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Incomplete Dramaturgies

Williams, Nora (2022) 'Incomplete Dramaturgies.' Shakespeare Bulletin: a journal of performance, criticism, and scholarship, 40 (1). pp. 1-22. ISSN 0748-2558 (In Press)

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I argue in this article that Shakespeare’s plays, down to their very bones, both reproduce and reinforce what Kate Manne calls “patriarchal norms and expectations,” such that the misogyny of these plays survives attempts to ameliorate its effects through representational means (19). If misogyny is a structural problem, then its solution must be found in attention to the structures and systems that govern these plays—in other words, in their dramaturgies. To illustrate this point, I turn my attention to casting as an especially fertile ground of inquiry. Failing to acknowledge the limits of casting as an intervention leads many productions into the trap that I call incomplete dramaturgy. Incomplete dramaturgy denotes a failure to adapt and intervene in these plays at a structural level, and represents instead taking a shortcut, hitting on a marketing strategy, picking up on a “trend,” or (with all the good intentions in the world) trying to cast marginalized performers in star-making roles—but perhaps failing to think through to the end of the decisions being made and to consider how they will affect the play at a holistic level. Ultimately, I argue that if you want to put on a Shakespeare play in a way that speaks back to his cultural capital and power, you might have to gut it first: tear out its insides and rearrange them in order to get to something new. This gutting requires more—and more difficult—thinking than narratives of “nontraditional” casting usually imply. If a director wishes to make a point about gender, casting is one of many tools at their disposal in order to do so—and yet many stop at that first hurdle, relying upon casting to do the work of dramaturgy. This is why such dramaturgies are “incomplete”: they are thoughts that have not been finished.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities
Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2022 22:41
Last Modified: 05 Nov 2022 23:09

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