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Introduction

From: Theatre Symposium
Volume 21, 2013
pp. 5-6 | 10.1353/tsy.2013.0010

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The title of this volume is a bit of a compromise. Many, some with good reason, are rather repulsed by the word "religion." Visions of hidden agendas, of proselytizers and fundamentalists of various stripes, loom. "Spirituality" was briefly considered and quickly discarded. In the end, in lieu of another word, "ritual" was added to broaden the call. Whether or not theatre arose from ritual or religion or both, from prehistory to the present there have been clear and vital connections among the three.

My own comingling of religion and theatre has been both vocational and avocational. Because I majored in theatre in college, I was oft en called upon to "put a little skit together" for various church occasions as a student and into my adulthood. For many years, I've been associated with Christians in Theatre Arts (CITA), an organization that has greatly encouraged my scholarship, theatrical practice, and faith. And I'm currently the chair of the Religion and Theatre Committee for SETC and the head of the Drama & Christian Ministry Program at Campbell University, where I continue to write and direct plays in which religion, or ritual, or faith is enacted on the stage. The topic for my second volume as editor of Theatre Symposium flowed naturally from my own scholarship and creative work.

I was delighted that Dr. Tom F. Driver agreed to serve as our keynote speaker and conference respondent. His lifetime of work exactly coincides with our threefold focus. His address on the opening night of the conference is printed in this volume. We all sat enthralled; several attendees told me that his was the best keynote address they'd ever heard. Dr. Driver graciously attended all the sessions and held a conference response and discussion at the end of the event.

As I hoped, our topic drew a wide variety of scholars. Of course, not every paper can be published (for a variety of reasons), but the presented papers not published here deserve some mention. Bradley Stephenson (University of Missouri-Columbia) drew on his experiences as a fraternity pledge to discuss initiation rituals; Chris Peck (Baylor University) presented a case study about a conservative audience response to a controversial play; Joan Lazarus (University of Texas-Austin) spoke on religion and spirituality in secondary theatre education; Eric Kildow (Coastal Carolina Community College) drew parallels between Puritan and Platonic anti-theatrical prejudice; Karen Polit (University of Heidelberg) spoke on her fieldwork with tribal ritual in the Himalayas; Amanda Sweeney (University of Chicago) explored how religion dramatizes the divine; and Erin Hopkins (New York University) and Brenna Nicely (University of Central Florida) presented separately on historical Christmas pageants.

Several presenters at this year's conference included performance as part of their presentation. In particular, Greg Carr (whose paper is printed here) enacted the call-and-response and "whoops" of the traditional black preacher that his paper discussed, greatly enhancing the audience's understanding. Another honored guest, Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) president Dr. William Doan, performed as well; excerpts of Bill's performances are printed at the end of this volume.

I must give special thanks to Andy Belser of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, our host school. Andy was immensely helpful from the moment I approached him about having the conference at Wilmington. Thanks also go to former editors Phil Hill, J. K. Curry, and Scott Phillips for all their help and support; former editor Paul Castagno of UNC-W, who was my graduate advisor at the University of Alabama and very supportive of this conference; Betsey Baun, Quiana Clark-Roland, and all the staff at the SETC central office for their support; Dan Waterman, Debbie Upton, Crissie Johnson, and the staff of the University of Alabama Press; Trey Morehouse, our tireless student worker who drove us all over Wilmington; Becky Jurius, my student assistant at Campbell University; Ran Whitley, Georgia Martin, and all my supportive colleagues at Campbell; and, most importantly, Kelley, Peter, and Betsy Wallace. My family has been almost unbelievably supportive of all the effort it has taken to organize two conferences and get two volumes to press. My thanks—and all my love—go to them.

Copyright © 2013...


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