21 September, 2023 | by Jemimah Jacobs

Please find below two calls for papers for our upcoming special issues of Contemporary Theatre Review: ‘What’s Queer about Queer Performance Now?’ (edited by Alyson Campbell, Stephen Farrier & Manola Gayatri Kumarswamy) and ‘Hear Tell: Describing, Reporting, Narrating’ (edited by Georgina Guy & Johanna Linsley).

All queries and abstracts should be sent directly to the guest editors. Please find further information for both special issues at the end of this message.

What’s Queer about Queer Performance Now?

Guest Editors

Alyson Campbell (Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne)

Stephen Farrier (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London)

Manola Gayatri Kumarswamy (Wits School of Arts, University of Witwatersrand Johannesburg)

The roots of queer performance are present in the non-conformist, the antinormative and the anti-institutional. Despite these resistances, queer thought and its corollaries, including queer performance, have found a concentration in the body of the academy and this paradoxical homing is often seen as problematically ‘domesticating’ queer performance. Rather than repeat the position that the continuing voice of queer performance in the academy and in our theatre institutions is the sound of its death knell (queer theory’s death having been announced many times) this special issue of CTR will ask what this continuing presence means for how we think, read, study, make and speak about queer performance. It asks, then: what is queer about queer performance now? Using the influential 2005 ‘What’s Queer about Queer Studies Now?’ edition of Social Text as inspiration, this special issue of CTR takes the question as impetus to ask the same of queer performance. The edition of Social Text explored how queer studies might function in a specific political climate in response to shifts in identity politics and new approaches to queer epistemologies. Like that collection, this special edition of CTR seeks essays that offer new and diverse perspectives that respond to developments in queer performance and in queer modes of performance-making, asking: what is queer performance now, how do we recognise it, how do we make it, how do we talk about it and how might its current manifestations question or solidify historical visions of what queer performance might do?

The special issue is connected with the editorial work Campbell and Farrier did on Queer Dramaturgies, (Palgrave, 2015), which is a collection that explores important gaps in how we might speak of queer performance internationally and intergenerationally. The 2015 collection focuses on modes of analysis of queer performance that reform the relationship of queer theory to performance practice, placing the practice as the ‘first term’, as expressed in the book’s subtitle: International Perspectives on Where Performance Leads Queer. Since its publication, the field has diversified further. Yet, there is still work to be done to continue to address international queer work: how it might be considered and conceptualised – both in its presence in normative theatre spaces as well as in its feral, underground, local manifestations. This special issue of CTR addresses these gaps and recent developments and continues to conceive of the field as diverse, resisting homogeneity by paying mind, for instance, to granular geographical specificities and questioning the complexities of queer performance practices. Such an approach upsets an assumed globalised identity of the queer subject (‘homonation’), particularly in postcolonial cultures invested in decolonisation. The special issue holds to a hierarchy that insists there are still many more critical concepts and approaches to be mined when we place queer performance first. A key aim of the special issue is to open out avenues for discussions of intersectional work and to support the achievements of scholars and makers outside the specific contexts of the global north.

Contributions might approach questions including but by no means limited to:

  • What is queer performance and what is queer about it now?
  • How has queer performance focussed, or not, on ethnicity, race, class, disability, gender or gender identity? How does current queer performance engage with contemporary issues of identity, especially where those identity formations are new, intersectional, geographically and temporally sensitive?
  • In what ways or not is queer discourse productive in activating contemporaneity for performance practices of traditional/Indigenous transgroups in Global South cultures?
  • Between the art market, traditional family and culturally conservative state, what are the radical and strategic ways queer women performers engage with capital and structural resources for performance making in the Global South or engage with the question of cultural labour (Prakash 2019)?
  • How do writers and makers account for the current state of queer performance and how is it connected to both radical and assimilationist pasts?
  • In a context where some performance and theatre institutions are welcoming queer identity positions, what does this do the antinormative drive of queer and the kinds of performance work that is produced?
  • What structural and dramaturgical strategies are being used to make current queer performance /queer performance current? How do queer performance makers work in the rehearsal room? How do they conceive and plan of their work queerly?
  • How does the relationship of virtuosity and non-virtuosity work as/in queer practices? Is there a tension in making queer work highly polished or appearing amateurish?
  • How does current queer performance engage, or not, with discourses of disability? What are the compelling crip queer intersections happening in performance work and how might these question the historical assumptions of queer performance?
  • How does queer performance record and archive itself without replicating the normative-inducing structures it seeks to resist?
  • Is queer performance work old enough to be considered generational (and is this an assumption of the Global North?) How does queer intergenerational practice structure, reinforce and/or question the emerging normativising of queer performance? How might intergenerational practice normalise/radicalise queer histories?
  • How does queer performance position social and political contexts not in the Global North, or concerned with Westernness? How are these positions characterised and read in specific contexts? Is queer performance work visible to all? Is the idea of queer work being ‘domesticated’ or ‘defanged’ unthinkable in some parts of the world where to be queer or make queer work requires strategies to avoid being visible?
  • What is the impact of the hegemonic position of the cis gay man in queer (and non-queer) performance communities?
  • What are the responsibilities of queer performance makers in the current social and political climate? How might we critique queer performance when it is failing the community?
  • What are the strategies that might ensure that queer performance maintains its normative-resistant queerness in institutional contexts?

Please submit proposals to: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

Hear Tell: Describing, Reporting, Narrating

Guest Editors

Georgina Guy (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Johanna Linsley (University of Dundee)

This special issue of Contemporary Theatre Review stages the accounting for and recounting of reality as a theatrical problem. In the current climate of media manipulation and a crisis in public truth-telling, the question of how theatre transmits and transforms the world is acute. We are familiar with a barrage of pressing representational challenges: fake news, media manipulation, break-down of trust in authority, information overload, intricacies of identity politics. How much, though, does present-day cultural commentary assume a stable field of representation in the past to which we need to return? How do we maintain complexity while dodging tactics of obfuscation so central to contemporary politics of domination? How might (re)turning to the theatre complicate our understanding of relations between actions and their circulation as speech and spectacle, and offer tools for collective emancipatory production? Ultimately, this special issue asks how current theatre practice addresses itself to ‘the contemporary.’ To what extent is it the task of theatre and performance to ‘tell it like it is’?

Examining verbal, literary, and oral/aural registers, the issue considers conventions of spoken expression, and performances of hearing and telling, as complex entanglements. If you hear tell of an event, somebody relates it to you. Hear tell involves both a speaker and a listener, a performer and an audience. It represents an account communicated in speech of something that might have happened. Theatre involves and prompts such acts of hear telling, dialogues, like those described by Joe Kelleher, ‘as to what was seen or heard tell of and what it might mean, what it might be worth, what there is to do with it’ (2015). The issue concerns methods for transmitting events, objects, and experiences. It works across disciplinary intersections between performance, documentation and the documentary, as well as in the context of a ‘sonic turn’ that sees artists and scholars reconsidering the aural dimension of a range of experiences and allows for new interactions between modes of production and perception.

Contributions are invited that circulate around three key actions: describing, reporting, and narrating. These approaches represent specific methods of writing for and about performance, and respond to a range of contemporary theatre and performance forms that rely on narrative and rhetoric to produce place, character, and event. The editors are interested in proposals that engage with creative practices employing at least one of these modes. Contributions might acknowledge major historical examples wherein descriptions of and actions against a situation are linked through theatre practice (Bertolt Brecht, Augusto Boal) or approach more contemporary case studies including: the legacy of the ‘lecture performance’ (Tim Etchells, Goat Island, Wooster Group, Atlas Group, Aaron Williamson, Lone Twin, Rabih ​Mroué); ​innovative autobiographical performance staging complex encounters between documentary theatre and storytelling (Selena Thompson, Chris Goode, Christopher Brett Bailey, Brian Lobel, Travis Alabanza); theatricality in relation to ekphrasis, with reference to performance works in the gallery or museum (Rose English, Tim Crouch); interdisciplinary approaches that refigure conventional institutional infrastructures, often through frameworks of the sonic (Lawrence Abu Hamdan/ Forensic Architecture, Liquid Architecture, Mapa Teatro).

Contributions might approach questions including but by no means limited to:

  • What is the status of mimesis in contemporary theatre and how does performance respond to the current cultural and political crises in truth-telling?
  • Who reports and who gets reported on, in contemporary theatre and beyond?
  • How might narrative forms fill gaps in official records and what are the ethics of narrativising histories, particularly those of trauma or violence?
  • How do we articulate what theatre is and how it operates in present-day culture?
  • What institutional infrastructures and conventions are at play in reporting, describing and narrating? How does theatre internalize and/ or challenge these traditions?
  • To what extent do accounts of practice appropriate the acts they attempt to describe?
  • What productive frictions exist between acts of description, quotation, and citation?

For Backpages, we invite reports of reporting, descriptions of describing, and narratives of narrating within contemporary theatre practice, or pieces that present ‘Hear Tellings’ (conversations with artists, curators, and other cultural workers about methods of accounting – from eavesdropping to the anecdote – that shape their approaches). We also draw attention to the opportunity for experimental Interventions, specially developed online features taking up the au/oral dimensions of describing, reporting, and narrating. This issue is informed by discussions organised during the Guest Editors’ co-convenorship of the TaPRA Documenting Performance Working Group.’

Please submit proposals to: [email protected] and [email protected]

Further Information for both special issues

The guest editors invite proposals for articles of 6-9000 words in length (inclusive of notes and references), documents of 4-6000 words, and shorter pieces of 1500-2000 words for Backpages and CTR’s online open-access publication Interventions.

Abstracts and proposals are due 11 May 2020

The special issues will be published at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022

If you have a proposal for a future special issue of CTR, please contact journal editors: Maria Delgado ([email protected]), Maggie Gale ([email protected]), & Bryce Lease ( [email protected])

Dr Bryce Lease | Head of Department of Drama, Theatre & Dance
Royal Holloway, University of London
PI ‘Staging Difficult Pasts’ | Staging difficult pasts

CoEditor | Contemporary Theatre Review