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Theatre Journal 56.2 (2004) vii-viii
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What are the conditions that enable meaning production? This is a question that the five essays contained in this general issue engage from divergent directions. For each, this question raises issues of context, as the authors ask us to consider not only the contexts for the dramatic texts, the performances, and the theatre histories that they examine, but also the analytical contexts in which they situate these works. For John Bak in "'sneakin' and spyin" from Broadway to the Beltway: Cold War Masculinity, Brick, and Homosexual Existentialism," it is a matter of viewing sexuality in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof through an unconventional theoretical lens. Meanwhile, Jody Enders's examination of French medieval theatre history not only elucidates a significant historical incident, but also advocates for a reconsideration of the processes through which meaning is made and in which history is gathered. The last essay, Yong Li Lan's thought-provoking "Ong Keng Sen's Desdemona, Ugliness, and the Intercultural Performative," moves this debate over meaning-making to the contested space of intercultural performance. Thus, when read together, the purposefully divergent articles of this issue offer a dynamic, polyvocal dialogue on the conditions critical to our collective project of meaning production and interpretation as theatre scholars, artists, and historians.
As previewed above, Jody Enders's essay, "The Spectacle of the Scaffolding: Rape and the Violent Foundations of Medieval Theatre Studies," takes issue with not only an inciting moment of medieval theatre history but also the processes of medieval theatre historiography. She confronts the 1395 gang rape of one "Mrs. Coton" in Chelles, France. The perpetrators of the rape had come to Chelles to celebrate a religious holiday and to attend a Passion play. While notation of this performance has survived, the rape of Mrs. Coton has gone unmarked within the historical record. Enders examines this absence and recovers these events, restoring it as a foundational narrative of French medieval history. Through her reclamation of Mrs. Coton's history she interrogates our understanding of what constitutes medieval theatrical historiography and how the history of the medieval French theatre, as well as the practice of theatre itself, becomes implicated within the rape of Mrs. Coton.
Spencer Golub's article, "Clockwise-Counterclockwise (The Vowelless Revolution)," addresses the relationship between Russian postrevolutionary theatre practices and critical issues in Russian society. Foregrounded in his analysis is the constructivist set design by Lyubov Popova for Vsevolod Meyerhold's 1922 production of The Magnanimous Cuckold by Fernand Crommelynck. (The Vowelless Revolution of the title riffs on an aspect of the staging as well as referencing the social context.) By closely reading how the formalist staging operated on Crommelynck's tragic farce, Golub persuasively argues that Meyerhold confronted critical social and aesthetic issues through this production. Theoretically rich, this article works with concepts of Mikhail Bakhtin as well as those of Viktor Shklovsky to open up the play, the period, and the theatre of Meyerhold.
Clare Finburgh's "Unveiling the Void: The Presence of Absence in the Scenography of Jean Genet's The Screens," also considers scenography as it examines Genet's modern classic. Eschewing the typical modalities of critical examination, Finburgh instead advocates attention to the visual aesthetic in regards to this play. She argues that reading the visual is critical to determining the work's meaning; that ideas of social and psychological identity within this play are implicitly and explicitly connected to visuality; that scenography functions as a special metaphor for understanding. Finburgh reveals how a concern for the visual design directed Genet's imagining and shaping of this piece. Analyzing Genet's own stage directions for the play along with aspects of the set designs for significant productions, and reading how critical ideas are embedded in the scenography, Finburgh sheds new light on this work.
Jon Bak's essay, "'sneakin' and spyin" from Broadway to the Beltway: Cold War Masculinity, Brick, and Homosexual Existentialism," returns to notions of existentialism to [End Page vii] open up a new interpretation of Brick in Tennessee Williams's play, Cat on a Hot TinRoof. Bak explores the contested question...