It was in the mid-twentieth century that the independent theatrical form based entirely on improvisation, known now as improvisational/improvised theatre, impro or improv, came into existence and took shape. Viola Spolin, the intellectual and the logician behind the improvisational movement, first used her improvised games as a WPA worker running theater classes for underprivileged youth in Chicago in 1939. But it was not until 1955 that her son, Paul Sills, together with a college theater group, the Compass Players, used Spolin’s games on stage. In the 1970s Sills made the format famous with his other project, the Second City.
Since the emergence of improv in the US coincides with the renaissance of improvisation in theater, in this paper, I will look back at what may have prepared and propelled the emergence of improvised theater in the United States. Hence, this article is an attempt to look at the use of improvisation in theater and performing arts in the United States in the second half of the 20th century in order to highlight the various roles and functions of improvisation in the experimental theater of the day by analyzing how some of the most influential experimental theaters used improvisation as a means of play development, a component of actor training and an important element of the rehearsal process.
Paul Ricoeur declares that “being-entangled in stories” is an inherent property of the human condition. He introduces the notion of narrative identity—a form of identity constructed on the basis of a self-constructed life-narrative, which becomes a source of meaning and self-understanding. This article wishes to present chosen instances of life writing whose subjects resist yielding a life-story and reject the notions of narrative and identity. In line with Adam Phillips’s remarks regarding Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes (1975), such works—which I refer to as fragmentary life writing—emerge out of a profound scepticism about any form of “fixing” oneself and confining the variety and randomness of experience to one of the available autobiographical plots.
The primary example of the genre is Joe Brainard’s I Remember (1975)—an inventory of approximately 1,500 memories conveyed in the form of radically short passages beginning with the words “I remember.” Despite the qualified degree of unity provided by the fact that all the recollections come from the consciousness of a single person, the book does not arrange its content in any discernible order—chronological or thematic; instead, the reader is confronted with a life-in-fragments. Although individual passages could be part of a coming-of-age, a coming-out or a portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-man narrative, Brainard is careful not to let any of them consolidate. An attempt at defining the characteristics of the proposed genre will be followed by an indication of more recent examples of fragmentary life writing and a reflection on its prospects for development.
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The playwright Edward Bond has recalled the impact of seeing photographs of Nazi atrocities at the end of World War Two: “It was the ground zero of the human soul.” He argues we need a different kind of drama, based in “a new interpretation of what it means to be human.” He has developed an extensive body of theoretical writings to set alongside his plays. Arguably, his own reflections on “what it means to be human” are based in his reaction to the Holocaust, and his attempt to confront “the totality of evil.”
Bond argues we are born “radically innocent.” There is a “pre-psychological” state of being. The neonate does not “read” ideology; it has to use its own imagination to make sense of the world. To enter society, however, the child must be corrupted; its imagination is “ideologized.” Bond claims that “radical innocence” can never wholly be lost. Through drama, we can escape “ideology” and recover our “autonomy.” It leads us to confront extreme situations, and to define for ourselves “what it means to be human.”
The terms of Bond’s theory are Manichean (innocent-corrupt, autonomous-ideologized etc.). His arguments are based in the assumption that there is a fundamental “humanity” that exists prior to socialization. In fact, the process of socialization begins at birth. As an account of child development, “radical innocence” does not stand up to close scrutiny. Arguably, however, Bond’s work escapes the confines of his own theory. It can be read, not in terms of the “ideologized” vs. the “autonomous” mind, but rather, in terms of “conscious” and “unconscious.” In Coffee (2000), Bond takes character of Nold on a journey into the Dantean hell of his own unconscious. He does not recover his “innocence,” but, rather, he has to face the darkness of both history and the psyche.
In this paper I trace the development of Native American constitutionalism in the early twentieth century. Specifically, I focus on the first constitutional government of the White Earth Nation, located in northwestern Minnesota, which in the period from 1913 to 1927 was part of a larger confederative arrangement, called the General Council of the Chippewa. The purpose of this paper is to show the importance of this inter-reservation government for the preservation of White Earth Anishinaabe cultural continuity from which revitalization efforts of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century grew. Using archival resources, I pay attention to Anishinaabe governing practices and their ethical dimension that can be understood in the light of Anishinaabe philosophy which was an integral part of everyday life. My findings suggest that the course of institutional development set by the creation of the General Council in 1913 influenced the path of White Earth governance for the rest of the century.
In American ethnic literature of the last three decades of the 20th century, recurrent themes of mobility, travel, and “homing in” are emblematic of the search for identity. In this essay, which discusses three short stories, Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use,” Louise Erdrich’s “The World’s Greatest Fishermen,” and Daniel Chacon’s “The Biggest City in the World,” I attempt to demonstrate that as a consequence of technological development, with travel becoming increasingly accessible to ethnic Americans, their search for identity assumes wider range, transcending national and cultural boundaries.
Particularly in the latter half of the nineteenth century sensorial experiences changed at breakneck speed. Social and technological developments of modernity like the industrial revolution, rapid urban expansion, the advance of capitalism and the invention of new technologies transformed the field of the senses. Instead of attentiveness, distraction became prevalent. It is not only Baudelaire who addressed these transformations in his poems, but they can also be recognized in the works of novelist Gustave Flaubert and painter Edward Munch. By means of the work of William James, Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer and Georg Simmel, the repercussions of this crisis of the senses for subjectivity will be discussed.
In the final scene of Michel Tournier’s postcolonial novel La Goutte d’or (1986), the protagonist, Idriss, shatters the glass of a Cristobal & Co. storefront window while operating a jackhammer in the working-class Parisian neighbourhood on the Rue de la Goutte d’or. Glass fragments fly everywhere as the Parisian police arrive. In La Goutte d’or, Tournier explores the identity construction of Idriss through a discussion of the role that visual images play in the development of a twentieth-century consciousness of the “Other.” At the beginning of the novel, a French tourist takes a photograph of Idriss during her visit to the Sahara. The boy’s quest to reclaim his stolen image leads him from the Sahara to Marseille, and finally to the Rue de la Goutte d’or in Paris. The Rue de la Goutte d’or remains one the most cosmopolitan neighbourhoods of the city.
In Tournier’s novel, the goutte d’or also corresponds to a symbolic object: a Berber jewel. It is the jewel that Idriss brings with him, but which he also subsequently loses upon his arrival in Marseille. From the very moment that the French tourist photographs him, a marginalization of Idriss’s identity occurs. Marginality, quite literally, refers to the spatial property of a location in which something is situated. Figuratively speaking, marginality suggests something that is on the edges or at the outer limits of social acceptability. In this essay, I explore the construction of the marginalized postcolonial self (the “Other”) through an examination of the function of visual representation in the development of a postcolonial identity in La Goutte d’or. In the end, I conclude that the construction of a postcolonial identity is based upon fragmentation and marginalization, which ultimately leads its subject to create an identity based upon false constructions.
The article reflects on the therapeutic and ethical potential of literature, the theme which is often marginalized and overlooked by literary critics, in the novel Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. Matilda, the main character of the analyzed novel, finds salvation in the times of war and oppression thanks to Charles Dickens’s masterpiece, Great Expectations, and the only white man on the island−her teacher, Mr. Watts. Matilda’s strong identification with Dickensian Pip (their similarities and differences) and imagination make her escape to another world, become a self-conscious person and reunite with her father. The paper also discusses relationships between Matilda, Mr. Watts (her spiritual guide and creator of her story, who presents the girl with expectations for a better future) and her mother, Dolores. I attempt to show the emotional development of the characters, their interactions, changes, sense of identity (significant for both Jones and Dickens), and, having analyzed their actions, I compare them to protagonists created by Charles Dickens (Pip, Miss Havisham, Estella). Needless to say, drawing the reader’s attention to British culture and traditions, Lloyd Jones avoids focusing on the negative aspects of the postcolonial views, pointing out that “the white man” can be an example of a Dickensian gentleman.