Guide Alternative Theater in Taiwan: Feminist and Intercultural Approaches, Student Edition

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By using our site, you agree to our collection of information through the use of cookies. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. Arya Madhavan. The rationale in organizing the conference was to explore differences across Asia and note that theories from Western feminists do not necessarily transfer to Asian models.

This conference was a first step toward mapping histories of the female in Asian theatre, and this is a line of inquiry that deserves more attention. She researches Indian theatre, with particular reference to kuti- yattam, the oldest existing theatre form in the world today.

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She is also a kutiyattam performer, and her research and writing focuses on analyzing the aesthetics and praxis of kutiyattam with an intention to develop new theoretical concepts derived from its practice. Madhavan completed her PhD from the Department of Theatre, Film, and Television Studies, Aberystwyth University, in , which focused on the acting and actor training of kutiyattam from the perspective of consciousness studies.

Since she had been focusing on developing the research area of women in Asian theatre, and she is currently editing a Routledge anthol- ogy on the same topic. July I was presenting a paper that addressed the place of women in the traditional Indian theatre form of kutiyattam at the conference Performing Arts in Contemporary Asia: Tradition and Travel. My paper generated some interest in the ways in which women actors were integrated within the two-thousand-year-old kutiyattam, the Asian Theatre Journal, vol.

All rights reserved. Although scholars have written on the role of women in individ- ual Asian performance settings Bailey ; Chatterjea ; Daugh- erty ; Foley , ; Kano ; Mezur ; to name a few , I believed that a collective, concerted effort was inevitably required to generate wider scholarly interest in the topic and expand its scope. To initiate such interest, in September , I organized the first interna- tional Women in Asian Theatre symposium at the University of Lin- coln. The School of Fine and Performing Arts of the University of Lincoln generously hosted the symposium, which incorporated paper presentations, lecture demonstrations, and a screening of the film of Out!

The response to the CFP and the keen interest and participation from aca- demics and practitioners were encouraging. All this proved the timely necessity of initiating research in this trajectory.

Some Thoughts What are the larger issues concerning the nature of female roles in Asian performances? What has been done so far in order to address them? Asian theatre traditions have been an active area of study among theatre scholars and practitioners all over the world for several decades, exerting substantial influence on contemporary performance practices and actor-training methods developed since the advent of the twenti- eth century Stanislavski, Grotowski, Artaud, Craig, Barba, Schechner, and Zarrilli, to name a few.

Lack of dis- course constructing and generating multiple female narratives within the wider Asian performance strands is indeed a key issue. Women are often invisible in various scenarios. The politics and social syntaxes defining visibility or invisibility are varied and dependent on individual sociohistorical and cultural contexts. From an Indian perspective, kutiyattam, for instance, includes a mixed-gen- der cast, a tradition that continues today.

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Any kutiyattam performance, traditionally, must consist of a female cymbalist-singer, seated through- out the performance at the right side of the stage. Nangyar, the kutiyat- tam actress, also performs nangyarkuthu, the forty-one-day solo perfor- mance that also has had a continued existence of at least a thousand years see Moser Nangyars enjoyed social respectability, royal patronage, and special religious provisions including worshipping the deity by standing on the top step of the sanctum after ringing the brass bell, honors that were not extended even to women of higher castes and these nangyars were, unlike normal women, well educated in the Sanskrit and Prakrit languages.

They were never associated with pros- titution, and their social position as actresses was a respectable one. He also speaks about the description of an all-women theatre company in the eighth-century text Kuttanimata Advice of a Courtesan by Damodara Gupta, who profi- ciently performed both male and female roles p. Ramayana and Mahabharatha, the bce and bce Indian epics, speak about dedicated female theatre groups vadhoo nataka sangham [female theatre group] as in Ramayana and female dancers.

Natyasastra dated between bce and ce , the Indian treatise on performance, not only speaks about the necessity of including actresses in theatrical performance but also mentions the practice of the all- female, multiroled dramatic performance called lasyam see Madhavan Notably, all this was happening during a similar period when the mainstream male Greek theatre completely lacked any female presence among the actors or the audience.

While I say this, I am well aware of the range of patriarchal Indian traditional theatres such as kathakali and yakshagana, which remained as exclusively male theatre forms. Female presence is not common in these genres even these days. One may find the simultaneous presence and absence of women in various Asian performances, which problematize the single conceptual lens of Western feminist theories.

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Female impersonation, as in cases like kabuki, replaces the female body on public stages. In the contemporary performance scenario, of course, women engage in creative work together with and in isolation from their male counterparts. The only female kathakali group that was functional in Kerala, although welcomed as an alternative to the mainstream male kathakali, is hardly considered equal to its male counterparts by the critics. Kerala Kal- amandalam, the well-known Kerala kathakali school, does not admit female students into any of their kathakali specific courses even today, albeit there is no official ruling from the institution prohibiting female access to kathakali training.

The Asian modern theatres, on the other hand, offer potentials for a new and vibrant experimental space for women to carve their niche as playwrights, choreographers, performance makers, pop musicians, actors, and dancers.


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  8. Modern theatre provides a well-deserved respite for Asian women to experiment with exciting new material and spaces hitherto unavailable to them. Such female forms, as in the case of the Japanese all-female takarazuka, are either directly influenced by Western theatres or blended with West- ern theatre conventions so as to form unique intercultural theatres. Women play all parts, with the featured male impersonators called otakoyaku.

    The need to more fully explore the interlinkage of kiseang, female courtesan forms, with male entertainments, and the twentieth-century genesis of the female form of the Korean musical theatre, changguk, alive until the s, is highly pertinent. The contributions made by Western women in the role of students, practitioners, and research- ers in furthering this phenomenon in the post—World War II era is apparent, and, as Coldiron rightly argues, this is a largely overlooked phenomenon, one that requires better acknowledgment Curi- ously, the feminist intercultural theatres, as I call them, may not share the conceptual paradigms of intercultural theatre practice e.

    Her dance, once rejected as pornography Sheth , has now become a landmark in contem- porary Indian choreography. The contributions made by these two artists are intellectually and aesthetically momentous given the patri- archal cultural values of aesthetics and audience reception when they began their work in the late s. Additionally, a large body of dra- matic work by women is taking place away from the mainstream in various Asian countries, but documentation and acknowledgment in organized public forums is lacking, making these efforts largely invis- ible to the wider world.

    The sociocultural contexts from which these performances emanate are divergent from Western contexts. Furthermore, the per- formance genres in Asia vary from ritualistic trance dances to highly stylized performance models. Only more compre- hensive and localized feminist models relating to individual cultural, historical, and geographical contexts can sufficiently address the place of women in Asian performances.

    It was such thoughts that I held, knowingly or unknowingly, when I organized the conference Women in Asian Theatre in Women in Asian Theatre Conference Although the event was initially planned as a one-day sympo- sium, an extra half day had to be added, owing to the strong inter- est. The academic rigor of the papers, the variety of issues that they addressed, and the dedication of the conference participants were the reasons behind the success. The conference was inaugurated by Kathy Foley, who spoke about the need for such a conference and what she hoped that the conference would do to generate debates on the topic.

    What followed were two highly meaningful lecture demonstra- tions, one by Tokuro Miyake X, one of the two professional Japanese female kyogen performers, and the other by kathak dancer Sonia Sabri UK , with an introduction by Stacey Prickett. Miyake, from the Izumi school of kyogen, was initiated by her grandfather, Tokuro Miyake IX, and became his successor.

    Three papers addressing gender politics in Korean cotempo- rary musical theatre, Japanese shirabyoshi performance, and an analysis of eco-feminism and bharatanatyam, all featured in the new scholars panel, mapped the emergent themes addressed by upcoming doctoral theses. The debates that followed the panel were supportive to the stu- dents in further formulating their ideas.

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    Kathy Foley in her keynote addressed several questions that were relevant to my discussion above. What spaces were allowed women in actual practice for women, and is a class a factor? What does the rise of more conservative societies in a neoliberal eco- nomic era mean for women as actual performers? The day ended with the film Out!

    Alternative radio is a global phenomenon. It is often produced in non-profit organizational contexts, such as video art collectives e. Videotage, Los Angeles Filmmakers' Cooperative or grassroots social justice organizations e. Public access television provided a broadcast outlet for oftentimes punk and hip-hop-influenced radical cultural critique. With the increasing importance attributed to digital technologies, questions have arisen about where digital media fit in the dichotomy between alternative and mainstream media. First, blogs, Facebook , Twitter and other similar sites, while not necessarily created to be information media, increasingly are being used to spread news and information, potentially acting as alternative media as they allow ordinary citizens to bypass the gatekeepers of traditional, mainstream media and share the information and perspectives these citizens deem important.

    Second, the Internet provides an alternative space for mobilization through the cultivation of interpersonal networks, collective action towards social change, and making information much readily accessible. Typically, among those with deviant, dissident or non-traditional views, Internet platforms allow for the creation of new, alternative communities that can provide a voice for those normally marginalized by the mainstream media.

    In addition, the Internet has also led to an alternative form of programming, which allows both professionals and amateurs to subvert or evade commercial and political restraints on open access to information and information technologies. Lastly, the Internet also breeds a new way of creation and dissemination of knowledge —commons knowledge— that is different from the top-down manner.

    It seeks out and encourages the participation of multiple users, fostering forms of collaborative knowledge production and folksonomies.

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    Wikipedia is an excellent example of this genre. Often considered guerilla-art , street art operates free from the confines of the formal art world. Important aspects of street art as an alternative form are its blend of aesthetics and social engagement, use of urban spaces, and interaction with the social landscape of the area in which the art is made. The street art movement gained popularity in the s as a form of art distinct from high art and commercial venues, but as popularity grew, some street artists moved from the alternative venues of the streets to gallery and museum showings.