- A Note from the Editor
In her New York Times article “Watching Postelection, So Much Feels Different,” Alexis Soloski astutely remarks that events, such as the election of President Trump, change our perceptions of art: “Wherever we fall on the political spectrum, we’re going to see our desires and fears reflected in the art we encounter. . . . This is especially true in theater, which is live and created in a compact [setting] with its audience. What spectators are thinking and feeling, celebrating and fearing, that becomes part of the performance, too.” As we developed this issue of Theatre Topics during the fall 2016 campaign to postelection spring 2017, several authors saw added significance in their work in the Trump era and made revisions accordingly. Regardless of whether the writers explicitly refer to politics or not, however, I imagine that our readers will bring to these essays their own feelings of frustration, inspiration, optimism, or fear in this heightened political landscape—irrespective of nationality or affiliation.
The opening essay by Kate Bredeson addresses perhaps the paramount issue that affects us all: environmental disaster as a result of climate change. Her “Staging the Cascadia Earthquake before It Happens: Faultline Ensemble’s Holding onto the Sky as Community Health and Theatre Manifesto” traces the origins of the theatre company Faultline Ensemble, which uniquely combines performance with health-care activism. Its recent play Holding onto the Sky imagines life in Portland, Oregon, after the predicted Cascadia earthquake actually hits. As the play’s title implies, when the ground opens up and buildings crumble, the only thing left to hold onto will be the sky. Rather than rely upon government agencies, Faultline teaches audience members how to take care of one another. Bredeson’s essay feels especially timely: in April, Marches for Science were held worldwide in response to concerns that science has become “a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence” that our environment is in peril (March for Science). But as Bredeson adeptly argues, Faultline also uses the impending earthquake as an opportunity to discuss other national and local crises, such as economic inequality, racism, and gentrification.
Asif Majid and Rob Jansen’s “Encountering Generation (Wh)Y: Building Bridges through Student-driven, Immersive, Interactive, and Technology-based Devising” depicts a multimedia performance devised by Georgetown students based on year-long dialogues with young people from nineteen countries. In their effort to create community and expand cultural understanding, particularly toward people from predominantly Muslim countries, the project directors relied upon interactions among participants via technology. They then used various theatrical languages—video, dance, storytelling, and so on—to create an immersive and interactive performance on campus. As the writers point out, this project began with the idea of building bridges, most especially between Muslims and non-Muslims amid concerns over global terrorism and turmoil (for example, the war in Syria). However, their desire to break down barriers between the self and Other has taken on new meaning. As I write this note, the US Court of Appeals is debating President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from six predominantly Muslim countries.
Albeit with a different mandate, William Lewis and Sarah Johnson similarly affirm the positive uses of technology in their essay “Theatrical Reception and the Formation of Twenty-first-Century Perception: A Case Study for the iGeneration.” As with several of the pieces in this issue, Lewis and Johnson seek to draw in and retain audiences who might not otherwise attend the theatre. Acknowledging the pervasiveness of social connections made through technology, they suggest that theatre [End Page xi] must take advantage of, rather than resist, this reality. Using their adaptation of Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck at the University of Colorado Boulder as a case study, they discuss the potential benefits of incorporating multiple forms of communicative technology into productions as a means of increasing audience engagement.
The next two essays address the challenge of changing students’ attitudes and behavior. The first, Charlotte McIvor’s “Exploring and Sharing Strategies for Staging Affirmative Sexual Consent: 100 Shades of Grey and Beyond” explores how Brechtian and feminist theatre practices can be used to teach affirmative sexual consent. For...