Ecdyses of Drama and Theatre

Nomadic, Rhapsodic and Subversive in Contemporary Drama and Performing Arts 

Ecdyses of drama and theatre  records the specifics of the dialogical relations between the praxes of text and stage and the parallel transformation of these two fields of art into culture in the last few decades. Parallel with this it also cultivates the self-reflection of theatre studies.  The book arises from Badiou’s conviction that literary as well as theatre studies (similar to philosophy) are merely mediators for encounters with truths, or rather “procureses of encounters with truth.” It tries to link the practical context for live theatre and drama productions with their ongoing reception and reflection. Its pages reflect the softening of the traditional borders of theoretical approaches on the one hand and of the disciplines of art on the other. In the discussions, which intertwine with and complement one another and  undermine temporary solutions to establish new ones, dialogues arise between the praxes of theory and art, dialogues with thinkers (Artaud, Derrida, Deleuze-Guattari, Badiou, Ubersfeld, Pavis, Lehmann, Sarrazac, Poschmann, Blau, Auslander, Šuvaković, Erjavec, Kralj, Kermauner, and others), and artists (Zajc, Beckett, Strniša, Jelinek, Svetina, Ristić, Jovanović, Taufer, Hrvatin, Pograjc, Sellars, Abdoh, Brook, Beckett, Bernhard, Lepage, Koltès, and others).

    The book thus sketches out maps of the networked interconnectedness between art, politics and thought of recent decades. It focuses on a series of strategies by contemporary dramatic and post-dramatic theatre and staging practice in general, attempts to locate and verify various crossings which characterize live theatre and which frame three of its properties which are explored in more depth: nomadism, rhapsodization and subversiveness.

     The first part of the book deals with nomadic journeys through drama and threatre of the second half of the last century, which trace rhizomatic structures and turning points, interruptions of intertexts as fabrics of citations. It arises from the conviction that the concepts of physicality and conclusiveness of texts as practiced by semiotics and structural analysis of the 1960s are inadequate, and that it is necessary to understand a text as a fabric or a nomadic circulation of citations, as Eco’s open work, Bakhtin’s principle of dialogism. Every book that we hold in our hands is at the same time, and primarily, an unbounded text in which other texts and discourses reach between the printed lines.  In tracing the mutual operation of texts it lingers over selected examples of Slovenian drama and theatre texts from around 1990 (Dane Zajc, Mirko Zupančič, Dušan Jovanović, Drago ­Jančar, Ivo Svetina). The sites of intertextuality and maps of nomadic paths in the continuation are found within the dramatic works of Veno Taufer and Emil Filipčič and the dialogues between the dramatic and novelistic writings of Dane Zajc and Samuel Beckett. Thus it tracks the techniques and tactics of intertextual seduction and suspicion.

     The second part of the book covers the crossing over of the dramatic to the (no longer) dramatic, post-dramatic, and rhapsodic. Of interest are the processes and results of the rhapsodic emergence of the theatre, the intensive rhapsodization of theatrical texts: montages of forms, tones, deconstructions and reconstructions of theatrical, paratheatrical (especially the philosophical dialogue) and extra-theatrical (the novel, novella, essay, letters, diary, confession, etc.), as practiced by such different  writers as Ivan Cankar, Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, Heiner Müller, Marguerite Duras, Gregor Strniša, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Thomas Berhnard, Elfriede Jelinek, Bernard Marie Koltès, Umberto Eco; and by directors in dialogues with writers, for example, Mile Korun with Dostoyevsky and Jančar, Dušan Jovanović with Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, and Krystian Lupa with writers such as Alfred Kubin, Robert Musil, Thomas Bernhard, R. M. Rilke, Hermann Broch, F. M. Dostoyevsky, Mikhail Bulgakov, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Stanislaw Lem.    

    The third part of the book explores the concept of subversiveness in theatre and staging practices of the second half of the 20th century in Slovenia, and along with it in the art of the second world during the period of socialism and post-socialism and finally in the art of the first, western world: Europe, the United States, and Canada. Thus it deals with phenomena from the theatre of the opposition, that which Italian theatre expert Valentina Valentini denotes with the concept of aesthetics and politics of East European theatre (Grotowsky, Oder 57, Tadeusz Kantor), through the performative turn of the ritual theatre of the 1960s and 70s (Hermann Nitsch, Richard Schechner, Pupilija Ferkeverk, Gledališče Pekarna, etc.) to the so-called postmodern (politicized) performing arts practices of the 1980s and 1990s of the second and first worlds (Ljubiša Ristić, Dragan Živadinov, Vito Taufer, Tomaž Pandur, Elfriede Jelinek, Reza Abdoh, Jo Fabian, etc.) The book finishes with an epilogue, devoted to a period which we could denote (as does Guillermo Gómez-Peña) with the concepts post-democratic society of a mediatized spectacle (Peter Sellars, Emil Hrvatin, Bojan Jablanovec, Matjaž Pograjc in Betontanc, Robert Lepage, etc.)

     Thus the book targets various manifestations of nomadism, rhapsodization and subversiveness, which are connected with artistic projects by different and at times even opposing authors, who consciously direct themselves toward the Artaudesque border of theatrical possibility when they simultaneously produce and destroy writing and stage. Along the path of analyzing realizations of changes or ecdysis within different fields (from text to space, time, body, media and their use), the book also follows an explosion and after it a new, non-hierarchical linking of textual and theatre elements in phenomena of drama, theatre, and staging practices. In this it connects theory and practice and establishes a relationship between the two which is explicitly open: the French theatre scholar Patrice Pavis would call it “inter-cannibalistic”, enhancing theory as well as practice.