restricted access Excerpts from "The Book of My Awkward Perspective"
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Excerpts from "The Book of My Awkward Perspective"

Bill Doan, president of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) and professor of theatre at Penn State, attended Theatre Symposium as a conference respondent and friend of SETC. His work combines poetry, religion, and theatre; we were honored by his presence and by his two-part performance (split between the beginning and end of the conference). Several of the poems embedded in the work were first published as orantes linguis, (Corrupt Press, November 2011). While, regrettably, space limitations will not allow the text of the entire performance and response to be printed here, we are pleased to include a few excerpts.

We are gathered here by connections, intersections, appropriations, and clashes between ritual, religion, and theatre.

  • • Historical uses of theatre by religious establishments

  • • Religious opposition to theatre

  • • Ah—but what about theatrical opposition to religion?

  • • Ritual in performance studies

  • • Performance in ritual studies

  • • Worship in or as performance

  • • Performance in or as worship

  • • Clashes, practices, uses, understandings

    AND . . .

  • • Et cetera [End Page 137]

Clearly Bert, out of concern for something to meet the weighty expectations of "et cetera," saw a golden opportunity to include my work. After seven years of collaboration on two books with a Hebrew Bible scholar (Terry Giles), I did what any theatre artist would do . . . ignoring Umberto Eco's rules for walking through a fictional woods, I over-identified with the characters of that ancient Hebrew world where prayer was an act of the body and the chaos of adapting to obeying one God left people tangled and confused. So, as someone who hails from the land of the tangled and confused, I offer you . . .

Patriarchy, hierarchy,In the midst of the Our Father,the pater noster, Matthew's debts, Luke's trespasses,sins, transgressions, and a two source hypothesis, IHeard, my child, speak the speech I pray you as Ipronounced it to you. Pragmatically, with your whole body,for by your wounds and scars shall you be known.

Our Father Who Art in HeavenHail Mary Full of GraceOh My God I am Heartily SorryAgain.Our Father Who Art in HeavenHail Mary Full of GraceOh My God I am Heartily SorryAgain.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .In the absence of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.Stupid little bastard who believes in heavenhallowed be the lawnmower.Thy blades they come, thy will be done,with any stray sticks and rocks on the ground.And give me this day my daily lessonas I forgive those sticks and stones that trespass against me.And lead me not to another beating,but deliver me from waiting.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Constructing narratives, deconstructing narratives,embodying, performing, and explicating.We inhabited new spaces, metaphorical andother. Neuronal pathways serving perhapsas liminal gestures taking us, once again,through the looking glass, past what it mightbe reflecting back, and on to a detour journey - [End Page 138] A cognitive/performative/embodied/liturgical/communitas of the gut . . .

That which keeps us tangled up with ourrituals, ceremonies, and entertainments,carrying the histories of worshippers and nonscattered across all of human time and space.Histories also tangled up by the reproductivemingling of those histories with the multi-hyphenedidentities of all gathered here.

We witnessed wonderful moments on TomDriver's "playground of the maybe," looking overour shoulders at maybe not, but ending, for me,with the "blessed assurance of perhaps."1

Theatrical presentation, wrote Bernard Beckerman,is rooted in the tradition of the gift-a thing givenout of love and respect, received by another.This Symposium was a gift for me. Thank you.

William Doan

William Doan is a professor of theatre at Penn State University. He currently serves as president of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE). In addition to his numerous scholarly publications and creative performances, he is the coauthor with Terry Giles of Prophets, Performance and Power (2005) and Twice Used Songs: Performance Criticism of the Songs of Ancient Israel (2008).


1. Quotes are taken from Dr. Tom Driver's keynote address at the SETC Theatre Symposium, April 20, 2012, University of...