To open the 2018 edition of the Mellon School of Theatre and Performance Research, Martin Puchner asks us to imagine the gathering through the work of the public humanities.
Our inquiry, dovetailing programmed events of panels of scholars and artists with conversations between early career scholars and practitioners, energizes reflection on publics, and counter-publics, in theatre, dance, and performance. This shared work recalibrates genres of critical engagement, traversing paratheatrical and public practice, outward-facing scholarship, forms of digital commons, writing, and performance. More widely, the school’s and seminars’ conversations call upon us to imagine dramaturgy and commissioning alongside scholarship, teaching, and “building a public humanities culture” that brings us in this way towards a renewed conversation honing a multiplicity of practices and approaches in public performance as in pedagogy. At a moment of profound political pressure, resituating creative work and scholarship is also a tool of reengaging an experiential aspect of the humanities. As P. Carl of HowlRound, in a passionate close to our second day of meetings revealed, the keen pace of work in theatre has also seeded a moment of political devastation. This instigates urgent re-engagement with histories of exclusion in the arts and the public sphere that are not just constitutive of forms but their fault-lines. In the readings shared in seminar with Carrie J. Preston, Leo Bersani reminds us in “Is the Rectum a Grave?” that “[t]he ‘general public’ is at once an ideological construct and a moral prescription” (203). To gather cross-generationally and internationally for this conversation on our publics resonates in this moment with reimagining not just art but modes of remaking and experiencing forms of relation, address, and exchange. To meet in seminar, in conversation, and after lectures invites us through the pleasures and forms of the public to reimagine performance and theatre as well.
Post by V.K. Preston
Photos taken by Eylem Ejder