for Performance Studies.



2014/15 Performing Arts Lecture Series
From Helen of Troy to the Kardashian sisters, celebrities, or (in Joseph Roach’s definition) “abnormally interesting people,” have fascinated the public imagination over the centuries. This series of lectures from scholars and art practitioners across academic disciplines considers why certain historical figures or fictional characters have possessed a special power to fascinate their public.

Esther Kim Lee

Hutchinson 154

The Theatricalized Body of Bruce Lee in David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu

David Henry Hwang is the most recognized Asian American playwright and the winner of the Tony Award for Best Play for M. Butterfly in 1988. This talk examines his latest full-length play, Kung Fu, which is about the life and work of the martial arts icon Bruce Lee. The play opened in February of this year at New York City’s Signature Theatre, which commissioned the play and devoted the 2013-14 season to Hwang’s oeuvre. Hwang intended to write Kung Fu as a musical but later decided against it. What has instead resulted is what can be called a “dancicle,”a style of theatre in which realistic scenes and highly choreographed dance/fighting sequences co-exist onstage. Throughout his writing career, Hwang has frequently used choreography in his plays, and Kung Fu represents an exploration of what he has described as a “Chinese American” style of theatre.

This paper interrogates this style by focusing on how Hwang dramatizes the Asian American body in his plays. Hwang's style echoes the style of Cantonese opera, which he frequently references in his plays, but at the same time, the style is unequivocally in the tradition of American theatre. By using theories of the body, movement, and choreography, I argue that the Asian American body Hwang creates for the stage is defined theatrically. The racialized Asian body onstage is not defined by its skin color or phenotypical traits. Rather, Hwang’s Asian American bodies are made real through theatricalized movements that require skill and labor. The talk problematizes how racial identities are theatrically embodied by Hwang’s characters and how he makes Bruce Lee quintessentially Asian American in Kung Fu.

Location: Hutchinson Hall, Room 154

Bio of Presenter: Esther Kim Lee is Associate Professor in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. She received Ph.D. in theatre history, literature, and criticism from the Ohio State University and taught theatre and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  She is the author of A History of Asian American Theatre (Cambridge University Press, 2006), which received the 2007 Award for Outstanding Book given by Association for Theatre in Higher Education and the editor of Seven Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas (Duke University Press, 2012). She is the Editor of Theatre Survey, the flagship journal of the American Society for Theatre Research. Her current projects include a book on the Chinese American playwright David Henry Hwang.

Complicating Gender and Islam through Performance in East Java, Indonesia
Christina Sunardi, Ethnomusicology
October 29, 7:30pm
Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theatre

buy tickets

This talk explores some of the ways in which musicians and dancers in East Java, Indonesia have approached Islam and their professions as artists, in effect making and maintaining cultural space for cross-gender dance as well as diverse, complex, shifting senses of masculinity and femininity.

Some are Born Green, Some Achieve Greenness: Protest Theatre & Environmental Activism
Scott Magelssen, School of Drama
October 15, 7:30pm
Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theatre

buy tickets

Ecofriendly lifestyles have become increasingly easy and indeed celebrated in the popular media. Meanwhile, however, some of the worst environmental offenses persist, and are ramping up all over the planet. Fracking, poisonous emissions, resource decimation, and human-made disasters on a global scale are prompting activist performers to get ALL of our attentions, from peaceful performance protests to guerilla resistance.

Theatre and Non-leftist Radicalism
Stefka Mihaylova, School of Drama
October 1, 7:30pm
Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theatre

buy tickets

In post-WW II American and British theatre practice and scholarship, the expression “radical theatre” typically implies leftist social ideas. At the turn of the 21st century, however, radicalism has also become associated with religion, as in “radical Islam,” and some have critiqued theatre’s overwhelming preference for works espousing liberal social ideas. Can and should theatre make room for non-leftist radical ideas? And does non-leftist radical theatre necessarily imply fascist theatre? This talk invites reflection on these questions, by focusing on several examples: the riots of the Sikh community in Birmingham, UK, in 2005, in response to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s production of Behzti (Dishonour), in which a Sikh religious leader rapes a young woman in the temple; and the virtual absence of religious drama on contemporary US stages and in the American twentieth-century canon.