Disability Theatre and Modern Drama: Recasting Modernism (Paperback)

Disability Theatre and Modern Drama: Recasting Modernism (Paperback)

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Bertolt Brecht's silent Kattrin in Mother Courage, or the disability performance lessons of his Peachum in The Threepenny Opera; Tennessee Williams' limping Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie and hard-of-hearing Bodey in A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur; Samuel Beckett's blind Hamm and his physically disabled parents Nagg and Nell in Endgame – these and many further examples attest to disability's critical place in modern drama. This Companion explores how disability performance studies and theatre practice provoke new debate about the place of disability in these works. The book traces the local and international processes and tensions at play in disability theatre, and offers a critical investigation of the challenges its aesthetics pose to mainstream and traditional practice.

The book's first part surveys disability theatre's primary principles, critical terms, internal debates and key challenges to theatre practice. Examining specific disability theatre productions of modern drama, it also suggests how disability has been re-envisaged and embodied on stage. In the book's second part, leading disability studies scholars and disability theatre practitioners analyse and creatively re-imagine modern drama, demonstrating how disability aesthetics press practitioners and scholars to rethink these works in generative, valuable and timely ways.


“In this highly readable volume, Kirsty Johnson takes seriously the central place of disability within modern theatre. Johnston draws together important theoretical and theatrical insights into the complex commingling of disability and modern drama, powerfully moving beyond reductive approaches that read disability as a metaphor or evaluate representations of disability within a narrow progressive or regressive framework … The result is an excellent, widely applicable work that “recasts” modern drama through creative and contradictory readings of disability history in plays such as Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, as well as through analyses of inclusive practices of casting, training, dramaturgy, and design in contemporary theatre productions that engage with accessibility as not only an ethic but as a generative aesthetic.” – TDR: The Drama Review

“A concise overview of the ways in which disability studies can and should fit into new adaptations and analyses of modern drama, in addition to its effects on theatrical practices … Johnston’s cultural and historical knowledge about disability history and activism provides readers with noteworthy examples from scholarship and theatre companies that currently engage with the intersection of modern drama and disability studies. In light of growing involvement and interest in disability theatre today, Johnston’s book is a crucial resource for theatre scholars and practitioners, both those new to disability studies and those already familiar with its applications, who wish to take part in the complex but promising future that disability theatre has to offer.” – Theatre Survey

“In Disability Theatre and Modern Drama, Kirsty Johnston and her collaborators provide indispensable contributions to both theatre studies and disability studies. They incisively demonstrate how attention to disability enriches enduring contestations of both the “modern” and the “drama” of “modern drama” … Disability Theatre and Modern Drama is a timely contribution, remarkable for both its breadth and its depth, including Johnston’s impressive integration of disability theory from Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. Individually and collectively, the book’s chapters are exceedingly teachable and should find their way to classes in modern drama, disability studies, and performance studies. Moreover, historians and theorists of disability theatre and performance, as well as scholars of modern drama more broadly, would do well to heed the book’s numerous prompts for further inquiry.” – Modern Drama

"A valuable, generative book … Johnston has written a book of interest to students, theatre practitioners, scholars, and people who reflect on representation in critical ways or who are interested in considering disability and theatre in tandem … Johnston's work demonstrates the benefits of thinking creatively about how to navigate ableist attitudes and structures. Throughout, she makes a convincing case that disability has a historical role in modern theatre and that attentiveness to disability theatre practices offer creative, compelling choices within this art form. The creative impact of a sustained inquiry into disability theatre is apparent throughout this work; often, the political reverberations are evident as well." – Comparative Drama

About the Author

Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr. is professor of theatre arts at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, USA, the author and editor of ten books including The Empire Triumphant: Race, Religion and Rebellion in the Star Wars Films, and a contributor to numerous volumes on sci-fi, pop culture and religion, including essays on GodzillaStar Wars, and Battlestar Galactica. His areas of expertise include Japanese theatre, African theatre, Shakespeare, Greek tragedy, stage combat and comedy. He is co-editor with Patrick Lonergan of Bloomsbury Methuen Drama's Critical Companions series.

Patrick Lonergan is Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at National University of Ireland in Galway.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Methuen Drama (April 21, 2016)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 240 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1408184788
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1408184783
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 10.1 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.42 x 0.69 x 8.57 inches