Rethinking Folk Drama

Rethinking Folk Drama

Rethinking Folk Drama

Rethinking Folk Drama

Synopsis

Traditions of folk drama exist throughout the world, ranging from simple forms that involve few people, rudimentary texts, and crude performance practices, to complex forms involving entire towns, highly elaborated texts, and performance practices that have developed over hundreds of years. Yet folk drama lacks, to this day, a full-length study from the perspectives of either folkloristics or drama studies. This work seeks to fill that lack by undertaking a bi-disciplinary study of the idea of folk drama, drawing on examples from around the world, including Yangge (China), Ta'ziyeh (Iran), Bhavai (India), Karagoz (Turkey), Apidan (Nigeria), and the Mummers' Play (England). It examines the meanings of "folk" and "drama," the significance of ritual and performance in folk drama, the frequently encountered problem of Eurocentric bias, the conventional tripartite division of drama into elite, popular, and folk categories, the need for a methodology capable of describing all aspects of folk drama performance, and the taxonomic place of folk drama in both folkloristics and drama studies. On the basis of this examination, Rethinking Folk Drama establishes a new basis for understanding the ubiquity and variety of folk drama.

Excerpt

While traveling in England some years ago, I sought refuge from the heat one sweltering summer weekend in a visit to Blackpool; within hours of arriving, I was certain I had made a terrible mistake. Blackpool is a beach-resort town that, with its faded gaudiness, tawdry hotels, and unpalatable food, can be quite depressing to a foreigner--especially if the ocean fails to provide its expected breeze. Amid the pressing crowd of working-class families on holiday, I felt thoroughly miserable and alone.

Out on the beach, however, I came across a pair of old friends: a hunchback and his shrewish wife. Strange friends, one might think, and stranger still that I should find them in Blackpool, of all places. But Blackpool, I soon learned, was their home--as was most every beach resort and public park in England. In fact, my friends got around quite a bit, and I had first met them in the United States, where they also spend some time. The hunchback is named Punch; his wife is Judy. They are the stars of one of the most famous puppet shows in the world.

The Punch-and-Judy shows I had seen in America ranged from the crudely amateurish to the slickly professional, but none was quite like the show I saw that weekend in Blackpool. None, for example, included a live dog. Apparently the "Professor" who gave the show in Blackpool was a Mr. Joe Green. Green is said to have performed at Blackpool since 1946 and is "almost the only" Punch-and-Judy showman "now working regularly with a live dog" (R. Leach 1983: 76). Further, none of the shows I had seen in America had the incessant . . .

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