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Dark Matter

Invisibility in Drama, Theater, and Performance

Andrew Sofer

Publication Year: 2013

Dark Matter maps the invisible dimension of theater whose effects are felt everywhere in performance. Examining phenomena such as hallucination, offstage character, offstage action, sexuality, masking, technology, and trauma, Andrew Sofer engagingly illuminates the invisible in different periods of postclassical western theater and drama. He reveals how the invisible continually structures and focuses an audience’s theatrical experience, whether it’s black magic in Doctor Faustus, offstage sex in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, masked women in The Rover, self-consuming bodies in Suddenly Last Summer, or surveillance technology in The Archbishop’s Ceiling. Each discussion pinpoints new and striking facets of drama and performance that escape sight. Taken together, Sofer’s lively case studies illuminate how dark matter is woven into the very fabric of theatrical representation. Written in an accessible style and grounded in theater studies but interdisciplinary by design, Dark Matter will appeal to theater and performance scholars, literary critics, students, and theater practitioners, particularly playwrights and directors.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Theater: Theory/Text/Performance


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-9

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pp. ix-x

I have benefited from the help and advice of many friends and colleagues in pursuing this project. Among them are Alan Ackerman, Wendy Arons, Emma Katherine Atwood, Philip Auslander, David Bevington, Rhonda Blair, John Russell Brown, Marvin Carlson, William Carroll, Mary Crane, Scott Cummings, J. K. Curry, Tracy Davis, Jody Enders, Penny Farfan, ...


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pp. xi-xii

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Dark Matter: An Introduction

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pp. 1-15

At the heart of English medieval liturgical drama lies the Visit to the Sep-ulchre by the three Marys on Easter morning, with its revelation of Jesus? Resurrection at the empty tomb. Various versions survive, but all incor-porate the famous Quem quaeritis (Whom do you seek?) trope, originally sung in tenth- century monastic churches as part of the Easter service. The ...

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1. How to Do Things with Demons: Conjuring Performatives in Doctor Faustus

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pp. 16-37

I can?t fix the roof by saying ?I fix the roof? and I can?t fry an What did it mean for an Elizabethan actor to perform black magic on the early modern stage? When Edward Alleyn stepped onstage as Faustus, dressed in a white surplice and cross and carrying his magical book, the air was charged with dangerous electricity.1 True, Alleyn was clearly an ac-...

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2. Quantum Mechanicals: Desiring Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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pp. 38-65

It is easy to get lost in A Midsummer Night?s Dream. Like most of Shake-speare?s comedies, the Dream concerns misprision: a misunderstanding in which one thing is taken for another.1 A quartet of lovers blunders around a threatening wood; a troupe of actors misplaces its star; Bottom the weaver temporarily loses his head; Puck, alias Robin Goodfellow, lays the ...

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3. Unmasking Women: The Rover and Sexual Signification on the Restoration Stage

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pp. 66-89

In Aphra Behn?s popular Restoration comedy The Rover (1677), set in Na-ples at Carnival time during the English interregnum, three spirited young Spanish women decide to evade the control of their noble family and rove the streets in masquerade and vizard. The heroines seek romance with some English cavaliers, followers of the banished Prince Charles, who are ...

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4. Unbecoming Acts: Power, Performance, and the Self-Consuming Body in Tennessee Williams’s Suddenly Last Summer

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pp. 90-103

It?s a simple but hugely effective theatrical conceit, this idea Suddenly Last Summer is unique in the Williams canon in that its protago-nist is dark matter. The poet Sebastian Venable dies before the action takes place; he is at once a blank text, like the empty pages of the notebook his mother Violet brandishes in triumphant fury as proof of his inability to ...

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5. Bugs in the Mind: The Archbishop’s Ceiling and Arthur Miller’s Prismatic Drama

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pp. 104-116

Written eight years since his last Broadway hit, and from a place of per-sonal crisis in relation to his art, The Archbishop?s Ceiling (1977) marks a significant departure in Arthur Miller?s drama.1 Ever since his first big suc-cess, All My Sons (1947), Miller had chronicled the American self under pressure, a pressure manifested as the past catching up with the present ...

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6. Invisible Wounds: Rehearsing Trauma on the Contemporary Stage

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pp. 117-145

In Adam and Adrienne Kennedy?s nightmarish memory play Sleep De-privation Chamber (1996), the brutal beating of a young black man by a white policeman repeats itself over and over, both in narrative and before our eyes. These remorseless loops seem out of the conscious control of the narrating characters that conjure them into being. Interspersed with the ...


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pp. 147-199


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pp. 201-203


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pp. 205-229

E-ISBN-13: 9780472029686
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472052042

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Theater: Theory/Text/Performance