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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing from the Archive

Utopia in Performance:Finding Hope at the Theatre

Book: Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theatre
Written by: Jill Dolan
Published by: University of Michigan Press, 2005

In ‘Utopia in Performance’ author, Jill Dolan explores the impact of theatre and performance envisioning a more equitable world. For her, “live performance provides a place where people come together, embodied and passionate, to share experiences of meaning-making and imagination that can describe or capture fleeting intimations of a better world”(p.2). Drawing from her own intellectual and emotional engagements with performance, Dolan introduces the concept of ‘utopian performatives’, that is how various forms of performance have the power to generate moments of alliance and solidarity among audiences by generating a fruitful space for public engagement.

In the second and third chapters, through various analyses of feminist autobiographical solo performances, such as Holly Hughes’ ‘World without End and Clit Notes’, Shaw’s ‘Menopausal Gentleman’, and performances by Lily Tomlin, Danny Hoch, amongst others, Dolan propounds that the performances create an alternative, listening public. Dolan argues that the aesthetics of these performances lead to both affective and effective feelings and expressions of hope and love encompassing a broader sense of community and humankind. Chapters four and five survey three performances — Simmon’s ‘Def Poetry Jam’, the ‘Laramie’ theatre project by Kaufman, and a play by the Tectonic Theatre Project, a local group from Austin. According to the author, these performances display a common desire of using their enactment as an example of critical civic engagement. “These pedagogical performances demonstrate how to be active citizens to audiences who might not regularly see themselves as agents in their own lives, let alone in their political systems.”(p.91)

“Throughout Utopia in Performance, I’ve suggested that moments of liminal clarity and communion, fleeting, briefly transcendent bits of profound human feeling and connection, spring from alchemy between performers and spectators and their mutual confrontation with a historical present that lets them imagine a different, putatively better future”(p.168)

Utopia in Performance - Finding Hope at the Theatre