Bilde: (sreejithk2000) – ml.wikipedia, CC BY 3.0
Husk fra Teater i perspektiv 1:
Why is this Theater History course so biased? Some answers – and speculation on my part:
The Geographic-ethnic-cultural bias?
Part of the challenge of looking at theater history beyond the narrow view of European culture is the definition of the term «theater/theatre» itself. The word comes from the Greek word Theatron (Theatra) which describes the seating area where the audience would have been.
Is theater only the kinds of performances that fall under this particular relationship of performer and spectator?
An example of the question «What exactly is theater/theatre?», here from Critical Stages, “The Roots of African Theatre Ritual and Orality in the Pre-Colonial Period“:
The term theatre itself has diverse, complex, contradictory and even antagonistic connotations in Africa. As well, the study of dramatic phenomena involves diverse approaches. Even in the west, the word “theatre” often denotes very different realities, and what is meant by theatre in one country is not always the same as what is meant in others.
The White, male bias?
Theater (or Performance) is an ephemeral art form, and if not attached to a literary tradition, it is more difficult to study in terms of histories. What we know of European theater traditions – with some exceptions – is largely based on literary artifacts, written and recorded by white men of a specific social standing.
Theater history books have tended to focus on «high culture» and often ignored or glossed over the most popular playwrights and performers of each epoch – regardless of their actual cultural influence.
The focus on high culture stretches all the way back to the Greeks, and we so often still speak of «the Greeks» when we are only talking about the free, landowning men in the Greek culture.
And then there is human nature: Western historians haven’t always been good at really listening to, and appreciating other traditions on their own terms. (But who is good at this without conscious effort?)
Maybe these are some of the reasons many university programs now offer degrees in «performance studies» instead of «theater studies». We are all trying to be better. Myself included.
While the curriculum for this course is focused on European theater traditions, I encourage the students to cultivate an awareness of – and respect for – the breadth of performance traditions around the world – and to question the assumptions regarding who is writing history, and who is being represented in our «histories».
Some brief impressions of other dramatic traditions:
The Essential Drama page for World Theater Traditions