Before beginning as a Lecturer in the Department of Drama in 2014, I held postdoctoral appointments in the United States at Stanford University and Harvard University. I earned a BA in English at Duke University and received my PhD in Performance Studies from UC Berkeley with a dissertation on the use of performance by New Left and anti-imperialist movements in 1960s West Germany.
In 2018-19 I am Chair of Undegraduate Exams in the fall, and, from January 2019, Director of Undergraduate Admissions.
I'm on Twitter @brechtfast
I have taught on:
- DRA259: Cultural Politics and performance
- DRA263: Race and Racism in Performance
- DRA120: Interventions
I have taught on:
- DRA7103: Research Design
- DRA7713: Disciplines of Live Art
- Activist Performance
- German Performance History
- Marxism and Political Economy
- Postdramatic Theatre
Recent and On-Going Research
Much of my research is motivated by a practical interest in what Marxist theory can offer performance, but also what performance can offer political movements. As such, my writing focuses on the use of performance in social movements, the relationship between performance and labour, and theatre historiography—mostly in Germany, the United States, and United Kingdom. I have recently authored a pair of articles that seeks to sketch out a Marxist analysis of theatre; one of these appeared in Performance Research and the other in Theatre Survey.
In 2018-19, I will be finishing Antifascist Theatrics: Performance after Nazism in West Germany. This monograph uses “theatricality” as a framework for examining the varied ways that social movements responded to the legacy and lingering effects of the Third Reich in West Germany. I focus on a range of artists with connections to anti-imperialist, feminist, and worker movements, including Rolf Hochhuth, Pina Bausch, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Helke Sander, Peter Stein and Peter Weiss.
In early 2019 I will publish the collection Postdramatic Theatre and Form, which evaluates ongoing debates in contemporary experimental performance by developing a theory of theatrical form. On the topic of postdramatic theatre, I have written several reviews, interviews, and articles. From 2013-2015, I co-convened the Postdramatic Theatre working group for the American Society for Theatre Research.
In addition to these books, I am (slowly) writing another titled Infrastructural Aesthetics: Technology, Logistics, and Performance. This monograph focuses on how artists are using several technologies that undergird global capitalism today–especially shipping containers, drones, GPS, and oil pipelines. My first article from this project, “Container Aesthetics,” was published in Theatre Journal. I have organised several research events related to this book, including the 2016 conference, “The Arts of Logistics” (co-organised with Aylwyn Walsh): http://www.artsoflogistics.com/
My earlier research focused largely on the place of performance in contemporary social movements. For example, my article in TDR: The Drama Review, which won the journal’s student essay prize, drew on oral history to study the conditions that led to the arrest and jailing of the immigrant rights performance group the VolxTheaterKarawane during the 2001 G-8 Summit. In a series of essays on the prevalence of satirical performance in recent anti-capitalist movements, I turned to participant observation to research groups like the Yes Men and the UC Movement for Efficient Privatization. I have also published articles on gendered violence and racism in performance, tackling topics such as feminist theatre in Ciudad Juárez and blackface performance in Germany.
In addition to my research in performance, I have translated political theory and written on politics and pop culture for venues like The New Inquiry, Counterpunch, Viewpoint Magazine, Reclamations, Analyse und Kritik, The Scofield, and PMC-Magazine.
Books in Progress
The New Spirit of Performance: West German Theatre and Economic History, 1966-1973.
Postdramatic Theatre and Form.
Infrastructural Aesthetics: Logistics, Technology, and Performance.
“Performance and Value: The Work of Theater in Karl Marx’s Critique of Political Economy,” Theatre Survey 58:1, 2017.
“Brecht’s Gale: Innovation and Postdramatic Theatre,” Performance Research 20:3, 2016.
“Container Aesthetics: The Infrastructural Politics of Shunt’s The Boy Climbed Out of his Face,” Theatre Journal 68:1, 2016.
“Hans-Jürgen Krahl: From Critical to Revolutionary Theory,” with Daniel Spaulding, Viewpoint Magazine, October 2014.
“Absent Futures: The Ironic Manifesto in an Age of Austerity,” in Manifesto Now! Instructions for Philosophy, Performance, Politics, Ed. Laura Cull and Will Daddario, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press and Intellect Books, 2013.
“High as Finance,” with Joshua Clover, The New Inquiry, April 2013.
“The Criminalization of Dissent: Protest Violence, Activist Performance, and the Curious Case of the VolxTheaterKarawane at the 2001 G-8 Summit,” TDR/The Drama Review 55:4, 2011. (Winner of TDR/The Drama Review’s Student Essay Contest)
“Aura and the Archive: Confronting the Incendiary Fliers of Kommune 1,” in Performing Arts Resources: The Tyranny of Documents–The Performance Historian as Film Noir Detective, Ed. Stephen Johnson, New York: Theatre Library Association, 2011.
“Privatize Now, Ask Questions Later!! UCMeP’s Unauthorized Performance of Administrative Authority,” South Atlantic Quarterly 110:2, 2011. (Issue won 2011 Best Special Issue Award, Council of Editors of Learned Journals, Modern Language Association)
“Play with Authority! Radical Performance and Performative Irony,” in Theorizing Cultural Activism: Practices, Dilemmas and Potentialities, Ed. Begüm Özden Firat and Aylin Kamil, Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, 2011.
Selected Translations (German to English)
Alex Demirovic, "Why Should We Read Althusser (Again)?" Viewpoint Magazine, 2016.
Hans-Jürgen Krahl, “Philosophy of History and the Authoritarian State,” translated with Daniel Spaulding, Viewpoint Magazine, October 2014.
Johannes Agnoli, “Theses on the Transformation of Democracy,” translated with Daniel Spaulding, Viewpoint Magazine, October 2014.
I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.
My research in theatre is closely informed by my various political commitments, many of which have found outlets in performance itself. In the past I have worked as part of performance groups like the UC Movement for Efficient Privatization and the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army. In addition, I have experience as a director, dramaturge, and playwright.