Introduction (JADT 26.2, 2014)

   “The border is not merely a wall or a body of water. It is a force of containment that inspires dreams of being overcome and crossed…”
Ramón H. Rivera-Servera and Harvey Young, Performance in the Borderlands (2011)


The American Theatre and Drama Society, now in its twenty-seventh year, is an international organization with approximately 200 members from around the globe.Dedicated to the study of United States theatre and drama, ATDS also recognizes that notions of America and the US encompass migrations of peoples and cultures that overlap and influence one another. The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, now in its twenty-fifth year, has, throughout its existence, provided an intellectual home for ATDS members, consistently publishing “thoughtful and innovative work by leading scholars on theatre, drama, and performance in the U.S. – past and present.” As founding co-editor Walter Meserve once wrote, JADT has been a primary means of reflecting the excitement and progress of our language, our culture, our democracy, our social concerns and our historical roots as Americans.” The annual collaboration between ATDS and JADT to produce a special-themed issue, guest-edited by the current ATDS Vice President with ATDS’s publications committee serving as the issue’s editorial board, is one of our organization’s most enduring and important relationships.

It has been my great privilege and pleasure to serve as guest editor for this issue, assisted by an incomparably able, astute and dedicated editorial board consisting of Noreen C. Barnes (Virginia Commonwealth University), Nicole Berkin (CUNY Graduate Center), Johan Callens (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Jonathan Chambers (Bowling Green State University), Dorothy Chansky (Texas Tech University), James Fisher (University of North Carolina at Greensboro), Anne Fletcher (Southern Illinois University), Felicia Londré (University of Missouri-Kansas City), Kim Marra (University of Iowa ), Judith A. Sebesta (The College for All Texans Foundation), Jonathan Shandell (Arcadia University), LaRonika Thomas (University of Maryland), and Harvey Young (Northwestern University). I would also like to thank Mark Cosdon, current ATDS president, and last year’s guest editor James Fisher, for their never-ending guidance and support. I am also very grateful to JADT’s co-editors Naomi Stubbs and James F. Wilson, managing editor Ugoran Prasad and assistant managing editor Andrew Goldberg, for their superb supervision, for their patient, prompt, and gracious response to my stream of queries, and for their continued support and commitment to the ongoing relationship between ATDS and JADT. It has been especially meaningful to work with them on this issue, which marks JADT’s debut as an open-access, online journal.

Brainstorming for this issue’s special theme began among the members of the publications committee in June 2013. Anne Fletcher first came up with “Border Crossings and Straddlings” as a way to incorporate a number of other, related ideas under discussion. I then asked Anne Fletcher and Harvey Young to create a first draft of our call. Inspired by ideas set forth in recent works like Ramón H. Rivera-Servera and Harvey Young’s Performance in the Borderlands (2011), in its final form this call asked for submissions that considered “the relationship of American theatre and performance to conceptions of borders and acts of border crossing or straddling in the widest possible terms.”

The essays included in this issue strongly fulfill our call for work that considers “the border” as both “an imagined concept and a material reality” and that “explores how the existence of borders and the movement across them has captured the attention of theatre artists and has modeled ways of thinking about the performance of identity.” These essays, representing not only diverse conceptions of “border crossings and straddlings” but also fittingly diverse methodologies, include: Alex Pettit’s consideration of O’Neill’s “horizon” as a metaphorical border that “beckons and mocks;” George Potter’s investigation of transnationalism and cross-culturalism in Naomi Wallace’s The Fever Chart; Dora Arreola’s examination of the ethnic, cultural, gender, and geographic borders transgressed in the creation and performance of Fronteras Desviadas; Fiona Gregory’s analysis of the gender, genre, and chronological borders confronted in Judith Anderson’s performance of Hamlet; Sharrell Luckett’s autoethnographic revelation of the physical and psychic borders straddled in her “transweight performances” from “fat” to “thin” gendered and racialized identities; and Henry Bial’s polemical “hot pursuit” across disciplinary borders within the fields of theatre/performance and film/media studies.

My final note of deep gratitude goes to these scholars whose work we are privileged to present in this issue, work that resonates powerfully on intellectual, philosophical, personal, and political levels and has enlightened and moved me in appropriately diverse ways.


Cheryl Black
Guest Editor
University of Missouri