Dassia Posner, Assistant Professor of Theatre at Northwestern University, was recently awarded the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR)-Cambridge University Press Prize for her paper “Baring the Frame: Meyerhold’s ‘Reflective Analysis’ of Gozzi’s Love of/for Three Oranges.

Now in its second year, the Prize is awarded to the best paper given by a first-time plenary presenter at the ASTR’s annual conference. The Prize Committee – including Michael McKinnie (chair), Esther Kim Lee (Editor of Theatre Survey), and Christian DuComb (last year’s winner) – felt that Professor Posner’s paper stood out for its close and historically situated reading of Meyerhold’s work. They also recognised the paper’s wide-ranging implications not only for our understanding of Meyerhold but for a number of major figures in Western theatre history.

Professor Posner shares her thoughts on the Prize and provides a summary of her winning paper. 

In 1761, Venetian playwright Carlo Gozzi created what he called a ‘reflective analysis’ of an Italian fairy tale, Love of Three Oranges, framing his commedia dell’arte-infused scenario with a series of polemical attacks on his theatrical rivals.

In 1914, Vsevelod Meyerhold and two collaborators, Konstantin Vogak and Vladimir Soloviev, created a reflective analysis of Gozzi’s reflective analysis. This new iteration, Love for Three Oranges, was later to serve as the source material for Prokofiev’s eponymous opera. It is also one of the most illuminating – yet, strangely, almost entirely unstudied – sources of information on how Meyerhold redefined the theatrical event and actor training in the years preceding the 1917 Revolution. In particular, this Russian Love for Three Oranges explores how a self-reflective approach to character in concert with theatrical framing devices that delineate levels of fiction can actively curate an experience peculiar to the theatre: that regardless of style, audiences maintain both belief and disbelief in what they see and perceive theatrical performance as simultaneously real and not real.

While Meyerhold’s work has sometimes been described simply as ‘stylized’, it is more precisely articulated as a deliberate oscillation between theatrical planes. The actor actively negotiates this oscillation in order to provoke the fantasy, the creative, inventive power, of the audience. This paper investigates how and why the Russian Love for Three Oranges challenged a single focus on a fictional world that mirrors life, to instead acknowledge and celebrate the perpetual co-presence of multiple perspectives on the world.

I am deeply honoured to be the recipient of this prize.  My sincere thanks to the awards committee for their close reading of my essay and to the theatre scholars – Laurence Senelick, Douglas Clayton, Caryl Emerson, Kyna Hamill, Robert Leach, Harlow Robinson, Andrew Wachtel, Nick Worrall, the members of the ASTR East European Working Session, and many others – who have so generously shared their work and provided feedback on mine.

Click here to find out more about the ASTR-CUP Prize.

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