CFP: [Theatre] Theater Directing: Internationalism and the Crisis of Interpretation

full name / name of organization: 
Lawrence Switzky
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Theater Directing: Internationalism and the Crisis of Interpretation

2009 American Comparative Literature Association
Harvard University, 3/26-3/29/09

The rise of the director in early modernism begat a new division of labor in theatrical production:
these recently minted stage executives became known variously as autocrats, diplomats, and jet-
setting cosmopolites. As cultural ambassadors, they imported staging techniques from afar and
shepherded plays from one country to another or between non-adjacent time periods,
translating “foreign” texts by making them locally legible.

This panel invites papers that examine the hermeneutic work of the theater director, from the
1890s to the present, as an act of inter-cultural mediation accompanied by political and
aesthetic possibilities and pitfalls. What sorts of distortions are produced by directorial
intervention through acts of temporal and geographical translation? How, for instance, does one
make Chekhov’s Russia materially present for an American audience, a twenty-first century
audience, or an American twenty-first century audience? When are these translations of
historical, ethnic or political foreignness justified or unjustified? What criteria could we establish
to measure these mediations? Does the labor of a theatrical executive, often brought in from
another nation or region, interfere with or enhance the possibilities for local playwrights or
actors to communicate with audiences? How can foreign directors enliven and estrange locally
canonical texts? What is the special value placed on the visiting or international director within a
local company?

Please submit paper proposals of no more than 250 words at by
November 1, 2008. Delivered papers should run to about 20 minutes.

Feel free to contact the panel organizer, Lawrence Switzky, at, with any

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Received on Fri Oct 03 2008 - 12:07:57 EDT