David V. Mason
This issue of Ecumenica is the first to go to press without Carolyn Roark’s imprimatur. Carolyn Roark started The Baylor Journal of Theatre and Performance in 2003. That journal became Ecumenica in 2008. Carolyn edited the journal under both titles until 2016, and remained with the journal in an administrative role until 2017. Over the course of a decade and a half, Carolyn published important scholarship, new plays, and commentary on theatre and religion, and she pushed the journal towards contributing to the discussion of performance art and spirituality. What can reasonably be called “Carolyn Roark’s Journal” has made a significant contribution to Theatre, Performance Studies, and Religious Studies. The journal wouldn’t exist without Carolyn, but the quality of this publication is the consequence of Carolyn’s energy and expertise. And I don’t mind saying that I’m indebted to Carolyn for the patience she has exercised over the past year as I’ve stumbled under the weight that she carried so easily for so long. Ecumenica thanks Carolyn Roark and wishes her well in all of her other professional pursuits for which she now has just a little bit more time.
Claire Maria Chambers has also moved on to other pursuits. When I came to Ecumenica, Claire was already serving as the journal’s Assistant Editor. As an editor, Claire promoted content that exhibited clarity in the expression of strong ideas. Ecumenica also owes its ongoing life to Claire’s attentiveness and good sense.
And it’s past time that I acknowledge the journal’s current editors and officers, old and new.
A year ago, Alan Sikes and Brad Stephenson both agreed to continue with the journal, as Book Reviews Editor and as Treasurer, respectively, to ensure some continuity, here. The consequence of their continued service has been more than the mundane matter of organizational stability. Alan’s careful planning—far in advance—has meant book reviews that amplify each other in dialogue. Brad has ensured that the journal has the resources it needs to pursue its mission and its goals.
In the past calendar year, three new individuals have come to Ecumenica.
Claire Pamment took over as Performance Reviews Editor in 2016, and immediately expanded the journal’s international reach and content. Thanks to Claire’s efforts, Ecumenica has published reviews and commentaries written by scholars and artists whose words appear too seldom in English-language journals and on topics too seldom recognized as matters of performance and religion.
Alicia Corts began as Ecumenica’s Assistant Editor in January, 2017, and brought significant experience to the journal. It’s probably safe to say that this current issue owes its existence to the fact that Alicia knew exactly what she was doing when she started.
Pamela Lothspeich became the journal’s Secretary in January, 2017. Pamela not only brings new scholarly expertise to Ecumenica, she has already contributed significantly to the journal’s future course.
Which brings us, again, to the future.
This issue offers examples of what has made Ecumenica valuable. Jeff Casey’s essay shows how politics and religion converge in an Irish play. But Casey’s solid literary analysis does not ignore the material reality of performance. Casey gives particular, crucial attention to what a real-life body does—as a historical subject and as a performance vehicle.
Understood conventionally, “meaning” often gives way to physical suffering as the thing that most shapes ideology. An interview with John Collins, the founder and director of Elevator Repair Service, provides a look at creative process that eschews conventional practices and presumptively necessary hierarchical structures. Performance that grabs and shakes and awes can, it seems, emerge among people who trust each other enough to leap into chaos together. This issue also publishes Diana Manole’s award-winning play. As a field, Performance Studies has urged the academy to recognize the many paths that lead to legitimate knowing, and Ecumenica values creative work as a means of knowledge alongside traditional scholarship. Book reviews in this issue concern Shakespeare. Daniel Gates writes a review essay concerning three books that examine religion and Shakespeare. Chris Nelson gives us an assessment of video recordings of Globe Theatre productions. Performance reviews in this issue involve protest. Jieun Lee describes ritual-performance that both commemorated disaster in South Korea and also protested the government corruption connected to it. Rachel Stanley presents us with performance that bluntly implicates its audience in the violence that a government can wreak on women.
Each item, here, issues a challenge to the ways in which we think to insulate ourselves against change and against responsibility for what our presence in the world changes. Art, perhaps, has always confessed its entanglement with change—often, even, characterizing itself as an agent of change. Scholarship, perhaps, not so much. But the academy is in the world, and scholarship surely has real-time responsibility. Ecumenica hopes to be a changing entity—to serve best the always-changing reality in which performance and religion matter.