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  • EntanglementsThe Histories of TDR
  • Martin Puchner (bio)
Abstract

Focusing on four dimensions of the journal's 50-year history-objects of analysis, methods of analysis, functions the journal fulfilled with respect to the theatrical culture it engaged, and changing institutional relations and affiliations-reveals how TDR was crucially shaped by the entanglements among these dimensions.

Taking stock of TDR in 1983, on the occasion of the release of T100, Brooks McNamara mused: "How long TDR will continue to exist is anybody's guess. As little magazines go it is positively antediluvian" (1983:20; T100).1 More than 20 years later, TDR is still alive and kicking. Its 50th anniversary is a cause for celebration. The journal's 50 years of continuous publication provide us with a unique record of the profound changes in the world of theatre and performance that have taken place in the past half-century. To be sure, the record is anything but neutral. TDR has been an engaged and, at times, polemical participant in the debates about performance, and has frequently changed its own modes of engagement. Should TDR represent new and experimental theatres or rather focus its attention on changing methods of analysis such as structuralist or performance studies analysis? Should it primarily record and analyze performance practices or seek to intervene and shape these practices as well? Should it be wedded to an antiacademic and antidisciplinary stance or become the official organ of a new discipline with a tradition and canon of its own? Taking into account the complex ways in which TDR has acted as a kind of participant-observer of the theatre scene, I will offer a layered history, isolating four distinct dimensions:

  1. 1. A history of the kinds of theatres and performances represented in the pages of TDR, a history of its objects of analysis;

  2. 2. A history of the changing methods of analysis that were brought to bear on different objects of study;

  3. 3. A history of the different functions the journal wanted to fulfill with respect to the theatrical culture it engaged; and

  4. 4. A history of TDR's changing institutional relations and affiliations.

What emerges from this analysis is that the journal was crucially shaped by the conflicts among these four dimensions, conflicts about the relation between objects, methods, functions, and institutional [End Page 13] relations. The debates about these relations are ongoing, which also means that the act of presenting their histories becomes entangled in projections about the future. Such entanglements, however, are precisely the kind of thing TDR has welcomed throughout its existence, and in this sense the histories told here are undertaken very much in the spirit of the journal itself.

Objects

When read with an eye toward the kinds of theatre and performance practices featured in the pages of TDR, the history of the journal might, in a preliminary way, be divided into four epochs. These epochs roughly coincide with the tenure of its various editors, an indication, certainly, of the crucial role these editors have played in shaping the journal. But, of course, editors need authors and it is the authors who ultimately make a journal into what it is. During the first 10 years or so, under the editorship of Robert Corrigan in the 1950s and early '60s, TDR was dedicated to three areas: 1. modern drama; 2. the history of Western but also non-Western theatre; 3. engaged and political art. The interest in modernism concerned primarily the modern drama and theatre of the early 20th century, but this was a period of drama whose impact was felt well beyond World War II. The prewar classics of modern drama, including Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, Anton Chekhov, and Luigi Pirandello, were debated with respect to such questions as the possibility of modern tragedy, a question explored in formal, religious, and historical terms. Such debates also related the largely European prewar playwrights, who dominated the journal at this time, to the 20th-century drama in the United Stages, especially to Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller. But TDR, in this early phase, was not only interested in reflecting on canonical figures. It also introduced its readers to lesser known...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4715
Print ISSN
1054-2043
Pages
pp. 13-27
Launched on MUSE
2006-04-20
Open Access
No
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