“Vessel, Messiah, Warrior: Donald Trump in Evangelical Christian Narratives” Ecumenica 14.2 (2021)
In 2016 and 2020, a record number of evangelical Christians supported the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. This essay investigates key evangelical narratives that contribute to the understanding of Trump by evangelical Christians, such as The Trump Prophecy, a 2018 feature film. In so doing, this essay unpacks major themes like Trump’s connection to Cyrus the Great and his “prophetic” election in order to understand better how evangelical Christian discourse has constructed the forty-fifth president as a Christian nationalist hero.
“If It Walks like Hamlet: The Assembly’s Seagullmachine“ Theatre Forum Vol. 54 (Spring 2019)
The Assembly is no stranger to revolution, bursting onto scene with their devised play, HOME/SICK which looked at the 1960s and 70s and the legacy of radical Left militant organization The Weather Underground, The Assembly was quickly adopted by some of the most important theatre makers like Judith Malina and Richard Schechner. Seagullmachine, their 2018 production at La MaMa experimental theatre, was, in many ways, the arrival of the group into the cathedral of New York avant garde theatre. The production is a “mash up” of Heiner Müller’s seminal post-dramatic Hamletmachine and Chekov’s The Seagull. In it, The Assembly envisions the possibility of revolution as a theatrical act and how theatre might grant agency for a revolution to occur.
“Contemporary Catalan Women Playwrights” with Yamile Silva Letras Femininas 43.2 (2018)
In this essay, we chose broad range of contemporary women playwrights (15 in total) from Catalonia, a region in Spain that sees itself as culturally distinct from the rest of the country, then read and analyzed the plays of these women to bring this minoritized but vibrant segment of Hispanic theatrical culture to the attention of an English-speaking audience. Unbeknownst to us, as we were engaging in this research, the project of Catalan nation building came to a climatic head as a referendum on Catalonia’s separation from Spain forced a political legitimacy crisis. As we show in this essay, these women playwrights have been foundational in expressing the cultural sentiments that undergirded Catalonia’s claim to independence, showing how performance constitutes national identity. The playwrights are also important writers who have been, largely, omitted from the consciousness of U.S. theatre. The last Catalan playwright to be performed on Broadway, for example, was Àngel Guimerà’s Marta of the Lowlands from 1914.
“Merritt’s Musical Memories: The Magnetic Fields’ ’50 Song Memoir’ and Autobiography” Response Vol. 3 No. 1 (Summer 2018)
“50 Song Memoir” by The Magnetic Fields is an exploration of songwriter Stephin Merritt’s autobiography. Throughout the album and in the 50 Song Memoir tour, Merritt investigates the connections between memoir and music, playing with the tropes of confessional songwriting and autobiographical performance as he relates the story of his life. As with much of Merritt’s work, 50 Song Memoir does not so much give us access to his life as exposes how he constructs it. Key to this construction is Merritt’s queering of confessional songwriting by emphasizing how autobiography is constructed. In this essay, I analyze how Merritt uses his live show and album to construct a version of himself for consumption by the audience generating intimacy in the face of Merritt’s stated opposition to autobiography.
“Capitalizing on Post-Hipster Cool: The Music that Makes Girls“ (published in HBO’s Girls and the Awkward Politics of Gender, Race, and Privilege, edited by Elwood Watson, Jennifer Mitchell, & Marc Edward Shaw)
Palabras: Dispatches from the Festival de la Palabra
co-edited with Yamile Silva
This anthology features short stories by authors, including Junot Diaz, Aurora Arias, and Mayra Santos Febres, from the Caribbean, Central and Latin America, Spain and Catalonia. Many of the stories in this collection are translated into English for the first time. Edited by Yamile Silva and Hank Willenbrink, this collection of new short fiction displays aesthetically diverse and remarkable voices from the Americas and Iberia.
“The Act of Being Saved: Hell House and the Salvific Performative” Theatre Journal Vol. 66 No. 1 (March 2014)
Across the United States, tens of thousands of souls are saved during Halloween. The mechanism for these salvations is Hell House an Evangelical Christian haunted house that substitutes ghosts and goblins for “sinners” and “sin.” These conversions occur through “the salvific performative,” a speech act that embodies a convert’s new faith, altering his or her biography and identity This essay interrogates the salvific performative by theorizing how it operates within Hell House performances. To understand how conversions are created, one must understand the context by which they occur, and in Hell House, this is accomplished through a tactical deployment of violent theatrics and a manipulation of reality through theatre, which enables audience members to see theatrical representation as “truth.” Finally, the essay suggests how Hell House’s particular ability represents a particular manifestation of representation geared to transform its audience, and what the implications of this are on the medium of theatre.
“The Geography of Disappearing: Meatyard, Butchertown, and Perspective in Naomi Iizuka’s At the Vanishing Point“, Contemporary Theatre Review Vol. 24 No. 2 (May 2014)
Abstract: Naomi Iizuka’s At the Vanishing Point weaves together physical and metaphysical landscapes to evince an understanding of Butchertown, a historic post-industrial neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky, through the perspective of the influential experimental photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard. In the article, I argue that Iizuka provides a nuanced way to interact with the industrial legacies of developed nations. Rather than obfuscating the past and the future, in At the Vanishing Point, Iizuka dramatizes a community’s beginning and possible end through space, time and interpersonal relationships. Utilizing a multivalent methodology, I explore this play by reading Meatyard’s biography and works, the geohistory of Butchertown, and theories of perspective against the play to illustrate how Iizuka brings her audience to inhabit a neighborhood while mediating on the moments before the death of its inhabitants and the possible demise of the geography as well.
“The Fantastical Reality in Pinkolandia“ TheatreForum Vol. 45
Andrea Thome’s Pinkolandia articulates a new type of testimonio, a narrative genre which transmits stories of struggles of the oppressed. The play’s transnational and intergenerational testimonio is a uniquely American narrative aimed at preserving the memories of a family’s experiences after the Chilean coup of 1973.
Scaring the Jesus into You: American Hell Houses in Performance
Abstract: Across the United States every Halloween season hundreds of evangelical Christian churches and church groups produce Hell Houses — a theatrical performance meant to scare their audience into accepting Christ. Hell Houses are the latest incarnation of saint plays or conversion dramas, which dramatize the conversion of a particular religious figure. However, instead of enacting the conversion of a historical figure, the producers of Hell House attempt to institute the conversion of their spectators. To accomplish this, the producers persuade the audience through the performance’s physical sermon, rhetoric, and gruesome theatrics. If persuaded to convert, an audience member utilizes a speech act called the theological performative to change their faith. In order to understand how this happens, I attended three religious Hell House performances and one secular performance. These productions illustrated how meaning and intention are tied to both the intentions of the producers as well as the understanding of the audience. Hell Houses are a particularly problematic aspect of contemporary performance due to their reliance on the beliefs of the producers and the attempt to convince the audience that these beliefs are true. This belief exchange and how the representation utilized in Hell House attempts to convince the audience of the validity of the producers beliefs is unique in the history of religious performance. Moreover, Hell Houses expose how a representation can be used to stand in for reality and convince others that the representation is “real.” The productions, I argue, must be read as a willing communion of belief, where the audience does not agree to suspend their disbelief, but the spectators agree to believe that what they see in the performance is “real.” It is through collapsing the distinctions between beliefs, reality and representation that the producers of Hell House attempt to persuade their audience into religious change.
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