This seminar course is designed for advanced undergraduate and graduate students. Since the post world war period, Latin America has often preceded the United States in its legacy of revolution and popular movements expressed in theater and performance. The Cuban Revolution is one such example initiated in the early 1950s to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Battista. Activated by various kinds of ‘theaters,’ on stage, in the streets and on plazas, masses of people were organized to politically overturn and challenge power structures that had been in place through the period of statehood in the 19th century and arguably beyond.
Throughout the semester, we will study theories of performance and politics in the expanse of territories named in the sixteenth century as América, allowing us to ask questions such as, how has performance contributed to or affronted social movements or revolution? How has the term popular been theorized in recent decades as related to theater and performance? The semester’s readings will also expose us to several plays and sites of performance that situate the work of artists and audiences within particular historical and political contexts. With a special emphasis on theory of popular culture we will examine a selection of readings and performances including Augusto Boal, Gloria Anzaldúa, Roberto DaMatta, Teatro Campesino, Néstor García Canclini, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Ernesto Laclau and Diana Taylor. We will also look briefly at the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, Victor Turner and Randy Martin among others in order to further examine the relationship between communal action, corporality, movement and the masses. We start the course by comparing the various ways that artists and theorists approach the transcultural exchange between north-south/south-north and south-south relations in the American hemisphere. We will turn to the analysis of staged productions, and the aesthetic and ideological choices that individuals and collectives have made in their attempts to build and disable hegemony.