Muneroni, Stefano & van Leeuwen, Mia. (2019). Rediscovering Roswitha’s Sapientia with Object Theatre. Contemporary Theatre Review, 29:2, 152-165, DOI: 10.1080/10486801.2019.1591387
Read full article at www.tandfonline.com
Read/download as PDF
Abstract: This essay probes the question of stageability of medieval religious drama on the secular stage by investigating a recent production of Roswitha of Gandersheim’s Latin play Sapientia, which premiered at the Canoe Theatre Festival in Edmonton in 2014, was remounted the following year in Winnipeg, and again in Montreal in August 2018. The authors, who collaborated on the 2014 staging of the play, argue that the work of Roswitha is rarely seen on the professional stage due to the dense doctrinal culture of her plays. However, they also contend that Roswitha can be current and intriguing if her plays are approached through a contemporary lens of object theatre, a creative framing device that anthropomorphizes everyday objects and, in doing so, simultaneously reframes the original story and expands its capacity to be read as relevant by modern audiences. The objects that stood for the characters and were handled by live performers curbed any empathetic identification with the story and fostered instead a more critical interpretation of the sacrificial paradigms embraced by Roswitha’s text. The production ultimately questioned the righteousness of Sapientia, a mother who goes to Rome to offer her three daughters as martyrs to Christ, and exposed both the dangers of religious ideology and the limits of Christian eschatology.
Abstract: There’s probably no other art form that depends and engages as thoroughly with memory as theatre performance. Its sequential nature itself is an exercise of physical and discursive memory, for the performers as well as the audience. Acting itself has often been theorized, most famously by Konstantin Stanislavsky, as memory put into physical practice. A recent production that plays and interacts with memory of popular cultural discourse is a good example. White Bread toured in five European cities in four countries in 2014 and tapped into different reservoirs of memory for its local reception. However, the production too was the result of how playwright, actress and director engaged with their memory of cultural spectacle, as provided by the cultural icon Madonna and the surrounding world of simulacra and cliché cultural icons like Coca-Cola glass bottles, and the iconic square-shaped white Wonderbread.