Book Reviews

On Access in Applied Theatre and Drama EducationOn Access in Applied Theatre and Drama Education

This book explores and interrogates access and diversity in applied theatre and drama education.
Access is persistently framed as a strategy to share power and to extend equality, but in the context of current and recent power struggles, it is also seen as a discourse that reinforces marginalisation and exclusion. The political bind of access is also a conceptual problem. It is impossible to refuse to engage in strategies to extend access to institutions, representations, buildings, education, discourse, etc. We cannot oppose access or strategies for access without reinforcing marginalisation and exclusion. We can’t not want access for ourselves or for others. However, we are then in danger of remaining immersed in a distribution of power that reinforces and naturalises inequality as difference. For applied theatre and drama education, the act of creating, teaching, and learning is intrinsically connected to choice, along with the agency and capacity to choose. What is less clear, and what still interests us, is how the distribution of power and representation creates the schema for an analysis of access and diversity.
This book was originally published as a special issue of Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance.
Edited By Colette Conroy, Adelina Ong, Dirk J. Rodricks Reviewed by Simon Floodgate.

On Human KindnessOn Human Kindness: What Shakespeare teaches us about Empathy

While discussing Shakespeare’s plays in her university classroom, Paula Marantz Cohen discovered that they unlocked a surprising sense of compassion in both herself and her students. In this short and illuminating book, she shows how Shakespeare’s genius lay in his ability to arouse empathy, even when his characters exist in alien contexts and behave in reprehensible ways. Cohen takes her readers through a selection of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, including Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and The Merchant of Venice, to demonstrate the ways in which Shakespeare thought deeply and clearly about how we treat ‘the other.’ Cohen argues that only through close reading of Shakespeare can we fully appreciate his empathetic responses to race, class, gender, and age. Wise, eloquent, and thoughtful, this book is a forceful argument for literature’s power to champion what is best in us.
By Paula Marantz Cohen. Reviewed by Joe Winston.

Reclaiming Greek Drama for Diverse AudiencesReclaiming Greek Drama for Diverse Audiences

Reclaiming Greek Drama for Diverse Audiences features the work of Native-American, African-American, Asian-American, Latinx, and LGBTQ theatre artists who engage with social justice issues in seven adaptations of Sophocles’ Antigone, Euripides’ Trojan Women, Hippolytus, Bacchae, Alcestis, and Aristophanes’ Frogs, as well as a work inspired by the myth of the Fates.
Performed between 1989 and 2017 in small theatres across the US, these contemporary works raise awareness about the trafficking of Native-American women, marriage equality, gender justice, women’s empowerment, the social stigma surrounding HIV, immigration policy, and the plight of undocumented workers. The accompanying interviews provide a fascinating insight into the plays, the artists’ inspiration for them, and the importance of studying classics in the college classroom. Readers will benefit from an introduction that discusses practical ways to teach the adaptations, ideas for assignments, and the contextualization of the works within the history of classical reception.
Serving as a key resource on incorporating diversity into the teaching of canonical texts for Classics, English, Drama and Theatre Studies students, this anthology is the first to present the work of a range of contemporary theatre artists who utilize ancient Greek source material to explore social, political, and economic issues affecting a variety of underrepresented communities in the US.
Edited By Melinda Powers. Reviewed by Rowan Mackenzie.

Shakespeare, Italy, and Transnational ExchangeShakespeare, Italy, and Transnational Exchange: Early Modern to Present

This interdisciplinary, transhistorical collection brings together international scholars from English literature, Italian studies, performance history, and comparative literature to offer new perspectives on the vibrant engagements between Shakespeare and Italian theatre, literary culture, and politics, from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century. Chapters address the intricate, two-way exchange between Shakespeare and Italy: how the artistic and intellectual culture of Renaissance Italy shaped Shakespeare’s drama in his own time, and how the afterlife of Shakespeare’s work and reputation in Italy since the eighteenth century has permeated Italian drama, poetry, opera, novels, and film. Responding to exciting recent scholarship on Shakespeare and Italy, as well as transnational theatre, this volume moves beyond conventional source study and familiar questions about influence, location, and adaptation to propose instead a new, evolving paradigm of cultural interchange. Essays in this volume, ranging in methodology from archival research to repertory study, are unified by an interest in how Shakespeare’s works represent and enact exchanges across the linguistic, cultural, and political boundaries separating England and Italy. Arranged chronologically, chapters address historically-contingent cultural negotiations: from networks, intertextual dialogues, and exchanges of ideas and people in the early modern period to questions of authenticity and formations of Italian cultural and national identity in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. They also explore problems of originality and ownership in twentieth- and twenty-first-century translations of Shakespeare’s works, and new settings and new media in highly personalized revisions that often make a paradoxical return to earlier origins. This book captures, defines, and explains these lively, shifting currents of cultural interchange.
Edited by Enza De Francisci and Chris Stamatakis. Reviewed by Tom Harrison.

Shakespeare’s Props: Memory and CognitionShakespeare’s Props: Memory and Cognition

Cognitive approaches to drama have enriched our understanding of Early Modern playtexts, acting and spectatorship. This monograph is the first full-length study of Shakespeare’s props and their cognitive impact. Shakespeare’s most iconic props have become transhistorical, transnational metonyms for their plays: a strawberry-spotted handkerchief instantly recalls Othello; a skull Hamlet. One reason for stage properties’ neglect by cognitive theorists may be the longstanding tendency to conceptualise props as detachable body parts: instead, this monograph argues for props as detachable parts of the mind. Through props, Shakespeare’s characters offload, reveal and intervene in each other’s cognition, illuminating and extending their affect. Shakespeare’s props are neither static icons nor substitutes for the body, but volatile, malleable, and dangerously exposed extensions of his characters’ minds. Recognising them as such offers new readings of the plays, from the way memory becomes a weapon in Hamlet’s Elsinore, to the pleasures and perils of Early Modern gift culture in Othello. The monograph illuminates Shakespeare’s exploration of extended cognition, recollection and remembrance at a time when the growth of printing was forcing Renaissance culture to rethink the relationship between memory and the object. Readings in Shakespearean stage history reveal how props both carry audience affect and reveal cultural priorities: some accrue cultural memories, while others decay and are forgotten as detritus of the stage.
By Sophie Duncan. Reviewed by Farah Ali.

Stand Up for LiteratureStand Up for Literature: Dramatic Approaches in the Secondary English Classroom

Stand Up For Literature: Dramatic Approaches in the Secondary English Classroom is a contemporary guide for teachers, offering interactive and embodied ways to bring literary and spoken texts to life.
Starting from firm pedagogical foundations, authors John O’Toole and Julie Dunn begin by taking English and Drama teachers through the principles and practice of using dramatic approaches to explore texts. This is followed by ten exemplars — step-by-step guides to teaching a range of literary texts including fiction, contemporary prose, modern and classic plays, myths and legends, film, poetry, song and Shakespeare. These exemplars can be used as direct lessons or as models to adapt to an even wider variety of materials. They demonstrate how to apply the principles of dramatic approaches in practical settings.
As experienced educators drawing on reflections developed over decades of researching and teaching, O’Toole and Dunn expand our idea of drama and its uses to inspire innovative classroom literature teaching.
This comprehensive resource book takes the study and teaching of English off the shelf and stands it firmly on two feet. It gives students the chance to make meaning from literature through their bodies, hearts and minds.
By John O’Toole and Julie Dunn Reviewed by Andy Kempe.

Publisher: National Drama Publications

ISSN 2040-2228

©2013 National Drama - Drama Research: international journal of drama in education

© Copyright National Drama 2021

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