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  • Afterword
  • Sharon O'Dair

I have a confession: I do not like to camp. Do not like to put up a tent, inflate the Thermarest, and unroll the sleeping bag. Especially do not like the trudge to the bathroom. In my adult life, I have camped perhaps seven nights, not consecutively. After those nights, I hoped to—and did—reward myself at a hotel, the most expensive one I could afford, which at that time, about 25 years ago, was not expensive enough. Camping is uncomfortable. And so, too, if the essays here are to be believed, is outdoor Shakespeare, all over the globe. In New Brunswick, writes Rebecca Salazar, actors and spectators endure "semi-regular drizzles." They fend off "swarms of mosquitoes . . . constantly" (453). The show she takes in requires from (at least some) audiences "long periods of sitting and standing . . . and a significant amount of hiking in the dark" (454). In Montana in the summer of 2017, temperatures sometimes topped 100F as Montana Shakespeare in the Parks toured the state, performing Macbeth and George Bernard Shaw's You Never Can Tell, and actors and spectators could not escape smoke from North American wildfires, "dozens of fires burning to the north and west" (Minton 443). In Australia, at La Trobe University, Rob Conkie mounted a student production of King Lear; it was "an outdoor, winter, promenade," performed at night (391). "The cold, of course, . . . reliably assert[ed] itself." And despite Conkie's best hopes and no doubt conjurings, "the rain would not behave" (403). In the United Kingdom, Evelyn O'Malley describes a theatrical oddity—"the Willow Globe, a living willow theater modelled on the reconstructed Shakespeare's Globe in London. Planted on a working, organic farm in mid-Wales, the theater is powered by solar panels and a wind turbine" (409). There, as elsewhere in the UK, spectators practice the art of "weathering" a performance: audiences tote "waterproofs, flasks, sunscreen, mosquito spray, hay fever tablets, down-filled jackets, camping [End Page 501] chairs, bin bags, hats, scarves, blankets, and hot water bottles . . . material items designed to protect the body from extreme temperatures, moisture, pollen, insect attack, and general discomfort" (412).

In her essay for this special issue, "Performing Death as an Eco-Political Concern in Shakespeare's King Lear and Sarah Kane's Blasted," Jennifer Hamilton cites the work of Cheryl Lousley, who suggests that ecocriticism's representational challenge is "not the representation of nature, but the politicization of environment" (156). Building on this insight, Hamilton offers that "environmental issues not only catalyse a crisis of representation, but also of interpretation" (488). In this cluster of essays, politicization and interpretation are key and range widely, although, thankfully, no one really, truly thinks "general discomfort" watching a play does the trick of politicization. (No doubt this is partly because audiences at outdoor Shakespeare have long, even always, been uncomfortable—"once more unto the breach, dear friends." And these are audiences—dear friends—who commit to such venues again and again, often because they are the venues to which they have access; outdoor Shakespeare, including outdoor amateur Shakespeare, serves the majority of audiences across the globe.) Though her essay focuses on Dominic Dromgoole's production of Love's Labour's Lost in 2009 at Shakespeare's Globe, itself the epitome of outdoor Shakespeare but not of general discomfort, Miriam Kammer offers an ecofeminist and thus political reading of the text, with special concern for Shakespeare's placement of the female characters in an outdoor space rather than a domestic one. Hamilton's essay eschews the performance concerns of the other essays included here, offering a fascinating and compelling theoretical challenge to her readers: western attitudes toward death, pertinently realized in King Lear and in Sarah Kane's Blasted, enable sympathy for "even the most horrific figures as they grow weak"; but Hamilton wonders whether this sympathy is justified. For Hamilton, it is not: this is sympathy that does not indicate "an innate moral obligation, but a wider—explicitly western—cultural aversion to opening the self to death and a deep-seated anxiety about death in the first place" (491). Or, as "recovering environmentalist" Paul Kingsnorth succinctly puts it, in a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1427
Print ISSN
0748-2558
Pages
pp. 501-510
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-31
Open Access
No
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