- Editor’s Note
How do we read a collection of essays when an editor does not guide us toward a specific interpretation, nor offer clarification about why the essays were selected for a journal issue? Do we seek a self-initiated route of reading them as a “montage,” the result of an exciting “collision and collusion among approaches” as this journal’s co-founder, John Gronbeck-Tedesco, has written?1 Or do we prefer an editor’s prompt toward thematic cohesion or theoretical correspondences, and thereby develop an active relationship to the texts? It has not been routine practice for JDTC editors to direct readers on how to interpret the articles compiled in each issue. As the new editor, however, I suggest that the performative act of how we receive an author’s ideas extends into the realm of theatre and spectatorship. This resonates with what Hans-Thies Lehmann has proposed about postdramatic theatre, wherein spectators become coproducers of a performance text. Lehmann describes the theatre performance as one that “turns behaviour onstage and in the auditorium into a joint text, a ‘text’ even if there is no spoken dialogue on stage or between actors and audience.”2
In the following pages, we feature authors who invite us to consider the relationships of text and language to performance, production, and theatre space. Each author moves beyond a focus on the dramatic text to explicate the materiality of the performance text, which includes the spectator. George Pate looks past Lehmann’s “joint text” to articulate a paradigm that he calls “postdramatic production practice,” drawing attention to the political stakes of contemporary production practices. Is postdramatic performance an aesthetic style, a mode of production, or both? Mehdi Ghasemi examines Suzan-Lori Parks’s Venus, a postmodern play, he contends, marked by its narrative fragmentation and inter/meta/para-textuality. The author suggests that Parks’s performance text embodies potential action through its use of language (and lack thereof), ultimately creating in spectators a participatory experience.3
Lehmann cautions us that his use of postdramatic may function beyond drama, but never negates it. He makes clear that the structural core of traditional drama is contained in postdramatic theatre practice: “‘After’ drama means that it lives on as a structure—however weakened and exhausted—of the ‘normal’ theatre: as an expression of large parts of its audience, as a foundation for many of its means of representation, as a quasi-automatically working norm of its drama-turgy.”4 In this way, the authors represented here explore the performative qualities of the dramatic text, pointing toward potential behavior onstage and in the auditorium or public sphere. Susan Russell, for example, moves beyond established readings of Oskar Kokoschka’s proto-expressionist “Murderer Hope of Women” as a misogynist play to consider the role of the play’s chorus and its link to audience. Her gender-neutral reinterpretation offers an alternative—and pacifist—reading supported by [End Page vi] the philosophical ideas of Kokoschka’s contemporary, Johann Jakob Bachofen. Joel Benabu examines how playwriting strategies by Shakespeare prompt spectator engagement with the performance text. By tracing structural “strands of action” in the opening sequences of Romeo and Juliet and The Merry Wives of Windsor, the author relates sequences of action to the process by which an Elizabethan audience may have immersed itself in the performance, while projecting expectations about the ensuing action. Elizabeth Coen too draws us to audience response: she shows how the symbols of stage iconography in an opera performance in seventeenth century Vienna reflected the public sphere, suggesting more about cultural and political diplomacy than about a performance for its own sake. Coen calls attention to the simultaneity of theatre signs and signals exchanged through performance, intelligible across cultures. In this case, the performance text clearly communicated to audiences the military supremacy of Emperor Leopold I over the Ottoman Turks.
I turn once more to Lehmann who in describing postdramatic theatre evokes the “collectively breathed air of that space in which the performing and the spectating take place.”5 In the space of the following pages, I invite you as coproducers to engage with the texts you receive and reflect upon their...