Local Manifestations of National Diversity Initiatives: Representing or Transforming Difference Through Performance
Do theories of performance and what it makes possible coincide with local performance practices? On 24, June, 2006, fifteen artistic directors representing a broad range of distinct theatre and dance performance organizations in Pittsburgh, Pa. enagaged in a Community Conversation about diversity in the performing arts. This conversation commemorated the 10th anniversary of a challenge made by playwright August Wilson in, "The Ground on Which I Stand." Wilson brought to light the politics of representation and the sociological considerations that influence aesthetic practices and funding patterns in American Theatre. This Community Conversation, sponsored by Unseam'd Shakespeare Co., Carnegie Mellon University, and the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, reveals the local response to Wilson's challenge, as well as to the subsequent calls for a national reconsideration of aesthetic models and funding practices. Ethnographic data and analysis of video and audio transcripts collected during this local conversation challenge the universalizing notions of communal negotiation encountered in Richard Schechner's "Poetics of Performance," illuminate the borders and dimensions of the "liminal" space of performance argued for in the work of Schechner, Victor Turner, and Joseph Roach, and reintroduce for our consideration romantic notions of art, artists, and artistic practice that our theory may reject but which still seems to guide practice on the local level. However, considered from a perspective of rhetoric and deliberative democracies, this Community Conversation provides locally situated examples of the how performance functions to create the public spheres that guide a community's imagination and realization of itself and its members.
Keywords: Performance Theory, Deliberative Democracy, Imagination and the Public Sphere, Liminality, Art and Identity
Mr. J.Timothy Dawson
Carnegie Mellon University