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“It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there”
William Carlos Williams, “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower”.

“When the poet (Antje Krog of South Africa) finds wanting her ability to lend form to the testimony she recalls, yet wishes the domain of telling to belong to the witnesses, whose efforts always outdo hers, a way other than memorial reconstruction has to be found of being host to their words.” Mark Sanders, cited in Rosemary Jolly’s Cultured Violence.

Director Peter Brook writes that the theatre audience is a third eye whose presence must always be felt as a positive challenge, an accomplice to the action, “a constant participant through it’s awakened presence” (1993:18). The challenge Brook poses to those of us who make theatre is to consider all of our actions public, communal and witnessed. Implicit in his statements about the audience is the need for us as artists to be awakened. To become a witness is to be exposed, vulnerable, to have something at stake. This course will explore how to think about what is at stake for theatre artists as translators of stories of public violence. We will examine how issues of performance relate to discussions in the fields of history, sociology, critical theory and education.

We will work often on our feet, engaging in the class questions through the language of theatre and performance. The fall term will focus on research, the winter term will focus on developing performances.

The central questions for the class are:

1. Do we live in a “tragic” culture? What does this mean?
2. What forms of theatre and representation do we consider “ok” when it comes to performing testimony or remembering violent histories? What is the role of the comedic or the absurd in intervening in a melancholic tragic telling of events?
3. How is performing history an ethical practice? How is the aesthetic and content of a performance an ethical issue?
4. What is involved in designing and executing performance memorials?
What is the theatre’s role in making memory?

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