“Theorizing Performance/Performing Theory”

Sarah Garton Stanley

“Positioning the Problem”: Can theatre lay claim to being any part of the solution?

In 2012, I completed my masters in Cultural Studies at Queen’s. My area was failure and its impacts on theatrical form. Now, in the 1st year of my PhD studies, alongside a media firehose about inequity, I am compelled by changing theatrical landscapes in Canada and how companies are rearranging themselves in untried sets of non-colonial frameworks. On the heels of allegations against Soulpepper, several initiatives have been quickly set in motion. Theatre is a place rooted in conventions and a meeting place for the enacting of historic agreements. By focusing on recent “me too” related events, I am interested in examining how, If the conventions and agreements no longer apply, how will theatre understand itself? Furthermore, how can the theatre communicate solutions regarding power imbalances if it is still governed by inequities? I am a successful theatre maker and I am also a privileged white, progressive, queer, settler ally. How does my being “successful”, particularly when the theatre is trying to contend with its inequities, not become the embodiment of the problem? By focusing on three recent directing projects and referencing the fallout from Soulpepper, I will engage the untenability of both my and the theatre’s involvement with solutions.

Originally, from Montreal, Sarah now lives and studies in Kingston. An award-winning theatre director, dramaturg, creator and conversationalist, Sarah trained at École Jacques Lecoq, the Vancouver Film School and received her BA and MA from Queens University. In 2015 Sarah concluded a first cycle of dramaturgical inquiry as part English Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre’s relationship to Indigenous Performance happening in Canada. This happened in collaboration with Yvette Nolan, Corey Payette, Cole Alvis, Joseph Osawabine and countless other leaders and makers across Turtle Island. Along with co-curator Syrus Marcus Ware and other leaders and makers, Sarah recently completed work on the 2nd Cycle that culminated in the Republic of Inclusion in Ottawa in June of 2017. Work on the Cycles can be referenced here: https://nac-cna.ca/en/cycle. Sarah is the Associate Artistic Director, English Theatre and creative catalyst at SpiderWebShow, and a former AD of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Igor Rodin

“Theorization as a Creative Act”: A Contingent Thinker Paradigm

In the proposed presentation, I will reflect on theorization as a creative act commensurate with that of artistic creation, and on the challenges that any attempt at bringing theory to a more associative, personal and unpredictable field, seem to present. The discussion, thus, will unfold at the intersection of the notions of textuality ‘after the death of the author’ (Foucault, Barthes) and contingency as the universal law-beyond-laws which drives organic life and, as such, our ways of thinking.

In order to articulate the idea of what I call the contingent thinker, I will draw upon Reza Negarestani’s concept of the contingent artist as the one “who embraces the thought of contingency in her approach to those materials that constitute and determine her work and artistic production” (Negarestani 2011, 11). The contingent thinker, is subject to what I call entropy-centric thinking (as opposed to egocentric thinking), specifically, in that he allows himself to play with language (his main material), delve into its nature, and consequently, into his own essence as a product of language. It is in this sense that creativity redefines the act of theorization.

Igor Rodin is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research is located at the intersection of ecosophy, the Lacanian/post-Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and film theory. His Ph.D. thesis entitled “The Econtology of Cinema: Subjectivity, Text and Reading. From Matter to Sinthomaton” deals with the ontology of cinema via the work of theoreticians such as Jacques Lacan, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Bracha L. Ettinger, Timothy Morton and Reza Negarestani.

Dana Sidebottom

“Performed Passion”: Rasa, Affect, and the Impact of Acted Emotions

Wallace Dace defined rasa as “the original emotion transfigured by aesthetic delight” – familiar emotional responses integrated into dramatic performances to move both the audience and the performer. Richard Schechner used the concept of rasa to develop rasaboxes, a series of exercises in which actors try to fully embody emotional states by remembering the way their bodies feel and move when experiencing those emotions, and echoing those movements. The goal of rasaboxes isn’t to create genuine emotion in the actors, though this is sometimes a side effect of the exercise, but instead to create entry points for performers to access emotional heights on stage that the audience can recognize and empathize with. Conversely, affect is pure, immediate physical response to emotional input. It is raw, unfiltered feeling. There are performances that seek to tap into affect rather than rasa – religious ritual being a notable example. This paper will question how audiences respond to each type of emotional performance, and what the short and long term impacts of rasa-based performances are when compared to affective performances.

Dana Sidebottom completed her BAH at Queen’s University in Drama with a minor in Religious Studies, and is now pursuing an MA in Cultural Studies at Queen’s as well. Her research interests combine ritual studies and performance theory – specifically, Dana is interested in comparing dramatic and ritual performances in an attempt to establish the performative elements present in religious ritual that make it a more effective mode of indoctrination than dramatic performance. She is particularly interested in analyzing this question through the lens of cognitive science, affect theory, and reflexivity. In her spare time, Dana rock climbs, serves as the lead singer and lyricist for the band Maestro and the Muse, loves to cook lavish dinners for her friends, and is learning Spanish.