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Realisms and Representations of the Real in Modern Iberian Theater and Performance

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Organizer: David Rodríguez-Solás

Co-Organizer: Juan Menchero

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Theater in Spain offers examples of both representation of the real and the inclusion of the ‘real’ on stage. From Martínez de la Rosa historical dramas, to Valle-Inclán’s esperpentos and García Lorca’s poetic tragedies, Buero Vallejo’s realism, and the experimentalism of 1970s independent groups, theatre in Spain has sought to elicit from available descriptions of reality a reflection on the potential of theatrical forms and language to strip claims to transparency of their power to reproduce violence, collective illusions, market-driven desires and values. In the same vein, contemporary practitioners aim at incorporating the real through such forms as documentary theater, verbatim theater, applied theater, devised theater, and performances of the 'self'. The theatrical ‘practice of the real’ (Sánchez 2007), i.e. the use of ‘objective reality’ as the sole measure for truth on stage, is arguably bound by a political interest and an ethical commitment to debunk mystifications. However, showing the procedures involved in the construction of the visible can put artifice to work against itself. Fictions can lit up the real, pointing to the truss of historical forces and experiences driving individualism, psychologism, and subjectivization in or away from theater and drama, as shown in the evolution of characters, plot, stage and sound design, acting and audience participatory roles.

What discursive and performative strategies does realism use to take hold of its primary, if fundamentally elusive, object of representation? How do these strategies pass judgment on the exclusions of realism? What is the impact of shifting theatrical conventions on hegemonic representations of reality? Drawing on the idea of theater as a model of social reflexivity and agency, and considering the limitations of immersive and participatory theater, in which ways does realism invite alternative understandings of past, present and future?

We welcome proposals for papers, from scholars at all stages of their career, addressing different forms of representing reality, as well as modes of including the ‘real’ in both textual and performative practices. We seek to explore these topics in theater and performance produced in any of the theatrical traditions of the Iberian peninsula since the nineteenth century.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

1. Realism, realist representation and its limits in text and performance.
2. Production and reproduction of identity, class, gender, and race.
3. Death, illness, and war in theater and performance.
4. Theatre and historical memory: Witnessing, Testimony and Ethics.
5. Modes of acting and corporeality.  

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