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D.J. Hopkins' Acceptance Speech
Thank you. I’m going to talk about three things: 1. I’m going to say a few words of thanks, 2. I’m going to talk about pornography, 3. I’m going to talk about writing, and then I’m going to sit down. (For some reason, Danielle asked me not to prepare any visual aids.)
Receiving the Elliott Hayes award is a profoundly humbling honor, not least because it is one that I share with many. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Review, a landmark that in itself deserves recognition and celebration. I’ve been editor for only the last eight years, so there are many shoulders on which I’m standing, especially the previous editors.
Among those many shoulders, I’d like to especially thank the following people: Shelley Orr, with whom I was co-editor for two years; she has been a great collaborator and a great source of support, both professionally and personally. I’d like to thank the LMDA Presidents for whom I’ve had the pleasure of running this newsletter / ’zine / journal: Michele Volansky, Liz Engelman, Brian Quirt, Shelley, and now Danielle Amato. Danielle and Janine Sobeck have accomplished the most recent sea change at the LMDA website and to Review. Thanks to their tech savvy, Review now offers a lovely and user-friendly online reading experience (though I will still keep emailing a pdf to Norm). My thanks to Liz and Geoff Proehl, who have been great supporters and colleagues and just people I wish I saw more often. And special thanks to recent editorial collaborators: Sydné Mahone, guest editor for last fall’s fabulous special issue on African American dramaturgy; and Review’s Associate Editors Sydney Cheek O’Donnell and Lauren Beck; to everyone on our active, growing editorial board, and to Review’s many contributors. You are all rock stars!
A few months ago, when talking with her about Review, Liz Engelman told me that she thought my position as editor was one of the best jobs in dramaturgy, because I get to work with other dramaturgs. In saying this, Liz committed a classic act of great dramaturgy: she revealed something about my work to me, something that should have been completely obvious, but yet something that I had never noticed. I realized in retrospect that I’ve loved this field and the people in it enough to choose – whether consciously or not – to choose to make a significant amount of my work in this field about working with other people in this field, and to make a significant amountof my work in the field about the field itself.
I had another revelation about this field recently, when reading a review of a new book by Sasha Grey. Grey is best known as an adult performer, and her book is a collection of photographs taken on the sets of pornographic videos. As Grey says of her photos:
“I started taking a camera with me to capture my experiences on set,” and she did so with the intent that each photo would be “a moment in time, a memory for myself — [as opposed to] the video that would be seen by thousands […].” Grey goes on to observe: “There are so many photos of me, taken by other people, that […] I have no control over”; and she concludes: “Documenting myself has almost become a necessity.”
So, Grey is taking photographs of herself in the moment of being photographed by other people. Setting aside the question: “If you’re so skeptical about the way you might be represented, why are you making porn?” She’s obviously an intelligent woman — I imagine saying to her. “You could do anything! You could be a dramaturg!” But I’m afraid that the reply would be: [wrinkles nose, shakes head] “No, I’m good.”
Setting those thoughts aside, I’m interested in her practice of re-photography. Grey is creating an alternate narrative of herself in performance, a kind of “counter-porn”: it’s still porn, but it’s her porn.
In Grey’s astute introduction to what is otherwise just another book of smut, I find a parallel to my own interest in dramaturgy, and my interest in dramaturgs’ writing about their own work.
Writing about dramaturgy offers the opportunity to preserve the voice of a collaborator whose ideas have a tendency to disappear into other people’s products. This tendency toward professional disappearance has often given urgency to my own writing, and has motivated me for eight years to be, essentially, the curator of eight volumes of writing by and about dramaturgs.
For me, writing about dramaturgy has almost become a necessity, and it has been a pleasure and an honor to work with so many people who feel the same.
Last Fall’s Special Issue on African American dramaturgy exemplifies the perspective of writing becoming a necessity, as does the essay by Dalia Basiouny in the issue coming out next week — Dalia writes about the verbatim theatre project that she made and performed on Tahrir Square during last winter’s Egyptian revolution.
I should also add: I’m interested in unlikely juxtapositions, when writers apply other fields’ views to dramaturgy, or look at other fields dramaturgically. Some of my favorite contributions to Review have featured outside-the-box thinking that has a lot in common with the creative logic practiced by our terrific keynote speaker Adam Lerner. An essay on the theatricality of a clothing store, a “theatre review” of a building, a comparison between production notebooks and the giant garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean. Such a critically disruptive playfulness is one that I have encouraged on the virtual pages of Review.
So, if you haven’t done so recently — or ever?— visit your journal at www.lmda.org/review. And don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or Sydney Cheek O’Donnell if there’s something that you want to write about — or, better yet, if there’s something that has almost become a necessity for you to write about…
Once again, my profound thanks.