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Variations on Racinian Excuses
Author: Edward Forman
This comparative literary study re-evaluates the reciprocal relationship between tragic drama and current approaches to guilt and extenuation. Focussing on Racine but ranging widely, it sheds original light on tragic archetypes (Phaedra, Oedipus, Clytemnestra, Medea and others) through the lenses of performance theory and modern attitudes towards blame.
Tragic drama and legal systems both aim to evaluate the merits of excuses provided on behalf of perpetrators of catastrophic acts. Edward Forman wittily and provocatively explores modern judicial concepts – diminished responsibility, provocation, trauma, ignorance, scapegoating – through the responses of characters in tragedy. Attention is paid to the way in which classical plays (ancient Greek and seventeenth-century French) have been re-interpreted in performance in the light of modern perceptions of human responsibility and helplessness.
Editor: Andrew Weaver
A Companion to Music at the Habsburgs Courts in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, edited by Andrew H. Weaver, is the first in-depth survey of Habsburg musical patronage over a broad timeframe. Bringing together existing research and drawing upon primary sources, the authors, all established experts, provide overviews of the musical institutions, the functions of music, the styles and genres cultivated, and the historical, political, and cultural contexts for music at the Habsburg courts. The wide geographical scope includes the imperial courts in Vienna and Prague, the royal court in Madrid, the archducal courts in Graz and Innsbruck, and others. This broad view of Habsburg musical activities affirms the dynasty’s unique position in the cultural life of early modern Europe.

Contributors are Lawrence Bennett, Charles E. Brewer, Drew Edward Davies, Paula Sutter Fichtner, Alexander J. Fisher, Christine Getz, Beth L. Glixon, Jeffrey Kurtzman, Virginia Christy Lamothe, Honey Meconi, Sara Pecknold, Jonas Pfohl, Pablo L. Rodríguez, Steven Saunders, Herbert Seifert, Louise K. Stein, and Andrew H. Weaver.
Social Dynamics of Turbulent Theatrical Events
Since the beginning of theatre history, scandals have taken place and the variety of causes, processes and types of interactions makes them an interesting object of study. Theatre scandals often indicate clashes with a dominant ideology or with the ideology of a particular group in society. Sometimes, following a scandal, the attacked ideology changes and incorporates the possibility of the aesthetics or themes that caused the clash. In this way, scandals can cause dynamic changes within cultural systems.
Next to theoretical considerations the contributors, all members of the IFTR Theatrical Event Working Group, present in their various case studies a wide cultural and chronological diversity of theatre scandals, all of which were experienced as very shocking moments in theatre history.
World Political Theatre and Performance: Theories, Histories, Practices is the second collection of essays to emerge from the Political Performances Working Group at the International Federation for Theatre Research. Bringing together scholars and practitioners from multiple locations, the book analyses a range of examples – historical and contemporary – of counter-hegemonic theatre and performance.
Part 1 offers a diachronic view of the relationship between activism and performance; Part 2 focuses on the changing nature of what constitutes ‘political theatre’ today. Case studies from Finland to India and from Chile to China are framed by section introductions that underline both commonalities and tensions, while the general introduction reflects on what a radical practice can look like in the face of global neoliberalism.

Contributors: Julia Boll, Paola Botham, Marco Galea, Aneta Głowacka, Pujya Ghosh, Camila González Ortiz, Bérénice Hamidi-Kim, Fatine Bahar Karlıdağ, Madli Pesti, José Ramón Prado-Pérez, Trish Reid, Mikko-Olavi Seppälä, Andy Smith, Evi Stamatiou, Wei Zheyu.
Author: Bess Rowen


A theatrical riot is a nexus of various kinds of performance. They are moments when the performativity of a production meets an audience’s reaction, creating an event that spans the disciplines of Theatre, Performance Studies, History, Sociology, and more. Ireland is particularly well known for its theatrical riots, and the continuum created by these repeat events is as compelling as the individual examples. In 1926, a widow of the Easter Rising named Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington led a planned riot during Sean O’Casey’s play The Plough and the Stars because she found the play offensive to the memories of the Irish men lost in that conflict. She was not a theatre maker, unlike many of the other political figures of the time, nor did she want the play destroyed. Instead, she used the theatrical riot to open a political conversation about the ethics and timeliness of representation. Each Irish theatrical riot is the product of the combination of a particular production of a specific play, the socio-political situations occurring offstage, and the political importance that rioting has held in Irish theatrical history. Sheehy-Skeffington’s riot was no exception, and indeed she learned from the theatrical riots that had come before her. In this paper, I use Teresa Brennan’s affect theory (rhythmic entrainment), theatre history, and psychological phenomena such as groupthink and deindividuation to observe how these rioters generated their scandalous theatrical intervention as well as how this can be placed in the continuum of Ireland’s scandalous history of rioting over theatre. By focusing on this particular riot, in which a person outside of the theatre used the theatrical stage as a space for political protest, we can see how planned theatrical scandals reveal the power that theatrical representation, and theatrical protest, can have.

In: Theatre Scandals
Author: Anneli Saro


The chapter illuminates how the state’s cultural politics on the one hand, and theatre makers or citizens on the other hand have influenced Estonian theatre through censorship, and how theatre has reacted to censorship in different circumstances, e.g. in different political contexts. Censorship has been implemented as a tool of prevention or suspension of scandals, but censorship itself has also been the direct cause of scandals.

This discussion of censorship proceeds from two definitions of scandal: 1) an incident or event that disgraces or damages the reputation of the persons or organization involved, and 2) censure or outrage arising from an action or event. Following the argument of these definitions, it can be stated that censorship is implemented either to prevent disgrace or damage to somebody’s reputation or to cease the process of disgracing and damaging. Borrowing from medical terminology, it can be stated that this chapter, which concerns censorship, deals with the “containment” of potential scandals or “vaccination” against the eruption of potential scandals. One can also find an implicit relationship between censorship and scandal. The word ‘censure’ is closely related to ‘censor’; thus, censorship can be understood as one of the forms of censure or outrage that are quite common reactions to scandals or to expected scandals.

The chapter is divided into four parts according to the historical periods, based on state power:

  1. 1.Czarist Russia (1710–1918),
  2. 2.the (first) Republic of Estonia (1918–1940),
  3. 3.the Soviet Union and German occupation (1940–1991) and
  4. 4.the Republic of Estonia (1991 until the present).

Each period is analysed through similar lenses, thereby evaluating the public, political, moral and artistic aspects of theatre leading to scandals. Some forms of censorship can be observed in all these periods, but in each period, the state authorities considered different issues – political, moral or aesthetic – as scandalous or dangerous. This chapter focuses mainly on the criteria for censorship, i.e. what was considered dangerous or amoral in theatre during these periods, and how these aspects are related to the general cultural and political background of the time.

In: Theatre Scandals
Author: Willmar Sauter


Cleopatra is one of the notable women in history who has not been erased from history books, but she has been made an object of scandal from the very beginning, or rather: from the last day of her life. The myth of her suicide by means of poisonous snakes has prevailed throughout the centuries and has inspired innumerable novels, plays, operas and operettas as well as films from the time of silent movies onward; there are always these snakes at the end.

In this chapter the history of Cleopatra is presented backwards in time. It begins with the grand movie Cleopatra from 1963, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the leading roles. The production of this exceptionally expensive film turned out to be more scandalous than the spectacular picture on the screen. But the snakes were there despite the fact that there were no such poisonous vipers in Egypt at the time.

These snakes are also a prominent feature in Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra from 1606. After numerous intrigues and warfare during the first three acts, the remaining acts deal with the death of Mark Antony and the suicide of Cleopatra and her maids. Shakespeare’s Cleopatra appears quite unsympathetic and seems to deserve her untimely death. The dialogue follows closely Plutarch’s biography of Mark Antony, so the next section deals with his story of the Roman general.

Plutarch wrote his biography approximately 130 years after the death of Mark Antony and Cleopatra. His portrait of the Egyptian Queen is full of respect for this knowledgeable and attractive woman, who spoke nine languages and was an outstanding partner in conversations as well as in negotiations with the Roman Empire. Her love affairs with Caesar, with whom she had a son, and Mark Antony, to whom she bore three children, are described from a personal as well as from a political perspective. Plutarch knows of the rumour that Cleopatra was killed by snakes, but he has serious doubts about the truth of such gossip.

The last section presents the sources that today’s historians have collected about the ‘real’ Cleopatra, who died in the year 30 BC. She is portrayed as the successful Queen of Egypt who fell victim to the internal power struggle between competing Roman leaders. The snakes and Cleopatra’s suicide remain a politically staged, scandalous lie.

In: Theatre Scandals
Author: Tove Björk


The Ejima-Ikushima scandal occurred in the first lunar month of 1714, at the Yamamura za kabuki theatre in Edo (Tokyo). The protagonists of the scandal were lady Ejima (1681–1741), serving at the court of the mother of the 7th Tokugawa shogun, and Edo top star kabuki actor Ikushima Shingorô (1671–1743). During the seventeenth century, it was not at unusual for high-ranking men and women to visit the kabuki theatres. Moreover, kabuki actors were often invited to perform at the residences of feudal lords – and during the reign of the 3rd shogun – even at the Edo castle itself. This infatuation with the world of kabuki was frequently forbidden, but before 1714, the enforcement of the laws had been lax. Why the incident in 1714 blew into a grand court case, which passed judgment on over a thousand people, is usually explained by the fact that the affair happened exactly at a time when the Tokugawa government was about to embark on a new policy of frugality and moral reforms – the so called Kyôhô-reforms (1716–1735) – and that the case was used as a showcase to mark this new governmental attitude.

In this chapter, I give a detailed description of the events leading up to the incident based on government documents, the incident itself, the court case, and the events in its immediate aftermath. I will also discuss some urban legends surrounding the scandal, which interpret the scandal as a story of loyalty and sacrifice. Using records from the Edo magistrate, the diaries of kabuki actors and fans, I show how the kabuki theatres, despite being labeled scandalous, functioned as economic engines during an age of recession, and how this finally turned kabuki into a theatre shared by all layers of society.

In: Theatre Scandals
In: Theatre Scandals


The chapter deals with the Hamburg theatre scandal of 1801 and shows that scandals were already common in the theatre around 1800. The Hamburg scandal was a particular one in this context: parts of the audience revolted against the management and demanded the right to have a say in the artistic choices. The chapter deals with the role of the media, i.e. the lively and diverse press culture of Hamburg around 1800, in prolonging the conflict, thereby generating the scandal; it names strategies of escalation and de-escalation and shows which political, aesthetic and economic norms the event made visible.

In: Theatre Scandals