360°: Performance across Language and Culture

Cross-language performance has been a constitutive component of live theater since antiquity. It has returned to center stage in recent years, both for practitioners and scholars of theater, for a variety of reasons. For theater practitioners, site-specific performance and expanding theater outreach programming have focused attention on increasingly diverse audiences. For scholars, the emergence of video archives has made it possible to track and study the evolution of specific productions and dramatic works across multiple languages and venues. A lively cross-pollination of critical concepts between performance studies, acting practice, and cultural theory now provides a rich vocabulary for doing so. A series of international festivals such as the Globe to Globe Cultural Olympiad in London in 2012 has raised the visibility of cross-language productions, yielding a messy but rich trove of reception records in social media, scholarship, and reviews. This 360 takes a close look at these phenomena, asking students to engage it as performers, audience members, teachers, and scholars – studying and experimenting with multilingual and vernacular stagings.

Performance Across Language and Culture Courses:

English 247: Multilingual Shakespeare

This English course taught by Katherine Rowe explored recent theater experiments in translation, multilingual and cross-language performance, with Shakespeare as its test field. Works studied include: Hamlet and The Tempest; recent performances taped in London, Tokyo, and Cairo; selected critical essays on transnationalism, vernacularism, performance, and translation.

Theater 265: Acting Across Language

Taught by Catharine Slusar (Theater), this course examined how we access Shakespeare across culture and across language, as performers and audience members. Students explored the role of creator/performer using traditional and non-traditional means (text work and scansion, investigation of objective and actions, and first-folio technique). With a focus on language and both multilingual and non-verbal communication, students prepared for a spring break intensive of student-led workshops and a performance.