Contemporary Theatre Review currently has two calls open for Special Issues.
All queries and abstracts should be sent directly to the guest editors. Please find further information for both special issues at the bottom of this page.
SIMON Stone & Company
Emma Cole (University of Bristol)
Chris Hay (University of Queensland)
Ticket holders to a new production of The Good Hope at Internationaal Theater Amsterdam (ITA), to be directed by the iconoclastic Australian-Swiss director Simon Stone, received an unusual email in September 2020:
We would like to inform you that the title The Good Hope has been changed to Flight 49. When writing his new play, Simon Stone drew inspiration from the motives presented in the Dutch theatre classic The Good Hope. Stone, however, writes lines for his plays during rehearsals, and created an entirely new and contemporary version of the classic. […] The play still deals with the central themes from Heijermans’ original piece, but Stone’s characters and the character developments in the plot are new. Considering this, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam has decided to change the title of the play.
Perhaps the title change was prompted by memories of the heated commentary around Stone’s 2012 production of Death of a Salesman in Sydney and its abbreviated ending, or the war of words prompted by his 2013 Melbourne production of The Cherry Orchard, which was accused variously of arrogance, disrespect, and offence against the art of playwriting. The production of Flight 49 — which eventually opened under its new title on 26 September — was part of a banner year for Stone, which included a new production of his version of Medea showing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), a new production of his version of Yerma at the Schaubühne Berlin, and a planned début at National Theatre, London, with a new version of Phaedra (although this last was a victim of COVID-cancellation).
Stone’s career began in Australia with the success of independent company The Hayloft Project, of which he was Artistic Director from 2007-2010, before he graduated to the mainstage and then pivoted towards Europe with the 2013 appearance of his version of The Wild Duck at the Holland Festival. This same text was later directed by Stone in a film version titled The Daughter (2015), and his second film, The Dig, débuted on Netflix to positive notices in 2021. The template provided by other Australian auteur-directors such as Barrie Kosky and Benedict Andrews is clear – indeed, Stone has worked with many of Kosky’s key collaborators including Tom Wright on Baal (2011), and acted in Andrews’s seminal production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (2007) – but it is a career profile Stone has made all his own. Stone’s work has crossed national and linguistic boundaries; as well as ITA, he has made work for Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe with Three Sisters (2017) and Trilogy of Vengeance (2019), the Berliner Ensemble with A Greek Trilogy (2018), the Young Vic and the Schaubühne with Yerma (2016/2020), and more across the theatres and opera houses of Europe. This mapping of Stone’s trajectory highlights the role of networks in his professional profile: he is linked backwards to Kosky and Andrews, and forwards to the other artists who have worked with him repeatedly across companies, countries, and mediums.
In curating this Special Issue, we are seeking a way to apprehend the work of the iconoclastic director that includes and highlights the network of collaborators, in terms of both individuals and institutions, who develop, facilitate, and assist their work. We are thereby attempting to build a body of scholarly work that addresses the work of a director on the rise by demonstrating and interrogating the multiple networks in which that director is suspended. We contest the idea that the auteur-director is a lone artist with a singular ‘brand’; while their name may well be alone on the marquee, or they alone may lead the company, the rise of an iconoclastic director is facilitated by those around them, many of whom go on to build significant careers or whose venues symbolise a particular politics of practice in themselves.
This Special Issue has two key aims. Firstly, it looks to situate Stone within a wider creative ecology, particularly of mid-career artists such as Alice Babidge and Anne-Louise Sarks who are rising in prominence as leading figures within the international theatre industry. We aim to showcase how repeat collaboration and a shared approach to practice, which is in part defined by blurring the boundaries between adaptation and new writing and between the categorisation of artistic role (the multi-hyphenate or ‘slashy’ artist), has been integral to the career trajectories of this new generation of theatrical heavyweights. In so doing, the Special Issue seeks to provide the first large-scale documentation of Stone and Company’s theatrical practice. Despite Stone’s career span, the significance of his collaborators, and the global prominence of his productions, he is yet to receive substantial scholarly attention.
Contributions might approach questions including but by no means limited to:
- Stone & Company, the international festival circuit, and theatrical institutions (especially pre- and post-COVID);
- Stone & Company and the Australian ‘cultural cringe’;
- The representational practices of Stone & Company, especially regarding issues of gender and race;
- Theatrical networks of practice and mapping tools;
- Stone & Company and the multi-hyphenate artist;
- Stone & Company and authorship/auteurship; and
- Stone & Company and the classical tradition;
For Backpages, we seek accounts of practice, both from within Stone & Company’s orbit and from outside. Stone is an unabashedly polemical artist — and we invite other practitioner/scholars to take up similarly polemical positions in creative responses. We particularly welcome any ‘insider’ accounts of Stone & Company’s rehearsal room practice, including rehearsal ethnographies, as well as interviews and other collaborations with the network.
Live Art: radicalism and complicity in a scene of constraint
Stephen Greer (University of Glasgow)
Phoebe Patey-Ferguson (Rose Bruford College)
This special issue of Contemporary Theatre Review calls for a renewed critical consideration of Live Art as a field of experimental and potentially radical practice after more than a decade of seismic changes to the landscape for interdisciplinary performance in the UK and internationally. How has Live Art developed in response to the ripple effects of the 2007/8 global financial crisis, the naturalisation of austerity economics and a resurgent culture war? How does the field of Live Art imagine its future – and its capacity for radical intervention – within heightened conditions of complicity and constraint? In addressing these questions, this issue considers the complex relationship between Live Art and the social, economic and material structures which enable its existence. In the UK alone, a significant number of major institutions and collectives have changed direction, been forced to close, or emerged as new and important sites of practice over the past ten years. These developments include the closure of major venues such as Manchester’s greenroom (in 2011) and Glasgow’s The Arches (2015), the conclusion of the National Review of Live Art following its 30th edition in 2010 alongside the emergence of Forest Fringe, Centre for Live Art Yorkshire, Marlborough Productions, BUZZCUT and other artist-led organisations as key sites for the presentation and promotion of Live Art. For the first time in its history, the Live Art Development Agency has appointed new leadership – co-Directors Barak adé Soleil and Chinasa Vivian Ezugha – following the decision by its co-founder and Director, Lois Keidan, to step down as part of accelerated plans for organisational change amid renewed calls for anti-racist action.
While Live Art’s engagement with issues of gender, sexuality, disability, and race continues to offer powerful positions from which to interrogate and challenge cultural norms, it also remains an internally contested space. Practitioners and organisations are increasingly confronting or being forced to confront Live Art’s own place in sustaining patterns of institutional racism, class discrimination and (self) exploitation as well as the pervasive nature of conservative (and even regressive) funding and curatorial structures. Though artist-led spaces are often understood as offering resistant alternatives to institutionalised patterns of work, the past decade has also seen increasing awareness of the challenges – and risks – of collective practices where there are limited frameworks for accountability or transparency in decision-making, safeguarding or in the distribution of opportunities and resources.
These and other developments have been paralleled in the field of live art studies through publications that most recently include Chatzichristodoulou’s Live Art in the UK (2020), Field and Costa’s Performance in an Age of Precarity (2020), Schmidt’s AGENCY: A Partial History of Live Art (2019) and Wagaine’s Vanishing Points (2020), as well through major texts on the work of individual artists including The Last Known Pose: Essays and Reflections on the Work of Qasim Riza Shaheen (2018), It’s All Allowed: The Performances of Adrian Howells (2016) and Anne Bean: Self Etc. (2018). This work reflects an extended critical engagement with Live Art’s varied forms and contexts while also suggesting persistent gaps in existing scholarly approaches to the field.
In this context, this issue considers a past decade of practice and its current state to ask:
- How has Live Art sought to extend, change and repair its practices in response to rapidly changing and uncertain social and economic circumstances? What are the structures which enable and sustain Live Art as a space of experimental and potentially radical possibility?
- How has Live Art articulated – and responded to – institutional critiques relating to racism, transphobia, disability and class discrimination and other forms of persistent structural exclusion? How has Live Art engaged with its own complicity in sustaining these and others forms of structural oppression?
- How have the critical and scholarly discourses around Live Art shifted in the past decade, and where do gaps remain in the field?
Contributions might approach topics including but not limited to:
- Critical engagements with (including rejections of) Live Art by artists, programmers, producers, venues and funders (e.g. in relation to or preference for disciplinary curatorial frames and funding structures of visual arts, theatre and dance)
- Live Art and the UK’s resurgent culture wars (e.g. in the characterisation of Live Art and contemporary performance as elite, metropolitan or ‘woke’)
- Live Art and socially engaged practices during austerity, including the way artists have responded to negative representations in mainstream and tabloid media that led to the stigmatisation of certain communities including those on benefits, unemployed people, migrants and asylum seekers
- Live art and transgender, gender variant and gender non-conforming identities
- Disability, crip and anti-ableist performance and curatorial practices
- Live Art and Blackness (anti-racism, decolonisation, Black Lives Matter, Live Art UK / Cambridge Junction’s Diverse Actions project)
- Live Art and (post) colonialism; Live Art and diasporic practices & identities
- Live Art and online / social media activism: Live Art and #BLM; Live Art and #metoo; Live Art and #extinctionrebellion
- Ecologies of touring, curation and presentation within and beyond the festival model; Live Art and the ‘new normal’
- Live Art’s internationalism: European and international structures of development, curation and exchange
- Live Art’s relationship to notions of austerity and ‘resilience’ given the sector’s self-characterisation in terms of risk, flexibility and adaptability
- Live Art practices of care and self-care, especially those that resist or provide alternatives to individualised conceptions of responsibility
- The infrastructural role of artist-led and venue-based organisations across the UK (e.g. BBeyond in Belfast, NI; Chapter in Cardiff, Wales; Buzzcut in Glasgow, Scotland and CLAY in Leeds, England) and how these strategies echo, relate to or differ to those in other national or international contexts.
We welcome proposals that engage with the broad, interdisciplinary and experimental field of Live Art, which can include work made across forms including (but not limited to) performance, dance, sound and music, physical theatre, digital, film, public art, comedy, installation and visual art but expands or escapes disciplinary norms. Live Art is typically defined by its awareness of how time-based arts engages in unconventional and exploratory ways with the notions of liveness, presence and sociality, often involving contexts beyond conventional gallery and theatre spaces.
We welcome scholars based in the UK and internationally. We especially encourage submissions from Black and Global Majority scholars and disabled scholars who are currently underrepresented in research publications.
If successful, full articles will be due in December 2022.