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Review

Author(s): Philip Auslander


Review by: Philip Auslander
Source: TDR (1988-), Vol. 50, No. 2 (Summer, 2006), pp. 165-167
Published by: The MIT Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4492684
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sion of the director'sattitudes about or involvement in the political upheaval at the time, when many
theatre artists were becoming politicized.
Barranger'sbiography begins with a clear, concise chronology of "high points" in Webster's life
and work; the book also contains a few black-and-white photographs of Webster's family, friends,
and theatrical productions. Although Barranger'sbibliography includes numerous primary and secondary sources with accounts from those who worked with Webster, the biography relies heavily on
Webster's own published memoirs. The first three chapters in Barranger'sbook are drawn largely
from Webster's account of her parents,'grandparents,'and great-grandparents'lives in the theatre
(The Same OnlyDifferent:Five Generationsofa Great TheatreFamily, 1969) and the remaining nine
chapters in the biography rely principally on Webster's wry and self-effacing Don't Put YourDaughter on the Stage. In Webster's memoir, the warmth and charm of the author'svoice, and the wit and
poignancy that infuse her stories energize the narrativeand compel the reader'sinterest. Barranger's
attention to detail and chronological accuracynotwithstanding, A Life in the Theatreoften lacks the
boldness and spirit of its subject.
-Cindy Rosenthal
References
Sheehy,Helen
1996
EvaLeGallienne:
A Biography.
New York:AlfredA. Knopf.
Webster,Margaret
1969
TheSameOnlyDifferent:
FiveGenerations
ofa GreatTheatre
Family.New York:AlfredA. Knopf.
1972
Don'tPut YourDaughterontheStage.New York:AlfredA. Knopf.
Sheis coeditor,
studiesat HofstraUniversity.
Cindy Rosenthal isAssociateProfessor
of theatreandperformance
withJamesHarding,of Restagingthe Sixties:RadicalTheatresandTheir Legacies(UniversityofMichigan
Press,2006) and is afoundingmemberof theBreadLoafActingEnsemblein Middlebury,Vermont,and
Juneau,Alaska.
TDR:TheDramaReview50:2 (T190) Summer2006. @2006
New YorkUniversityand theMassachusetts
Instituteof Technology

Theatricality. Edited by Tracy C. Davis and Thomas Postlewait. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003; 243 pp.; 2 illustrations. $55.00 cloth, $23.99 paper.
Before performativity,there was theatricality.AsJanelle Reinelt (2003 [2002]:153-55) has shown,
the rise of terminology derived from performance rather than theatre resulted from three developments: the desire for a critical term to distinguish certain forms of aesthetic performance (e.g., performance art) from theatre;the development of the category of cultural (as opposed to aesthetic)
performance in anthropology and its connection to the definition of performance studies as a field;
and the interest of a number of contemporary philosophers (e.g., Jacques Derrida andJudith Butler)
inJ.L. Austin'slinguistic concept of performativity.Although there has long been resistance to the
expansion of the category of performance and its seeming usurpation of theatre as an object of intellectual inquiry, only recently has the concept of theatricality come back into focus.1
Theatricalityshows that there is life in the old concept yet, if its ability to generate interesting
discussion is a measure. In a very useful introduction that outlines the twists and turns the concepts
of theatre and theatricality have undergone since the Renaissance (to put it crudely, theatricality is
one of those terms that has also been used to mean the opposite of any of its attributed meanings),
1. Fora strongcritiqueof the performancemetaphor,see States(2003 [1996]).

1
165

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editorsTracyDavisandThomasPostlewaitdefinetheirintentto "identify,
with historicalandtheoreticalrigor,whatsomeof the interpretivepossibilities andcriticalproblemsarethatpertainto the ideaof theatricality"
without
pinningthe conceptdownor limitingit (3). The six casestudiesthatfollow
the introductiontakeup thesechallengeswith clarityanddlan.
of theatricalTwo of the essaysfocuson the waysin whichunderstandings
on
the
are
across
cultures.
Brecht's
comments
Using
Beijing
ity negotiated
Operaas a pointof departure,HaipingYandemonstratesthatConfucian
aestheticsdo not assumethataudiencesidentifyor empathizewith dramatic
charactersunlesspreventedfromdoingso, but entaila notion of theatricality
thatalwaysalreadyincludesthe ideaof a responsive,ethicallyengagedaudience.JodyEndersalsoemphasizesthe importanceof culturalcontextto
in herstudyof the mysteryplayat
understandingtheatricalrepresentation
in
involved
which
eitherthe productionor a
Valenciennes,France, 1547,
In
a
and
of
a
miracle.
subtle
theoreticalspeculationon
reproduction
playful
the equivocalhistoricalrecord,Endersbringsout the waysthathistorical
discourse depends on what we think other people very different from ourselves must have thought.
Postlewait also engages with the question of how we characterize the thought of distant others
in his consideration of modern and postmodern scholars' descriptions of Elizabethan society alternately as antitheatricalor thoroughly theatricalized. He argues that the documentary evidence of
an antitheatricalbias has been greatly overvalued. He is equally skeptical of contrasting claims that
Elizabethan England was a theatricalized society on the grounds that this broad use of the term
seems to void it of any specific meaning. While Postlewait's critiques are well supported and persuasive, they lead primarily to a generalized call for a more rigorous historical method.
Shannon Jackson also takes scholarly discourse as her subject in a consideration of how the
performativity/theatricalitydebate and the feminism/queer theory debate mirror, shape, and overlap
one another. In addition to tracing the history of this intellectual conjuncture and the positions
taken by various participants,Jackson shows how disciplinary and theoretical commitments can
lead to mischaracterizationsof different positions and how advocates of one discourse may shore it
up at the expense of other discourses.
Davis andJon Erickson bring the concept of theatricality into the political realm. Davis explores
the etymology of the word theatricality,whose coinage the OED attributes to Thomas Carlyle.
Carefully rereading Carlyle and some of his 18th-century precedents, Davis argues that the OED's
equation of theatricality with inauthenticity is incorrect, and that Carlyle viewed theatricality as the
opposite of sympathy.For Davis, theatricality is essential to the functioning of civil society, as it is
the affective state that allows us to dissociate ourselves from the particularsof a situation to make
a critical assessment of it. Erickson, too, is concerned with the relationship of theatre to social process. In a complex but lucid discussion, he aligns the binary oppositions realism/theatricalism and
dialogue/monologue with one another to question the privilege accorded to the reflexive practices
of the avantgardeas the only valid strategies for political performance. Erickson argues that realist
and theatricalist styles both serve a realistic purpose (that is, an effort to show things as they are)
and, further,that the monological tendencies of the theatricalist avantgardemay be counterproductive to achieving real political change, which must be based in dialogical encounters among competing interests.
Theatricalityefficiently encompasses considerations of that concept as an aspect of performance,
a relationship between performance and audience, an affective state, and a unit of discourse. It is a
bracing read that should provoke fresh discussion of fundamental issues in theatre and performance
studies.
-Philip Auslander

166
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References
Reinelt, Janelle
2003 [2002] "The Politics of Discourse: Performativity Meets Theatricality."In Performance:CriticalConcepts

in Literary
andCultural
Studies,editedby PhilipAuslander,153-67. London:Routledge.
States,BertO.
2003 [1996] "Performance as Metaphor."In Pelformance:CriticalConceptsin Literaryand CulturalStudies,edited

by PhilipAuslander,108-37. London:Routledge.
Philip Auslander is a Professorin the School ofLiterature, Communication, and Culture of the Georgia
Institute of Technology.His most recent book is Performing Glam Rock: Gender and Theatricality in Popular
Music (University ofMichigan Press,2006).
TDR:TheDramaReview50:2 (T190) Summer2006. ?2006
Instituteof Technology
New YorkUniversityand theMassachusetts

The Victorian Marionette

Theatre. ByJohnMcCormickwith

Clodagh McCormick andJohn Phillips. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press,


2004; 280 pp. $49.95 cloth, $24.95 paper.

There areparticularchallengesto writingaboutthe historyof puppettheatre.


As a popularcultureformthatis not text-based,puppettheatredoesnot offer
itself easilyto theatrehistoriesfocusedon dramaticliterature.In addition,
historiansof puppettheatreoftenfeel compelledto convincethe readerthat
theirsubjectis, in fact,worthwhile;andthatthe taxonomyandthe worldhistoryof puppetrymustbe explainedbeforethe readerwill be ableto follow.
Marionette
Theatrefinessesthesechallengesin an expansive
TheVictorian
area:
of
a
puppetsin 19th-centuryEngland.John
study
specific
string-operated
McCormickarrivedat the studyof puppetryafterextensivewritingon 19thcenturytheatrein general(includinga studyof Frenchpopulartheatreanda
enableshim to see
biographyof Dion Boucicault),andthisunderstanding
marionetteperformanceas an importantelementin the plethoraof Victorian
performanceformsincludingpanorama,pictureperformance,hand-puppettheatre,peepshows,
theatreof actors'
andmusichallrevues,aswell as the "legitimate"
pantomime,harlequinade,
dramas.
Anotherdauntingchallengefor puppethistoriansis the multivalencedqualityof the subject.The
historianmustwritenot only aboutwhathumanbeingsdo in performance,but alsoaboutsome
combinationof the followingelements:the design,construction,typology,manipulationtechniques,andcostumingof the puppetfigures;the designandconstructionof stages;the sociologyof
the theoreticalandaesthetic
the puppeteersandtheirwayof life;and,if the writeris adventuresome,
questionsconnectedto playingwith objectsas performance.
McCormickdoes thiswell;for example,in the followingpassagewherehe deftlyconnectsthe
mimeticstyleof marionettetheatrewith the differentvarietiesof contemporaryactors'theatre,in
Illustrations
Gesture
termsof theoriesarticulatedby HenrySiddonsin his 1822Practical
ofRhetorical
andAction:
Siddonsdistinguishesbetween"picturesque"
acting(moreconcernedwith the sculptural
of
the
attitude
and
and
gesture) "expressive"
acting(moreconcernedwith conveying
beauty
in
favor
of
the
latter.
Siddonswasthinkingin termsof
He
comes
down
meaning).
heavily
the legitimatedrama.The expressivestylewasalsoendemicto both pantomimeandthe

167

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