Theatre Journal: cfp for 2016 linked special issues on Theatre and the Technological Turn(s)

17 September, 2015

Theatre Journal


Call for Papers

Two Linked Special Issues for 2016:


Theatre and the Technological Turn(s)


These special issues investigate the ways in which technology continues to transform theatre and performance. Theatre has historically taken advantage of (and indeed initiated) ground-breaking historical experimentations with emerging technology from the Futurists’ Synthetic Theatre to the pioneering mise-en-scène of Josef Svoboda to the Fluxus experimentation; through these advances, media and performance scholars have continued to explore a rapidly developing technological age. Such transformations are, in turn, having a significant effect on practice and research in the discipline. Submissions (6000-9000 words) should be e-mailed to managing editor Bob Kowkabany ( no later than 31 January 2016.



Special Issue 1

Digital “Issues”: Rethinking Media in/and/as Performance


In Theatre Journal’s 1999 special issue on “New Technologies,” Susan Bennett wrote that “some theatre scholarship has started to explore and exploit the multidimensional capacities that new technologies permit.” Building from this point, scholars and artists have continued to track and develop an emerging sub-field of media and performance. Called Digital, Multimedia, Mixed-Media, Internet, Cyborg, Virtual, or Intermedial theatre, to mention a few terms, this form has interrogated the growing use, and effects, of new technologies in a globalizing world. Revisiting the topic in the 2009 “Digital Media and Performance,” David Saltz finds a maturing form raising “social, aesthetic, and ontological theoretical issues.”

Bonnie Marranca’s concept of “Mediaturgy” develops out of her 1977 “Theatre of Images,” and is described in PAJ 96 (2010) as “a particular focus in methods of composition in media works that I hope will suggest new critical modes of comprehending and writing.” Now, in 2015, mediatization has been absorbed so thoroughly into everyday life that it is increasingly invisible. In a neoliberal political economy in which a cultural “mediaturgy” contains Donald Trump’s presidential bid, political refugees washing up on shores and screens, and gun violence and racial tensions played out across a myriad of ever-present media devices, mediatization has arguably become the fractured lens through which we understand the world.

If it has become so commonplace to see screens, projections, animations, and electronic objects on stage that we could consider reverting “multimedia theatre” back to just “theatre,” how might theatre now take up the effects of mediatization and find new ways to respond to a neoliberal, increasingly technologized, anthropocentric world? This special issue asks: what are the current challenges and concerns posed by media in/and/as performance? At a time when social and political action is framed by documentation and media capture, how can theatre respond to the mediatization of life? What are the methods in media works that demand new critical modes of thinking about performance? How can media in theatre and performance be used to explore new terrains, or to speak to the over- as well as the under-saturated sites across the globe?

This special issue will be edited by Theatre Journal co-editor Jennifer Parker-Starbuck. Submissions (6000-9000 words) should be e-mailed to managing editor Bob Kowkabany ( no later than 31 January 2016. Note: the deadline for both special issues is the same.



Special Issue 2

Theatre, the Digital, and the Analysis and Documentation of Performance


Throughout its history, theatre has capitalised on advances in technology, from shifts in lighting to the development of machinery for creating special effects to the advent of multimedia in contemporary performance, and beyond. Considerations of multimedia are now integral to contemporary performance but also increasingly to the way in which research takes place in our field as the role that digital humanities can play becomes increasingly prominent. This special issue seeks contributions that engage with forms of technology that extend theatrical analysis and/or provide new ways of interrogating performance. Specifically, the issue looks to attract papers in theatre analysis that rely on quantitative methods, interrogations of large data sets and/or databases, or visualisation of theatre and performance and/or simulated environments.


Writing in these pages in May 2015, Debra Caplan quoted Sarah Bay-Cheng’s comment that “as the digital humanities become more performative [. . .] our discipline’s methodologies have never been more apt, or more useful, to the larger field.” This special issue asks: what do these technologies say about theatre and performance today? What can they elicit that ‘conventional’ research may overlook? How do they facilitate additional forms of investigation and understanding of our discipline(s)? How do we integrate them into other forms of analysis? How, for instance, do the enormous data files for a documentation form such as motion capture ‘translate’ to significant research outcomes? What are the effects of what Franco Moretti calls ‘distant reading’ to our fields? What obstacles might they set in place for understanding the nature of performance?


As is appropriate to such a topic, we hope to be able to load any necessary supporting data (data sets, visualisations, colour images) on the Johns Hopkins University Press site for essays in these issues. Please indicate any specific technological requirements for additional or different forms of critical support in your cover letter.


This special issue will be edited by Theatre Journal editor Joanne Tompkins. Submissions (6000-9000 words) should be e-mailed to managing editor Bob Kowkabany ( no later than 31 January 2016. Note: the deadline for both special issues is the same.

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