- A Note from the Editor
In this issue, Jill Dolan inaugurates a new section of Theatre Topics called “Notes from the Field.” This ongoing forum will provide a place for urgent conversations already underway about the state of theatre practice and pedagogy in higher education. As Monica Stufft writes in her contribution to this volume, “[i]n a time of economic downturns, the contraction of governmental funding sources, and shrinking budgets, academic departments increasingly find themselves locked in a struggle for limited resources.” This industry-wide trend is proving especially challenging for the arts and humanities. In this time of precariousness, both real and perceived, theatre programs may appear, or indeed become, vulnerable. Theatre is a multidisciplinary, resource-intensive art form. It is a relative newcomer to the academy. It often calls upon a substantial infrastructure of facilities, materials, and labor. Going forward, it seems apparent that theatre workers in higher education will need to take on—or keep on—the mantle of advocacy. In our institutions, we will need to articulate, persistently and persuasively, how the subject matter, artistic and research practices, and epistemologies we find so essential serve broader institutional goals. In the public sphere, we will need to demonstrate the social value of the knowledges created in our performance spaces, publications, and classrooms. Fortunately, many people are already engaged in this crucial work. As a journal of the Association for the Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) devoted to issues of theatre practice and pedagogy, Theatre Topics is well-positioned to disseminate this thinking. Notes from the Field will highlight ways that theatre—as an art form, a disciplinary formation, and a material practice—is responding to and shaping these shifts. It will share strategies to vitalize theatre in the academy and to effectively negotiate the rapidly changing industry of higher education.
In their different ways, the essays collected in this issue of Theatre Topics also address topics of institutional change. These authors all demonstrate complex understanding of the multiple contexts that shape the theatrical and pedagogic practices they examine. They attend to the institutional contexts that both enable and constrain the making and the teaching of theatre. Many of the essays propose tactics to work within or against institutional limitations in order to clear the way for the emergence of new creative possibilities.
Daniel Banks opens the issue with a cogent and impassioned call to transform theatrical casting practices in the United States. In “The Welcome Table : Casting for an Integrated Society,” Banks takes up the now decades old though still unfinished work of opening US stages to actors hailing from the full breadth of American ethnic (and other) identities. He especially examines the language that designates explicitly non-discriminatory casting practices. While evincing deep respect for the progressive organizing that led to movements for “non-traditional” and “color-blind” casting, he argues that in our historical moment, that now common language needs to be revised. He outlines a sophisticated and pragmatic conceptual framework rooted in critical race theory to help turn the imperative of an integrated US theatre into a reality.
In “Translating into Polyphony: Creating a Dramaturgical Translation for Three Sisters at Steppenwolf,” Dassia Posner develops a promising rehearsal paradigm for plays in translation. The article follows from her work as dramaturg on a production of Chekhov’s play adapted by playwright Tracy Letts. She acknowledges that the translation she created for rehearsals shaped Letts’s version, but attends more fully to some of the ways that it spurred director Anna D. Shapiro, the design team, and the actors toward nonlinguistic theatrical choices to express textual nuances in the original Russian that were minimized by Letts’s English adaptation. Posner transits between translation theory and the embedded dynamics of the rehearsal hall to elaborate what she dubs “dramaturgical translation.”
Anita Tripathi Easterling and Jeanmarie Higgins mobilize the language of theatre semiotics to anatomize some principles of scenic design associated with the visual traditions of the New Stagecraft [End Page i] Movement. They enlist Michael Issacharoff’s notion of diegetic space to chart the use of onstage signs to evoke offstage spaces. “The Front Porch: A Case Study in Designing Domestic Stage Space Using...