Theatrical Agencies and Performance Principles: MARSH (Materializing and Activating Radical Social Habitus)

Esther Neff


In 2018 artists of the New York City-based theatre collective PPL (Panoply Performance Laboratory) returned home to the Midwestern USA to apply devising practices to the establishment of a worker-owned cooperative food-culture system including diner (café), performance space, permaculture site, and grocery store. The MARSH (Materializing & Activating Radical Social Habitus) project has since been working on “theatricalized” stagings of biocultural and environmental performativities. This paper reflexively interrogates this project’s formation processes in critical relationship with Jon McKenzie’s theorization of liminautic feedback, passage, and transformation between conceptual models and paradigms. If one of theatre’s operations is a modelling and initiation of organizational dramaturgies, how might we stage particular forms of intentional(ized) logics of practice “outside of” or “beyond” capitulation within nonconsensual, autopoietic re-productivities? Whose “mode of power,” as McKenzie writes, is performance/performativity, and how might modes of theatrical intentionality embedded in particular forms of performance redistribute and redesign human becomings in relationship with food, land, labor, and cultural meaningmaking? Through a descriptive and critical report on MARSH, I theorize theatricalization as an array of organizational, aesthetic, and social principles in comparative relationship with what McKenzie describes as a “Performance Studies” paradigm.

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