The Blackwell-Bristol Lectures 2010

Professor Erika Fischer-Lichte (Free University of Berlin): Dionysus Resurrected: Performances of Euripides' Bacchae in a Globalizing World

11th, 12th, 18th and 19th May

The 2010 Bristol-Blackwell lectures were delivered by Erika Fischer-Lichte, Professor of Theatre Studies at the Free University of Berlin.  Professor Fisher-Lichte is one of the foremost historians and theorists of theatre in Europe. She has published widely in the fields of aesthetics, semiotics, performativity, theatre history, intercultural performance, and contemporary theatre. Her numerous publications include The Dramatic Touch of Difference: Theatre, Own and Foreign (1990), The Semiotics of Theatre (1992), The Show and the Gaze of Theatre: A European Perspective (1997), History of European Drama and Theatre (2002), Theatre, Sacrifice, Ritual. Exploring Forms of Political Theatre (2005), and most recently The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics (2008).

This lecture series was concerned with performances of Euripides’ Bacchae since the late 1960s, performances that took place in New York, Berlin, Delphi, London, Kingston, Lagos, São Paulo, Tokyo and Beijing. 

The first lecture argued that while most Greek tragedies that have been performed worldwide since the 1960s look back on almost 200 years of performance history on modern European stages, the Bacchae had almost no performance record at all before the late 1960s.

The second lecture focused on Klaus Michael Grüber’s Berlin production in 1974 and on Theodoros Terzopoulos’ Delphi production in 1986.

In the third lecture the focus was on the state of liminality entered by the dramatic characters, the actors, or the spectators.

Performances discussed included those of Wole Soyinka’s The Bacchae of Euripides in London (1973), Kingston/Jamaica (1975) and Lagos/Nigeria (2008) and a production of Euripides’ play staged by the Brazilian Teat(r)o Oficina and its director Zé Celso in São Paulo in 1996.  The fourth lecture discussed two Asian productions of the Bacchae, which in very different ways raised the question of westernization, asiatization and universalism in theatre: the production of the Japanese director Suzuki Tadashi in 1978 and the production by the China National Beijing Opera Theatre in 1996.  Each lecture was followed by a formal response and general discussion. The respondents were Professor Martin White (Drama), Professor David Wiles (Royal Holloway), Dr Fiona Macintosh (Oxford), and Professor Oliver Taplin (Oxford).  As usual, the lectures will be published in due course by Wiley-Blackwell.