The Performative Aesthetics of 21st Century Theatre in India

deadline for submissions: 
July 1, 2017
full name / name of organization: or
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                                                                                            Call For Papers and Play Scripts


                                                                     The Performative Aesthetics of 21st Century Theatre in India


             The ‘performative aesthetics’ of this anthology’s title draws on Erika Fischer-Lichte’s “aesthetics of the performative”. In Fischer-Lichte’s reading “aesthetics of the performative” has a “mediality” which collapses the divisions between producers, actors, characters and audience. Lichte asserts, the “performative turn in the early 1960s, [...] not only made each art more performative but also led to the creation of a new genre of art, so-called action and performance art”. The term ‘performance’ suggests a whole continuum of possible activities. 

           21st-century Indian theatre undermines the schematic/generic boundary. The stage has become fluid and dynamic. The point is theatre has become a ‘virtual space’ for dialogue between different texts, contexts, cultures, and nationality and target readers with its new technological edge. It is permeable and much a site for a spatiotemporal location of the new experience and expression. Given the fact that it is an era of ‘globalization’ and ‘digitalization’ where all individuals are living a wired life more (in)authentically than the life of flesh and blood, the position of Indian theatre and its ‘performative practices’ draws our critical attention. 

           This anthology, apart from offering the different trajectory Indian theatre traverses through, poses some relevant questions to the existing body of scholarship on Indian theatre. For example, how are we going to justify Indian traditional theatre in the global context? How ‘new spaces’ emerged out of our virtual relation with technology critically engage themselves with contemporary reality (which is so palpable and bizarre)? What kinds of theatrical forms are available to represent our ‘new’ cognitive experience and traumatised memory? Is theatre reduced to a ‘virtual space’? Has theatre incorporated all imagined and inconsequential experience in its present form? How ‘disruptive theatre’, if there is any, is craving for a niche to express itself with different target audiences? In the multilingual country such as India, how a language constitutes/refutes a disciplinary form? These are among several interventions the anthology seeks to address in its textual bound. Through this anthology, we wish to venture towards newer ways to ascertain the possibilities and parameters of defining the character of ‘Indian performance’ and its ‘aestheticism’. Furthermore, the anthology intends to address the following:  


The first is to explore the innovations in form, temporality and identity in play texts because the text, be it performative or otherwise is not just “delivery systems" of "facts" but the product of political and cultural activity designed and conceived by the ‘writer’ who is situated in a certain milieu and location with inhibitions and cultural bags. Secondly, it critiques and historicizes the meanings and usage of “performance” and “performativity” in cultural theory framework. How do the new ethnography, rituals practices, happenings, caste, ethnic and gender struggle come together and overlap in the 21st century to generate contemporary notions of performance and performativity? How drama and performance respond to global changes, or world -order after decolonization process, labour migration, the shift toward a technology-saturated ‘society of the spectacle’? It further highlights the political usage of performance after the ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ (TO) as a form of the theatre used for community education.  For example, Sanjoy Ganguly is doing an exemplary work in Bengal. His group, Jan Sanskriti uses theatre to conscientize and empowers the communities it serves. The anthology also studies how organisations such as Centre for Community Dialogue and Change are dedicated to the promotion of Theatre of the Oppressed in education. This organisation works with students, teachers, teacher-trainers, senior citizens, children and healthcare professionals; it also facilitates sessions on Medical Humanities, which in itself require our engagements.

                 In its corpus this anthology is poised to explore how the Theatre for Community Development by NGOs and independent groups (such as Alarippu, Sangwari, Jana Natya Manch[JANAM], Cultural troupe of Stree Mukti Sanghatana, Samudaya Theatre Company, Budhan Theatre,  Asmita Theatre Group, Pierrot's Troupe, Nandikar, Little Theatre Group, Rangakarmee among others) use theatre beyond entertainment as a participatory development communication tool. Since the very beginning of the 20th-century Western theatre artists have been more and more influenced by non-Western concepts relating to philosophy or psychology in general and theatre aesthetics in particular. This development has led to intentional attempts at ‘intercultural theatre’ (advocated by Schechner, et al), which can be broadly grouped, into three categories:

1. Productions in which material from other cultures dominate, being regarded as models or ideals (e.g., productions in the style of “Kathakali” or Noh theatre).

2. Productions in which the original culture dominates and foreign elements are used to enlarge the range of expression in the theatre (e.g. Shakespeare adaptation/productions).

3. The third group of intercultural theatre aims at a universal language of the theatre (e.g. Peter Brooks’ The Mahabharata)

Theatre practices have been followed, over the last couple of years by theoretical approaches to an intercultural theatre by Patrice Pavis, Richard Schechner, Grotowski, and Augusto Boal and in a scathing critique by Rustom Bharucha. The anthology will also introduce the major Western intercultural theatre artists of this century, and discuss their intercultural theatre practice in the light of the theory and criticism. Also, it will study the different permutations of the theatre of revival, remounting of plays from the past; including postmodern quotations and productions that seek to bring fresh life to previously written works. 

          These foci will converge. The plays selected for the study will speak to, and athwart, theoretical texts by Victor Turner, Judith Butler, Bertolt Brecht, Michel de Certeau, Guy Debord, Antonin Artaud, Richard Schechner, Jerzy Grotowski, Victor Turner, Augusto Boal, Eugenio Barba, Rustom Bharucha and Suresh Awasthi among others. We will chart out the uncertain shift from modernist Interiority/fragmentation to an aesthetics of gestures, behaviour, and the “exoteric”.The anthology also assesses the precarious overlay of ‘body’ and its ‘discourse’ in relation to new concepts of place, space, and “the every day.” We will spend time on what has emerged as a subgenre of plays dealing with globalisation, from the transnational sale of human organs to ecological devastation, from the post-human to the post-truth imperatives.

             The anthology broadens its corpus to incorporate critical articles and as well as ‘play scripts’ written and performed in the 21st century. It proposes to look at marked trends that characterise the Indian performances that are more bodily-centered and presentational narration, rather than a representational and ‘logocentric’ one.  Some highlights are as follows:

Ø  Today's theatre in India (as elsewhere) is an open theatre, open and opening to voices unheard of or muffled in the proscenium theatre of yesteryear;

Ø  A theatre by and about women now features women as leading, internationally acclaimed directors and prize-winning playwrights, while feminist theatre ensembles have brought women forward as agents of change, in dramas and society, by addressing the problems, misperceptions, and struggles for justified recognition that have concerned women historically;

Ø  A theatre of class and caste diversity features most visibly. Artists have created some of the most challenging, well-crafted, and artistically creative works of today's theatre;

Ø  Since the 1960s sexual inhibitions have become central topics of a number of plays and have emerged as a defining issue for many theatre groups, festivals, and publications. These issues concern many of the most celebrated plays of recent decades (such as the plays of Vijay Tendulkar, Mahesh Dattani, Mahesh Elkunckwar and others)

Ø  Persons such as ‘differently-abled’ have not only found a new level of representation in plays and theatre companies, but they have formed companies that create theatre for the hearing impaired or feature a full company of blind or deaf performers;

Ø  Cross-gender and color-blind (non-traditional casting) casting has diversified the theatre in terms of gender and ethnicity, while multiculturalism has extended to play selection as well as theatres devoted to expanding the canon by supporting new works by ‘minority voices’; 

Ø  Theatre has risked it’s take on in the realms of politics, language, and sexual relations, despite external attempts at regulation and censorship; 

Ø  Lastly, the anthology also attempts to look at the cultures of cinematic appropriation in the theatre and performance aesthetics.


Guidelines for the Submission

The research papers and play scripts are invited for the publication on the above-stated themes.

The paper should follow the MLA 7th edition. 

Send the abstract of the paper and as well as of ‘play script’ in about 300 words. The last date for sending the abstract is 31 May 2017. You shall be informed latest by 18 June. The submission of the full paper is due on 1 July 2017

Images/illustrations, if any: copyright free images in JPEG format between 800-1024 pixels on the longest side.

Word-limit: paper should be 3000 to 5000 words. However, there is no limit for the ‘play scripts’ as such! 

All the submissions should be made at or