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  • Trans-Global Readings: Crossing Theatrical Boundaries
  • Jennifer Parker-Starbuck (bio)
Trans-Global Readings: Crossing Theatrical Boundaries. Edited by Caridad Svich. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003; 208 pp.; illustrations. $24.95 paper.

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"Crossing boundaries" is by now a familiar and well-used phrase facilitating topics from global politics to genetic experimentation. It is a useful term and one with both utopic and dystopic possibilities. Caridad Svich's collection of interviews and essays touches both of these within the qualification of "theatrical boundaries," but also crosses the boundary of the popular anthology format through its unique collection of interviews, short essays, and email exchanges.

In four sections—Crossing Media, Crossing Culture, Crossing Language, and Crossing Bodies—Svich manages to include 26 different interviews, many of which she conducted herself over email, into a sweeping yet compact volume. Framing the interviews are essays by Michael Cerveris and Patrice Pavis, which establish many of the themes that run throughout the volume. Cerveris favors Duke Ellington's phrase "beyond categories," to stress inclusion over exclusion, while also historically contextualizing the social constructedness of traditional "high vs. low" hierarchies. Pavis's essay, translated by Joel Anderson, brings his perspective to the themes of media in theatrical practice today, beginning as a response to Robert LePage's Zulu Time, and then presenting a fascinating analysis of French dramatic playwriting's response to media.

Svich has taken care to address a variety of theatrical crossings. Traversing the four sections of the book are many recurring themes, which verge on becoming more compelling than the larger topics: the (often neglected) intersection of musicians and theatre artists, sources and methods of funding, the joys and problems of collaboration, and the intersection of performance and media forms. These areas are addressed honestly and from a variety of perspectives, reflecting the personal choices and opinions of the artists in the compilation. It is possible to sift through the volume in an almost voyeuristic fashion, prying into personal exchanges and reflections. This is felt most clearly in the interviews shared between collaborators and friends. A friendship between designer Jim Clayburgh and director/writer Matthew McGuire yields an esoteric exchange on transparency, authenticity, and a compelling analogy of actor-as-renter, all peppered with in-jokes and pleasantries toward each other's family members. Another email exchange between director/scholar/performer Steven Bottoms and performance artist Julie Laffin celebrates the trans-global creative process of their collaborative performance piece, Junior (in which they are dressed in felt costumes connected by a small, child-shaped bundle of felt). They reflect upon the juxtaposition of distance over which the piece was created—he in Glasgow and she in Chicago—and the close physicality necessary for the actual performance. These inner thoughts and details capture the personal that remains possible within trans-global exchanges. [End Page 159]

An effort was made to be inclusive in this volume, and a diverse and often marginalized (at least in print) range of artists is included, spanning the field from musicians (Peter Gabriel) to designers (Darron West), from well-known artists (Peter Sellars) to more obscure ones (Tanika Gupta). An interview with "singer, composer, movement artist, actor, writer, and director" (27) Rinde Eckert, for example, is an opportunity to experience the eloquence of his thought in print; also well worth reading is the exploration of cultural collaboration and the working process for director/artistic director Nick Philippou. Certainly there could be even more inclusion (the book is heavily U.S.- and Eurocentric) but this provocative format—global email correspondence—has the potential to yield another volume of even more diverse artists pushing further boundaries.

It is perhaps problematic to label the artists involved as "designer," or "director," as many of them cross the boundaries between fixed roles in their performance work, but these distinctions serve here as clarifying gestures within the many crossings in the volume. Occasionally, distinctions must be made to prevent a blurring when a crossing is intended. This critical stance is strongest in the section on Crossing Culture, and to a certain degree in Crossing Language. In these sections scholars and artists such as José Esteban Muñoz, Ricardo...