Fellow 2011/12, 2013/14
Peter Lichtenfels is Professor of Theatre and Dramatic Art at the University of California, Davis. He worked as a theatre director in the UK for many years and, more recently, in the USA, Canada, Japan and China. As Artistic Director of Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, he specialized in developing new dramatic writing, and as Executive Director at the Leicester Haymarket he set up one of the UK’s leading international theatres. His most recent academic works include Negotiating Shakespeare’s Language in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (co-written with Lynette Hunter) and the scholarly edition of Romeo and Juliet (as co-editor), Performance, Politics and Activism (as co-editor), including the chapter "Peter Sellar’s Changing Conceptions of the Audience in Productions of Three Greek Plays". He and Lynette Hunter have co-written ‘‘(Un)editing with (Non)fictional bodies: Pope’s daggers,’’ forthcoming in Editing, Performance, Texts: New Practices in Medieval and Early Modern English Drama, edited by Jacqueline Jenkins and Julie Sanders.
My aim with the current research proposal is to rigorously develop my study of the work of the Polish theatre director and artist Tadeusz Kantor and of the Japanese director and writer Ota Shogo. The project will focus on the way in which cultures reinvent themselves by learning about other cultures. Despite the possibilities for exploitation, I am convinced that cultural interchange also creates greater opportunities for communication and, most importantly, for change. It is impossible to predict if change will work to the advantage of either or both parties, but there is always an element of hope inherent in change. I am particularly interested in the elements that Ota developed against the background of Kantor’s visual, musical and staging techniques, and in their common exploration of the concept of presence on stage that engages the audience in moments of witnessing. The theatre of both of these directors revolves around witnessing, and around being: things will happen around you and to you, and your job is to watch what is happening and then to act. By researching this interchange, I want to understand what underlies their theatrical work, because their use of presence heightens awareness and makes possible different ways of negotiating and changing social and cultural conventions. Both directors work within a set of formal conventions that become part of the transmission of theatre knowledge, and an understanding of how these traditions enrich each other deepens the possibilities for all theatre practice.