Mary Karen Dahl is Professor of Theatre and Director of the School of Theatre’s Graduate Programs in Theatre Studies. She has a longstanding interest in the relationship between performance and politics. Her book Political Violence in Drama: Classical Models, Contemporary Variations was selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Book for 1987. Related essays include “Postcolonial British Theatre: Black Voices at the Center” in Imperialism and Drama (ed. Gainor) for Routledge (1995); “Stage Violence as Thaumaturgic Technique” in Violence in Drama (ed. Redmond) for Cambridge UP (1991); and “State Terror and Dramatic Countermeasures” in Politics and Terror in Modern Drama (eds. Orr and Klaic) for Edinburgh UP (1990).
Related work poses questions about political theory and citizenship and includes essays such as “Sacrificial Practices: Creating the Legacy of Stephen Lawrence” in Violence Performed: Local Roots and Global Routes of Conflict (eds. Anderson and Menon) for Palgrave Macmillan (2008) and “The Body in Extremis: Exercises in Self-Creation and Citizenship” in Theatre of Catastrophe: New Essays on Howard Barker (eds. Gritzner and Rabey) for Oberon (2006). As a convener of the ASTR Working Group on Traumatic Structures from 2011 through 2015, she continues to organize discussions with colleagues from around the world about ways that theatre and performance engage the effects of violence on individuals and societies.
Most recently, Professor Dahl has begun a series of essays based in the proposition that thinking is doing and doing, thinking to look at her practice as a creative responder, sometimes called “critic.” How does criticism shift when we assume that plays and performances produce complex meanings and that spectators and readers are implicated in the world-making the artist practices? The first essay in this vein takes its cue from English theorist and theatre artist Howard Barker. “I Saw Myself: Artist and Critic Meet in the Mirror” is in Howard Barker’s Art of Theatre: Essays on his Plays, Poetry, and Production Work (eds. Rabey and Goldingay) for Manchester UP (2013). The second, “Still Puzzling it Out: Jez Butterworth’s The River,” appeared in “The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth (ed. Rabey) for Bloomsbury (2015).