Theatre & War

Notes from Afar

by Nandita Dinesh (UWC-USA)

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Nandita Dinesh has created an intensely personal reflection on her own practices in theatre making, but it should resonate with most artists who have worked in situations characterised by risk. Largely styled as ‘performative writing’, it is part autoethnography, part script, part documentary, with a dose of the cautionary tale. The critical reflexivity is couched in immersive theatre experiences, with scenarios scripted carefully to prod mercilessly at anyone who has attempted so-called applied theatre, including Dinesh herself. Wry humour characterises the critique of, amongst other things, privilege and guilt, “do-gooders”, voyeuristically “witnessing” another’s pain, education and condescension.
Sections of journal writing, documentary scenes, Facebook-styled posts, letters and scripted conversations lay bare the writer’s (and others’) passionate belief in theatre’s transformative potential, and equally, the doubts whether performance makes a difference in the world. The sacrifices made by theatre artists in war zones emerge in poetic form, juxtaposed with the director who can choose to leave the conflict zone. The pain of compassion fatigue and artist burnout is made evident in imaginary (or perhaps all too real) dialogues between medical practitioners and the artist.
The political focus is clear – in a world that is disintegrating, what is the role of the theatre activist? Two threads run through the book. The first is a discussion of the artist’s ethical and aesthetic choices while working in war zones and as educator of young people. The second is how perceptions of gender, nationality, belonging and privilege raise ethical questions for the artistic practice.
This companion to Dinesh’s previous book, Memos from a Theatre Lab: Spaces, Relationships, and Immersive Theatre, is adventurous, unconventional and honest.

Prof. Veronica Baxter
Faculty of Humanities, University of Cape Town, South Africa

In Theatre & War: Notes from the Field (2016, 2018), Dinesh writes about making theatre in zones of conflict. She analyzes practice; she describes various projects that she has undertaken ‘on the ground’; she theorizes strategies that might be useful to other practitioner-researchers who are involved in similar work. In this sequel of sorts, Dinesh chooses to return to the same themes: of theatre, of war. But this time, she intentionally crafts her notes from afar. From somewhere outside the field. From somewhere outside the practice. And yet, a somewhere that is consumed by the field. And the practice.
Through writing that seeks to ‘do’, through writing that seeks to ‘perform’, Dinesh use different voices in this book. Voices that come from more traditional archival sources, which are then re-conceptualized as drama. Voices that come from sources that occupy the space between archived and lived experience, which are then shaped into creative vignettes. Voices that come from Dinesh’s repertoire – her own lived experiences – that are then crafted as flash fiction about past/ present/ future collaborators. By weaving together variously positioned experiences and voices through creative (re)interpretations, Theatre & War: Notes from Afar is a book that could be read; it is also a book that could be performed.

A Roadmap

Section I: Guilt

A Note from Afar
Galleries of Guilt
Characters
The Setting
The First Gallery
The Second Gallery
The Third Gallery
The Fourth Gallery
The Fifth Gallery

Section II: Passion | Devastation

A Note from Afar
Here & There
Characters
The Setting
HERE: Part 1
THERE: Part 1
HERE: Part 2
THERE: Part 2
HERE: Part 3
THERE: Part 3
HERE: Part 4
THERE: Part 4
HERE: Part 5
HERE & THERE

Section III: Admiration

A Note from Afar
The Workout
Characters
The Setting
Round One
Round Two
Round Three
Round Four
Round Five

Section IV: Fear

A Note from Afar
Fear & Flash (non) Fiction
#1
#2
#3
#4
#5
#6
#7
#8
#9
#10
#11
# 12

Section V: Dissonance

A Note from Afar
Recipe for Disaster
Characters
The Setting
The Daily Schedules
The Text Strips
The Menu
The Shadows
The End

Ode to a Banyan Tree

Bibliography

Nandita Dinesh holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Cape Town in South Africa and an MA in Performance Studies from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Focused on the role that theatre can play during and after violent conflict, Dinesh has conducted community-based theatre projects in India, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. She currently teaches Theatre Arts and Literature & Performance, in addition to overseeing the juvenile justice programming, at the United World College in Montezuma, New Mexico. Nandita’s books include Theatre & War: Notes from the Field (2016; 2018 republication in India), Memos from a Theatre Lab: Exploring What Immersive Theatre “Does”, Scripting Detention: A Project in Theater and Autoethnography with Incarcerated Teens, Memos from a Theatre Lab: Spaces, Relationships, & Immersive Theatre, Information for/from Outsiders: Chronicles from Kashmir and Memos from a Theatre Lab: Immersive Theatre & Time. In 2017 she was awarded the Elliott Hayes Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dramaturgy by Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.

See also

Bibliographic Information

Book Title
Theatre & War
Book Subtitle
Notes from Afar
ISBN
978-1-62273-453-5
Edition
1st
Number of pages
254
Physical size
236mm x 160mm
Illustrations
16 B&W
Publication date
July 2019
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