Since the 1980s, the performance of race has posed some of the most intriguing and challenging problems to practitioners and scholars alike. What does it mean to stage race critically or to watch it critically? If there is one thing that all parties agree upon, it is that representing and understanding race correctly is impossible. The inevitable gap between practitioners’ intention and viewers’ reception is broader and more treacherous in performances to which race is central than in any other. In fact, some scholars consider this gap definitive of all racial performances: theatrical and non-theatrical.
This course examines some of the major twentieth-century critical debates about racial representation. What are the specific advantages and disadvantages of specific performance contracts (realism, epic theatre, etc.) for staging and viewing race critically? What distinguishes social performances of race from other performances of identity? How has the history of blackness defined and limited all thinking about race in the western world, and how can we get beyond the “black-white binary” in critical analysis? How have psychoanalysis, Marxism, and other theoretical schools contributed to our understanding of racial encounters in the theatre and beyond?