David V. Mason
More change. You’ll notice that we’ve moved to Chicago. It’s a choice that has form as well as function in mind. The function, we hope, will improve on the way that the MLA style that the journal has followed for years provides necessary information. Form, we think, is not irrelevant, and it won’t do to deny that Chicago is partly an aesthetic choice.
Additionally, the move to Chicago anticipates the big leap that Ecumenica will make over the coming year. For the past decade, the journal has relied on a non-profit organization for its existence in hard copy, and it’s true that the non-profit’s health is such that the current arrangement could have continued as it is for the foreseeable future. But we sensed that conversations are happening with which we are not connecting, and we’re sure that there are scholars out there, around the planet, whose work has not found a venue for the simple fact that the scholars have not found Ecumenica. To reach more people, to elevate the journal as a forum for discussions of theatre and religion, we went looking for an established press that would nd the journal’s work valuable enough to make its own. After a number of conversations with presses during the past couple of years, Penn State University Press’s rather straightforward interest caught us o -guard, and Diana Pesek, PSUP’s Journals Manager, had to exercise some patience as we editors hemmed and hawed over the potential accomplishment of something that had been for some time only a pursuit. Fortunately, we did not exhaust Diana’s patience. Beginning with the rst issue of volume 12 in 2019, Ecumenica will be published by Penn State University Press.
In the meantime, this issue includes some indication of our ongoing efforts to reach a little further with our existing resources. This last issue of volume ten includes two studies of dramatic literature. Kari-Anne Innes unpacks an unusual example of early-twentieth century Bible drama. Innes argues that Florence Kiper Frank’s play Jael does not merely adapt an episode from the book of Judges, fraught with ethnic conflict, but transforms it in the manner that Katherine Brown Downey has called perverse midrash. By seizing what, in the decidedly patriarchal world of the Bible, would have been a man’s role, the play’s female protagonist critiques the text and produces a challenging revision. e second essay comes from a young scholar in Iran. Babak Limoudehi Ashrafkhani wields eco-criticism in an assessment of Edward Bond’s Bingo, the dissection of land and Elizabethan society that the play concerns, and the ongoing disaster produced by capitalism’s exploitation of the environment.
This issue also offers what we are calling practicum essays. Ecumenica often publishes literary analyses, but the literary is hardly the exclusive domain of either theatre or religion. What is, perhaps, at the center of both theatre and religion is performativity, and we called two graduate students in to demonstrate how performance theory can illuminate religious activity. We tasked both Aaron Brown and Kristin O’Malley to develop studies that they had already begun on an evangelical Christian theme park and the baths at Lourdes, using Jill Dolan on performance art and Edward Schieffelin on ritual as theoretical springboards.
We’ve also included a short commentary on a production of Chico de Assis’s Missa Leiga at the Teatro Escola Macunaíma in São Paulo, Brazil. I stumbled into a performance this past July, and though I have no Portuguese I was nevertheless seized by the production’s plenitude. There was an awful lot of stuff—performers and audience—in an awfully small space, but the action ranged and roved and played in a rollicking, erce way that seemed to grow the space, impossibly. And I am a sucker for headlamps. In the thirty-minute interval in which the production had to reset for another performance, I did my best imitation of someone who was perfectly ignorant of making a nuisance of himself until I found the director, Reginaldo Nascimento, who agreed to provide something about the project.
This issue’s book reviews involve religious plays on Broadway, Yiddish theatre, and religion in African American theatre in the first half of the twentieth century. The performance reviews offer looks at an American classic, all sorts of puppetry, and an adaptation of a portion of the Mahabharata in Kolkata, India. Altogether, then, this issue presents topics from Bible to Bard to Bathing, involving a variety of literary and performance theory, and the issue’s contributors combine parts of the USA, Brazil, India, and Iran.
More to come, of course. In 2018 we plan to publish more work by new scholars, as well as a special issue on theatre and Islam, to be edited by Claire Pamment and Hesam Sharifian.