What inspired you to organize this monthly series?
Judy Miller reached out to me to develop the monthly series as a way to stay connected in the virtual reality that we've been inhabiting since last March. In particular, we wanted to maintain a sense of community in the department between faculty and our existing undergraduate and graduate students, while also welcoming our incoming cohort of doctoral students, many of whom participated as readers in the series. The readings were meant to be moments where we could come together and explore new ways of gathering -- after all, one benefit of Zoom is that we can all "be" in one space despite being located across the world!
How did you choose the plays (Corneille's l'Illusion comique, Jarry's Ubu Roi, Ndiaye's Hilda, and Césaire's Une Tempête in the fall semester, and Théâtre du Soleil’s 1789, Mouawad’s Tideline, Duras’s l‘Amante anglaise, and Akakpo’s The True Story of Little Red Riding Hood in the spring semester)?
Each text speaks in some way to issues that concern our life today -- whether that's the role of illusion in life and in spectacle or questions of race and social class. Fortunately, the infantile and vulgar protagonist of Ubu Roi seems less relevant at the moment!
For our Spring season, we've chosen plays that are topical and that connect to themes being explored in our courses this Spring. We're also including two plays in English translation so that all of our undergraduate students will be able to enjoy the readings.
What have faculty and students gained from the series?
We hope that a sense of intellectual community was created through our virtual gatherings. We also hope that we opened a space for critical reflection about issues that matter in our world today. At its best, theatre is what Michel Foucualt would call a "heterotopia" -- a place that exists concretely in the real world, but that simultaneously possesses its own rules and conventions that allow for the exploration of other realities, other arrangements of power, whether they be social, political, or otherwise.
Were there any memorable moments from last fall?
A few moments that stand out: Benoît Bolduc's dedication of his reading of Corneille's Illusion comique to our dear colleague, Christian Biet, who passed away last Spring. Our final performance had a positive vibe from start to finish, as we segued from a reading of Césaire's Une Tempête to our holiday party!