Ming Chen, authenticity in theatrical design: what does it mean?

In this essay, Chen exams the complexity of the issues revolving around the concept of “authenticity.” In searching for the origin and applications of this concept, she discovers the discrepancy existed between the use of this concept within and outside of the realm of theatre, and questions “why a copy of Monet’s painting is regarded as non-authentic in everyday life, while a reproduction of period furniture used in a theatrical production is considered authentic?” Since “authenticity” is intimately associated with the ideas of “real” and “truthful,” Chen further traces back to the philosophical roots of these ideas and hence unveiled the metamorphic nature of the ideas of “real” and “truthful.” By utilizing theatrical designs from the past and present as examples, Chen proves three distinctive, yet overlapping, stages in the evolution of the concept “authenticity” throughout theatre history. These stages, as she identifies, are “imitation” (of external world), “expression” (of artist’s feeling of external world)” and “connectivity” (of audience and artist in shared feeling of external world).


Irene Eynat-Confino, On Authenticity, Consensus, and the wow effect

The article underlines the consensual aspect of the notion “authenticity” as well as its limitations. In performing arts, authenticity is the indisputable tie between the performance and its audience. However, the current use of overpowering scenographic devices and techniques engenders a wow effect that is detrimental to the audience’s connection with the performance as well as to the embodiment and detection of authenticity.


Dominika Larionow, The National Theatre: What does it mean in Poland after 1989?

The concept of national theatre in Poland is understood in two ways: as a public institution that is subsidized by the state, and as an idea associated with dramatic works relevant to society at a given historical moment. The article focuses on the latter aspect of national theatre and shows the important role of theatre in Poland after World War II, when it was a mainstay of the nation's identity as a community. After 1989, there was a period of crisis after which the young generation of theatre directors wanted again to create performances that are a grandstand for contemporary problems. Sadly enough, under the rule of the Law and Justice party, theatre has ceased to be a place of free discussion on matters important to society.


Tom Lewy, From Production to Product: Authenticity in Modern Theatre

The article examines the meaning of the concept of authenticity. When is a production considered original when, in practice, each performance is perceived as a unique aesthetic event? In the not too distant past, a play could be simultaneously produced in different countries, in different languages, and in different interpretations, each production being a unique work of art. Today, the producer’ drive to bring the “authentic” successful production to different audiences is seemingly motivated by aesthetic reasons while in fact they are purely commercial. With the globalization in culture and economics, productions are duplicated in the “copy paste” method, to be performed by parallel companies. This practice is frequent with successful musicals. Beside the original production team, the producer sets up travelling companies that move from place to place across the country and even companies in different languages for foreign countries, according to the so-called “demand” of the audiences. In these companies, there is no creative director but a stage manager that reconstitutes the initial production. This is how a genuine production turns into a commercial product, “authentic” like a wax puppet is to the living person.


Julia Listengarten, Vandy Woods, and Megan Alrutz: in search of new authenticity in staging brecht’s good woman of setzuan

The article explores how to achieve cultural transfer that both recognizes historical contexts and generates new authenticity and relevance on stage. Guided by the question of how Brecht’s theatre can “survive” in contemporary contexts, the authors examined a process of producing Brecht’s Good Woman of Setzuan at the University of Central Florida in the early 2000s. As the author/artists tackled the complexities and contradictions of Brecht’s play in relation to the US contexts of 2006, they paid attention to the social and cultural markers of that period and embraced the challenge of taking part in a performative text that both honors historical contexts and remains relevant to contemporary audiences. Specifically, in creating the visual landscape of the play, the artistic team assembled a series of images to illuminate on stage the co-existence of multiple and sometimes contradictory truths pervasive in global consciousness. The initial question of whether or not Brecht’s work survives in contemporary landscapes of identity politics, global capitalism, and postcolonial discourses led the authors to identify key elements of Brecht’s politics, philosophy, and aesthetics and subsequently re-frame or illuminate the past within current political and artistic trends.


Valerie Kaneko Lucas, Hosts and Ghosts: The Question of Authenticity in Site-Based Performance 

This presentation considers the relationship between sites associated with local history and the site-based performances mapped upon them. It may be argued that, in these cases, the site itself is viewed as “authentic” and therefore occupies a privileged position as the source for the theatre-makers creating the performance. However, such performances are contested spaces which problematize this notion of authenticity. The relationship between the site and the theatre-maker is akin to that of parasite and host: the theatre-maker draws upon the site's histories, vision, and perceived social value. These elements are reconfigured by the theatre-maker into a 'reading' of the site which problematizes the question of this space as privileged and authentic. The essay will examines Geraldine Pilgrim's site-specific performance at the Marshall Street Baths in London and Cartoon DeSalvo's The Sunflower Plot, an outdoor site-specific performance set in public allotments, and the immersive work of Punchdrunk Theatre.


Filipa Malva, Coloring the Garden of Eden: the importance of color in scenography

In the Garden of Eden, the tale says, a man, Adam, and a woman, Eve, his flesh, lived in harmony with God and His creation, until they opened the door to sin and were driven away from paradise and into the world. The tale of the birth of mankind, as seen through the eyes of Judaism and Christianity, created many of our political, social and cultural guidelines up to today. Alongside them a set of specific aesthetic motives have developed in Western art. In theatre, and scenography, we work with these meanings as a way to connect simultaneously with our history and with our time. This article analyse the way color, light and shade were used as fundamental organising elements of all scenographic aspects of performance in the production I.L.H.A. (I.S.LAND - Ideas Slightly Hostile about the Future). These elements work around the mythology of the Garden of Eden. They helped define the space and time of performance, inducing conflict into the performers’ actions and structuring a new narrative around the myth of Genesis.


Natalie Rewa, Michael Levine’s scenographically dynamic architecture: the Ring Cycle (2006)  

Michael Levine played a significant dramaturgical role as the production designer for the tetralogy of the Ring Cycle by the Canadian Opera Company, and specifically as the director of the prelude Das Rheingold.  This description of Levine’s dramaturgical scenography will observe the active narrative function of design elements in relation to orchestral and choreographic sequences. Eschewing Goethe’s image of architecture as frozen music Levine’s design symbiotically figures Wagner’s iconic leitmotifs as human acts of assemblage, rather than observed realities – the magnitude of this Valhalla’s monumentality is doubled as an architectural model and as a construction site while its assembly is also made evident in the currencies of human labor and genderized supportive social structures. I posit an oscillating affective attention between seeing and hearing (a McLuhanesque eye for an ear) that is generated by Levine’s animation of design elements in relation to orchestral sequences.  


Vera Velemanova, “apartment theatre” and the “authentic space”

In Czechoslovakia after the Soviet invasion of 1968, at the time of the so-called normalization, artists who did not want to cooperate with the regime had banned activities in their field. Some actors were fired from theatres, unable to film or perform on TV. In order to continue to work in their beloved profession, they played for a circle known at least in private apartments. A specific phenomenon of housing theatre was born. Legendary in this aspect was the home theatre of Vlasta Chramostová, formerly the star of Czech film and theatre. Together with her husband, cameraman Stanislav Milota, who captured some of the productions, she became the creator of this distinctive production art in unconventional spaces. Her best-known productions were a peculiar adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth and the monodrama of František Pavlíček Report on Burial in Bohemia.