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“Artaud’s Daughters in New Media Culture”

October 29, 2008

The Américo Paredes Center for Cultural Studies presents a talk by Theatre & Dance PhD student Heather Barfield.

Monday, November 3, 12-1pm
E. P. Schoch building – EPS 1.128
University of Texas at Austin

Austin theater company, Rubber Repertory, is pushing the limits of theater and live performance into the 21st century.  In their latest production, The Casket of Passing Fancy, they ardently integrate interactivity without apology.  “You must choose,” demands the Duchess who sits at the helm of the parlor.  You must take your chances and honor the infinite possibilities of presence and liveness; you decide whether you want a tame or taboo offer; you initiate the transaction by raising your hand.   You realize there is a precipice to pass behind those curtains: what will happen to you is a mystery that pumps adrenaline through your excited body.  You must shed some fear about human-to-human contact, stranger-to-stranger relations, in order to fully engage the senses and take pleasure (or pain) in the performance made just for you.  You are thrust from complacent and passive spectatorship.

This production astutely captures the essence of Antonin Artaud’s manifestos on “cruel theater” practices.  Also, because the performances are individual and personal, they are performed only once, aligning with Peggy Phelan’s arguments about the ephemeral nature of performance.   Taboos are temporarily suspended for the sake of pleasure and fetishistic notions of experiencing something “new.”  This theater offers a radical and unique twist on notions of representation and mimesis in live performance.

Heather Barfield is a PhD Candidate in Theater and Dance with an emphasis on Performance as Public Practice.  She has been an active player in Austin theater for over 15 years.

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