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Animal Acts

Performing Species Today

Una Chaudhuri

Publication Year: 2014

We all have an animal story—the pet we loved, the wild animal that captured our childhood imagination, the deer the neighbor hit while driving. While scientific breakthroughs in animal cognition, the effects of global climate change and dwindling animal habitats, and the exploding interdisciplinary field of animal studies have complicated things, such stories remain a part of how we tell the story of being human. Animal Acts collects eleven exciting, provocative, and moving stories by solo performers, accompanied by commentary that places the works in a broader context. Work by leading theater artists Holly Hughes, Rachel Rosenthal, Deke Weaver, Carmelita Tropicana, and others joins commentary by major scholars including Donna Haraway, Jane Desmond, Jill Dolan, and Nigel Rothfels. Una Chaudhuri’s introduction provides a vital foundation for understanding and appreciating the intersection of animal studies and performance. The anthology foregrounds questions of race, gender, sexuality, class, nation, and other issues central to the human project within the discourse of the “post human,” and will appeal to readers interested in solo performance, animal studies, gender studies, performance studies, and environmental studies.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Critical Performances

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Animal Acts for Changing Times, 2.0: A Field Guide to Interspecies Performance Introduction

Una Chaudhuri

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pp. 1-12

Things are moving fast in the human-animal world. So much so that an upgrade seems warranted on my earlier take on it, or rather my take on that part of it that intersects with the world of performance, theatre, and performance studies. Version 1.0 of this bulletin appeared in American Theatre...

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The Dog and Pony Show (bring your own pony)

Holly Hughes

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pp. 13-29

This is just about dogs. I want to warn you. The title is not a metaphor. When I say this is about dogs I mean: this is about dogs, period. Some of my friends got excited when I said that I was writing about the dogs. They thought that was just the beginning of the first sentence, and I would take them on a journey...

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Commentary: Agility Is Performance Art

Donna Haraway

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pp. 30-36

Holly threatens Esther with goats; I threaten Rusten with miniature donkeys. The donkeys remain a fantasy, or at best a few research interviews with miniature donkey people and a stolen moment of eye and hand touch with a silky sorrel jennet or a brown and white spotted wooly jack at the county...


Vicky Ryder, Lisa Asagi, and Stacy Makishi

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pp. 37-48

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Commentary: What Happened to the Black Dog?

Marla Carlson

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pp. 49-54

There comes a time near the ending or not-ending of a long-term relationship, a time after both partners have settled into routines that bore them, when at least one partner wonders whether she will resign to the inertia or go on to something else, whether the wish to stay derives from love, fear, or...

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Cat Lady

Joseph Keckler

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pp. 55-62

“I am not a cat lady,” my mother declares, a bag of Whiskas under her arm and a Maine coon at her feet. She marches through the laundry room to answer the lament of a portly calico who is kept locked in the pantry. “No, you stay out here, Don Diego,” she cautions the Maine coon. “Mrs. Gummidge

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Commentary: Theatre of the Cat Lady Who Is Not

Erika Rundle

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pp. 63-68

Joseph Keckler’s autobiographical fiction, Cat Lady, begins with a categorical denial—“ I am not a cat lady”—spoken by the narrator’s mother as she tends to the creatures who flourish under her attentive supervision. In Keckler’s theatrical adaptation of his story, which he performs alone on stage, the declaration...

With What Ass Does the Cockroach Sit? / ¿Con Qué Culo Se Sientala Cucaracha?

Carmelita Tropicana (aka Alina Troyano)

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pp. 69-83

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Commentary: Martina, Catalina, Elián, and the Old Man: Queer Tales of a Transnational Cuban Cockroach

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes

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pp. 84-92

Alina Troyano’s bilingual one-woman play With What Ass Does the Cockroach Sit?/¿Con qué culo se sienta la cucaracha? (2004) is a fascinating, highly politicized contemporary rewriting of the Hispanic Caribbean folktale “La cucarachita Martina” (Martina the cockroach), with close affinities to Pura...

No Bees for Bridgeport: A Fable from the Age of Daley

Kestutis Nakas

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pp. 93-103

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Commentary: A New Fable of the Bees

Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson

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pp. 104-110

In 1705 Bernard Mandeville published “The Grumbling Hive: or, Knaves Turned Honest,” a short poem about “a Spacious Hive well stocked with Bees” that transforms from a society of vice, political corruption, and economic inequality to an egalitarian order of communal virtue.1 Among the...

Horseback Views: A Queer Hippological Performance

Kim Marra

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pp. 111-130

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Commentary: Kinesthetic Intimacies

Jane C. Desmond

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pp. 131-140

When I was ten years old, I had my first horse-riding lesson at a summer camp in northern Virginia. My strongest memory of it: being bucked off a horse, suddenly flying through the air, and landing hard on the bare ground. I don’t blame the horse. He had to stand there to be mounted by what were...


Deke Weaver

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pp. 141-155

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Commentary: Apes like Us

Cary Wolfe

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pp. 156-162

Deke Weaver’s performance piece MONKEY begins with a joke. It’s in the title, in fact, and is the first of many we will encounter. We don’t really know it’s a joke until we get to the list of primate species that MONKEY-MAN writes—and erases—on his chalkboard. Is our ignorance about the fact that...

Excerpts from ELEPHANT

Deke Weaver

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pp. 163-181

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Commentary: A Hero’s Death

Nigel Rothfels

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pp. 182-188

The interviewer, Larry Stone, “rumpled, possibly a little drunk, very smart,” asks Hero, the elephant, “Is it true that an elephant never forgets?” Hero responds, “Sure, we remember everything.” That an elephant never forgets is a recurring notion throughout Deke Weaver’s ELEPHANT, and it is also one...

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Excerpt from Everything I’ve Got

Jess Dobkin

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pp. 189-192

I woke up today and thought about the world. Its land: erupting, eroding, yielding, withholding. Its waters: warm and cold, salty and fresh, rapid and still. Its inhabitants: the very few I know, the few more I will meet, the billions of others. Its activity: creation and evolution, thrust and whirl. Things...

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Commentary: The Great Refusal and the Greater Hope

Jill Dolan

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pp. 193-196

Jess Dobkin’s Everything I’ve Got is a poignant meditation on the possibilities for life and art-making in the face of an uncertain future. Moved by the untimely death of a filmmaker friend, Dobkin was prompted to write a piece that would enumerate all the ideas that remain kicking around in...

Excerpts from As the Globe Warms: An American Soap Opera in Twelve Acts

Heather Woodbury

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pp. 197-209

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Commentary: Zooglossia: The Unknown Tongues of Heather Woodbury

Ann Pellegrini

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pp. 210-216

As the Globe Warms is a serial performance piece that unfolded live in half-hour episodes over thirty-four weeks in 2010–11. Each performance was simultaneously webcast, multiplying the spaces of “the live.” The first twenty-four episodes were staged at Echo Curio, a performance space in Los....

The Others

Rachel Rosenthal

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pp. 217-238


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pp. 239-246

E-ISBN-13: 9780472029532
E-ISBN-10: 0472029533
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472051991

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Critical Performances