The Politics of Violence and the Mediatisation of Urban Spaces on Stage: Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 and José Rivera’s Marisol

Published: May 1, 2016
Anna Deavere Smith José Rivera urban space mediatisation
Konstantinos Blatanis

Interest in this paper centres on two exemplary cases of two entirely different modes of dramatisation and theatrical practice which, nonetheless, share a common goal. The two works studied here aim at a critical reconsideration of the political issues which surround intensely violent events that have marked American mega cities over the past three decades. Furthermore, both plays aspire to articulate an original statement on the ways in which these issues routinely fall prey to the hegemony of monolithic and sterile media representations of urban spaces. Anna Deavere Smith’s vigorous exploration of the reserves of documentary drama and theatre in Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (1993) is read alongside and juxtaposed to José Rivera’s innovative and exceptional use of magic realism for the stage in Marisol (1992). The question of political efficacy in both cases is thoroughly examined here in relation to how profitably these works showcase acts of interrogating mass media appropriations of identified city riots and instances of social unrest. Attention is devoted to the ways in which Smith’s verbatim documentation of the city in turmoil as well as Rivera’s surreal and dystopian account of liminal experiences of disenfranchised urban constituents may lead audience members to reassess their own habits of negotiating political demands and relating to moments of crisis.

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Author Biography
Konstantinos Blatanis, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Konstantinos Blatanis is Assistant Professor of American Literature and Culture at the Faculty of English Language and Literature, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. He has published on American literature, modern drama, popular culture, media studies, and critical theory. He is the author of the book Popular Culture Icons in Contemporary American Drama (Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2003).  
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