INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF AMERICAN DRAMA AND THEATER
Seville, May 28-30 2012
The Fourth International Conference on American Theater and Drama
took place in May 2012, organized
by the University of Seville. As many remember, the first and second
conferences had been hosted by the University of Málaga, and
the third, in 2009, by the University of Cadiz.
Seville is one of the most beautiful cities in southern Spain, if
not in all Europe; such universal characters as Don Juan or Carmen
are among those the city has contributed to universal culture. Given
such a Romantic setting, and after devoting the last conference
to violence in American theater and drama, we thought that it was
perhaps time for something a little lighter, and so, in keeping
with the romantic character of Seville, we’ll be looking at
the long-time romance between the theater, playwrights, professionals,
and, hopefully, audiences. In spite of the persistent rumor of crisis
which has always surrounded this art, the truth is that it has never
quite disappeared, and has surprisingly withstood the impact of
new technologies and other vehicles for artistic communication which
the digital revolution has brought about. There is something about
the theater that continues to enthrall and seduce us. The first
thing we would like to explore in our fourth conference is just
this: what it is that makes theater, and American theater in particular,
so resilient, and what it is that keeps infusing new life into it
with each new generation.
An answer we soon came up with was that we all love a story. Storytelling
has always been as indispensable to human beings as nourishment
or clothing (perhaps even more). And theater always tells stories,
or at least it did till Gertrude Stein complained that “Everybody
knows so many stories and what is the use of telling another story.
What is the use of telling a story since there are so many and everybody
knows so many and tells so many.” And then Bertolt Brecht,
and Jerzy Grotowski, and Richard Foreman, and the Open Theater,
and the Wooster Group, and other avantgardists went about transforming
the traditional ways of telling stories. And yet, upon closer inspection,
it is all too easy to realize that storytelling probably was more
reluctant to abandon the stage than it proclaimed it was, and American
drama continues to tell stories, albeit deploying new formats which
reflect the new modes of apprehending reality.
Using both approaches as a starting point, the magic which theater
possesses and its ability to captivate audiences, and the complex
dynamics between dramatic writing and the desire/refusal to tell
stories, we invite American drama and theater scholars to find ways
to address these topics from whatever field of inquiry into American
drama and theater they happen to work in:
What kinds of stories has American drama told us? And why those
and not others?
How have such stories been given dramatic form?
What are the stories surrounding the (hi)story of American drama?
And how truthful or otherwise are they?
What stories have never been told both about American theater and
its professionals, performers, directors, playwrights, impresarios…?
How have 20th century avant-garde European theorists influenced
American dramatic craft?
there just one way to tell stories? What other modes have American
playwrights come up with? And what artistic/ideological agenda(s)
they meant to serve?
are the stories of ethnic groups within the larger culture told
by American drama?
Are stories about canonical playwrights accurate and/or fair? Are
there stories about them which have never been told? Why were they
What remains to be said about the silenced (hi/her)story of women
in American theater?
How can we enrich the body of stories which the American theatrical
establishment continues to tell us right now?
How do cinematic and theatrical storytelling in America coalesce,
and/or cross-fertilize one another?
To what extent does dramatic storytelling in America necessitate
the participation of the audience? What stories do audiences bring
to the theater, and how do they shape what is enacted before them?
What is the role of memory in the configuration of past stories,
plays, or performances?
Is there such a thing as storytelling which is specific for highbrow
or lowbrow audiences?
And, why not, what relationships and romances have there been between
performers and other practitioners and the theater, or between themselves?
What are the best-loved productions on the American stage?
How has American drama dealt with love and romance, and from how
many different standpoints?
What sense can we make of the love/hate relationship between American
theater and foreign playwrights and theatrical modes?
And what can we say of America’s longstanding romance with
the Broadway musical?
the theatrical story: cognitive studies applied to the theater.