Monday, July 9, 2018

We Begin in Belgrade...

Photo of House of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia in Belgrade. 

I often start blogs by stating how bad I am at blogging – not that this won’t be a nice adventure, it will just, most likely, be an inconsistent one (note how consistent the posts on this blog are from 2015 to present day).  I gave up on it all together for the longest time but am trying again for two main reasons:

1.     To contextualize and share the work I’m doing on a public forum (and practice being comfortable with it). 

2.     My field notebook is bordering on middle school diary with long diatribes about long lost lovers and current haters and everything else in between. And while gossip is interesting, it's not integral to the purpose of this trip, which is for research. So, this will (hopefully) pluck some of that out. 

This week I’m in Belgrade, Serbia for the IFTR World Congress...

Photo of a playground in Belgrade near my Airbnb apartment. 

What is the IFTR World Congress, you ask?

Well, that’s a good question… it’s the annual International Federation for Theatre Research, a gathering of theatre scholars from across the globe (150 of them happened to be on my plane yesterday). Pretty much I’m going to find my people (those who are working in the same area as me), talk about the "work", make connections and eat lots of good food. 

I’m presenting on the New Scholars Forum on Thursday. My presentation tackles the performance of self in New York City youth theatre (but we will talk more about that on Thursday…)

My IFTR swag. 

Following IFTR I will be on the road for the next month conducting pre-dissertation research and be participating in the Ashtar Youth International Theatre Festival (which is considered performance as practice). I received a Provost’s Pre-Dissertation Summer Research Grant so I will be traveling through the Middle East. 

And what is the research that the CUNY Graduate Center has so graciously funded this summer, you ask? 

Great question. And the purpose of this blog. 

My academic research explores the impact and functions of theatre in conflict areas and war zones. I am primarily looking at how theatre helps maintain cultural identity and how it works as a method of resistance to oppression in communities affected by war and displacement.

Yes. This is very broad. TOO broad, actually. So, this summer I will be narrowing this very broad topic down substantially. To do this, I will be seeing theatre, visiting and interviewing artists, observing rehearsals and documenting this through writing, photo and video.

I will be asking a lot of questions and doing even more listening. In fact, in my notebook, I jokingly named my trip in April the “Shut Up and Listen” tour as in addition to research questions, I was even more interested in hearing about how artists want to be portrayed and how they want their work talked about. I began some of this work in April during my trip to Beirut (to participate in another conference). I was able to connect with a number of local theatre artists and learned a lot about the robust theatre community in Lebanon. Check out this article on a site-specific production of Blood Wedding and my Instagram, which features a few interviews.

In the next weeks, I will be posting more about my research, this current trip, theatre and lots of food. I'm happy you'll be coming along for the ride!

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