Special Issue "Religion and Theatrical Drama"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 September 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Larry D. Bouchard
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4126, USA
Interests: religion and literature/arts; theatrical drama; narrative fiction; modern theology and philosophy of religion; religious ethics; critical theory; hermeneutics; phenomenological aesthetics; theory and method in the study of religion
Dr. Charles A. Gillespie
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Catholic Studies, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT 06825, USA
Interests: theology; critical theory; hermeneutics; aesthetics; theatre and performance; religion and literature; religion and the arts; theory and method in the study of religion

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue of Religions proposes to reinvestigate and reinvigorate dialogue between studies of religion and theatrical drama. Dramatic terms—performativity, character, role, improvisation—have become ubiquitous in comparative and critical approaches to the study of religion. Thus, theatrical drama continues to stage theological themes, sacred stories, divine revelations and conundrums, and religious and moral dilemmas. The issue will take particular interest in the ways theatrical drama interacts dialectically with religions. Religious phenomena share family resemblences with theatrical drama as an artistic genre that entails the co-presence of live actors and live audience in events characterized by their people, actions, scripts, and practices. Theatrical drama illuminates religious questions regarding social construction and givenness, hermeneutics and practical wisdom, integrity and impersonation, repetition and difference, distortions and disclosures. At the same time, religious themes in plays encourage public discussion about God and the gods, trustworthy and dangerous traditions, identity and ethics, and the interpretations of the stories communities choose to celebrate or refuse to tell.

Religion and drama are inherently contested areas for research. We invite interpretive papers working at intersections between “religious” matters in theatrical drama (widely concieved to include literary-dramatic classics and new plays, music-dramas, political theatre, pageantry, devised performances, and more) and studies of religious thought, history, and practice. Inspired by drama’s metatheatrical reflexivity (that is, when plays and performances become aware of themselves as works of theatre), we invite reconsiderations of what may be seen as theatrical theologies and dramaturgical methods for the study of religion. Provoked by drama’s tragic conflicts and comic disruptions, we invite considerations of text and performance, story and spectacle, from varied approaches and across expected disciplinary lines. Theatrical drama generates exciting ways of engaging religion-related questions and of being engaged by them—ways that do not need to reduce to either sides of secular/religious, theory/praxis, and drama-as-literature/theatre-as-performance binaries.

Prof. Dr. Larry D. Bouchard
Dr. Charles A. Gillespie
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • religion and literature
  • narrative
  • performance
  • theatricality
  • spectacle
  • authenticity
  • character
  • dramaturgy
  • freedom
  • genre
  • representation (mimesis)

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Nora’s Ironic Longing for Christlike Love: Self-Sacrifice, Self-Love, and the “Religion of Torvald” in Ibsen’s A Doll House
Religions 2020, 11(7), 318; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11070318 - 28 Jun 2020
Abstract
This essay argues that in Ibsen’s A Doll House, both Nora and her husband, Torvald Helmer, exhibit a “religion of Torvald” characterized by their respective devotion to Torvald himself. However, while Torvald’s devotion to himself is characterized by self-love and self-centeredness, Nora’s [...] Read more.
This essay argues that in Ibsen’s A Doll House, both Nora and her husband, Torvald Helmer, exhibit a “religion of Torvald” characterized by their respective devotion to Torvald himself. However, while Torvald’s devotion to himself is characterized by self-love and self-centeredness, Nora’s “religion of Torvald” is based on her expectation that Torvald will exhibit the Christlike office of bearing Nora’s sins by proclaiming himself guilty of her crime of forgery, thus rendering her blameless. After Torvald shatters Nora’s expectations by reacting with abuse and cowardice to the news of Nora’s forgery and Krogstad’s consequent blackmail, Nora loses her previous faith in Torvald and instead exhibits a preoccupation with her own self that, ironically enough, imitates the self-love of the “religion of Torvald” that Torvald has practiced all along. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Theatrical Drama)
Open AccessArticle
Toward Witnessing the Other: Syria, Islam and Frans van der Lugt
Religions 2020, 11(4), 174; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11040174 - 08 Apr 2020
Abstract
This article addresses issues and questions at the intersection of religion and theatrical drama from the perspective of Muslim-Christian comparative theology. A case study approaching an actual performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet from this disciplinary point of view also takes into account [...] Read more.
This article addresses issues and questions at the intersection of religion and theatrical drama from the perspective of Muslim-Christian comparative theology. A case study approaching an actual performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet from this disciplinary point of view also takes into account the Syrian context, develops a framework for “mutual witnessing”, and the practice of drama therapy. Accordingly, the case-method proceeds to address two interrelated challenges. The first is how to relate to the adaptive praxis and theological sensibilities of performers who inhabit a political and religious situation that is radically different from one’s own. The second regards in a more specific way of reframing a case of Christian martyrdom in terms of witnessing that remains open and hospitable to religious others, and particularly in this case to Syrian Muslims. As an exercise of comparative theology, this case-method approach focuses on notions of “witnessing truth” that appear and are cultivated in the work of liberation theologian Jon Sobrino and in Ibn ‘Arabī’s Fusūs al-Hikam, specifically the chapter on Shuayb. In conclusion, this exercise turns to the performance itself as a potential foundation for shared theological reflection between Muslims and Christians. As such, this article attempts to render how theatrical action creates a “religious” experience according to the structure and threefold sense that Peter Brook observes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Theatrical Drama)
Open AccessArticle
Gertrude Stein and the Metaphysical Avant-Garde
Religions 2020, 11(4), 152; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11040152 - 25 Mar 2020
Abstract
When American metaphysical religion appears onstage, it most often manifests in the subject matter and dramaturgies of experimental theater. In the artistic ferment of the 1960s and 1970s counterculture, theater-makers looked both to alternative dramaturgies and alternative religions to create radical works of [...] Read more.
When American metaphysical religion appears onstage, it most often manifests in the subject matter and dramaturgies of experimental theater. In the artistic ferment of the 1960s and 1970s counterculture, theater-makers looked both to alternative dramaturgies and alternative religions to create radical works of political, social, and spiritual transformation. While the ritual experiments of European avant-garde artists like Artaud and Grotowski informed their work, American theater-makers also found inspiration in the dramas of Gertrude Stein, and many of these companies (the Living Theatre and the Wooster Group, most notably) either staged her work or claimed a direct influence (like Richard Foreman). Stein herself, though not a practitioner of metaphysical religion, spent formative years in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at Radcliffe under the tutelage of William James. Cambridge, at the turn of the twentieth century, was a hotbed of spiritualism, theosophy, alternative healing modalities, and James, in addition to running the psychology lab in which Stein studied, ran a multitude of investigations on extrasensory and paranormal phenomena. This article traces a web of associations connecting Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism, and liberal Protestantism to Gertrude Stein and landscape dramaturgy to the midcentury avant-garde, the countercultural religious seeking of the 1960s and 1970s, and the Off-Off-Broadway movement. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Theatrical Drama)
Open AccessArticle
“Fantastic Tricks before High Heaven,” Measure for Measure and Performing Triads
Religions 2020, 11(2), 100; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11020100 - 22 Feb 2020
Abstract
Reading Measure for Measure through the logic of substitution has been a long-standing critical tradition; the play seems to invite topical, political, and religious parallels at every turn. What if the logic of substitution in the play goes beyond exchange and seeks out [...] Read more.
Reading Measure for Measure through the logic of substitution has been a long-standing critical tradition; the play seems to invite topical, political, and religious parallels at every turn. What if the logic of substitution in the play goes beyond exchange and seeks out a triadic logic instead? This insistent searching for the triad appears most notably in the performance of Measure for Measure by Cheek by Jowl (2013–2019). Cheek By Jowl’s strategies of touring, simplicity, movement, and liberation create a dynamic and ever-evolving performance. This article puts Cheek by Jowl’s performance of Measure for Measure in conversation with C.S. Peirce’s (and subsequent theorists) explorations of triadic logic with Puttenham’s rhetoric of traductio (repetition with variation, and "tranlacing"), in addition to critical work on substitutions in the play. Tracing the superfluity of substitutions in rhetoric and performance of the play allows us to see how the play refuses binaries, and energizes triadic logic as a means to liveness in performance. Both Shakespeare’s play and the Cheek By Jowl production use a triadic structure which suggests the Trinity, foregrounding the body as a site of mediation and liveness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Theatrical Drama)
Open AccessArticle
Religion and the Limits of Metatheatre in Our Town and Sunday in the Park with George
Religions 2020, 11(2), 94; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11020094 - 18 Feb 2020
Abstract
This essay explores theatrical drama alongside aspects of religious dimensionality David Tracy analyzes in terms of limit experience, limit language, and limit questions. The claim is that metatheatrical forms can correlate with limit dimensions, a correlation which may prove as pertinent as ritual [...] Read more.
This essay explores theatrical drama alongside aspects of religious dimensionality David Tracy analyzes in terms of limit experience, limit language, and limit questions. The claim is that metatheatrical forms can correlate with limit dimensions, a correlation which may prove as pertinent as ritual for linking drama with religious experience, thought, and practice. Here, metatheatre and limit dimensions are further defined in respect to Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play, Our Town, and Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s 1984 musical, Sunday in the Park with George. The essay identifies distinct though often overlapping forms of metatheatre: plays or performances that (1) explicitly refer to themselves, or (2) represent theatrical or theatre-like works within their stories and expressed worlds (e.g., plays within plays), or (3) dramatize theatre-like and performative aspects of ordinary life. Just as Wilder foregrounds metatheatrical relations to create an impression of the eternal, Sondheim and his collaborators reflect on their work’s ontological conditions of possibility by bringing to life another work, a painting, at distantly separated moments in time. Our Town and Sunday in the Park invite us to enter social and ritualized spaces inhabited by commonplace yet archetypal persons; they culminate in moments where the audience is to discern past, present, and future in simultaneous proximity; and with their different contents and forms, they prove good plays for elaborating relations among theatre, limit experience, and religious dimensionality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Theatrical Drama)
Open AccessArticle
Bewitching Power: The Virtuosity of Gender in Dekker and Massinger’s The Virgin Martyr
Religions 2019, 10(11), 629; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10110629 - 14 Nov 2019
Abstract
This paper examines the reversals of gender in Thomas Dekker and Philip Massinger’s play The Virgin Martyr (1622) in light of early modern scientific notions of the female body. Like well-known female martyrs from the period, such as Anne Askew, the protagonist, Dorothea, [...] Read more.
This paper examines the reversals of gender in Thomas Dekker and Philip Massinger’s play The Virgin Martyr (1622) in light of early modern scientific notions of the female body. Like well-known female martyrs from the period, such as Anne Askew, the protagonist, Dorothea, takes on characteristically male attributes: she assumes the role of the soldier and defies scientific understanding of the female gender by sealing her phlegmatic “leaky” body and exuding divine heat that defies her cold, wet “nature”. These gender reversals, from Dorothea and other characters, illustrate how the act of martyrdom could be interpreted not only as a miraculous performance, a “witness” to the divine, but one built on sensational, seemingly impossible performances of gender. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Theatrical Drama)
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Open AccessArticle
“Beautiful and New”: The Logic of Complementarity in Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Religions 2019, 10(11), 620; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10110620 - 08 Nov 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This article suggests that reading John Cameron Mitchell’s musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch as a religious classic undermines the logic of complementarity within Catholic theological anthropology, particularly the Theology of the Body of John Paul II. A religious classic, a term coined [...] Read more.
This article suggests that reading John Cameron Mitchell’s musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch as a religious classic undermines the logic of complementarity within Catholic theological anthropology, particularly the Theology of the Body of John Paul II. A religious classic, a term coined by theologian David Tracy, describes a work with an “excess of meaning” that offers hope and resistance against a normative social structure. Hedwig resists the hegemonic structure of sexual dimorphism, as represented by the logic of complementarity operative within the Theology of the Body. This theological anthropology proposes a normative framework for human beings as gendered and sexual agents who “complete” each other through heterosexual and monogamous marital acts, reinforcing heterosexist and transphobic bodily norms. The work of Judith Butler helps illuminate the embodied performance of gender that the musical so brilliantly subverts. Hedwig, while toying with gender norms, also undermines the idea of the logic of complementarity—namely, that each person has another “half” that will cause completion, bringing human flourishing. In the title character not finding a version of “completeness” by the end of the show, the musical, thus, offers hope for those who cannot fit into gendered bodily norms. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Theatrical Drama)
Open AccessArticle
Go and Sin No More: The Afterlife as Moral Teaching in Italian Catholic Educational Theatre
Religions 2019, 10(9), 517; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10090517 - 06 Sep 2019
Abstract
Catholic religious orders that have education as part of their mission have often used visions of the afterlife in theatre productions as vehicles to transmit a message of conversion, especially to those who, because of age or illiteracy, would not benefit as much [...] Read more.
Catholic religious orders that have education as part of their mission have often used visions of the afterlife in theatre productions as vehicles to transmit a message of conversion, especially to those who, because of age or illiteracy, would not benefit as much from Scripture readings or complex sermons. In this article, I look at how such visions of the blessed and the damned, of heaven and hell, of angels and demons, were used in educational theatre in Italy by the Jesuits in the 16th century and the Salesian sisters in the 20th century. The historical background for the Jesuit and Salesian plays I analyze also reveals a propagandistic layer of meaning in their representation of the afterworld, as the Jesuits’ tragedies date to the years of the Counter-reformation, while the Salesian sisters’ plays belong to era of the cold war. Thus, the Jesuit and Salesian theatrical depictions of heaven and hell provide insight not only into the religious understanding of the eras, but also into the social and political concerns of the times in which they were composed, as well as the diverse educational messages transmitted to young men and young women. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Theatrical Drama)
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