Interview with Richard Schechner, conducted by Diana Taylor, founding director of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. This interview is a part of a series curated by the Hemispheric Institute, articulated around the question 'What is Performance Studies?' The series aims to provide a multifaceted approach to the often difficult task of defining the coordinates of both a field of academic study as well as a lens through which to assess and document cultural practice and embodied behavior. The contingent definitions documented in this series are based on the groundbreaking experiences and the scholarly endeavors of renowned figures in contemporary performance studies and practice.
Richard Schechner is a theater director, performance theorist and university professor known for being one of the founders of the academic discipline of Performance Studies at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Professor Schechner combines his work in anthropology with innovative approaches to performance of all kinds, including ritual, drama, environmental theater, political rallies, dance, music, etc. in order to consider how performance can be understood not just as an object of study, but also as an active intellectual-artistic practice. He is the editor of TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies. His books include Environmental Theater (Hawthorn Books 1973), Between Theater & Anthropology (University of Pennsylvania Press 1985), The Future of Ritual: Writings on Culture and Performance (Routledge 1993), Performance Theory, revised and expanded edition (Routledge 2002), Over, Under, and Around (Seagull Books 2004), Performance Studies: An Introduction, revised and expanded second edition (Routledge 2006), among others. Professor Schechner’s books have been translated into 14 languages.
Professor Schechner has been a National Endowment for the Humanities senior research fellow, a Smithsonian Institution research fellow, a Fulbright senior research fellow and a Guggenheim fellow, and he has also received the Jay Dorff Lifetime Achievement Award of Performance Studies International (2002) among other honors. He is also renowned for founding The Performance Group, and is the artistic director of East Coast Artists. He has directed plays, lectured, and conducted performance workshops in Asia, South Africa, Latin America, and Europe. He is an honorary professor of the Shanghai Theatre Academy where he leads the Richard Schechner Center. As the influential founder of the Performance Studies Department at NYU, Professor Schechner’s work has transformed the study and practice of theater production. Following Professor Schechner's example, several Performance Studies Departments have been established at universities throughout the United States and Europe.