- Editor’s Comments
With its exclusive focus on teaching, the last issue of Theatre Topics began a practical and provocative discussion of what goes on behind the scenes in our classrooms, rehearsals, and workshops. That conversation continues here with six articles b y theatre practitioners, each of them demonstrating a close and important connection between research and teaching.
Such an emphasis could not be more timely. In the competition for diminishing resources, departments of theatre, performing arts, and humanities increasingly base their advocacy on the essential teaching and public service they provide for the broader com munity. But without a strong commitment to research, those same departments can find themselves devalued and marginalized within the academy itself. Faced with the skyrocketing costs of education, some have proposed further separating the research and tea ching functions at colleges and universities, a division of labor that would weaken both and put the performing arts at particular risk. The following articles amply demonstrate how research informs and revitalizes our performance classrooms and ho w teaching motivates and tests our research. However difficult the balancing act may at times be, both are crucial to our practice as theatre educators.
In the opening essay, David Carlyon offers some refreshingly practical solutions to the problem of engaging students in a large Introduction to Theatre course. Carlyon’s task-oriented approach supports current educational research connecting active studen t participation to effective learning and could easily be adapted as an introductory approach to other disciplines. The expository confidence with which Carlyon writes about a “model” Intro course is balanced by the critical doubt displayed in “Rehearsing for Revolution” by Stacy Wolf and Wendy Coleman. With a compelling account of a theoretically innovative, co-taught course on African American performance and the meanings of race, the authors revisit what seemed at the time “a performative failure” in o rder to rethink its pedagogical potential. Their critical dialogue reflects the thoughtful, collaborative practice on which their course was built, and in so doing, provides one of the course’s most positive outcomes. With similar attention to the complex issues of racial representation, Bruce McConachie analyzes the impact of particular images in a community-based theatre project undertaken by students at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. Deploying Raymond Williams’s “structure of feeling” to describe and analyze precisely what happens for audiences in successful community-based productions, McConachie’s work advances our understanding of both the limits and possibilities of antiracist grassroots theatre.
The next two articles examine pedagogical processes more closely associated with specific techniques. In “Learning Alba Emoting,” Roxane Rix provides an interesting and informative update on the Alba Emoting system four years after the publication of an e ntire issue on the subject in Theatre Topics. In “Robert Wilson and the Actor,” Ellen Halperin-Royer investigates changing actor attitudes toward Wilson’s directorial abilities during the process of rehearsing Danton’s Death. As in the artic les introduced above, the observations and analyses contributed by both essays depend on, and benefit from, each author’s situated, personally invested perspective. Scott T. Cummings provides a similar “insider” viewpoint as consultant and contributor to the work of the Shakespeare Interactive Research Group at MIT. In “Interactive Shakespeare,” Cummings reflects on the theoretical and pedagogical issues raised by computer-based interactive technology that could revolutionize the teaching and study of Sha kespeare.
Although different in methodology and subject matter, every article in this issue fosters the link between theory and practice, research and teaching. In the coming year, we invite readers to continue these critical conversations—in articles, letters to the editor, co-written essays, or reports from the field on symposia or conference events of interest to our readers. In keeping with our commitment to developing different “modes of address” on these scholarly pages, we particularly welcome collaborative articles culled from extended, online discussions of a topic of particular concern to theatre educators.