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English professor co-edits third book on collective creation in the theatre

"Women, Collective Creation, and Devised Performance" is the third book Scott Proudfit, assistant professor of English, has edited for Palgrave Macmillan since coming to Elon University in 2010, having previously served as associate editor on "A History of Collective Creation" (2013) and "Collective Creation in Contemporary Performance" (2013).

This October, Palgrave Macmillan published its latest volume on the topic collective creation: "Women, Collective Creation, and Devised Performance," co-edited by Scott Proudfit, assistant professor of English, and Kathryn Mederos Syssoyeva of Dixie State University. Generally, collective creation is understood to be a process of making theatre that focuses on the group or on collaboration between members of a group, as opposed to focusing on the individual (director, performer, or playwright).  Devised theatre is when a group of theatre-makers creates a performance without starting with a script.

Prior to "A History of Collective Creation and Collective Creation in Contemporary Performance" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), collective creation was largely considered by theatre historians and drama critics to be a phenomenon which occurred almost exclusively in the U.S. during the 1960s in such theater companies as the Living Theatre and the Open Theater. However, Syssoyeva and Proudfit in these volumes showed that far from being limited to the 1960s, modern collective creation may be best understood as an ongoing, resistant tradition emerging in its European and North American contexts circa 1900, running throughout the 20th century and on into present-day devising practices.

Specifically, the editors argued that collective creation evolved in three overlapping waves, each with its own distinctive ideological and aesthetic characteristics: in the first third of the 20th century, in the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s, and in the mid-1980s to the present.  Jeffrey Scott’s review of "A History of Collective Creation" in the July 2015 edition of Theatre Research International called the book “an important piece of scholarship” and noted that it “addresses an important need in the study of collective creation, devised theatre, and improvisational theatre by illuminating the fact that these methods of theatre-making are not limited to the latter half of the last century.”

The current volume, "Women, Collective Creation, and Devised Performance," continues the work of the previous books, arguing that collective creation is pivotal to the evolution of the modern theater, and that women must be fundamentally credited with the development of practices of collective creation since the turn of the 20th century. The 20 essays within the volume, written by an international team of established scholars, trace a sprawling lineage, revealing the unseen or forgotten web of transmission that connects, for example, the Women’s Suffrage Pageant of 1913 in Washington, D.C., to the improvisational theatre of Viola Spolin in 1930s Chicago, to the experimental devised work of Ariane Mnouchkine and the Theatre du Soleil in France in the 1960s, to the nomadic performances of the women of the Odin Teatret in 1980s’ Europe, to Pussy Riot’s recent protests in Russia.

In addition to conceiving and co-editing this volume, Proudfit co-wrote the book’s introduction and authored the chapter, “From Neva Boyd to Viola Spolin: How Social Group Work in 1920s’ Settlement Houses Defined Collective Creation in 1960s’ Theatres.”  The book is available at most major outlets, including amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Scott Proudfit,
10/19/2016 10:40 AM