Political Performance in Latin America

Diana Taylor email: diana.taylor@nyu.edu

Of Hrs: Thurs 2-5 website: http://hemi.nyu.edu

This course examines the use of performance -- by the State, by oppositional groups, and by theatre and performance practitioners -- to solidify or challenge structures of power. The course looks at specific examples of how theatre and public spectacles have been used since the 1960s to control or contest the political stage. Starting with the climactic moment of the Cuban revolution, we examine how Latin American playwrights (Enrique Buenaventura, Emilio Carballido, José Triana, Augusto Boal) and collective theatre groups (Yuyachkani, T.E.C.) struggled to transform theatre from an instrument of colonial oppression into an oppositional, at times revolutionary, 'theatre of the oppressed.' We then look at the military dictatorships of 1970s-80s, during which Latin American playwrights, performers, and political actors responded to political violence (Teatro Abierto, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Griselda Gambaro, Eduardo Pavlovsky). The 1980s and 90s the convergence of performance and politics takes many forms--from issues of gender, sexuality and race, to neo-colonialism and globalism--as visible in the practices of playwrights and solo performance artists (Diana Raznovich, Jesusa Rodriguez, Denise Stoklos, and Astrid Hadad).

The course includes a web component.

Texts in NYU Bookstore:

Skidmore and Smith, Modern Latin American History
Fietlowitz, M., Information for Foreigners: Three Plays by Griselda Gambaro
Boal, A., Theatre of the Oppressed
Taylor, D., Theatre of Crisis: Drama and Politics in Latin America
Taylor, D., Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’
Fusco, C., Corpus Delecti

Reading Packet

1/19 Introduction: Latin America in the wake of the Cuban Revolution--the political, theatrical
        and activist context.
        Taylor, Theatre of Crisis, Introduction and Chapter One.
1/26 The theatre of revolution
        José Triana, "The Criminals" (in packet)
        Brecht, "Short Organum for the Theatre" (in packet)

2/2 Revolutionary Theatre
      Boal: Theatre of the Oppressed
      Boal: "Memory and the Torture Chamber" (from Legislative Theatre, in packet)
      Althusser, ("The ‘Piccolo Teatro,’ from For Marx, in packet)

2/9 Buenaventura, "Theatre & Culture" (in packet)
      Plays: The School Teacher, The Orgy, The Twisted State (in packet)
      Taylor, Theatre of Crisis, ch 5 "Destroying the Evidence: Enrique Buenaventura"
      Adorno, "On Commitment" (in packet)

2/16 Carballido: Hybridity, Mestizaje, Transculturation
        Play: "I, Too, Speak of the Rose"
        Taylor, Theatre of Crisis, Ch. 4.
        Stam, "Aesthetics of Garbage" (in packet)

2/23 Collective Theatre: Yuyachkani (video)
         Theatre as a Form of Testimony:
         Cathy Caruth, Intro Trauma: Explorations in Memory (in packet)
         Dori Laub: "Truth and Testimony: The Process and the Struggle" (in packet)
         Taylor, "Staging Social Memory: Yuyachkani" (in packet)

3/1 Paper 1 due (5 pages: post on web-board)

3/1 Theatre & Terrorism
      Plays: Griselda Gambaro: Information for Foreigners
      Pavlovsky, Potestad/Impunity (in packet)
      Ariel Dorfman, Death and the Maiden (in packet)

3/8 ‘Disappearance’ and Performance
       Teatro Abierto (video)
       Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (video)
       Taylor, Disappearing Acts
       Taussig, "Maleficium: State Fetishism" (in packet)

3/8-10 Web-board discussion --The role of art in a context of criminal politics; the role of the spectator, by-stander and witness in spectacles of terror

3/13-17 Spring Break

3/22 Performance in the 1980s and 90s: Overview
        Soto, "Performance in Cuba in the 1980s" (in Fusco, Corpus Delecti, 266-274)
        Richard, "Margins and Institutions: Performance of the Chilean Avanzada" (in Fusco, Corpus Delecti,            203-218)
        Casas, "Las Yeguas del Apocalipsis" (in Fusco, Corpus Delecti, 221-222)

3/29 Fighting Fire with Frivolity: Diana Raznovich
        Plays: Disconcerted, Inner Gardens, MaTrix Inc., Rear Entry

4/5 Solo Performance: Denise Stoklos
      CASA (in packet)
      Taylor, "The Politics of Indecipherability" (in packet)
      Damasceno, "The Gestural Art of Reclaiming Utopia: Denise Stoklos at Play with the Hysterical-Historical’

4/12 Political Terrors: Jesusa Rodriguez, Astrid Hadad
       Videos and Readings from Women and Performance upcoming issue (forthcoming)
       Costantino, "Visibility as Strategy: Jesusa Rodriguez’s Body in Play" (in Fusco, Corpus Delecti)

4/19 Web-Board Presentation: Research Ideas/Topic for Final Papers

4/19 Performance and Political Efficacy: New Strategies for the 1990s.
        Boal’s "Legislative Theatre," "SuperBarrio,"

4/26 Final Discussion

5/3 Final Papers Due (10-15 pages; Post on Web-Board)

The class requires active class participation. Please let me know if you will miss a class. It also requires 2 written papers, and two web-board presentations. Students will be asked to create a webpage as part of their final grade. Computer workshops are available to help students prepare for the web components of the course.


As part of this course, students are expected to construct a simple webpage that posts information about a topic or group related to our subject matter. For example, someone working on Puerto Rican theatre might develop a bibliography, write a short historical overview, and link this page to other sites of interest. It would be great to have images, as long as you have permission or copyright clearance to use them. As there is very little bibliographical information available in relation to our topic, this will be a contribution to the field, and we would like to post it (with your permission) on the Hemispheric Institute website. You will get credit for the work you do, and you will be able to cite it on your c.v.-both a proof of a certain technological competence and as a research project. However, as the site is ongoing, someone may add more information as time goes on. They, too, will indicate what they have contributed and will receive acknowledgement for that. All materials posted on the Hemispheric Institute site belong to their original owners/creators.

It is best, for the purposes of this class, for students to pair up in groups of two. The criteria for establishing a group might be: 1) mutual interests, 2) compatible expertise-one person may have strong computer skills while another can handle two languages. During the break, please try to form your group. Keep in mind that some students will attend morning technology workshops while others go to the afternoon one. You and your partner will have to be able to attend the same timeslot.

There will be a two-part technology workshop given by NYU Academic Computing Facilities staff, aimed at giving students in this course the skills they need to complete this assignment. These workshops will take place in the Muliti-Media ACF lab on the second floor of the Education Building, at 35 West 4th Street. Students registered for this course have been automatically assigned priority access to this lab, and can use it for course-related work. You just need to present your ID card at the front desk of the lab, and when they swipe it they should see that you have access. Part I of the workshop will take place on Friday, March 10 and Part II will take place on Friday, March 24. To accommodate for scheduling conflicts such as classes, there will be identical sessions of Part I and Part II offered in the morning and afternoon on each of the dates. You should sign up in class for ONE of the workshops on March 10 and ONE on March 24.

Friday, March 10: Part I
9:30 am - 12:00 noon
1:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Friday, March 24: Part II
9:30 am - 12:00 noon
1:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Part I will introduce you to the set-up of the computers and the various applications available in the Education Building Multi-Media labs. Techniques such as scanning and converting text files to HTML files will be addressed. For the first session, you should bring with you at least one photo and one text file, preferably a preliminary bibliography, of the subject matter you will be researching for your web page project. The bibliography or text file should be on a disk, and if you have a digital image file, you may also bring that. You should also bring with you one zip disk and one regular disk (both blank, to store your work on). During the first workshop, ACF staff will lead you through the process of getting those text and image files into a format ready for the web.

Part II of the workshop will introduce basic web page design, so that you can begin to organize and link your various files into a cohesive web page. At the end of Part II, you should have a basic web page, with at least one image file and a bibliography or other text file linked to it, in addition to at least one link to another site of relevant interest. We will share these initial pages in class and discuss ideas about both design and content. This basic web page will be the first step in creating your final assignment.

Please bring to the workshops:
1) at least one photo to be scanned
2) a digital image file, if you have one (optional)
3) a disk with a bibliography or other text file
4) one zip disk (blank)
5) one regular floppy disk (blank)