Remembering Theatre (seminar)

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a spring 2006 weekend seminar.

What is the impact of the emerging “antidiscipline” of performance studies on our understanding of Shakespearean drama? In what ways might some of the critical terms and practices—surrogation, restoration of behavior, performance ethnography, performative research—of performance studies help us to think through the vexed place of Shakespeare/performance studies today? With the rise of film, television, video, and digital technologies, neither “Shakespeare” nor “drama” are any longer confined to the tension between page and stage. The seminar drew on participants’ own research interests (and allowed some time in the library) to investigate how the technologies of contemporary performance, including the technologies of contemporary theater, define “Shakespeare” by defining the condition of dramatic performance. Are there distinctive epistemological modalities to contemporary live theater, and how do they relate to the epistemological structures of “performance,” let alone to film or video or digital performance? Must we understand theatrical production as inevitably residual in Raymond Williams’s sense? Or does theater continue to speak back to other technologies of performance, even those that seem to have displaced the stage? Does the antitheatrical tendency of American “performance studies” also sustain the desire to theorize performance as performativity—is this a way to move away from the tawdriness of theater? Theater is only imaginable as an art of memory; is theater now only an art of memory?

Directors: W. B. Worthen is Professor of Theater in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent works include Print and the Poetics of Modern Drama (forthcoming 2005), Shakespeare and the Force of Modern Performance (2003), and Shakespeare and the Authority of Performance (1997).

Barbara Hodgdon is Adjunct Professor in the Department of English at the University of Michigan. She is the author of The Shakespeare Trade: Performances and Appropriations (1998), among other titles, and editor of the Arden 3 Taming of the Shrew. With W. B. Worthen, she is co-editor of the Blackwell Companion to Shakespeare and Performance.