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Reviews387 Richard Schechner. The Future ofRitual: Writings on Culture and Performance . London: Routledge, 1993. Pp. ? + 283. $25.00. Richard Schechner begins The Future ofRitual by casually relating his commission of the most serious of scholarly offenses: engineering a false "conversion" to Hinduism (including accepting a new name and a certificate testifying to his new religious "commitment")—an action explained as follows: "were I not denied entry into temples because temples are reserved for Hindus, I would not have chosen this path" (p. 4). This act of deliberate deception implies that for him other people's rituals are merely performances by actors pretending a role for the nonce. That integrity, belief, or commitment figure little in his understanding of others' ways is sadly confirmed by such ambivalence as he displays over the matter of deceiving Indians. Oblivious to the effect of his insincerity on his guests, he is concerned only that he might somehow compromise his own religion by claiming for a brieftime "with my fingers crossed" (p. 4) to be a Hindu. An experienced specialist observer of both theater and ersatz performance, Schechner supplies us with many very interesting insights. What value these might have is dissipated by die controlling image of the book—that of a superficial voyeur who shows up with notebook and recording devices in order to "get" the most obvious features of other people's most sacred or most dramatic moments so that they can be relayed back home. As in network television, the focus is not on the ostensible subjects with all their histories and complexities, but on the commentator, who highlights his own cleverness through reinterpreting (within the severe limits of understanding he has brought with him) what little his brief time has permitted him to record. The parallel to the reporter-commentator turning the story into his saga ofbeing there is sharply etched in the way in which Schechner describes the street-as-the-stage performance in the fall ofthe Berlin wall and in the Tiananmen Square tragedy in China. At the time ofthe latter, he was actually in Shanghai (not Beijing) as a visiting artist. He notes with pride that he co-directed "the last play with 'democratic political content' performed in China before the crackdown" (p. 62), which suggests fraternal participation in China's struggle for freedom. (The book is peppered with flashbacks ofhis participation in demonstrations in the U.S., thus enhancing the image of himself as an activist.) But then, when government force seemed certain, "people hunkered down. Rice hoarding began; I changed my residence from the Shanghai Theatre Academy to a hotel to be out of the way of the army should it decide to move against the Academy, a focus of radicalism" (p. 62). There should be no blame for anyone getting out of harm's way, but it is shameless thereafter to capitalize on implied identification witii a tragedy that occurred five hundred miles away. How much inherent acuity and even goodness are lost through Schechner's inability to remove himselffrom the center ofhis own view 388Comparative Drama is epitomized in his discussion of the Yaqui Waehma (Lenten) ritual. Intuitively sensing the ambiguities ofthe syncretism between European Catholicism and indigenous customs and beliefs, Schechner helpfully recounts how the "Yaquis responded to the Jesuits' impositions by interiorizing pre-Spanish spaces" (p. 98), the key to which is a three-part spatial division with a center which moves with the participant. He realizes that space is indeed the key dimension of Yaqui interpretation: The quintessential Yaqui task is to keep open a road between the everyday world and the huya aniya, the modern and the originary, the Catholic and the Yaqui, the "civilized" and the idyllic wild. . . . While this drama is part of the overall Waehma scheme, it also exists in itself as a paradigm of the Yaqui situation, (p. Ill) Schechner's discussion of Javanese wayang is similarly enlightening. Reducing the scholars' dispute concerning the nature of the authentic wayang to a commonsense look at history, he notes that Java was subject to waves of invasion and consequent cultural mixture and that "the normative wayang so beloved today by connoisseurs both Javanese and Western ... is a rather...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 387-388
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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