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editorial Theory and the Theatre Just as we were lamenting the lack of attention to debate and exploration of serious Issues in the theatre world, along come Don Shewey's discussion of PAJ 26/27, our tenth anniversary issue, in the Village Voice (April 22) and Martin Esslin's review of the same PAJ in American Theatre (May). Shewey's piece, the more knowledgeable of the two, is quite a long, detailed account of the issue by someone who has obviously followed PAJ over the years and knows how to read it, how It wants to be read. Esslin's shorter analysis, on the other hand, reflects an uninformed,albeit outsider's, viewpoint on issues in American theatre. The aim here, however, is not to dissect these separate analyses of our anniversary issue, but rather to remark on one area of commentary that both pieces share-a disdain for post-structuralist criticism. It is clear that poststructuralist criticism is a crucial issue with many people in the theatre who care about such things-journalists, critics, teachers of theatre, practitioners alike. As such, it is a complicated subject and not to be dismissed off-handedly. The jargon of this new criticism, which isone strong point of contention, can be exasperating, especially in the hands of critics who have simply jumped on the bandwagon of fashionable critical theory. Others, just as zealously, see it as a very real alternative to the psychologically-oriented theatre criticism that has been practiced historically in this country. For still others, it Is a more complex response to avant-garde theatre and new inter4 pretations of classics which partake of larger worlds than the average realistic American play to which most theatre criticism is addressed. The question is how to bring theory and, in particular, new ideas from the sciences, philosophy, and literature Into the discussion of theatre. This Is especially problematic for several reasons, first being that American theatre has no body of theory to build on (in spite of current exceptions in performance theory, but certainly not in drama); second, American theatre does not partake of an intellectual tradition; third, in the Anglo-Saxon theatre the play is revered as the hierarchical element; and fourth, separate and often conflicting realms of text and production (drama and theatre) define the art form. In addition to these factors, American theatre is becoming increasingly specialized and marginalized-it simply doesn't speak to all audiences at the same time. Indeed it has hardly any audience to speak of. Now each speciality is developing its own criticism, and even within the poststructuralist camp there are those who include psychoanalysis or feminist theory or Marxism in their chosen form of deconstruction. Writers and thinkers are increasingly drawn to these ideological and political schools of criticism which have without a doubt revitalized American scholarship and made it more politically aware. It is inevitable that they should influence writing about theatre, though admittedly years after their influence in film or literature. Though both Shewey and Esslin single out post-structuralist criticism, neither really deals with the issue of theoretical criticism except at the level of personal taste. Perhaps the time has come to have more dialogue and argument among the various schools of critical thought, and then, let us have less criticism about criticism, and more original thinking about the world of theatre, and perhaps even the world Itself. The Editors 5 ...


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