Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
This dissertation examines how actors and directors are adapting and reimagining Shakespeare's plays so as to address the social concerns of their audiences at the beginning of the twenty-first century. At the center of my study is this question: how and why do the 400-year-old plays of a British writer speak to issues of class, race, gender, transglobalism, violence, and isolation in contemporary America? My dissertation answers this question by shifting the focus from established Anglo-American Shakespearean companies to American regional and grassroots theater organizations in order to consider how Shakespeare and his plays appear in unexpected places, serving audiences who are new to Shakespearean texts. By focusing on productions of a single Shakespearean play, The Tempest, I create a clearer sense of how various groups might reshape a Shakespeare play to fulfill their institutional missions. Literary critics and theater producers find the play's themes particularly applicable to modern audiences. My dissertation examines how these themes emerge in various critical modes of study: Foucauldian ideas of power and self-identity, post-colonialism, feminism, and original-practice theory. By pairing these approaches with performance studies, I reveal the ways in which literary theories have been translated for and consumed by a greater public.
Included in this project are four case studies of American theater groups: Shakespeare Behind Bars at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Kentucky and Hank Rogerson's 2005 documentary that follows the group's production of The Tempest; Indiana University theater professor Murray McGibbon's 2007 Tempest project that joined together students from Bloomington with students from the University of KwaZulu Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa to stage a post-apartheid production of the play; the Weird Sisters Women's Theater Collective's 2010 production of Sycorax, a prequel to The Tempest written by the group's founder Susan Gayle Todd; and the American Shakespeare Center, an original-practice Shakespearean company, and the 2006 production of The Tempest at their reconstructed Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia.
Copyright 2011 Ann M. Pleiss Morris
Pleiss Morris, Ann Marie. "Possess His Books: Shakespeare, New Audiences, and Twenty-First Century Performances of The Tempest." PhD diss., University of Iowa, 2011.