Theses Doctoral

Bodysnatching in Contemporary Anglophone Drama, 1996-2022

Gilovich-Wave, Ilana

In this dissertation, I explore the ways in which contemporary theatre stages possibilities and crises of embodiment. In order to penetrate the complex relationships between character, performer, text, and production, I coin a critical term: theatrical bodysnatching. This term refers to a dissonance or power struggle made manifest in performance, in which a performer’s body seems to resist the character it inhabits in ways that enhance, rather than detract from, the thematics of a theatrical production.

In order to demonstrate the power of theatrical bodysnatching, I analyze playtexts, theatrical performances, reviews, and performer interviews. I argue that theatre is a medium optimally suited for staging sociopolitical dialogue because it models a kind of self-reflexive critique, in which performing bodies both embrace and resist the demands of the playtext. As a result, theatre creates a provocatively charged experience for spectators and performers, in which both parties are thematically implicated in the aims and preoccupations of a given play. Just as the performer’s body does not dissolve but instead accomplishes the crucial work of ideological exposure, the audience also becomes a marked, integrated presence and source of commentary in these bodysnatching plays.

In this dissertation, I harness a particular selection of Anglophone drama from the late 20th to early 21st century in order to demonstrate how the often uncanny, subversive nature of live performance allows for radical reconsiderations of embodiment. By examining the ways in which these strangely iterated characters— and the performers who portray them— unfold onstage, theatrical bodysnatching poses urgent questions of exploitation, agency, and resistance.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Howard, Jean E.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 19, 2023