Writing, Fast and Slow
Introducing Interventions Postscripts
Publishing an article in a print journal occupies a middle ground in terms of the speed and pace of academic research. On the one hand, in light of the high-pressured research cultures that value increasing numbers of outputs and citations, articles might seem like part of the accelerationism of the academy. On the other hand, editing an academic journal is a slow, careful, and meticulous process. The rigours of peer review, revision, and attention to detail reward slow scholarship, and in turn, once published, journal articles usually reward slow and careful reading.
For the authors featured in the pages of Contemporary Theatre Review, the gap between submitting a final accepted version of an article and seeing that article in print might be several months or more. This span of time offers a generative space to reflect, revise, and revisit original research, which is why, from this issue onwards, Interventions will be periodically be publishing “Postscripts.” While Interventions has always extended discussions from the print journal by responding to current developments, with our new Postscripts we invite authors to reflect upon, extend, and think with their original articles. These short, current, and decidedly fast pieces of writing and multimedia may consider new developments since the article was originally drafted and how the author’s thinking may have shifted. Authors may choose to zoom in on a single concept and extend it to a blog-length piece of writing, or to offer a macro view of their research that the print article would not allow. In short, Interventions’ online format and editorial practice enables us to play with the tempo of academic publishing, emphasizing the fact that a published article is only a marker in an ongoing and evolving conversation.
David Overend’s filmed interview with playwright Kieran Hurley, ‘Rantin and Raving’, operates as a postscript to Overend’s article on Hurley’s “aesthetic communities” by bringing the conversation up to date on the playwright’s more recent work. As Hurley himself admits, coherent themes and trajectories across a writer’s body of work are more likely to emerge after the fact than to be crafted en route. Yet with the benefit of retrospect, this discussion teases out threads woven throughout Hurley’s plays over the last ten years, drawing in particular on Overend’s attention to the political communities that the plays ask us to imagine – or in Hurley’s words, “a bigger us”. This “Intervention” itself enacts a kind of tangling of ideas, brought out of the theatre and into Overend’s research and writing, only to be fed back through the playwright’s ongoing processes and into a decidedly open-ended conversation with Hurley himself.
Ian Farnell’s piece, ‘In space, nobody can hear you say you didn’t “get” it’, complements his article on the work of playwright Alistair McDowall. Going beyond McDowall’s use of science-fiction tropes and themes in his plays, Farnell looks at the idea of “genre snobbery” in the relatively emergent category of sci-fi theatre. Farnell suggests that the same values of arbitrary distinction that cause writers of literary fiction to use the term “speculative fiction”, rather than sci-fi, are also operative in theatre critics’ reception of plays like McDowall’s X and Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns. Such snobbery ignores the major cultural shift where science fiction has moved from the margins to the mainstream.
Amy Bryzgel’s overview of participatory art in East-Central Europe accompanies her print article. Its working premise is that unlike in the West, where participants would happily get involved in artistic activities, in postwar communist surveillance states, fear and suspicion posed significant obstacles to participation. Participatory art in public spaces was often seen as a source of potential dissent by officials. This forced East-Central European artists to develop clever strategies of involving the participants that would pass the close scrutiny of communist authorities. Bryzgel surveys different strategies of artists working in a range of European countries, taking into account how political situation varied across the Eastern bloc and how it was subject to sudden changes. For example, while in Poland and Yugoslavia the authorities were relatively liberal, Romania under Nicolae Ceaușescu was a heavily controlled and oppressive state. The piece offers a historical account of how artists and participants living in the conditions of surveillance worked together to create “a zone of freedom” that would enable them to come together and express themselves.
The tempo of Interventions also allows authors to look forwards, or, to use Adam Alston’s term, speculate. Alston’s contribution to this issue is a companion to his article “Immersive theatre’s second wave”, which appears in the autumn issue of CTR (29.3). However, the upcoming immersive adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s memoir The Wolf of Wall Street (the basis for Martin Scorsese’s 2013 film), provided an irresistible opportunity for Alston to work through concepts of speculation, risk, and safety in immersive experiences. In keeping with The Wolf of Wall Street’s tale of financial speculation and its risks and rewards, Alston’s article is also purely speculative, looking towards a production that will not even open for another two months.
In addition to Postscripts, Interventions will continue to publish our themed Special Issues twice a year. Over the next year we look forward to bringing you issues on European Theatre after Brexit, and the work of director Katie Mitchell.
This issue of Interventions also sees some changes in the editorial staff. Having set up CTR Interventions in May 2014, Theron Schmidt is moving on after nearly five years. Taking up the position of Assistant Editor of CTR and lead editor of Interventions is Broderick Chow, who has worked on the Interventions editorial team since 2017. Aneta Mancewicz and Ella Parry-Davies will continue on the Interventions editorial team. They will be joined by two new members from issue 29.3 onwards: Eleanor Roberts (Roehampton) and Bella Poynton (University at Buffalo, State University of New York).