The after-life of racial masquerade
An Octoroon at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, July 2017 / Photo credit: Scott Suchman

Event Attributes

____Face symposium is a daylong scholarly and performance event examining the history and cultural reverberations of racial masquerade. Specifically, the symposium looks to flip the script on past research that considers racial masquerade as a means of white identity formation, highlighting how scholars and artists of color engage with and subvert the performance technologies of black, red, yellow, brown, and whiteface as they have traveled across time, idiom, sense, and medium. 

The day will consist of three invited lectures, a moderated roundtable discussion, and selected scenes from WOOLLY MAMMOTH THEATRE COMPANY'S upcoming July 2017 production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' An Octoroon. Confirmed event speakers include BRIAN HERRERA (Princeton University), SOYICA DIGGS COLBERT (Georgetown University), and JOSHUA TAKANO CHAMBERS-LETSON (Northwestern University). 

Friday, March 3, 10am - 9:30pm, Cafritz Foundation Theatre

* Metered parking available at Stadium Drive Garage.

Registration recommended:



10:00 – 11:00 am: Brian Herrera Panel (Laurie Frederik, discussant; Renee Cyr, moderator)

"The Incoherent Tradition of Non-Traditional Casting"
In this paper, Herrera revisits the Reagan-era moment when Actor’s Equity launched the “Non-Traditional Casting Project” (NTCP) and considers the initiative’s immediate and transformative impact on the vocabulary of diversity in American theatre. As he reflects on NTCP’s advocacy for the tactical deployment of theatrical technique toward greater access and opportunity, Herrera evinces the complicated prehistories of this strategic “nontraditional” turn. Such histories, he submits, explain the confounding incoherences embedded within the “tradition” of non-traditional casting and press us to ask whether non-traditional casting is equipped to meet the demands for theatrical equity, diversity and inclusion in the 21st century.

11:00 am -- 12:00 pm: Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson panel (Esther Kim Lee, discussant; Jenna Gerdsen, moderator) 

"Tseng Kwong Chi and the Party’s End"
Bringing a performance studies perspective to the work of conceptual photographer Tseng Kwong Chi, this talk explores the queer of color subject’s mobilization of performance to create worlds that will sustain minoritarian life within hostile political, social, and economic conditions. It offers a sketch of Tseng’s work in the context of New York’s downtown scene during the 1980’s, emphasizing the series of parties that were central to the scene’s mode of cultural production. Following Tseng’s navigation of the rise of the Moral Majority, the Reagan Revolution, and the AIDS crisis, the paper asks what we are to do when the worlds produced through minoritarian performance come under assault and fall apart? How, in short, can performance afford us a means to survive the end of the party and a way of coming back together to create new conditions of possibility in the wake of catastrophe.

----------LUNCH ON YOUR OWN----------

1:30 – 2:30 pm: Soyica Diggs Colbert panel (La Marr Jurelle Bruce, discussant; Les Gray, moderator) 

"Remapping Racial Iconography: Suzan-Lori Parks and Beyoncé Knowles"
Colbert’s talk analyzes how Suzan-Lori Parks and Beyoncé Knowles challenge the racial and gender norms of black women being ubiquitously on display by troubling the spatial positioning of black women at the bottom because of their synecdochic representations as bottoms. These late-twentieth century women artists actively participate in making traditions of their own that both attenuate and reinforce their connection to blackness. Their acts of innovation produce a covert political practice that calls attention to dehumanizing animalistic representations of black women in order to cage metaphorically the viewer. 

3:00 – 4:30 pm: Roundtable (Caitlin Marshall, moderator) 
A video conversation between Caitlin Marshall and Christopher K. Morgan on indigenous theatre, dance, and performance and the persistence of redface in arts programming kicks off this roundtable on the role of the academy in establishing models for anti-racist and decolonial work in professional performance practice. 

7:30 – 9:00 pm:  Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company *Appetizer for An Octoroon. 
The symposium concludes with an evening of performance and discussion hosted by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Join the cast and artistic staff of Woolly Mammoth for a sneak peek at their summer 2017 production of An Octoroon (by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, dir. Nataki Garrett: July 18 – August 6, 2017). *Dessert provided!