Jared R. Pike is an actor, director and theatre scholar living in New York City. A Ph.D. student at The Graduate Center, CUNY, his work focuses on the cultural power dynamics in theatrical performance. Current research interests include: the role of space in performances of history, digital media in the performance of history in museums, and the cultural power dynamics in German theatre during the period of unification. Jared is also a Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Theatre Department at Hunter College.
As I sat in that plush velvet chair, the lights of the theater went out and everything was plunged into darkness. Out of that darkness a magic appeared- a magic like nothing my childhood self had ever experienced. The opportunity to see live actors on a stage made me feel emotions in a different way and see the world as a different place. Out of this magic, a path emerged, my journey began, leading me on a quest to understand the power I had experienced.
The journey lead me through second grade recess renditions of Hansel and Gretel and Romeo and Juliet; through high school one-act play competitions; and, eventually to a BFA in Theatre with an emphasis in acting, directing, and costume design. After graduating from Sam Houston State University, I moved to New York City and continued my training as an actor and director through the Atlantic Theatre’s school. Through this work, my ideas about the power contained within performance strengthened; and, I realized that in order to create the type of theatre I want to create I need a stronger foundation in theatre history and theory. In order to achieve this, I enrolled in the M.A.Theatre History and Criticism program at Brooklyn College.
Working on my thesis has helped me to clarify my research interests. In my thesis I am exploring the socio-political power dynamic of performance. By using theories regarding the creation of knowledge through ritual action, phenomenological ideas of the creation of knowledge through embodied experience, and Foucault’s theories of the creation of knowledge as the support system for the construction and solidification of socio-political power structures, my thesis creates a paradigm through which the embodied experience of performance can be examined as a loci for the creation and reification of social knowledge. Within the scope of my thesis, this project is limited to setting up the paradigm and illustrating how it functions through the performance of the Medieval Catholic Mass; however, through my PhD. work, I would like to continue to develop this paradigm and apply it to various performance events trans-historically and trans-culturally. I believe that such a paradigm provides an alternative way to study theatre and performance history that would avoid the trap of the evolutionary narrative by considering each performance event in relation to its contemporary socio-political context to see how it supports or questions those power structures.
However, I do not see myself strictly as a scholar. Having a background in theatre making, I am at heart a theatre practitioner. One of my career goals is to start my own theatre company where I can create the kinds of theatre that excite me. Such works are generally socially conscious pieces that explore and question social and cultural power dynamics. I am also attracted to productions that incorporate elements of ritual. Broadway musicals such as Hair and Fela! incorporate ritual elements into their structures in order to bring about a visceral reaction different from what is achieved trough more traditional Western representational theatre. I also find myself continually drawn to “classical” theatre, with a very loose definition of “classical” incorporating dramatic styles before modern realism. The seemingly foreign styles of these pieces provide an almost Brechtian alienation which allows their power structures to be explored without direct entanglements of our current political biases. Through these plays we are able to expose and question power structures that continue to be reified within our culture.
All things considered, I find it impossible to separate my interests in theatre and performance scholarship from my work as a theatre practitioner. I strongly believe that the theatre scholar should not be isolated to the academy and sequestered in some dusty study; rather, as Joseph Roach suggested in his article “(Re)Constructing Theatre History,” the theatre scholar and theatre practitioner should exist in an interrelational relationship. The two should not be divided but should work together to take history and theory out of a disembodied discourse and imbuing theatre makers with a theoretical and historical grounding from which to create intelligent theatre- always questioning theatrical form and content and pushing the art to the next level.