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Theatre & Law. By Alan Read. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016; 96 pp. $11.00 paper, e-book available.
This addition to Palgrave's valuable Theatre & series explodes the facile links between performance and jurisprudence, far beyond the narrowly construed "drama" of legal proceedings. Drawing on legal precedents and many branches of performance studies, the author suggests that lawfulness is the most inherent and qualifying factor for humanness because reality exists only through the structures of the law. We are homo juridicus before we are homo ludens. The law makes identity concrete. Readers will find the case studies refreshing, and even those that do not surprise (The Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Romans in Britain) receive inspired analysis.
Loose Screws: Nine New Plays from Poland. Edited by Dominika Laster. New York: Seagull Books, 2015; 468 pp.; illustrations. $40.00 paper.
Each play (in largely sterling translation) explores the legacy of fractured Polish nationhood and identity through a range of compelling styles, including Teatr Ósmego Dnia's (Theatre of the Eighth Day) subversive docudrama (The Files) and Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk's eponymous political allegory. Michał Bajer's Eat the Heart of Your Enemy chronicles the day after Chopin's death in Paris: a doctor is tasked, according to the composer's wishes, with sending his heart home to Poland. The metaphor for unstable identity is intentionally obvious, but the external forces that impinge upon it are provocative—including the delicious finale. The collection will interest students of Polish arts, letters, and history, and programmers seeking to expand their repertories.
Method Acting and Its Discontents: On American Psycho-Drama. By Shonni Enelow. Evanston, IL.: Northwestern University Press, 2015; 167 pp.; $99.95 cloth, $34.95 paper, e-book available.
This clear-eyed investigation of Method acting asserts the technique is inextricably linked to US culture and the sexism, racism, exceptionalism, and psychology of the mid-20th century. By foregrounding the contradictions of the Method (such as the simultaneous belief that the text is both hallowed and insufficient), Enelow locates gaps in which she develops a feminist view of the Method's "hysteria" and makes the troubled history behind the Method and black acting productive. Her innovative reading of James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie, for instance, posits (black) political action as the opposite of staid (white) psychology. The work is also a handy primer of the history of the Method and its practitioners.
Choreographing Copyright: Race, Gender, and Intellectual Property Rights in American Dance. By Anthea Kraut. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016; 326 pp.; illustrations; $99.00 cloth, $35.00 paper, e-book available.
This rich investigation of the history and consequences of choreography copyright posits that the ability to own one's art form concerns individual subjectivity as much as economic gain. Dancers such as Loïe Fuller and Martha Graham worked for legal ownership of their choreography, thus countering the objectification risked by putting their bodies on display. Their subjectivity, however, often came at the expense of others. By suing to copyright her famous "Serpentine Dance," Fuller occluded its Indian sources. In a similar example of legal ambivalence, lawyers for the black pantomimist Johnny Hudgins downplayed the uniqueness of his [End Page 189] "Mwa Mwa" routine, and, in effect, his individuality as an artist and black man. The engaging volume should interest students of dance, American culture, gender, and Africana studies.
Reading Contemporary Performance: Theatricality Across Genres. Edited...