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Performance Studies Symposium at the Lewis Center for the Arts Noted Performance Studies Scholar and Theater Director Richard Schechner Keynote Speaker


Steve Runk    
Director of Communications
Lewis Center for the Arts

(Princeton, NJ) A symposium that will examine a range of currently relevant issues within the context of the interdisciplinary field of performance studies, and include a re-enactment of the legendary 1968 performance of Dionysus in 69,  will be held on December 9 and 10 at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.  The symposium, “Performance Studies: Memories and Futures,” will feature keynote speaker Richard Schechner from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and present panel discussions on critical race studies, dance, performance ethnography, popular culture, queer identity, reception studies, and visual culture.  The symposium will begin on Friday, December 9 at 3:30 p.m. and conclude Saturday, December 10 at 5:30 p.m. and will be held in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at the Lewis Center, 185 Nassau Street in Princeton.  The symposium is free and open to the public, however prior registration is required.

“Princeton is growing its performance studies curriculum, and we hope this conference, bringing together leading scholars on the topic, will generate exciting discussion and debate, contribute to the field of study, and advance Princeton as an important institution in this endeavor,” states symposium co-organizer Stacy Wolf, Director of the Princeton Atelier and Professor in the Program of Theater.

Princeton has also joined, along with Brown University and the Shanghai Theatre Academy, as consortium editors of TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies.

Jill Dolan, Annan Professor of English and Professor of Theater at Princeton, and the other co-organizer of the symposium, adds, “Richard Schechner is one of the pioneers and foremost authorities in the field of performance studies.  We are fortunate to host Richard as our keynote speaker for this symposium.”

Schechner’s papers are collected at Princeton’s Firestone Library.

Leading up to Schechner’s lecture scheduled for 4:15 p.m. on December 9, testimonials on the historical importance of his work in establishing the field of performance studies will be presented by Henry Bial of the University of Kansas, Rebecca Schneider of Brown University, and Diana Taylor of New York University.   A discussion will follow Schechner’s talk. 

On the evenings of December 9 and 10, the Austin, Texas-based theater company, Rude Mechs, will perform Dionysus in 69, a seminal work by Schechner, at 8:00 p.m. in the Matthews Acting Studio at the Lewis Center.  This reconstructed performance piece reproduces as closely as possible the original production, which was staged by Schechner for his company, The Performance Group, and filmed by director Brian De Palma. 

On Dionysus in 69 Dolan notes, “The performance stands not only as a historically important recreation, but as a testament to Schechner’s impact as an innovative director, as well as a scholar.  The performance represents the environmental staging Schechner made famous, in which the audience is interspersed with the actors, in a way that refuses the conventional separation between spectators and performers.”

The performance, part of the Lewis Center’s 2011-2012 Performance Central series, will be followed by a panel of artists and scholars responding to the work including Marvin Carlson of City University of New York, Carol Martin of New York University, Madge Darlington and Shawn Sides of Rude Mechs and the production’s co-directors, Elin Diamond of Rutgers University, Tamsen Wolff of Princeton University, and moderated by Dolan.  Dionysus in 69 contains mature themes and may not be appropriate for all audiences.  The Rude Mechs Friday night performance is currently sold-out; however tickets are available for Saturday night.

Four panels on Saturday and a summary session will invite conference participants to delve more deeply in the field’s contemporary configurations and concerns.  The panels will focus on:

  • Dance and reception studies with a presentation by Susan Foster of the University of California, Los Angeles;
  • Critical race studies and popular culture with a talk by Deborah Paredez from the University of Texas at Austin;
  • Queer identity and performance ethnography led by E. Patrick Johnson of Northwestern University;
  • Visual culture and the politics of performance by Laurie Beth Clark and Michael Peterson from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Each panel will be followed by a formal response on the topic by two scholars and a discussion moderated by Princeton undergraduates participating in Dolan’s and Wolf’s “Introduction to Performance Studies” course.

A wrap up of the two-day conference will be led by Sue-Ellen Case of UCLA, Emily Coates of Yale University, Ramón Rivera-Servera of Northwestern, and Wolf.

Sponsors of the symposium include:  The Gardner Fund of the Council of the Humanities, the Lewis Center for the Arts, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, the Center for African-American Studies, the Department of English, the Department of Anthropology, and the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, all divisions of Princeton University.

To register for the free symposium, call Princeton University Ticketing at 609.258.9220.  Tickets for the Saturday, December 10, performance of Dionysus in 69 are $10 general admission and $8 for students and seniors and can be purchased by calling University Ticketing.

Link to Photo:
Photo caption:  A scene from a Rude Mechs performance of Dionysus in 69 with actors (l to r) Hannah Kenah, Katie Van Winkle, and Jude Hickey
Photo credit:  Courtesy of Rude Mechs

The Lewis Center for the Arts is part of a major initiative announced by President Shirley M. Tilghman in 2006 to fully embrace the arts as an essential part of the educational experience for all who study and teach at Princeton University. The Lewis Center for the Arts will have a significant impact on the University and the larger community it serves. The public is welcomed to a full range of lectures, exhibitions, concerts and performances at the Center. Many of the Center’s events are free or charge a nominal admission fee.

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