Testimonials/Reflections

“The JPTW was amazing, absolutely essential for my growth as a scholar and artist. To be honest, coming in I wasn’t sure how it would work – could performance theory really be applied to Japanese performing arts (especially older ones)? I was a little doubtful that it could be without becoming meaninglessly structuralist (as in, if in analysis one can substitute a performance taking place in 21rst Century New York and nothing changes, then to me it kind of fails). I read theories and authors completely new to me (like Bourdaghs, Maeda, Kamei, Eubanks, Muñoz), some I have on my shelf but haven’t touched for years (Barthes), and some I know well (Yano, Hahn), but even those I knew took on a very different shade in the context of this unique fusion of ideas. This JPTW demonstrated to us that with meticulous care and detailed focus, performance theory can be applied successfully and meaningfully to Japanese performing arts (albeit with longer exposure, finesse, and skill than we could acquire in a short week).”
—Natasha K. Foreman

“Favorite Piece/Activity: Applying theoretical lenses to noh in performance. THOSE ROBES!
Most useful piece/activity: Workshopping my writing. In a longer format, it would be very valuable to include more folks in this – I felt very lucky that the time was given to me.
Most challenging piece/activity: As I had previous exposure to nearly all the performance studies theorists we read under the guidance of the incomparable Dr. Amma, an NYU performance studies scholar, I think my answer might different than my peers. I struggled the most with readings like the Learning Places introduction by Miyoshi and Harootunian and others that dealt with the discipline of Japan Studies and “area studies”. I previously had no experience with these spaces within academia. Visualizing and understanding how these academic departments functioned, let alone developed, was enlightening but challenging for me.

Suggestions for improvement: I think many people might be voicing a desire for more time to read and respond here, so let me give you a different view: I loved the academic pressure cooker you created. Godmother of Viewpoints in the theatre, Anne Bogart, calls this “exquisite pressure”. She claims, and I agree, that asking yourself to do more than is possible in a given time leads to creative breakthroughs. I think some of the candid conversations we had. In a perfect universe of unlimited funding and time, I would want the workshop to be a bit longer and include more embodied learning activities.

Narrative
I received an email about the Japanese Performance Theory Workshop from the Association for Asian Performance listserv. I didn’t know anything about the University of Michigan or its storied place within Japanese Studies. I didn’t know anything about Reginald Jackson, the convener. The website made the workshop sound connected to my work and I decided to apply. I requested a letter of recommendation from my advisor, which was the most challenging part of the application (we’re all so busy, and I hate to put more on anyone’s plate). My advisor was as generous as he always is with letter of recommendations and happily agreed. Looking back, my personal statement for the application articulated my understanding of what the workshop would do for me. “While I have a foundational understanding of performance in Japan, I hope to not only fill gaps in my knowledge, I also hope to gain a clearer understanding of the most current conversation about Japanese performance in terms of theory, pedagogy and artistic practice. I come to my dissertation project from the perspective of new play dramaturgy exploring how and why the writing takes shape in a US context. The JPTW would bolster my understanding from the perspective of scholarship exploring Japanese Performance.” While I was unsure of how this workshop would function in the hour by hour sense (Was I going to a conference? A class? A little bit of both?) I did know what I hoped to gain.

I can confidently say that the workshop gave me what I came for. However, in addition to a better understanding of Japanese studies and performance theory in the context of Japan, I also received the gift of a whole new stack of questions. What good are answers if they don’t prompt a whole new line of inquiry? The readings, viewings, activities and conversation at JPTW explored how we approach performance in the context of Japan. Many of the writers gave me new methodologies applicable to my own work. In addition to the generous explanation of Japanese performances in a more factual vein, the workshop participants helped me frame my own approach to intercultural playwriting bridging Japan and the US. Most importantly, they complicated my understanding of how I can approach this subject. The questions I am left with include: How can I ethically situate myself within my scholarship? What does it mean for a young, white, American scholar to have anything to say about Japanese traditional performing arts? How can I use my personal experience and expertise to ground my scholarship in a genuine way? How can I use critical theory to frame a conversation about the nitty-gritty of making theatre? How are playwrights theorists in their own right? How are the playwrights I study theorizing about intercultural playwriting? These last two questions are the most revolutionary to me. While the list of what I learned could go on and on, this idea stands out. How can playwrights theorize? The playwrights I research are theorizing intercultural performance, instead of just “doing it”. While perhaps a subtle shift in my framing mechanism, I think this will change my dissertation project for the better. My week in Ann Arbor was exhausting, interesting, useful and genuinely fun. I’ve come back home ready to dive into my research with new vigor.”
—Sarah Johnson

“My favorite part of the workshop was the screening section. Although I was not drawn to all the videos that were screened, I enjoyed the writing practices and the discussions after the screening. It was inspiring to hear about how an/a action/moment can be interpreted from various perspectives. The most useful activity to me was the writing workshop. In group-reviewing Sarah’s paper, I learned many writing techniques and had many of my own problems about writing solved.

To be honest, I do think the discussions of workshop could be more efficient and the readings could be better done if our daily schedule could be shorter (or, if we could end earlier everyday). […] As a person who is not in Japanese studies and has very little training on performing studies, I felt the workshop was challenging yet rewarding. First, I like the broad-to-specific structure of the workshop. The structure helped me get familiar with the field as well as our discussion topics. […] The second thing I liked about the workshop is that it not only helped me achieve my original goal but also offered me more than what I expected. I stated in my application that I would like to do some comparative studies between Chinese and Japanese traditional theaters. Both the discussions on performance theories and the screenings taught me a lot about how to watch and analyze Japanese traditional performances. I was drawn to Noh, which appeared almost at the same time with Kunqu in China. It was interesting for me to notice how local theaters developed differently during the same period in the two countries that shared many similarities. In addition to the comparison between Chinese and Japanese theaters, the theories we read and discussed inspired me with new perspectives to interpret not only Chinese traditional theater but also Chinese philosophical ideas. Because I am much more familiar with Chinese thoughts than with western theories, sometimes I could not help but interpret the latter based on my own knowledge about the former. Such attempt may be Occidentalist, but sometimes by noticing the differences and similarities between two cultural thoughts, I was able to comprehend both better.”
—Yihui Sheng

“-Favorite piece/activity?
• Favorite reading: Sara Ahmed: Queer Phenomenology and Maeda Ai: Text and the City
• Favorite activity: “Applying” theory to the Noh video and doing various (feminist, marxist, queer etc.) readings of the videos.
-Most useful piece/activity?
• Most useful reading: Barthes (from Work to Text), Lepecki, and Hahn
-Most challenging piece/activity?
• The most challenging part of the workshop was just trying to keep up with the volume of the readings.
-Suggestions for improvement?
• Time for reflection and digestion is really helpful for me but I couldn’t find it given the packed schedule. Perhaps scheduling an hour “response writing” time during the day could have helped to streamline the individual responses. After the hour everyone posts to a public conversation in order to allow participants to read the thoughts/writing of the other participants.

At the start of the JPTW Professor Jackson explained that a goal of the workshop was to parse out the meanings of each component in the title. That is, to figure out what “Japanese” means, what “Performance” means, what “Theory” means, and even what a “Workshop” means. It was a productive framework to begin the week and I felt that one of the most helpful aspects of the JPTW was the way in which our readings and conversations continually interrogated and complicated each term. For me, the discussions that focused on “Theory” were especially generative and by the end of the week I sat comfortably with an understanding that theory happens in multiple ways in everyday life, all the time. The chapters we read from Text and the City and the seminar discussion on Maeda Ai’s work provided a constructive example of the idea that theory and theorizing do not only exist as academic tools, they are also embedded in the activities of daily life. From a methodological standpoint, taking up Maeda’s proposition that walking through the city is to theorize will be foremost in my mind as I head to Urumqi with questions about how the aesthetics of dance forms respond to the city’s changing landscape.

I hope it is not too vague to say that the dynamic of the group in relation to the readings was perhaps the most rewarding aspect of JPTW. I keep coming back to something Jubilith said on the first day about how Theory, for her as a practitioner, was the “Other.” Yet it became clear through the reading and our discussions that a practitioner like Jubilith is always theorizing. Indeed, many of the most incisive moments in discussion for me came when Jubilith or Natasha or Yuko offered a take on the topic that came from the perspective of their music training and background. While I will never be able to analyze the soundscape of performances to the incredible degree that the musicians in the room demonstrated, going forward I will heed their urgent insistence that we always pay attention to the sounds in performance in addition to the movements. I also appreciated Yihui’s comments that connected the readings to ideas in Taoism and Confucianism because they always shone a light on another angle of our prism. Having a group with such mixed training and positions in the academy allowed for these various perspectives to come together and while we were all reading and watching the same thing, our different positions gave rise to invigorating discussions and important breakthroughs in how we understand the terms “Japanese,” “Performance,” and “Theory”. Finally, Professor Jackson set the tone of the workshop and established the seminars as safe spaces in which to experiment and test out our ideas. This supportive tone together with keeping a cue for participants to contribute helped on a nuts and bolts level to create seminars that felt equitable and intellectually rigorous.

Two broad themes I have continued to think through from the workshop are the themes of excess and (dis)-orientation. I went straight from the JPTW to working with a festival of Queer Dance and I think the discussions and readings from JPTW actually helped me to orient myself toward a more optimistic perspective in regards to the “subversive” potential in performance. I tend to approach most contemporary performance from a cynical lens of political economy and often fall into the trap of reading everything as a performance of aesthetic tastes that cater to and reproduce class distinctions. As such, it has become harder and harder for me to recognize when performance might really critique, agitate, or even hold revolutionary potential. Had I not read Maeda, or watched Yasuko and Hangman Tazuko, or participated in the hours of seminar in which we discussed the management of excess as a method of control, I think I may have missed some of the nuance and subtle cultural shifting that took place in the Queer Dance festival.”
—Ruby Macdougall

“• Favorite piece/activity: I really enjoyed hearing about everyone’s individual research and projects, because it provided an interesting snapshot into a wide variety of different areas in Japan and performance studies, explained concisely by people who were passionate and knowledgeable about these different topics. Additionally, it also provided, at least partially, a picture of the different directions and stages which individuals’ careers can take, so it was useful by also providing real examples of how people navigate (with varying degrees of success) the positive and negative aspects of the university system. Also, it allowed us to get to know each other better and provided context for further conversation. Even though they were not included in the initial session time, I would also include the hako-mawashi puppet video and the tea ceremony and dance demonstration as parts of this process of hearing about people’s individual research and projects.

• Most useful piece/activity: I think it was quite useful to go through the kabuki, and especially the noh plays, and pause to describe and analyze what we are seeing, especially through multiple lenses. It provided powerful examples of how the different lenses which our own personal backgrounds as well as the variety of theories we were dealing with enabled us to read the various different elements of performance (text, physical movement, make-up, hair, mask, costume, audience, sound, light, etc.) in diverse and detailed ways. Whether or not every theory we read about is of use to me, or every piece we analyzed is something I will continue to study, the ability to look at a diversity of performances and be unafraid to boldly experiment in analyzing and describing them through different theoretical lenses will prove undoubtedly useful in both the artistic and academic side of theatre.

• Most challenging piece/activity: honestly, this is strangely specific, but I could not figure out, for the duration of the seminar, what phenomenology was. We read and discussed about it – but none of our readings or discussions really defined it in language I could understand. I knew that, with more time and study, I was sure to be able to eventually understand it, so the most challenging part was not so much the concept itself, but rather, the frustration that I could not figure out what this word that everyone else seemed to understand it. Since most of the people speaking in the discussion already understood it, we tried, but never really got around to clearly explaining it to the few who didn’t. This was a small, but memorable challenge for me, because I felt so lost in the conversation about phenomenology when I could not even figure out what it was.

• Suggestions for improvement: I wish there had been more opportunities to engage in embodied learning or practice (aka to get out of our chairs). Artists go out of their comfort zone when dealing with high theory, yet this can be beneficial for them. So, could it not also be beneficial for academics to go outside their comfort zone by getting up on their feet and moving their bodies as a method of learning? Whether it is dance, meditation, improvisation, movement, tea ceremony, chanting, or something else, I think that embodying some of the practices related to the performances we are discussing would open up a whole new dimension of previously closed knowledge: allowing us to draw on both the archive and the repertoire. Such an approach would, I believe, complement intellectual discussion, rather than detracting from it; people are more able to think and discuss when they have had a chance to engage their bodies and voices. Despite all this, I understand that the lower status of embodied knowledge within the academy may make it very difficult to get funding for a workshop that engages it, and if sacrifices have to be made, they have to be made and that is totally understandable. Nevertheless, if it were possible to learn in complementary intellectual and embodied ways, that would make an already impactful workshop all the more comprehensive and meaningful.

Narrative (-ish) Account:
Before I went to JPTW, I had assumed it would be a program in which we talked about Japan, talked about performing arts, and learned more about what Japanese performing arts were. What I discovered, by the time the program was through, was that it was actually more about learning how we study Japanese performing arts, rather than simply studying what they are. While discussions of Japan and performing arts were part of this, roughly one-half of it was a combination of complicated philosophical/linguistic/humanistic theories mixed together with, on the opposite end of the spectrum, a down-to-earth, un-sugar-coated exploration of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the world of academia. Both were surprising, frustrating, and rewarding.

In terms of historical insights, I appreciated the chance to explore the historical underpinnings of the Japan Studies and performance studies disciplines and understanding more about why modern Japanese theatre has largely slipped through the cracks in the ivory tower (in other words, why it is underrepresented in mainstream academia). In terms of conceptual insights, the concepts of work vs. text, of honor student culture, and of the archive and the repertoire were all especially memorable and striking to me. I also appreciated exploring the concepts of cultural appropriation and cultivating a nuanced view of theory as both useful and hegemonic—both insightful and problematic. In terms of methodological insights, I appreciated learning about the various dangers of the academic world and some ways people have navigated it, the nuanced discussion of topics in writing (i.e. citation, organization, etc.), and a chance to observe some pedagogical approaches to applying theory to Japanese performing arts (as exemplified by Reggie先生).

At the end of the week, the biggest suggestion I have for improving is something that has been formulating throughout my years of adventures in academia (not only at JPTW) but which my experience at JPTW helped me articulate more clearly. Basically, I appreciated the opportunity to analyze works (or texts) from different perspectives, and I wonder if there is more room for even more diversity in perspective. I am especially interested in what aspects of the human experience the lenses we look through tend to privilege. For instance, many of the lenses through which we viewed work (i.e. feminist, queer, Marxist, Barthes-esque, etc.) often seemed, to me, to privilege primarily power, and secondarily desire or pleasure (i.e. “this costume shows the power difference between these two”, “it shows the desire”, “it brings us pleasure”, etc.) and while this is entirely legitimate and useful, I wonder what assumptions are made about human character if we stop here and don’t consider other aspects of it.

To put this in the context of other parts of our discussion, we have agreed that we dislike the shamelessly self-serving, egotistically posturing, power-hungry, corrupt, and abusive forces present in academia. So, at the risk of going into hypothetical-land, may I ask what kind of attitudes or character qualities often lead people down paths of abuse, arrogance, or cut-throat self-interest? Might not a desire for power be involved? This is a broad generalization. Nevertheless, if we think that the acquisition, generation, and spread of meaningful knowledge, the cultivation of a more culturally aware and less orientalist/imperialist world, the promotion of justice in the workplace and the globe, and other positive values and practices such as this are of at least equal, if not greater, importance than one’s individual drive for power or status, how does that reflect itself in our analytical and theoretical work? If we want to become academics who prize cooperation over dog-eat-dog neoliberalism, justice over exploitation, and humility over posturing, would there be a usefulness to analyzing plays through lenses that sometimes privilege and seek to uncover themes of cooperation, justice, and humility?

Personally, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to look through a feminist, Marxist, queer, etc. lense, and I would not want to lose that opportunity. At the same time, however, I often felt that none of these lenses really captured the things that I saw in the play. For instance, when Jinen Koji danced, we analyzed this through lenses that highlighted its labor-related and sexual implications, which was interesting. But for me, I kept thinking about how Jinen Koji might have thought of himself as a hero for rescuing the girl, but in order to really rescue her, he had to let go of his pride and put up with the humiliation of being ordered to dance. He had to prove his desire to do good by swallowing his pride. So, for me, it can be read as a story of pride vs. humility. This is just one example. As you know, I’m not very experienced or well read in these sort of things, so I probably don’t really have any idea what I’m talking about, but these are my feelings, for what they are worth. Hopefully you can glean something useful from them.

In addition to meditations on what aspects of human character our theoretical lenses privilege, I was also able, at JPTW to make a number of important conceptual connections. The idea of Work vs. Text strongly connects to the ways in which I think about the implications of performing theatre from one culture in a different cultural context. The idea of the honor student culture strongly connects to the concept I was exploring in the Betsuyaku Minoru play I directed. And Jinen Koji and the ways in which we analyzed it actually connect very well with one of the plays I wrote my honors thesis on (Yokouchi Kensuke’s The King of La Mancha’s Clothes).

As perhaps was intended, I will leave JPTW with unanswered questions more numerous and complex than those I arrived with. This is, in my opinion, always a good thing. A few of these questions are: what is going on with the whole cultural appropriation discourse? How can we use that language, along with the language of Japan Studies and/or of high theory, to cogently investigate and articulate the potential for Japanese performing arts to be explored in foreign (non-Japanese) countries? Also, what supplementary lenses can we analyze things through and how can they reflect alternative possible assumptions about human nature than those that underlie neoliberalism? How can we bring modern Japanese theatre into a critical spotlight? As we learn about the many faces of academia, how can we maximize the positive aspects of the environment and minimize the negative aspects of it within our own lives while also encouraging others to do the same (and not starving)?

In conclusion, I am so incredibly grateful that I could go to JPTW. For me, it was basically free grad school before grad school, which is such a great gift. Not only that, I was with a bunch of really smart people interested in similar things to me and of different ages, disciplines, and walks of life. It was a wild ride, and I look forward to seeing where the train goes from here. But no matter what, 一期一会。”
—Gregory Wolf

“For me, theory on embodiment feels oddly disembodied in so many ways that the most productive moments during the workshop were when we worked through the theoretical frameworks to approach a specific performance or historical moment of embodied action. I have never had a chance to experience a scholar like Prof. Jackson guiding us through analyzing specific Noh scenes. It was impressive and useful to watch him employ a different theoretical lens to provide a cohesive and meaningful analysis of the same movements in a given scene. WOW! I took copious notes and I hope to recreate this experience with my own students—on a minor scale of course, this activity is really only possible with someone well-versed in the movement lexicon. I would love to try this approach for my work with Okinawan dances as well.

Similarly, I enjoyed our writing workshops, especially the collaborative environment of workshopping papers by our fellow participants. I wish this kind of practice was more of a habitus in our field. Other fields such as Conversation Analysis regularly host meetings of scholars to read, witness, and brainstorm how to analyze raw data sets. I wish we could continue the spirit of the JPTW in this way as well.

Finally, I am grateful for the human networks we started to create. Everyone was so generous, so energizing in their own ways. And I was very serious about offers to bring people on my campus (once I raise funding for travel and stipends of course) and to present or publish together. When my life allows for a pause, I hope to write members individually. Thank you so much for allowing me to indulge in a part of my research and personal self that is often buried under a 4/4 teaching load, an immense service load, as well as disciplinary pressures not to engage in performance theory.”
—Valerie Barske

“-Favorite piece/activity? Class discussion of texts
-Most useful piece/activity? Class discussion of texts
-Most challenging piece/activity? Austin/Lepecki readings

I arrived, very jet-lagged, for the 11:30 session of the first day due to a cancelled flight. I was immediately struck by how familiar everyone was with each other and how lively the conversation was. In the past I have been a member of too may a silent class and found these experiences entirely frustrating and often unproductive- so this was really a welcome sight (and sound).

The daily readings were all of interest and I look forward to reading the materials I could not get to just due to time. I came to the workshop hoping to learn more about theory, which admittedly, my own program has been fairly lax about introducing me to. While I was frustrated by the jargon of movements like phenomenology and ontology, I was very interested in the ways in which such viewpoints were engaged by scholars- Of particular interest was the idea of applying such movements to my own work in order to expand the audience through a common language. However, I still have not figured out exactly how such movements make a case for why they are the most useful way to examine something- in other words, why should I choose one over the other? It often seemed more like a artistic choice than a practical one… I guess I would have liked some more readings that were like the Christian, in which the shortcomings of the other methodologies were focused on, to help me understand why new methodologies have been created-

That being said, I was very interested in thinking of these methodologies as a kind of artistic choice. Maybe it is the practitioner in me, but the idea that we might liken each of these methodological viewpoints as an artistic way of communicating was intriguing to me.

The videos were interesting, but I often felt like we spent more of our time trying to decipher their meaning rather than apply the theoretical models we were discussing to them. Perhaps this was necessary due to our eclectic backgrounds, but I would have enjoyed more exercises like the one you did, when you consciously and directly applied theoretical frameworks to the viewings. So, kind of like Fuss suggests, I would have liked some more applied activities directed towards us using the methodologies.

I feel like the goals I had for this were met. While I have not found, per se, clear pathways for my own research, I have been introduced to a number of compelling choices, and that means a lot to me. I also read some great examples of writers who, as I hoped for, avoid jargon, but create strong, accessible arguments, which I can model my own writing on. I don’t think we really got the chance to talk about traditional Japanese performing arts as a contemporary activity directly, but your example of application of methods showed me some real ways to do it. Lastly on this topic, I learned a lot of great ways to cull info from large reading loads that will make my life a heck of a lot easier in the future!

As I reflect on the experience of the week, I am grateful for being included. I met some great people and got to have some conversations I have long been yearning to have. I also learned a lot about how to succeed in the academic world and how to not get dragged down by some of its realities. I definitely stumbled along the way, but the positive and genki attitudes of everyone made this moments chances to grow in a truly positive experience. And, most of all, you were a stellar captain, steering me in directions that led to a number of treasures!

Thank you very much for including me. I hope this event can continue as I believe it is a much needed experience for anyone who wants to talk about Japanese performance, whether it be an old for or a new one.”
—Alex Rogals

“[…] As I continue to reflect on the JPTW I was really quite privileged and honored to participate in, the above quote came to mind. While I may have been one of the chronologically oldest persons invited to the table, I was clearly, as Shakespeare would say, ‘outside my text.’ I asked to be part of a conversation at the very edge of my knowing, in the hopes of broadening my horizons. I was not disappointed and actually spent much of the week well beyond my ‘edge.’ The level of caretaking in the room was remarkable, concrete, purposeful and very real. I learned that caretaking could trickle down fairly easily. I was taken care of, we all were, and while the workshop provided more ‘take-aways’ than I can fathom, this, for me, is perhaps one of the most significant ones. I cannot help but be grateful. […]

We reflect to see how far we have come, to help understand where we are, and to help us see a way forward. One significant take away from my week in Ann Arbor is a renewed understanding of the importance of reading and by that, I understand that means rereading. Parsing the title of the workshop was revelatory. It revealed my ignorance and my assumptions. The assumption worth sharing here is my assumption that the ‘theory’ would hew closer to the practicality of Japanese Performance, which is to say, a familiar vocabulary. The journey from far away – a land with a different language – to close was brilliant and purposeful. I mention it because I would have liked to have spent more time in the middle – in the ha – in the breaking away – for that really is the hardest part. I suspect I would have had more finger holds to help me climb mountain theory. The journey from ‘doing to understanding’ took on a different significance. And that relates in some way to my assumptions of what a ‘workshop’ is.”
—Jubilith Moore

“It was an enormous privilege and pleasure to take part in the Japanese Performance Theory Workshop. Reggie designed the workshop as a safe space for a free exchange of ideas on Japanese Performance and theory across a number of related disciplines. Participants, (senior and junior faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and performing artists) coming from backgrounds in Theatre, Japanese Studies, History, Ethnomusicology, Chinese Literature, and Performance Studies, as well as professional performers, spoke across disciplines, sharing their expertise, while learning about the resources and approaches available to them in other disciplines to enlighten their own research. Reggie’s careful curation of participants allowed for truly productive discussions and interactions throughout the very full five days of the workshop. It was liberating to feel one could ask anything without worrying about appearing uninformed and to participate in a professional endeavor where producing a paper was not the prerequisite for participation.

I was continually impressed with Reggie’s modeling of pedagogical strategies that allow for the inclusive conversations that the workshop was meant to foster. Even as we shared our various areas of expertise, Reggie’s in depth knowledge and understanding of a range of fields — Japanese language, Japanese culture, the performing arts, and critical theory — was always present, informing and supporting the conversation. […]

While we all learned form each other, I was particularly grateful for Reggie’s expertise in critical theory and his ability to clarify difficult material, map out the relationships of important theorists to each other, and explain and model how their theories both inform a good deal of contemporary scholarship and could be deployed further within Area Studies in productive ways. His knowledge and the generous way in which he shared it was a hallmark of all aspects of the workshop, encompassing also the enormous work to not only to make it happen, but to secure funding that allowed him to offer it for free (including travel and lodging) to all involved.

While exploring ways to theorize Asian performance, the workshop also analyzed the changing structure of the university that created the various disciplines represented in the group and the sometimes problematic divisions that can keep them from engaging with each other in spite of the very important ways they need to be in conversation.

The university too often does not adequately value the kind of work it took to conceptualize and organize this workshop. We sometimes call this labor “service to the profession,” and generally subordinate it to production that showcases individual scholarship. But this work is vital to refreshing our fields as much as other research endeavors. Setting up the conditions Reggie did for this workshop is essentially equivalent to creating an argument for a new possible future for the field. It takes a generous scholar to go down this path, one that opens up new roads for all.

My personal take aways from this week are the following:

A stronger grounding in various theoretical models, their relationship to each other, and an understanding of how to read and use theory within theatrical analysis.

A better view of the relationship of various fields that all engage with Japanese performance and how each fills out areas of understanding in relation to the others.

An stronger awareness of the centrality of music in Japanese performance, and the need to move music from the margins to the center of analysis.

Access to a wonderful community of engaged scholars and artists, outside of “the usual suspects” from my field, that I hope to continue to connect with in moving my own scholarship forward, as well as in helping them with theirs.

A better understanding of the roots of the changing state of the university and how our various disciplines fit into it.

A refreshed understanding of the classroom from a student’s point of view and the ways today’s students engage with materials and each other through current technology.

The experience unexpectedly brought me to review my trajectory through my own academic career and solidify how I have made peace with the choices I have made along the way.

I am not sure if or how I will use the theoretical models we explored in my own work, but I am clearer about how my own methodologies might fit in relation to others and how to share these others with my students.

A collection of essays and resources that I can return to for my own research and for classroom discussion. I found the stop and go analysis of noh performances much more useful than I predicted. I tend to teach noh in a more general way, usually in a survey course about various kinds of theatre. Being able to understand a particular play or two and how they work moment to moment, in their poetry and performance (and having a complete set of resources— text and performance video to accompany this) is so helpful! This is something I would certainly appreciate more of. The in-depth analysis of these arts from Japanese Literary studies, music studies, and performers is something that can really benefit theatre studies. I have done a certain amount of this, but more of it always fills out my knowledge of the area.

Particularly useful to me was getting Jubilith to explain to me the modular structure of music in noh (like a set of train cars where some are necessary, some possible and some orders important and others variable) ,and I would definitely love to hear more from Jubileth, Natasha, and Yuko about music and movement in their various areas.

I appreciated the flexibility of the agenda, and Reggie’s willingness to make time and space so the interests of the group to be addressed in various ways. Sometimes the meta discourse on times and agendas and how times would be apportioned and used maybe took up more time than necessary and took away from more interesting ways of using it. […]

The quickie version I sent someone who asked about the workshop:
‘It was excellent. A wonderful free open discussion across disciplines with participants at all levels and from different backgrounds. And it finally got me reading things like Barthes, Austin, and other theorists and clarified for me how and why people use them in theatre studies. A long time coming, but finally had to confront this, while getting deeper insight into Japanese theatre and a critical analysis of the development of Area studies and the sad state currently of the university. (University in Ruins.) Also gave me a chance to both experience what it’s like to be a student in the current techno age while being respected as a senior scholar. The workshop, travel and lodging were all fully supported. This was an experiment from someone in Japanese Area studies who wants to transform the conversation in the field. I think he did an excellent job. And really wonderful people here.’

I’m sure I will be having a lot more thoughts about all of this, especially about the ongoing state of the university, something I have had to think about a lot recently, and hope to be able to articulate some of these thoughts in some useful way and maybe even come to seeing a positive way forward. But I’ll leave this here for now.
—Claudia Orenstein