“Words fail.” —Samuel Beckett
What does it mean to stage a play in a world where talk is cheap but also incendiary, where screens have come to dominate our lives and we are deluged with multimedia entertainments? Is “liveness” still special, and if so, what does that mean? At a time when gender has become newly fluid and its performativity both a given and a source of political conflict, how does theater imagine the gendered world differently? How do race and class factor into gender’s meanings? We will consider the reasons playwrights still write drama, attending to the different possibilities that theater affords those whose voices are ignored or marginalized; those who want to challenge the dominant culture; and those who delight in the legacies of literary drama, community rituals, and language as an essential part of performed storytelling. Playwrights will include Caryl Churchill, Tony Kushner, Tom Stoppard, Suzan-Lori Parks, and—of course—the master of failure, Samuel Beckett. And you. First and foremost, we will be considering and experiencing modern drama as performance art, technologies and embodiment, and, for lack of a better word, gender.