The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama offers a fresh and innovative reading of the contemporary experimental American theater scene and navigates through the contested and contentious relationship between postmodernism and contemporary drama. This book addresses gender and class as well as racial issues in the context of a theoretical discussion of dramatic texts, textuality, and performance. The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama is written for anyone interested in contemporary American drama and theater as well as in postmodernism and contemporary literary theory. It appeals even more broadly to a readership intrigued by the ubiquitous aspects of popular culture, by feminism and ethnicity and by issues pertaining to the so-called society of spectacle and the study of contemporary media.
This collection of essays is impressive in its breadth, ranging over English (Shakespeare, Stoppard, Churchill, Ravenhill, Penhall), Irish (MacNamara, Johnston), American (O Neill, Stein, Kushner, Lynn), and Continental (Beckett, Weiss, Jelinek) dramatists; furthermore, many of the plays given extended treatment King Lear, The Emperor Jones, Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, The Investigation, Top Girls, and Angels in America are frequently anthologized and/or taught. And because each of these essays was written by a different author, the range of theorists and critics drawn upon (Lyotard, Jameson, McHale, Hutcheon, Derrida, Barthes, Baudrillard, Levinas, Hassan, etc.) is so extensive as to provide a veritable overview of postmodern theory as it might usefully be applied to the theatre.
The absence of drama in most considerations of the "post-modern condition," Stephen Watt argues, demands a renewed exploration of drama's relationships with late capitalist economy, post-Marxian politics, and commodity culture. But Postmodern/Drama asks a provocative question: Does an entity such as postmodern drama in fact exist? Scrutinizing the critical tendency to label texts or writers as "postmodern," and delineating what it might mean to "read" drama more "postmodernly," Watt demonstrates that playwrights such as Samuel Beckett, Cherri Moraga, Harold Pinter, David Rabe, Karen Finley, and others should not be labeled "postmodernist," but rather recognized as producers of texts that might be termed "post-modern." Watt demonstrates that reading contemporary drama in such a fashion means reading culture more broadly, and he charts the kinds of exploratory movements such reading demands. Rigorously interdisciplinary, Postmodern/Drama carefully articulates the margins among genres and media. The book also considers novels by Beckett, Italo Calvino, and Don DeLillo; films by George Huang and Robert Altman; and commentary on postmodernity by Jean Baudrillard and Fredric Jameson. In the end, the postmodernity of contemporary drama is shown as less a question of genre or media than of a certain mode of subjectivity shared and contested by playwrights, producers, and audiences. "A very readable and well constructed book. Watt's approach is exploratory and this is particularly impressive. His thesis is all the more convincing for his willingness to consider both sides of any given critical argument or approach." --Lois Oppenheim, Montclair State University Stephen Watt is Professor of English, Indiana University, Bloomington. He is the author of Joyce, O'Casey, and the Irish Popular Theater, and coeditor of Marketing Modernisms (with Kevin J. H. Detmar), American Drama: Colonial to Contemporary (with Gary L. Richardson), and When They Weren't Doing Shakespeare (with Judith L. Fisher).
The book is an insightful and thorough examination of one of the most prominent political dramatists in the US today, Tony Kushner, and his theatricalization of politics. Moreover, it draws heavily on Kushner’s wide range of themes and techniques. As such, it will be beneficial for graduate students and scholars who are concerned with the realm of contemporary American drama at the threshold of the twenty-first century. In addition, the book will appeal to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of Kushner and his major influences such as Bertolt Brecht, and will also be valuable for readers with a general interest in American drama. This book is primarily concerned with exploring and analyzing political discourse as dramatized in the work of Tony Kushner. The author’s point of departure is the concept of political theatre as developed by Erwin Piscator and Bertolt Brecht. This theoretical exploration serves a double purpose: first, it is meant to provide a statement of the definitions and concepts central to this study, such as political discourse, political theatre, and postmodern theatre; second, it offers the tools of analysis by which to read and analyze Tony Kushner’s postmodern, politically-oriented texts. Through this, the book defines the major features of Kushner’s postmodern theatre and explores how he theatricalizes politics. American drama in the 1980s and the 1990s witnessed a noticeable thematic shift from the exclusively personal plays and musicals that once dominated American theatre for a long period of time to an increasing number of plays which put greater emphasis on exploring issues and questions of socio-political interest. As a result of this thematic shift, the predominantly private settings and familial character relationships of the traditional family play have been replaced by a great variety of public settings and non-familial characters. Tony Kushner’s theatre is a pioneering attempt in this respect. In Kushner’s theatre, there is no room for the traditional family plays which dominated the American stage in the 1960s and 1970s. Kushner has found that there is not enough political discourse in contemporary American Theatre. For this reason, he writes his plays to shed special light on the politics of American society in the 1980s, the 1990s, and in the beginnings of the 21st century.
The contributors examine varied topics such as the analysis of periodicity; the articulation of social, political, and cultural production in theatre; the re-evaluation of texts, performances, and canons; and demonstrations of how interdisciplinarity inflects theatre and its practice.
"This is a collection of ten long essays arranged around the primordial subject of realism and non-realism, or anti-realism, in the drama, as this subject manifests itself in modern Europe and contemporary America from Ibsen to Shaw to the symbolists, expressionists, surrealists, dadaists, futurists, and absurdists. This book treats not only the issue of realism versus anti-realism in theater from a practical as well as a theoretical point of view. It also treats at least two subjects related to this issue: the superfical or bourgeois realism that has long crippled the theater versus the critical and sometimes poetic realism that liberates it; and the avant-garde, the rearguard, and the middle-to-advanced artistic ground in between claimed by Bertolt Brecht and Harold Pinter. Special attention is paid, moreover, to the first thoroughgoing American avant-garde dramatist, Gertrude Stein. In sum, this book treats the subject of realism and non-realism from the point of view of the theater's ability to create not only the illusion of reality onstage, but also the reality of illusion"--Publisher's description, back cover.