[update Sept. 15]: Playing Offstage: Theatre As a Presence or Factor in the Real World

full name / name of organization: 
Professor Sidney Homan, English Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
contact email: 

Call for Papers (deadline, September 1, 2015)
Playing Offstage: Theatre As a Presence or a Factor in the Real World
I am issuing a call for papers for a collection to be called Playing Offstage: The Theatre As a Presence or Factor in the Real World. I have proposed an edition of some 8-10 essays (along with an introduction). This collection would complement an earlier issue of Comparative Drama I had the privilege of editing: The Audience As Player: Interactive Theatre Over the Years. There the issue was the real-life audience's leaving the house and, as actors, entering the illusory world onstage. Here, the theatre moves offstage and into the larger, everyday world.
Contributors might consider, from various angles, those instances when the theatre is used as tool in the real world, or when, intentionally or not, the concept of playing intrudes on, sometimes even changes reality. Instances when Shakespeare's "All the world's stage" is not just a metaphor but literal.
Let me offer some possible topics, not as prescriptions, of course, but as a way of making this opening statement more concrete:
1. Acting as a tool in therapy, such as the psychiatrist's using role-playing in treatment;
2. Recreating past events through performance as a way to assess the facts (in police work, in courtrooms) or as a training device (for service workers, pilots, among others);
3. Instances when reality intrudes on or has been confused with performance (from the riots caused by Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring to the incorporation of real events during performance, as dramatized by the accidental filming of a murder in Antonini's Blowup);
4. The use of performance to advance an agenda in guerilla theatre and protests movements;
5. The play-within-a-play as a means of putting in perspective, even changing the supposedly real world of the encompassing play (Pyramus and Thisbe in A Midsummer Night's Dream; the fake court scenes in Pirandello's Henry IV);
6. The term "theatre" as a way of influencing or undercutting the perspective on what is otherwise non- theatrical, in everything from a teaching hospital's operating "theatre" (graphically demonstrated by the actor-like physician in William Burroughs's Naked Lunch) to warfare, as in "The European Theatre";
7. An updating or reconsideration of Erving Goffman's classic The Theatricality of Everyday Life;
8. The role of technology in conflating theatre with everyday life, such as Augmented Reality or AR (video games that take place in reality), Cosplay (where in real-world activities participants represent characters based on manga, anime, comic books and cartoons, video games, and live-action films), as well as digitalization, holograms, photo-shopping, and other techniques.
9. The (admittedly dubious) "aesthetics" of Reality TV;
Again, these are just suggested areas or topics. The larger purpose of this proposed special edition would be to raise questions, stimulate discussion about those instances when the aesthetics of performance, of establishing a convincing onstage illusion, expands beyond the theatre to have practical consequences in the real world. If Hamlet's praise of the theatre as a "mirror [held] up to nature" defines the reflective or instructive nature of the medium, here it is complemented by those examples when the theatre ceases to be an image of reality and becomes, instead, a factor, a force, part of the real world offstage. Hamlet well knows the theatre's practical, immediate dimension when he has the visiting actors perform The Murder of Gonzago, whose aim is surely not aesthetic pleasure but to function as a tool in justifying his revenge on Claudius.
Papers should be submitted to Sidney Homan at shakes@ufl.edu. Or to Professor Homan, English Department, 4008 Turlington Hall, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611. Deadline for submissions is December 15, 2015.

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