In Staged, Minou Arjomand draws on a rich archive of postwar German and American rehearsals and performances to reveal how theater can become a place for forms of storytelling and judgment that are inadmissible in a court of law but indispensable for public life. She unveils the affinities between dramatists like Bertolt Brecht, Erwin Piscator, and Peter Weiss and philosophers such as Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin, showing how they responded to the rise of fascism with a new politics of performance. Linking performance with theories of aesthetics, history, and politics, Arjomand argues that it is not subject matter that makes theater political but rather the act of judging a performance in the company of others. Staged weaves together theater history and political philosophy into a powerful and timely case for the importance of theaters as public institutions.
This is a brilliant work that gives us both a social history and critical theory of postwar theatre. One thinks about the show trial as a terrible miscarriage of justice, but Arjomand gives trial theatre another function: public deliberation and judgment on responsibility and political justice. Whereas much attention has been given to the theatricality of legal trials, Arjomand asks us to value the public function of theatre in enacting debates on justice and establishing a public practice of considered judgment. The history of postwar German theatre offered here engaged in critical theory and aesthetics in a new and engaging argument about aesthetics and politics and the public functions of art in a democracy. -- Judith Butler
Staged marks an exciting moment for scholarship at the intersection of law and theater... emerge[ing] from the long-established insight that law and performance are mutually constitutive. -- Rebecca Kastleman