Karen Quigley

Sep 28, 2020

Performing the Unstageable

Success, Imagination, Failure

Methuen Drama 2020

From the gouging out of eyes in Shakespeare's King Lear or Sarah Kane's Cleansed, to the adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, theatre has long been intrigued by the staging of challenging plays and impossible texts, images or ideas. Performing the Unstageable: Success, Imagination, Failure (Methuen Drama) examines this phenomenon of what the theatre cannot do or has not been able to do at various points in its history.

The book explores four principal areas to which unstageability most frequently pertains: stage directions, adaptations, violence and ghosts. Karen Quigley incorporates a wide range of case studies of both historical and contemporary theatrical productions including the Wooster Group's exploration of Hamlet via the structural frame of John Gielgud's 1964 filmed production, Elevator Repair Service's eight-hour staging of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and a selection of impossible stage directions drawn from works by such playwrights as Eugene O'Neill, Philip Glass, Caryl Churchill, Sarah Kane and Alistair McDowall.

Placing theatre history and performance analysis in such a context, Performing the Unstageable values what is not possible, and investigates the tricky underside of theatre's most fundamental function to bring things to the place of showing: the stage.

Karen Quigley is Lecturer in theatre at the University of York, UK. Her previous publications include contributions to European Drama and Performance Studies, Journal of Contemporary Drama in English, Radical Contemporary Theatre Practices by Women in Ireland and Performance Research.

Originally from the North Shore in Massachusetts, Toney Brown is a theater director/performer in New York City. He studied Theater Arts at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In NYC, was a Performance Project Fellow at the University Settlement and adapted Harmony Korine’s A Crack Up at the Race Riots at Theater for a New City’s Dream Up Festival. In addition, he was worked extensively with the director Dennis Yueh-yeh Li adapting King Lear, assistant directed Maeterlinck’s The Blind, and performing in his production of Albert Camus’ Caligula (Chaerea) as part of the New Ohio Theater’s Producers Club Festival. When he is not podcasting on NBN, he hosts NYTF Radio, a podcast exploring the history of Yiddish Theatre for the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, available on all platforms. He is an enthusiastic cinephile and avid Red Sox fan.

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