Grace Ruble ’21, a theatre and media & society dual major, will be one of three participants in the undergraduate Emerging Scholars Panel during the Mid-America Theatre Conference (MATC) in March 2019. She is the first HWS sophomore to win this position, where she will read her paper “Dionysus in Crisis: The Dangerous Environments of Dionysus in 69.”
“I’ve had several students win this prestigious honor but none of them were sophomores,” says Associate Professor of Theatre Chris Woodworth. “We’re pretty proud here at HWS Theatre [Department].”
Ruble’s paper examines an experimental play directed by Richard Schechner in the late 1960s that blurred the line between actors and audience. “Schechner’s production of Dionysus in 69 is remembered very positively because it was immersive and interactive in a way that was unprecedented for its time,” says Ruble. “But I noticed that there was almost always a sentence or two [in reviews] about either actors or audience members suffering mental or physical distress or even being assaulted because of how in-your-face the performance was.”
The play, which at one point featured scantily-clad or nude actors moving through the audience and soliciting input, included sexual themes, and a scene where the lead actor asks an audience member to engage intimately with him to avoid a theatrical “death.”
“It was a very unsafe working environment for everyone involved,” says Ruble. “This is particularly relevant now with topics in theatre, film and television that have been in the news because of the #metoo movement, and how we might change our working practices to make things safer for all involved.”
The MATC Emerging Scholars Panel is open to students who have not yet presented at a national conference. The students on the panel receive free conference registration and membership in MATC as well as a cash prize, and are paired with a conference mentor. Winning papers are judged on quality of research and writing, critical and theoretical sophistication and originality.
“The opportunity to present this paper is important to me because of how important the subject matter is, but also because it speaks to the incredible support systems that are available to writers at HWS,” says Ruble, who is also news editor for The Herald. “It was only when I met the amazingly supportive community of professors, the team at The Herald and fellow students who were either Writing Colleagues or Writing Fellows that I started to discover my love of writing.”
Ruble first chose to major in theatre to have the opportunity to act, but she has developed an interest in writing about theatre and hopes to explore this focus further as she continues her studies. “Right now, I know that I love telling stories and I want to use my time at HWS to learn about how to do that in as many ways as possible,” she says.