As a theatre journal, Theatre Topics is always responsible for general information about our profession conveyed in our pages. Therefore we must make factual corrections to Richard Hornby’s article, “The Death of Literature and History,” which appeared in the September 1995 issue. By making these corrections, we do not imply a critique of the position the author takes, but of the institutional “facts” by which Professor Hornby grounds his perception of a crisis in theatre studies at the beginning of his article.
According to Professor Hornby’s article, Stanford University’s Department of Drama recently has disappeared “into oblivion.” This is not true. Stanford continues to offer a PhD in Drama. In fact, more than twenty students are enrolled in the program. New faculty have been hired to teach drama at Stanford and several distinguished junior faculty have received tenure and promotion. Furthermore, another doctoral program consigned to “oblivion” by Hornby, this one at UC Berkeley, is actually in the process of restructuring itself. It will reemerge in the next two years under the aegis of the University’s newly-formed Center for Theatre Arts.
Professor Hornby’s article claims that the PhD program in Theatre and Drama at Indiana University has had “a lowering of priorities and a decline in prestige.” This statement on the quality of Indiana’s program is based on inaccurate information about who actually serves as its graduate director. Since 1987, Professor Roger Herzel has been and continues to be the Director of Graduate Studies in Theatre and Drama at Indiana (not Professor Thomas Postlewait). There has been no decline based on the rank of the graduate director: Professor Herzel serves in this capacity at the rank of full professor. Furthermore, it is not true that when Professor Postlewait left Indiana, he was replaced by a hire at a lower rank. Professor Ronald Wainscott was hired at the same rank of associate professor.
Professor Hornby’s article states that “[f]or a long time” the NYU Department of Performance Studies “could be written off as anomalous” because “[n]o such other departments existed, and no one was hiring its graduates.” This is not true. A number of prominent theatre scholars, who were hired after they completed their degrees at New York University, are early graduates of the NYU program in Performance Studies.
Professor Hornby’s article asserts that The Drama Review is “anti-playwright and anti-actor,” and that TDR disparages Western theatre while praising non-Western theatre. These assertions are factually wrong. In recent years TDR has published more than ten plays, including plays by Holly Hughes, Karen Finley, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, and Richard Foreman. TDR has featured many articles on Western theatre concerning new play development, Broadway theatre, and theatre companies. Finally, Acting (Re)Considered (Routledge 1994), edited by Phillip Zarrilli, is a 350-page collection consisting primarily of TDR articles on, by, and about actors and acting.
“The Death of Literature and History” originated as part of a package of four panel papers offered to us by the panel chair. Peer reviewers who encouraged publication of the article did so not necessarily because they personally agreed with the author’s position, but in the context of a group of pieces debating the topic of the relationship between acting theory and practice, and in the interests of balancing the debate by providing a forum in which differing opinions could be voiced. Instead, writers protesting the current article’s inaccuracies have refused to give the piece additional credibility by responding to it in print. I regret that the very debate for which I published these four articles has been undermined.
My editorial staff and I responded to readers’ and other writers’ comments on “The Death of Literature and History” regarding factual inaccuracies and corrected all that were noted. Unfortunately, I was mistaken in my belief that we had caught all of them. It is certainly our job, not just that of our readers, to catch factual errors of this magnitude.
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