Theatre and the Macabre
Edited by Meredith Conti and Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.
Forthcoming from University of Wales Press
Theatre and the Macabre will be the first edited collection to consider the diverse ways that the macabre operates within live performance. The volume moves from an understanding of macabre theatre as one that is disturbing, horrifying, or provoking because of its involvement with or depiction of death and injury, the gruesome and the grotesque. Because the macabre is neither time-bound nor limited to a specific culture or cultures, Theatre and the Macabre's essays that range across periods, geographic boundaries, and sites of entertainment in deliberate and productive ways. Chapters on the German Trauerspiel, monstrous mothers on the English Gothic stage, and macabre children in contemporary Australian theatre, for example, sit alongside one another, inviting readers to consider how the macabre is simultaneously ubiquitous and idiosyncratic, global and site-specific. Horror (as a genre that often employs the macabre) has problematic and fascinating relationships with race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and disability, and chapters within Theatre and the Macabre help to interrogate these relationships, from Michael Chemers’ examination of nineteenth-century actors with disabilities to Juno Hoay-Fern’s inquiry into Japanese butoh performances. Similarly, we have applied expansive notions of theatre and performance in order to encourage contributors to think about how macabre theatre exists outside of playhouses and concert halls. The essays featured in the collection various identify the macabre in the graphic abortion spectacles within Evangelical Hell Houses; the movement vocabularies of an Argentinean choreographer contemplating the country’s Dirty War; and the “dark tourism” experiences of visitors at Washington D.C.’s Ford Theatre, site of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. What binds the essays together is Theatre and the Macabre’s purposive centering of live performance as an underacknowledged agent of the macabre.