- A Note from the Editor
The nine essayists featured in this issue of Theatre Topics tackle the complex and varied subject of "Re-imagining History in the Theatre Arts Curriculum." As such, each of the authors engages with the theories and practices of history and historical investigation as related to curriculum and pedagogical practice in theatre arts. While some speak to issues specific to the theatre history course proper, others reflect on the status of historical investigation in wider educational contexts. The stylistic approaches of the essays included here also vary in range, from what might well be described as "traditional" scholarly ones to others that recall the urgency of the manifesto or that evoke the format and tone of the editorial. Notwithstanding this range of approaches and subject matter, the nine authors whose work is featured herein complement one another and help illustrate the spread of historical thinking in our programs and the variety of efforts being employed to foster a heightened sense of historical awareness within the theatre arts curriculum.
This issue opens with a fine essay, "Remapping Theatre History," by Steve Tillis. Offering a clear perspective on why we should engage in the process of re-imagining, Tillis endeavors to demonstrate the presence of a lingering tradition in theatre history studies that continues to privilege West over East and tacitly (if not overtly) supports what he terms the "Standard Western Approach." His opening analogy, regarding the politics and subjective nature of map-making, extends as metaphor throughout the essay and effectively illustrates the continuing force of progressivism and Eurocentric views on our curricular structures and pedagogical practices. What is perhaps most illuminating in this piece are his concluding remarks on how we as teachers and scholars can work to promulgate change.
The three essays that follow all began as papers presented at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) conference this past August to a panel and roundtable discussion focusing on the same theme as this special issue. The three authors address how history and historical thinking are, or should be, manifest in several pedagogical contexts. In her thoughtful piece "Yes, No, Maybe: A Position Statement from Midstream," Dorothy Chansky offers a moving rumination on where she is, and where we are, right now (namely, in "midstream" and "on shifting ground") in relation to the study and teaching of theatre history. Her reflections, which are simultaneously hopeful and discouraging as well as personal and professional, highlight many of the dilemmas and challenges familiar to those who teach theatre history. Moving in a different direction, Ronald Wainscott, in "First Contact—Introductory Courses," addresses the issue of "first contact," or, more specifically, the importance of integrating history into the organizational fiber and pedagogical practices of introduction to theatre courses. His call for the inclusion of the "history of collaboration" and the "history of audiences" in such contexts is especially illuminating. The third piece drawn from the ATHE panel considers the appropriate place of history in the directing studio. In "History in the Directing Curriculum: Major Directors, Theory and Practice," James Peck first identifies the divide that has historically separated the teaching of history from the teaching of "art-making," and then in turn suggests approaches that might help span this thorny division that continues to haunt our contemporary contexts.
The author of the next essay, "Theatre Squared: Theatre History in the Age of Media," takes us outside the confines of a particular classroom setting to consider both the expansive influence of recording technology on the writing, watching, and teaching of theatre, and the extraordinary effects such technology has on the study of theatre history. Throughout her piece, Sarah Bay-Cheng charts a [End Page vi] critical methodology for understanding and evaluating "mediated theatre," and suggests some practical ways of including a methodology such as hers in a variety of scholarly and pedagogical contexts.
The two pieces that follow are equally thought-provoking. The first asks us to reconsider how we think about and teach the history of a marginalized genre and practice (namely, musical theatre); the second calls our attention to the need to recognize the often-ignored history of an entire discipline (namely, lighting design...