This essay argues that Soulforce, one of the largest organizations working for the inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people in society and in Christian churches, is complicit with evangelical rhetoric. By accepting the choice vs. nonchoice binary as the only option for "homosexual" experience, Soulforce essentializes "homosexual" identity. Using the methods of textual analysis and rhetorical criticism, this essay extends Mark Lawrence McPhail's notions of complicity and coherence, read through queer theory, in order to analyze Soulforce's rhetoric. Through blindly accepting that sexuality is either chosen or not, Soulforce allows evangelicals to set the parameters for discussions on sexuality. Queer theory helps to destabilize this binary opposition, and McPhail provides a broad lens with which to understand the rhetoric. This essay concludes that elements of queer theory may help to reveal ways Soulforce can move from complicity to coherence.
This essay posits performative writing as a challenge to the historically situated debate between the ontology of human presence and reproductive technologies. Drawing upon genealogy and narrative theory, I argue that Jack Kerouac's Visions of Cody provides a provocative illustration for performance practitioners seeking to negotiate this dialectic, and engage instead in an "aesthetic of the unfinished." By calling upon the historicity of performative writing as a contested site for the doing of the voice and body, I argue that we can open the scope for theorizing live representation.
When the display of documentary images attenuates solo performance, photography and other documentary media do not simply supply historical evidence; they tell stories about, interpret, and delimit horizons of interpretation, rather than “prove” it. The pageantry of archival recorded images in documentary performance supplies a silent if also resounding kind of intermedia genre that plays in relationship to the staged monologues of solo performance. In a project that aims for “forgiveness, redemption, and healing,” Roger Guenveur Smith's first explicitly autobiographical work in documentary solo performance, Juan and John, revisits the televised 22 August 1965 baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, when Juan Marichal “clashed” with John Roseboro. The projection of photographs and other media recordings throughout the performance fix Smith's meditations about the game, and the 1960s more broadly, as both fact and fiction, in a coming-of-age “memoir” that is punctuated by the rhetorical repetitions of the image. While breaking in and out of remembrance's affective repertoires offers a technique for resistance to documentary and other reinscriptions of historical violences, the serial and sequential intermedia cuts bespeak latent images of historical pasts, at once the burned and burning instruments for and bearers of memory.
This essay discusses the prerace performances of the athletes competing in the Men's 100-meter final at the London 2012 Olympic Games as distinct, critical expressions of black masculinity. While these introductions can be viewed as responses to the palimpsestic “critical memory” of this Olympic event, they also deconstruct representations that commodify and dehumanize black athletes as image/brand. Through their conscious performativity, each athlete blurs global depictions of black masculinity with the reality of blackness to create complex statements of the differences within. The reflexivity of the performers in playing off and with the gaze of the camera implicates the audience in the deception of Olympic exceptionalism, reclaiming the realness of these eight young men.
This essay examines how three overarching narratives—decline, optimization, and transformation—influence Liz Young's embodied performance of age as a contestant on The Biggest Loser and fuel fan-based discourse surrounding her performance. Throughout the competition, Liz portrays herself as old, thereby reinforcing society's long-standing narrative of decline while rejecting contemporary narratives of optimization and transformation. In so doing, she angers loyal viewers who champion the show's inherent story of hope in ways that both reject and reinforce societal ageism. These competing constructions on both the show and related fan-based message boards ultimately constitute prevailing expectations for individuals to act their age—with pronounced implications for when they seemingly do or do not.
This essay explores two primary questions. (1) Can there be a Foucauldian autoethnography? (2) How might a Foucault-driven autoethnography detail my experiences in the psychiatric–industrial complex? Pulling largely from Michel Foucault's earliest work History of Madness, I look at how interconnected organizations have rendered homosexuality as senseless, used a “psychiatrization of perverse pleasure” to rationalize this senselessness, and relied on expensive psychoanalysis and pharmaceuticals to invoke the madness they claim to cure.
Chris McRae's Miles Away from “The Cool” beautifully traverses complex mappings of place, time, memory, music, and the politics of representation. Performing powerful distillations of research and nuanced readings of Miles Davis's autobiography and music while weaving his own and Davis's life stories together, McRae urges us to “consider the spaces between the destinations, the stories, the music. You've got to listen.” Listening to these absences, I unearth my own musical citations by re/membering my lost uncle who first introduced me to life-changing music, and who taught me to listen closely, love performance, and engage deeply with artists and audiences.
This artist's statement and excerpts from the performance script present an autobiographical reading of the music and autobiography of the trumpet player Miles Davis. The performance considers questions about dialogic performance, ethics, location, pedagogy, and the role of the student as listener. The responses to this performance consider the ethical implications of the performance, the generative possibilities of Davis's stories and music, and the pedagogical value of the stories about and music of Davis.
The highly competitive quest for a tenure-track position in performance studies puts junior faculty in high-stakes situations. This narrative essay is the first in a three-part story about Barbie and The Martha—two graduate school friends who are navigating the tenuous waters of their first full-time teaching positions. The author employs self-referential academic humor to explore the challenges new faculty face in securing and maintaining their jobs and academic integrity.
Through a critical reading of the mass mediated discourse that arose in the wake of the John/Joan or "twins" case, this analysis investigates contemporary iterations of gender performativity, gendered morals and feminism. The author calls for a complication of gender culture and feminism in the public sphere. This is an electronic version of an article published in Text and Performance Quarterly 20.2 (2000): 130-149. Text and Performance Quarterly is available online at: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/. College of Arts & Science Department of Communications Studies
This response, in the form of performative writing, to Chris McRae's performance Miles Away from “The Cool” explores the performer's integration of music, architecture, and performance theory. I especially emphasize my subjective experience of these elements as an audience member. I address social class and race in the context of performance instruction in the college classroom.
This self-reflection traces my journey to the discipline of performance studies. At the heart of my academic training and study is the influence of literature, poetry in particular, and the teachers who encouraged my love of literature, performance, visual communication, and public speaking.
Cheerleading has long been synonymous with "spirit" because of its traditional sideline role in supporting school sports programs. In recent decades, however, cheerleading has become more athletic and competitive - even a sport in its own right. This paper is an ethnographic exploration of the emotional dimensions of cheerleading in light of these changes. We argue that spirit is a regulating but also flexible concept that is deployed in order to manage and uphold ideologies of emotion, and that these ideologies are central to how cheerleading reproduces racialized gender difference. On the one hand, the performance guidelines for spirit stabilize the emotional dimensions of cheerleading in the face of the activity's shifting priorities. On the other hand, the performance framing encourages participants to distance themselves from cheerleading's emotional script, allowing them to abdicate responsibility for it. The ambiguity surrounding the performance of spirit - whether it should be read as "real" or "play" - facilitates this dynamic.
This piece discusses my journey to, into, through, and in performance studies as a process of becoming without a clear beginning or end and argues for the continuation of performance studies as an open space of becoming.
This essay discusses the question of labor in contemporary dance using the frame of broad changes in contemporary economy that generate some intensive debates on immaterial labor, new modes of production, precarity, and austerity across different disciplines. Dancers around the world are affected by these changes, and this essay reflects on current dance labor practices by addressing terms such as projects, mobility, and time in the organization of work. I hope both to broaden a discussion on dance labor and to map out anxieties, fatigue, and fear that characterize the Zeitgeist of contemporary artistic labor.
How do historians represent the past? How do theatre historians represent performance events? The fifteen challenging essays in Representing the Past: Essays in Performance Historiography focus on the fundamental epistemological conditions and procedures that serve as the foundational ideas that guide all historians in their endeavors. Unified by their investigations into how best to understand and then represent the past, this diverse group of scholars in the field of theatre history and performance studies offers insights into the abiding issues that all historians face in the task of representing human events and actions. Five primary ideas provide the topics as well as the intellectual parameters for this book: archive, time, space, identity, and narrative. Taking these as the conceptual framework for historical research and analysis, the essayists cover an expansive range of case studies and problems in the historical study of performance from the Americas to Africa and from Europe to India and China. Considering not only how historians think about these concepts in their research and writing but more pointedly-and historiographically-how they think with them, the essayists demonstrate the power and centrality of each of these five ideas in historical scholarship from initial research to the writing of essays and books. Performance history has a diversity of identities, locations, sources, and narratives. This compelling engagement with the concepts essential to historical understanding is a valuable contribution to the historiography of performance-for students, teachers, and the future of the discipline itself. Expanding upon its classic predecessor, Interpreting the Theatrical Past: Essays in the Historiography of Performance, this exciting new collection illustrates the contemporary richness of historical thinking and writing in the field of performance history.
In this essay, I explore how extreme sporting athletes and reality prank programming stars perform adolescent masculinities that comply, resist, and transform traditional codes of masculinity. In the phenomenon I dub “pranktainment,” I analyze MTV's Jackass, Viva La Bam, and Nitro Circus to reveal how extreme stars use language, embody attitudes, and construct dramas in adolescent performances of masculinity. Even as the white, heterosexual, male pranktainers resist hegemonic masculinity, their mocking adolescent performances refuse to challenge the power and privilege assigned to their positions. In parodies mocking dominant masculinities, pranktainers sustain power at the expense of non-white, non-heterosexual, non-male identities.
In this essay I narrate my coming to performance studies as involving consciousness of the potentials of enacted moments to give life to life. I recall how experiencing and performing language-use, music and singing, and learning with others were interwoven to create this understanding.
“Still Political” explores the politics of hair. Through interdisciplinary exploration and diverse methodologies that interweave and span personal narrative, autoethnography, performative writing, and collaborative performance, the pieces in this forum meditate on and question body/hair politics. Individually and collectively, through the sites of their bodies and experiences, the authors probe themes that include history, the academy, intimate and stranger relations, transnational and local politics, individual and collective resistance, and more. Grounded in an intersectional approach, each piece interrogates the body/hair and the body/hair in relation.
As the director of Miles Away from “The Cool,” the performer asks me to listen to/for the implications of specific location, the pedagogical potentiality in the life and work of Miles Davis, and his relationship with Davis. The performer asks the audience to consider their subject positions and relationships to and with race, cultural icons, and their pedagogical practices as students and teachers. Together, we want to create a performance that invites the audience to exercise performative reflexivity and listen dialogically. This essay is the director's reflection of this process.
In this personal narrative, I rely on academic tales and anecdotes to advocate a specific deployment of queer pedagogy that focuses on the peri-performative aspects of queering Communication. I consider how Communication scholars are uniquely positioned to specify how academic communication might be queered. I also critique the ways in which some people in academia communicate about queer people. The essay challenges the grammars of compulsory heterosexuality in instructional settings and proposes specific ways to queer academe.
This open letter to my brother is interimbricated with an academic exploration of narcocorridos, narrative songs lionizing his line of work, drug trafficking. I envision this document as a shield and a public engagement born out of necessity and in response to border texts that reflect and inform competing notions of masculinity, nation, history, race, and sexuality. As disidentificatory texts, narcocorridos engage in significant acts of resistance but falter in relegating joto-queer bodies into negative spaces. This project works through these negative spaces, transforming them into spaces of empowerment as the voices speak out and talk back.
From March 17 to April 8, 2012, the San Diego Repertory Theatre produced my stage play adapted from T. C. Boyle's 1995 novel The Tortilla Curtain. Broadly speaking, the novel and the play explore xenophobia, racism, economic inequality, and the power and responsibility of citizenship—and the vulnerability of those who lack it—within the context of undocumented migration from Mexico to the United States. What follows are an artist's statement and four responses to the San Diego Repertory Theatre's production of Tortilla Curtain.
As a critical methodology, performance ethnography offers researchers a unique opportunity to tap into what I call queer social scientific remainders by using the dramatic staging of ethnographic material such that it can be disseminated to audiences in an arts-based dramatic forum. While ethnographers are often drawn to the atmosphere of the theatre and its capacity to give multidimensionality to their research, there is a lack of engagement with queer theory and transgender countercultural aesthetics. There is also an investment in a transcendental truth that negates the possibilities of staging the emotive and unknowable dimensions of the gendered subject. Performance ethnography has become a pedagogically exciting methodological form because it can emotionally engage audiences in topics they would normally avoid. However, such topics must incite curiosity and critical questioning, as opposed to definitive truth claims and easy answers. As evidenced by the play Queer Bathroom Monologues (QBM)—my case study—audiences engage, refuse, query, contest, affectively respond to, and ignore, the difficult and disturbing excesses of research about queer and transgender material.
In the following response and reflection to the San Diego Repertory's Theatre's production of Matthew Spangler's Tortilla Curtain, I position myself as a queer woman of color, artist-scholar, and undocumented-immigrant ally. Writing from such a position, I use the queer Chicana theory of Gloria Anzaldúa—in particular her notion of the “Coatlicue State”—to discuss the language and cultural politics within the play.
This is an ethnographic account of long-distance hikers on the Appalachian Trail. The essay argues that, like much performance art, long-distance hiking is best viewed as an eminent performance that does not seek to point to something beyond itself as much as it points to the material conditions of its own making. The insights gained from experiences on the trail reframe ongoing questions of presence and absence in performance scholarship as questions about transcendent and eminent performance aesthetics.