Category: theatre

Exploring Autism in the Theatre - Women's Studies Lecture



This Week in the Women’s Studies Lecture Series: Exploring Autism in the Theatre


Theatre and film provide insight and commentary on the culture around us.  Oftentimes it gives us perspective and helps us put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, but sometimes it also helps us see our own cultural stereotypes and misperceptions.

Marla Carlson, a Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of theatre and film studies assistant professor, knows that much can be gained from studying and analyzing theatre and film.  This week, she’ll present a lecture at the weekly women’s studies lecture series entitled, “Affective Flow, Disrupted? The Curious Incidence of ‘Autism’ in the Theatre.” The lecture will be held in room 148 of the Miller Learning Center from 12:20 p.m. to 1:10 p.m.

“I'm going to talk about some recent theatrical performances that center on a character that is either explicitly or implicitly identified as having an autism spectrum disorder,” she said. The talk will focus on two plays: the National Theatre of London's 2012 adaptation of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and a 2007 piece by Pig Iron Theatre of Philadelphia called “Chekhov Lizardbrain. “I'll talk about the ways that they use and complicate some popular conceptions of high-functioning autism, the assumptions about gender underlying these ideas, and how they address our affective investment in the family.”

Carlson has been at UGA for five years now and teaches Theatre and Society, Women in Performance and The Broadway Musical and American Culture for undergraduate students. She is also head of the Ph.D. program in Theatre and Performance Studies and teaches one seminar a year. Last year, she taught Affect, Emotion and Cognition in Performance and some of the work from that course will be discussed at today’s lecture.

“My central research concerns the ways in which audiences respond to performing bodies, and I'm interested not only in how they derive conscious interpretations from what they see (i.e., decide what the performance means) but also how the performance affects them subliminally,” she said. “My first book was about spectator response to physical suffering in late medieval France and twenty-first century America. Now I'm working on contemporary performance and the changing species boundaries and norms for human behavior, with a working title of “Affect, Animals, and Autists: Feeling Around the Edges of the "Human" in Performance.’”

Looking at the boundaries that we create and the stereotypes at play for those with cognitive and physical differences, she said, is important in a research environment, as it helps us realize a more ethically acceptable, positive environment in which all individuals are equal despite these differences.

“It seems to me that important trends in contemporary thought and culture are blurring the lines between human and non-human animals, that it no longer seems so clear what's so special about human beings that would justify our absolute control of other species--we are probably not unique in our capacity to think, communicate, or feel,” said Carlson. “At the same time, conceptions about what is included within "human" behavior are expanding to include persons with physical and cognitive differences, such as those on the autism spectrum whose difficulties with "normal" human communication had in the past relegated them to a subhuman or animalistic category. I consider these to be very positive changes but also suspect that new boundaries are being drawn and new norms enforced, and I think it's crucial that we understand these changes in order to deal with them in a way that we find ethically acceptable. This is the reason for my current research focus. The topic has a further importance for me personally that comes from my own experience as a parent navigating all the contradictory aspects of an Asperger syndrome diagnosis.”

Interested in learning more about the Theatre and Film Studies Department? Visit the department website at:

Also, be sure to check out the rest of the lectures in the Women’s Studies lecture series this semester.





Spotlight on the Arts at UGA


paint spatters with Spotlight logo, dance, music, art, theatre.Perhaps nothing exemplifies a society's highest ideals and broadest ambitions more than its commitment to the arts. It's a kind of multi-generational, altruistic selfishness, a form of public self-interest, which shows us these are not mutually exclusive. Even the most solitary among us can become part of a concert audience.

Commedia and Robots



Robotics finding its way into theatre is the subject of a New York Times feature story today. The story quotes department of theatre and film studies head David Saltz on the reality of robots and live theatre:

Comedy seems to come easily to robots, whose exaggerated features and stilted movements make them natural stooges. “The more you try to imitate a human, the more creepy it can get,” Ms. Knight said. “Sometimes if you make it more cartoonish, the audience can be more forgiving.”

In a more formal comedic vein a University of Georgia theater professor, David Saltz, is developing a robotic interpretation of commedia dell’arte. With its short scenes, broad characters and absence of scripted dialogue, these archetypal sketch pieces make nearly perfect dramatic vessels for robot actors.

Spotlight on the Arts


Speaking of the good life, the UGA campus and Athens, GA are blessed with many of the qualities by which we define that concept - walkability, a great library, an eclectic mix of people, and an arts scene that is deep and wide. If we were a sports franchise, I would say our bench players would be starting for most other teams around the league - at any level. Because of the people who have been coming to the University as faculty and students for decades, the arts are a major identifier of our campus and community. The breadth of theatre offerings here has both a distinguished pedigree and ongoing vibrancy. The volume of visual artists, a pursuit for which no locale is truly hospitable, produces a level of work on par with any major city. Dance and movement are thriving. And... Canopy? Does that practice even exist anywhere else? Oh, yes, and that music scene.

And that's another thing - even writing about this subject you leave out most of it: Georgia Museum of Art, UGA Performing Arts Center, The Georgia Review. Now UGA will tie together all of these efforts in order to shine a light on all of them. A Spotlight:


The University of Georgia will spotlight the arts during a nine-day festival in November when members of the UGA Arts Council will host events and activities that include concerts, theater and dance performances, art exhibitions, poetry readings, author panels and book signings, lectures and discussions on the arts and creativity, and more.

UGA has played a foundational role in building the reputation of Athens as one of America's top destinations for the arts, providing the physical and intellectual infrastructure for study and performance that brings together students, faculty and the community.

"The arts are an integral part of the fabric of UGA, a powerful thread that helps us define ourselves and our community," said Jere Morehead, UGA senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. "As the place where so many artists, writers, actors and musicians first find their voice, UGA offers a richness of opportunity for members of the university community and audiences from throughout the area to participate in the arts."

University Theatre presents CHICAGO



The department of theatre and films studies will present the popular musical Chicago, directed by guest artist and Tony Award-winning choreographer and Bob Fosse protégé Chet Walker:

Pirates Weekend


University Opera Theatre production of the Pirates of Penzance takes center stage this weekend:

This is the third [fully-staged, ed.] opera the university has produced since 2007, said Frederick Burchinal, the Wyatt and Margaret Anderson Professor of the Arts at UGA’s Hugh Hodgson School of Music. He also is the director of the school’s opera program.