It’s been rather quiet here lately.
I would say this is due to the amount of work / grading that started piling up right before the Christmas holidays (and that I only just managed to finish dealing with last week) but having to juggle several piles of exams while maintaining a blog and other projects (aka: a dissertation) isn’t exactly new for me. I should, theoretically, be used to this. No, the lack of posting right now I think arguably is derived from a couple of factors, one of which is more positive than the other.
So, we’ll start with the good: over the holiday break, I signed a contract to get my dissertation published.
I set a deadline to turn in the final manuscript at the end of August – because let’s be honest, teaching right now is anything but predictable, as far as workload is concerned – but I would nevertheless ideally like to have finished with it earlier (end of spring if we’re being optimistic). I have to rework my introduction and conclusion to add some things that came up during the Occupations at the Odéon and other theatres last spring (and also make the Intro in particular less…dissertation-y) and replace two play critiques with some other ones I actually would have originally included had I seen them sooner, so needless to say, I’ve got my editing work cut out for me over the next few months. But I am glad I waited a year before revisiting this project and getting it book proposal ready. Looking at it with fresh eyes not only makes me appreciate it a lot more, but it also helps immensely with the whole cutting/editing thing. Distance has made me less self-critical, I guess.
It is also somewhat hard to believe that this is actually happening, particularly given how quickly the process from proposal submission to peer review to contract went. Other than the four weeks between the submission for peer review and the official feedback, everything else happened within a matter of days. To be honest, given the timing of everything (I actually signed the contract on Christmas Eve), I was almost expecting having to wait until after the new year to receive any feedback at all, much less discuss contract specifications. In any case, what this does mean is that now my academic work is actually going to be out there for other people to engage with (because let’s be honest, no one is really going to be combing through ProQuest or university dissertation databases for research), so I may as well get any lingering notions of imposter syndrome out of the way now (yes, those still exist even post-dissertation defense. Surprise…)
So yes, editing and rewrites are going to take up almost any chunk of time that I have that is not already devoted to lesson planning and grading. But I did also mention a slightly less positive reason for my lack of writing. It’s nothing really serious, per say. It’s more an irksome annoyance.
Basically, this season (with some exception) has been, shall we say, lacking.
Oh, there have been some pieces that have stood out (again, I had a LOT of grading to do that just kind of got dumped on me at once…thanks exam schedules that make no sense), but for the most part, even reserving tickets to go see a show has been kind of…meh. The exceptions are the MC93 and the Théâtre de la Bastille (absolutely no surprise on that last one), but as for Nanterre and La Colline, my desire to go back to either of them right now is rather mixed.
Let’s start with the first one.
I already started to feel a bit apprehensive about going back to Nanterre a couple years ago (god, what is time anyway now), after Philippe Quesne announced he would not be renewing his tenure as artistic director there. This is partly because one of the reasons I really enjoyed going to that theatre in the first place was because of his approach to programming. Not everything was exactly a roaring success, but it was different, it tried things, it pushed the formal limits of what theatrical performance could be. And it was working. I mentioned this in my chapter on his time at Nanterre, but one of the things that consistently stood out for me every time I went to a show was how young the audience skewed. This is an anomaly. And one would normally think that maybe – just maybe – having an artistic director who has seemed to have tapped into something to get a new generation of audiences interested in devoting a little bit of their time to come and check out what was on offer would be, I don’t know, a good thing, especially when so much conversation centers around how difficult it is to get new publics in seats.
(As an aside: the above also taps into questions of decolonizing the theatre space, something that is badly needed, but would merit its own dedicated discussion. So, for the moment, know that I have that in the back of my mind, even if I won’t be explicitly discussing it right now).
I knew this season going back to Nanterre was going to be different regardless of who was at the helm because the theatre was undergoing major renovations, but I don’t know if I can properly explain how fast my hope turned to disappointment following the two shows I have seen there so far.
The first of these was a holdover from Quesne’s time there (thank you COVID for delaying it at least…). It was weird. It was experimental, post-dramatic (hell, post-post-dramatic), different, and it gave me a slight tinge of hope that the creative spirit would still have something of a home here.
And then a nonsense production of Henry VI happened that was just full of so much confusion and at the same time predictability that I actually regretted giving it a chance in the first place. Yes, this is very harsh. No, I am not putting any of the blame for this on the actors (several were actually quite good). This is all on director Christophe Rauck who, coincidentally, is the new artistic director at Nanterre. Granted, I should have known this would happen, given how “classical” his programming choices were skewing based on the season announcement, but…I am a person who believes in chances, sometimes to my detriment.
So yeah, I will likely be going back, but not as frequently.
As for La Colline, even if the debate surrounding the production of Mouawad’s Mère (specifically, his choice on who to work with for the music, and his absolutely tone-deaf response to legitimate critiques and questions from the #MeTooTheatre movement) had not happened, I very much doubt I would have gone to see the thing anyway. Simply put: I have been bored with his pieces, and his programming choices, for a while now. Honestly, if I wasn’t working on La Colline for my dissertation, I doubt I would have gone as regularly as I did during my research.
Funny enough, I am actually working on re-editing my chapter on La Colline right now, and I am a bit surprised as to how much I held back on some criticisms I have about his approach to artistic direction. Editing while still maintaining some trace of “objectivity” is going to be a…fascinating experience.
So that brings us to here. Currently, I am sitting on my couch waiting for a technician who should have been here 30 minutes ago to help me deal with some internet connectivity issues. Alas, I do not believe this individual is coming. Thank goodness for unlimited phone data.