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Connecting Differences Through Performance: Anna Deavere Smith's Fires in the Mirror

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2015, 28(3), pp.29-51
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Hyun-joo Ki 1

1세종대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper examines the significance of performance carried out in Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror. According to performance theory developed by Richard Schechner and others, it is a ‘restored behavior,’ and yet it does not mean that it repeats the same thing. Performance always restores behaviors with difference. Enacting different characters mimicking their gestures, attitude and tone, Smith demonstrates the process in which identity is performed. Besides, her performance highlights her differences with people who she is mimicking. Different and contrasted stories of Hasidic Jews and African Americans involved in Crown Heights never become converged into unified ones but they remain distinct from each other. While Smith performs intellectuals, religious leaders and residents from two contending racial groups she travels from self to others and from individuals to communities rather than identifying with individual characters. Through this “other oriented” acting practice, her performance prevents the audience from sympathizing with characters and induces them to examine the racial issues intersected with political, social and economic matters from critical perspectives. Simultaneously, Smith’s performance emphasizes how different people in terms of race, gender, and class can be connected. While she travels from self to others, she urges the audience to put themselves in others’ positions. Then, the audience can imagine the society based on understanding and empathy.

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