Communities of Imagination: Contemporary Southeast Asian Theatresby Catherine Diamond
In this wide-ranging look at the contemporary theatre scene in Southeast Asia, Catherine Diamond shows that performance in some of the lesser known theatre traditions offers a vivid and fascinating picture of the rapidly changing societies in the region. Diamond examines how traditional, modern, and contemporary dramatic works, with their interconnected styles, stories, and ideas, are being presented for local audiences. She not only places performances in their historical and cultural contexts but also connects them to the social, political, linguistic, and religious movements of the last two decades.
Each chapter explores the theatre of a specific country, and these are organised thematically into three groups. The first, which includes Thailand, Vietnam, and Bali, is characterized by the increased participation of women in the performing arts—not only as performers but also as playwrights and directors. Cambodia, Singapore, and Myanmar are linked by a shared concern with the effects of censorship on theatre production. A third group, the Philippines, Laos, and Malaysia, is distinguished by a focus on nationalism: theatres are either contributing to official versions of historical and political events or creating alternative narratives that challenge those interpretations.
Communities of Imagination shows the many influences of the past and how the past continues to affect cultural perceptions. It also underscores how theatre continues to attract new practitioners and reflect the changing aspirations and anxieties of societies in immediate and provocative ways even as it is being marginalized by television, film, and the internet. The book will be of interest to scholars of theatre and performance, Asian literature, Southeast Asian studies, cultural studies, and gender studies, and to travelers to Southeast Asia.
What Others Are Saying
“Communities of Imagination offers a culturally grounded way into the performance cultures of a number of key Southeast Asian countries that focuses on recent as opposed to traditional performance. Supported by scholarship that is really quite stunning in depth and breadth, it is a book that is long overdue.”—William Peterson, Monash University
“This is an impressive and important book, wide-ranging in scope and enlivened by the author’s direct personal knowledge of contemporary developments in theatre of all kinds in Southeast Asia.”—Barbara Hatley, University of Tasmania
About the author
Catherine Diamond is professor of theatre at Soochow University in Taipei, Taiwan, and director of the Kinnari Ecological Theatre Project in Southeast Asia.