Reading, observes Leah Price, is an “activity against which the social defines itself.” How odd, then, that during the last half-century public reading has proliferated so wildly. These "bookish performances" (literary readings, readers theater, and found-text performance of every variety) share one goal: not to dramatize literature, but to theatricalize the (inward) experience of reading. As such, they offer an archive of our reading: its phenomenology, its ideology, and its sheer, idiosyncratic variety.
A Constellation of Imagined Theatres: Technology and Performance
(contributor to a multi-authored article, edited by Daniel Sack)
Film and theater critics of the early 20th century came to rather strange consensus. As George Jean Nathan put it in 1928, there wasn't an actor alive "who didn't seem completely convincing in a telephone scene." But why? This essay explores the history of the stage telephone in order to explain how the "telephone scene" became a trial (and a showcase) for quality realist acting.
Every Nerve Keyed Up: 'Telegraph Plays' and Networked Performance, 1850-1900
This essay tells the stage history of the telegraph machine. Structured around a deep analysis of William Gillette's Secret Service, it also surveys a wide range of American, British and French telegraph plays. Telegraphy, I argue, transformed 19th-century dramaturgy and acting, turning them realist and proleptically modern. At the same time, these plays (alongside extra-theatrical telegraph "performances" like technical demonstrations and early baseball broadcasts) reveal a new, emerging sense of the human, the global, and the live.
The Breath of the Poem: Confessional Print/Performance circa 1959
Starting in the mid-1950s, American poetry lived not only in print, but also (and equally) on vinyl and in live performance. Amid this unprecedented publicity, an oddly private genre emerged: confessional poetry. This was no coincidence. Confessional poetry, I argue, was from the start a performance genre, infused with the breath of embodied orality.
Love and Loneliness: Secular Morality in the Plays of Conor McPherson
Some early critics were aghast at Conor McPherson's plays, which they took to be amoral explorations (even immoral celebrations) of Irish "lad culture." In this essay, I explore McPherson's oeuvre and reveal that, in fact, these plays are obsessed with forging a new morality: something separate from the political and religious creeds that had hitherto guided Irish life.