Good afternoon! My name is Margaux Delaney, and welcome to this recap of the colloquy session Embedded Performance Studies Scholars.
Regina Buccola leads the colloquy. Present for this session are Hailey Bachrach, Mandy Hughes, Kim Carrell, Laura Cole, and Paul Menzer.
Regina begins with some background about how she came to this topic. She has worked for the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Shakespeare Project of Chicago with education, pre-show lectures, and dramaturgy. Because of this work, she has had access to design meetings and rehearsals, which Regina has incorporated into her scholarship. She brings up the term “confluence” rather than “conflict” of interest––you’re peripheral, partially submerged in the work, but not immediately involved.
Kim talks about his role as the performer kicking his way into the scholarship, rather than necessarily an embedded scholar. In the sciences, he says, practice and research go hand and hand––why isn’t this the case with the humanities?
Hailey notes that she thinks that being in an artistic role is different from being an embedded scholar. Directors have an authoritative role, whereas scholars can’t set the research agenda.
Regina explains her rule ABD––”always be disclosing.” And is money a factor? People tend to assume that if you’re collecting a paycheck, it’s a bond of loyalty––you can’t be objective if they’re paying you.
I ask how everyone feels about the impulse for embedded scholars to be hyper-critical to prove their objectivity. Regina says that she has navigated this problem by focusing on what she finds interesting and what works––she doesn’t have an impulse to write about what she would be critical of.
Regina asks: in a world where we can travel easily, and where digital performance is accessible, what does regional theater mean? People can spectate from all over the place!
Hailey says that comment resonates with her––she felt that an article that the colloquy read assumed that the theater done was regional/grassroots rather than “big” theater.
Paul arrives, and Regina asks what he thinks of the impulse of being hypercritical of the institution with which you’ve been involved. He describes the navigation between writing scathing criticism and laudatory love-letters.
Laura says she has never trusted a scholarly review of a play. She asks Regina for a definition of being “embedded.” Regina talks about the embedded scholar’s unique position of insight. Laura talks about her involvement with the Shakespeare Theater Association and a discussion she had there about collaborating with scholars. She talks about using scholarship to make theater more accessible, rigorous, and entertaining.
Kim says that he and Laura are not only on the same page but writing the same paragraph. He talks about disclosing to his actors in rehearsal that he has a research question but no end goal in mind. He talks about serving underserved populations and describes experiences with rehearsing or performing in park spaces.
Regina discusses her experiences with theater education. What does it mean to be the “scholar” talking to the “teacher”? We’re all educators!
At this point, I missed part of the discussion because I was looking to relocate the session due to construction noise from the street!
But we’re back with Regina talking about “edutainment”––combining education and entertainment, such as preshow talks. She thinks it captures the positionality of being the educator who’s attached to theater.
Paul Menzer says that Patrick Spottiswoode uses “pracademic”––practitioner/academic. These neologisms are so ugly that it re-performs the clash between these concepts, and it recapitulates that they don’t belong together.
Hailey takes this up––she wonders if there isn’t actually a place for them to meet. Laura and Kim think there is! Paul talks about his experience with the Mary Baldwin program trying to yoke the two together and consciously theorizing about the places of friction.
Kim thinks this goes back to “always be disclosing.” There has to be disclosure with yourself, where you acknowledge they won’t always mesh. He cites Nora Williams’s writing about her project Measure Still for Measure.
Regina thinks about “barely controlled experiments” and using theaters or rehearsal rooms as laboratories, mentioning Lia’s paper in the panel earlier this afternoon.
Hailey mentions discomfort over some of these experiments––for example, what if someone responds “no” to Shylock’s question “Hath not a Jew eyes?”
Paul divides “experiment” from “experimental”––one has repeated, reproducible results, the other doesn’t.
Laura talks about not being able to deny a response to direct address. She does think skill and management of certain parts of plays can be predictable or able to be tested.
Paul talks about being shocked by the student’s misogynistic and violent response in King Lear––”Kill them both and take their money.” I share a second-hand anecdote about a Globe production where Shylock was hissed off the stage, and Paul cites an article about people performing regressive political attitudes at original practices productions.
Laura shares an experience of an actor playing Audrey in As You Like It going along with some misogynistic jokes/stage business and performing her okayness with it to the audience.
Hailey speculates what the reverse situation might look like––how do we interrogate or address coercive behavior in rehearsals? How do we not alienate the people we’ve collaborated with?
Mandy raises the problem that you can never see every performance and know the variations each time. Regina’s experience is different since, as a dramaturg, she’s in every rehearsal and at every performance.
Regina raises something Paul wrote about, which is the treatment of individual performance events as texts. Productions are new and dynamic, which means that there’s something new to be said about these texts that have been talked about for centuries! Regina cites an article about being an embedded critic that disavowed Oscar Wilde’s identification of the critic as artist––Regina asks why not? Why shouldn’t criticism be art?
Laura thinks that thinking about the individual performance text as art is a lovely way of treating ephemera.
Regina talks about the “improv contract”––if you’re going to pose a question, you have to take what you get back. Picking up on Lara’s idea of “ephemera,” she discusses the expansion of “performance history” sections in introductions to Shakespeare.
I mention my experience working on the ASC’s digital archives. Regina talks about asking theater companies for photos of specific moments, and her disappointment when they don’t archive these striking theatrical moments. Hailey, Laura, and I share examples of the precariousness of theatrical archives.
Kim talks about his dramaturg who produces a “jackdaw” with him––a pamphlet that raises all sorts of questions about the play. People end up donating a lot of money when they take these books!
Regina discusses the ASC/Mary Baldwin model––Hailey mentions that a collaboration between OSF and SOU didn’t work out.
We’re out of time! Regina loops a couple of points back together by saying that what she sees as an embedded performance studies scholar is that there’s a real hunger for theater education. It speaks to the dearth of humanities funding, as well as the importance of these conversations and this work.