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  • Editorial:Positioning/Performance
  • Kimberley McLeod

Part of the Canadian Theatre Review mandate states that the publication "is committed to … bridging the divide between artists and critics." Two ways that CTR "[bridges] the divide" are artist interviews and critical reviews of artistic work—both forms that appear in this Views and Reviews section. While these formats can be useful modes through which to enmesh theory, reflection, and practice, they also demand thoughtful positioning from authors, who often write about others' artistic processes and for audiences not already familiar with the work under discussion. Starting from the context of the classroom, Diana Taylor outlines some of the inherent challenges that come up when discussing and writing about performance. She notes that even when a class views the same example, "I can assume no shared reference or starting point with students.… How do we set the stage, study the 'live,' and communicate our theories in ways such that others can follow the argument and judge for themselves? How do scholars 'frame' the object of analysis? How do they position the critical embodied 'I' who is both part of the event, and yet frames it?" (204).

The challenge of framing work and positioning the researcher within critical analysis exists even in approaches that actively turn away from what the late performance ethnographer Dwight Conquergood calls the "knowing that" and "knowing about" of traditional academic discourse (146). Naila Keleta-Mae points out a particular problem in the context of autoethnography—as a form of artistic research it remains open to critical analysis from those outside it, and, as such, "[a]ttempts at criticism can become more tenuous when the positionalities of the author and critic are widely different" (317–318). As theatre is an inherently collaborative art, another challenge lies in navigating how to frame collaborations within critical writing.

This Views and Reviews section addresses issues around positionality in performance creation and reception. The section opens with what on the surface appears to be an event report by Seika Boye on Configurations in Motion: Performance Curation and Communities of Colour. However, as Boye notes, reporting on the event is "in conflict with the way I have carried the meeting with me." As Co-Curator of Configurations in Motion—which was held in Montreal in June 2017—Boye brought together a group of Indigenous, Black, and curators of colour to meet, discuss their processes, and work with one another. While contributing an article about the event to CTR makes public this labour, Boye grapples with the question of what should be shared in this public forum and what should be left out—held by those who attended the event together. As part of this contribution, Boye shares space with Jane Gabriels, Director of the Bronx-based arts organization Pepatian, whom Boye interviews in part to show the "labour that led to the concept of Configurations."

Next, Shira Schwartz Greenberg interviews Stephen Orlov and Samah Sabawi, co-editors of Double Exposure: Plays of the Jewish and Palestinian Diasporas. This play anthology consists of works by playwrights of Jewish and Palestinian descent, who address the Israeli—Palestinian conflict while living outside of the conflict zone. In their interview with Greenberg, Orlov and Sabawi discuss the challenges of working from this position, which include implicit biases against diasporic works discussing the Israeli—Palestinian conflict—or, as Orlov puts it, the argument "that we don't have the right, reason, or ability to address the occupation because we're not in the heat of battle." Orlov and Sabawi confront such assumptions and argue for more coverage of what Sabawi considers "the human story that we are missing out on." Like Boye and Gabriels, they also address the joys and challenges of collaboration, which in this case took place across geographical spaces and between those of Jewish and Palestinian descent.

The final two pieces shift discussions around positionality from the creation of work to its reception. Signy Lynch considers how mainstream theatre criticism—which tends to be dominated by writers coming from positions of privilege—often fails to account for aesthetic and cultural difference. In her article, Lynch uses Jacques Rancière's concept of the "ignorant schoolmaster"—which pivots away...


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pp. 71-72
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