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Codifying the National Self

Spectators, Actors and the American Dramatic Text


Edited By Barbara Ozieblo and María Dolores Narbona-Carrión

Theater has always been the site of visionary hopes for a reformed national future and a space for propagating ideas, both cultural and political, and such a conceptualization of the histrionic art is all the more valuable in the post-9/11 era. The essays in this volume address the concept of «Americanness» and the perceptions of the «alien» – as ethnic, class or gendered minorities – as dealt with in the work of American playwrights from Anna Cora Mowatt, through Rachel Crothers or Susan Glaspell, and on to Sam Shepard, David Mamet, Nilo Cruz or Wallace Shawn. The authors of the essays come from a multi-national university background that includes the United States, the United Arab Emirates and various countries of the European Community. In recognition of the multiple components of drama, the essays for the volume were selected in order to exemplify different aspects and theories of theater studies: the playwright, the play, the audience and the actor are all examined as part of the theatrical experience that serves to formulate American national identity.


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Authenticity and the “Divinely Amateur.” The Romantic in Richard Maxwell 233


Authenticity and the “Divinely Amateur”1 The Romantic in Richard Maxwell Natalie I. ALVAREZ University of Toronto Why are we pursuing the authentic? I think it’s because we are trying, and not necessarily succeeding, to find truth and authenticity in a time when masks have overwhelmed us (Anna Deveare Smith)2 It might at first seem paradoxical to speak of a search for authenticity or realness within postmodern theater. Nevertheless, a seemingly inten- sified interest in staging real life and real people among current Off-Off Broadway theater artists has not gone unnoted among theater critics. Despite the search for realness, the traditional forms of actor training designed specifically to achieve this, namely, the Stanislavskian and Strasbergian acting systems, and the concomitant ideological weight of what is generally believed to be the stultified and limiting Realism such systems produce, have come under critical scrutiny. While many would argue that the quest for an ever more faithful representation of reality has been a perennial drive throughout theater history, manifesting in myriad incarnations and radical revisionings, it is tempting nonetheless to situate this perceived wave of realness (that is by no means unique to the theater), as somehow symptomatic of an intensified postmodern condition of simulation, as Anna Deveare Smith’s comment intimates. Arguably, there is no better locus in which to examine such socio- cultural anxieties than within the realm of performance and acting theory, especially in light of the work of so many thinkers who have 1 This phrase, a source of...

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