Theater, edited by Tom Sellar mid 80’s? This periodical is the journal of Yale School of Drama and Yale Repertory Theater. I arbitrarily chose volume 47, Number 1 and discovered the theme was “Curating Crisis.” The notion that theater would have a curator, which I associate with the visual arts, was news to me. As editor, Tom writes an opening overview. He also conducts four interviews with leading figures in experimental theater.
In one of his questions to Florian Malzacher, Tom defines the concept of curation in performance arts. “What’s exciting about curation is the idea. . . .that there could be linkages between individual performances and between artistic projects.” He goes on to talk about the “cultures of curation” (a concept he attributes to Beatrice von Bismarck). “It encompasses the larger linkages and also contemporary linkages, keeping track of what’s been attempted before and what’s being attempted now.” So this edition of Theater takes on how the role of curator plays out in festivals and often non-traditional theater spaces and expresses the hope that this new nomenclature really represents a new way of looking at theater and not just a new name for something old.
One concern, expressed in the essay “Identifying the Endgame,” by Thomas F. DeFrantz, and also in Jay Pather’s “Negotiating the Postcolonial Black Body as a Site of Paradox,” is that of redefining and constructing new audiences. Instead of the usual white male productions with a token woman or black offering, De Frantz suggests that the curator begin from the bottom up. Start with the audience. Find out what they are looking for. Pather’s essay indicates that in South Africa this is already happening amid the ferment of a resurgence of racial turmoil.
Most impressive in this edition is the world-wide reach of the contributors, their social involvement, and their fearless innovation.