TaPRA 2019 has ended
Welcome to TaPRA 2019 at the University of Exeter!

Tom Cornford

TaPRA Executive Curated Panel:

Dr Tom Cornford (The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London): ‘Undoing Language’ 
This provocation will address some ways in which whiteness shapes research, not only in terms of its content, but the theoretical standpoints, language and metaphors that govern analysis and have their roots in racist systems of power among which we must count contemporary academia. 

Presentation for Performance, Identity and Community:
Exposing Whiteness Past and Present: Re-politicizing Race for the Future Theatre

Taking its cue from Derek Hook’s account of whiteness as an ‘affective technology’, and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s conception of ‘color-blind racism’, which is ‘subtle, institutional and apparently non-racial’, this paper will explore challenges to the hegemonic position of whiteness in recent and contemporary UK theatre. I will analyse ways in which funding regimes, programming decisions and dramaturgical and aesthetic choices in production have conspired to maintain the dominance of white perspectives in UK theatre, even as it has become apparently more ‘diverse’ in its representation. I will argue, however, that this representational regime, visible across the spectrum of funded companies from the National Theatre to Talawa, is increasingly being challenged by a new generation of theatre-makers, who are seeking to shift, in Bonilla-Silva’s terms, from a non-racist to an anti-racist position. This trend is visible works such as Misty (Bush Theatre, 2018), ear for eye (Royal Court, 2018), A Small Place (Gate Theatre, 2018), and The Ridiculous Darkness (Gate Theatre, 2019), which have successfully exposed, critiqued and attacked the operation of whiteness in the past and present. I will argue that these Black-led interventions offer essential strategies to re-politicize race for the future: without a broadening and deepening of this direct, political challenge to the hegemony of whiteness, the UK theatre will continue to function as a technology for tacitly asserting the values of white supremacy.

Tom Cornford is Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Performance at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. He is the author of articles about acting, directing and dramaturgy for numerous journals and collections, and, recently, of a long essay, with Roberta Barker, on the director Tyrone Guthrie in The Great European Stage Directors, Vol. 3 (Bloomsbury, 2018). Current projects include a special issue of the journal Contemporary Theatre Review, co-edited with Caridad Svich, on the director Katie Mitchell, as well as two forthcoming books, a monograph: Theatre Studios: A History of Ensemble Theatre-Making (Routledge) and an edited collection: Michael Chekhov in the Twenty-First Century: New Pathways, with Cass Fleming (Bloomsbury).