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John S. Emigh Professor Emeritus of Theatre, Speech and Dance and English

John Emigh is a professor in the Theatre, Speech and Dance and English Departments at Brown University, where he has been teaching and directing since 1967. He has directed more than 70 plays in universities and in the professional theatre. In 1974-75, he traveled in New Guinea, South Asia, and Indonesia, where he studied Balinese "topeng" masked dance with I Nyoman Kakul. Since then, he has made several other research trips to Asia, investigating the street jesters and court fools of Rajasthan, the use of masks in Eastern India, and the changing dynamics of performance in Bali. He has written extensively on the masked drama of New Guinea, Bali, and India as well as on contemporary theatre practice in the West and has made a film on the life of Hajari Bhand, a Rajasthani street performer and recently prepared a museum exhibit and international conference on the mask and concepts of person for the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi. His book, "Masked Performance: The Play of Self and Other in Ritual and Theatre", has recently been published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, and he is currently working on a book length study of the "Prahlada Nataka" - a devotional form of theatre in Orissa, India. Other current projects include investigating links between the traditional concerns of theatre and recent findings in the field of neuro-science and conducting research on the carnival and Christmas traditions of masked performance in Alpine Europe and Mexico. Articles currently in press deal with performing traditions, cultural models, and the killings that racked Bali in the mid-1960s, a recent Balinese adaptation of Macbeth in the style of Gambuh theatre, and the relation of Yankee gunmaker Samuel Colt's life to Bernard Shaw's "Major Barbara."

As a performer, Professor Emigh has acted with leading Balinese artists and has performed one-man shows based on Balinese mask techniques at schools, hospitals, universities, theatres, and festivals throughout the United states and in Bali and India, including The Performing Garage in NYC, The New Theatre Festival of Baltimore, the Indian National School for Drama, the Tibetan School of Drama, and the Balinese Academy for the Arts. His performances have been written about in "The Drama Review" and the "Asian Theatre Journal", as well as in various Asian journals.

He was the founding chairperson of the Association for Asian Performance and chaired Brown's Dept. of Theatre, Speech and Dance from 1987 to 1993. In 1971, he conceived and co-ordinated the RI Festival of New Theatre (the first festival to bring together the work of America's leading avant-garde groups of that period) and in 2005 was Artistic Director for the Performance Studies international's Providence, RI conference and festival: "Becoming Uncomfortable." He served on the steering committees for the founding of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and of Performance Studies international and currently serves on PSi's executive board.

Brown Affiliations

scholarly work

"Preface" to Margaret Coldiron's Trance and Transformation of the Actor in Japanese Noh and Balinese Masked Dance Drama, Edwin Mellen Press, 2005.

Entries on "I Nyman Kakul," "Topeng," and "Prahlada Nataka." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Performance, Oxford Univ. Press, 2004

Entries on "Masks of South Asia," "Bahurupiahs," "Bhand Pather," "Prahlada Nataka," "Danda Nata" and "Bharat Lila" for The Encyclopedia of South Asian Folklore, ed. Peter Claus. New York: Garland Publishing, 2002.

"Playing with the Past: Visitation and Illusion in the Mask Theatre of Bali." Republished in Popular Theatre, ed. Joel Schecther, Routledge, 2002.

"A Joker in the Deck: Hajari Bhand of Rajasthan." Republished in Popular Theatre, ed Joel Schechter, Routledge, 2002.

"Performance, Neuroscience, and the Limits of Culture." In Teaching Performance Studies, ed, Nathan Stuckey and Cynthia Wimmer, Southern Illinois University Press, 2002.

"Hybridity and the Uses of Adversity: Culture and Crisis in the Prahlada Nataka of Orissa," Seagull Theatre Magazine, Calcutta, XXXI, September, 2001

"The Mask in Asian Theater: Ritual and Entertainment." In John W. Nunley and Cara MaCary, eds., Masks: Faces of Culture. New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with the St. Louis Art Museum, 1999, pp. 209-229, 325-327.

Masks, Mind, and Man: An interactive data base of the mask collection of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi, including a multi-media introduction to masks: available on internet, forthcoming as CD, 1997.

Masked Performance: The Play of Self and Other in Ritual and Theatre. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,1996 (runner-up for the 1997 Barnard Hewitt Award administered by the American Society for Theatre Research).

Profile piece on my interests, India Today, August, 1994

Review of Subversive Laughter by Ron Jenkins in Bali Arts and Culture Newsletter, 1994.

Entries on "Masks," "Asian and Pacific Island Theatre" (with James R. Brandon) and "Asian Influences on Western Theatre" (with James R. Brandon) for The Cambridge Guide to Theatre, rev. edition, Martin Banham, ed. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 41-54, 687-689.

"The Many Faces of Bahurupiyah Hajari Bhand" (a revision of "A Joker in the Deck: Hajari Bhand of Rajasthan," TDR article, see below). In The Idea of Rajasthan: Explorations in Regional Identity., Volume I: Constructions. New Delhi and Columbia, Mo.: Manhohar and South Asia Books, 1994, pp. 278-312.

Reviews of Balinese Masks by Judy Slattum in Bali Arts and Culture Newsletter and Asian Theatre Journal, 1994

"Gender Bending in Balinese Performance" (with Jamer Hunt). In Laurence Senelick, ed. Gender in Performance: The Presentation of Difference in the Performing Arts. Hanover, NH: New England University Press, 1992, pp. 195-222.

Review of Martin Banham, ed. The Cambridge Guide to World Theatre, Asian Theatre Journal,1990 .

"The Domains of Topeng." In Art and Politics in Southeast Asia, Six Perspectives: Papers from the Distinguished Scholars Series, ed. Robert Van Neil, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Center for Southeast Asian Studies,1990, pp. 65-96.

"Witches, Wizards and Other Frightening Folk in Balinese Theatre," photographic essay in Faces, Cobblesone Press, October, 1989.

Steven Snow, "Intercultural Performance: The Balinese-American Model," an article on the work of myself, Islene Pinder, and Julie Taymor involving the use of Balinese theatrical traditions, Asian Theatre Journal, vol 5, no 2, pp. 204-232., 1988

Mask/Work (30 Minutes): A documentary video by Mick Diener and Christophe Lund on my use of masks in actor training, 1986

"A Joker in the Deck: Hajari Bhand of Rajasthan," The Drama Review, vol 30, no l (T109) (with Ulrike Emigh], March, 1986, pp. 101-130.

"Bhands and Bahurupiyas of Northern Indian," In The Living Arts of India: A Multi-Media Instuctional Kit, Smithsonian Institution and UNICEF (with Ulrike Emigh], Jan., 1986.

Review of Phllip Zarrilli's The Kathakali Complex, The Drama Review, vol 30, no 2 (T110), August, 1986.

Hajari Bhand of Rajasthan: Jester without Court (short version, 30 min.): An edited video documentary on the same subject, shown as part of the Aditi Living Arts of India Exhibit, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C. 6-8/85

"Euripides and the A-Effect," Communications, XIV, 2, 1985, pp. 20-28.

Hajari Bhand of Rajasthan: Jester without a Court (40 min): A documentary video on the life of a former court jester who now makes his living as a street performer, made with Ulrike Emigh and completed 11/85. Selected for the rental library of the AsianTheatre Program and distributed by Documentary Educational Resources, Watertown, Mass.

"Dealing with the Demonic: Strategies for Containment in Hindu Iconography and Performance," Asian Theatre Journal, Vol. i, no. 1 ,1984, pp. 21-39.

Roberta Reeder, "An Encounter of Codes: Little Red Riding Shawl and the Balinese topeng," The Drama Review, vol. 23, no. 4 (T84), pp. 81-92, 1982.

"Masking and Playing: Observations on Masked Performance in New Guinea," World of Music (a UNESCO publication), W. Berlin, Germany, 1981, vol. 3, pp. 5-25.

The Techniques of Topeng: Masked Theatre of Bali and Adapting Topeng: Two video tapes made for a Michigan State Univ. series on "Asian Acting Techniques for Western Actors," produced by Farley Richmond, 1/80 [Distributed by FFI and Image].

Featured Guest and Consultant on All Amaze, children's televisionprogram, Channel 12, Providence, 1/79 and 3/79 (Programs on Bali and Masks)

Jelantik Goes to Blambangan, trans. with I Made Bandem of the performance transcript of a topeng pajegan by I Nyoman Kakul, The Drama Review, vol. 23, no. 2 (T82), 1979 , pp. 37-48.

"Waiting for Godot and Contemporary Theatre," in Rhode Island Committee on the Humanities 1979-80 Humanities Packet #4, The Dramatic Work as a Cultural/Historical Document.

"Playing with the Past: Visitation and Illusion in the Mask Theatre of Bali," The Drama Review, vol. xxiii, no. 2 (T82), 1979, pp. 11-48.

Interviewed by Suresh Awasthi for Indian National Television, Panorama Program, New Delhi, 12/78. Replayed several times on various Indian stations.

"Bringing Balinese Theatre to American School Children," Phoenix, February, 1976.

Tjupak, developed from Balinese sources through improvisation with the Looking Glass Theatre Company, from Tjupak Gaguritan, translated by I Nyurah Kasuma and John Emigh, and then performed 110 times to over 25,000 children in Southern New England during Looking Glass Theatre's 1975-76 tour.

"A Sense of Environment," BreakOut, ed. James Schevill, Chicago: Sparrow Press, 1973.

"Three Vocations," Brown Alumni Monthly, March, 1970.

"An Anatomy of Farce," Lakeview Journal, August, 1968.

Translation and adaptation of Georg Beuchner's Woyzeck, performed at Tulane Univ., 1965, and at Brown Univ., 1972 and 2001.

Translation of El amor de don Perlimplin con Belisa en su Jardin by Federico Garcia Lorca, performed at Amherst College, 1962

Over 70 Theatrical Productions Directed at University and Professional theatres . See CV for a complete list.

Company and One Man Balinese Topeng and Topeng Inspired Improvised Performances: Hundreds of performances in Universities, Theatres, Festivals, Temple Ceremonies, Schools, and Hospitals: 1975-2006. See CV for listings.

research overview

John Emigh is a theatre director and performer who has written on the masked theatre and rituals of New Guinea, Bali, and India, as well as on Western theatrical practices. Works include Masked Performance: The Play of Self and Other in Ritual and Theatre, and a film on the life of a Rajasthani street performer. Current research involves linking the concerns of those who make and study performances with findings in neuro-science, and studying how performances function during times of crisis.

research statement

John Emigh is a professor in the Theatre, Speech, and Dance Department at Brown University, where he has been teaching and directing since 1967. He has directed more than 70 plays in universities and in the professional theatre. In 1974-75, he traveled in New Guinea, South Asia, and Indonesia, where he studied Balinese topeng masked dance with I Nyoman Kakul. Since then, he has made several other research trips to Asia, investigating the street jesters and court fools of Rajasthan, the use of masks in Eastern India, and the changing dynamics of performance in Bali. He was co-ordinator of the Rhode Island New Theatre Festival of 1971, was the founding chairperson of the Association for Asian Performance, chaired Brown's Dept. of Theatre, Speech and Dance from 1987 to 1993, and last year directed Performance Studies international's conference and festival: Becoming Uncomfortable.

As a scholar, he has written extensively on the masked theatre of New Guinea, Bali, and India, as well as on modern and contemporary theatre practice in the West, and has made a film on the life of Hajari Bhand, a Rajasthani street performer. His Masked Performance: The Play of Self and Other in Ritual and Theatre, is published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. He is a contributor to the recent book, Masks: Faces of Culture, put out by the St. Louis Art Museum, and is helping to prepare an interactive CD on the permanent collection of masks of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi. Other current research interests include linking the traditional concerns of those who make and study performances and recent findings in the field of neuro-science (a chapter on this subject is included in Teaching Performance Studies, University of Southern Illinois Press), and work on religious and secular theatre during times of crisis in India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Alpine Europe.

As a performer, he has acted with leading Balinese artists and has performed one-man shows based on Balinese mask techniques at schools, hospitals, universities, theatres, and festivals throughout the United States and in Bali and India, including The Performing Garage in New York City, The New Theatre Festival of Baltimore, the Indian National School for Drama, the Tibetan School of Drama, and the Balinese Academy for the Arts. His performances have been written about in The Drama Review and the Asian Theatre Journal, as well as in various Asian journals.

funded research

Saloman and Watson Foundation Grants from Brown University to study the relationship of the performing traditions of Bali to the killings of 1966, 2000-2002

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) grant for interactive interface for Mask Collection of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi, 1998

Travel Grant from the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi to co-orinate a mask collection and plan conference and exhibit, 1996

American Institute of Indian Studies (Fulbright) Grant for the study of the Prahlada Nataka of Orissa, India 1992

Indo-US Subcomission (Fulbright) and Smithsonian Institution Grants for the study of performance traditions in Orissa, Rajasthan, and Kashmir 1981-1983

American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Travel Grant to International Congress of Anthropology, New Delhi, 1979