Theatre Journal Special Issues Call for Papers for 2021

Call for Papers

Special Issue for September 2021: AI

From the formal inception of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with individuals like computer scientist and mathematician Alan Turing, AI technologies have often been measured first in their ability to mimic human performance, such as translation, and then to surpass them. For example, in an AI subfield like natural language processing, the technology has developed for machines to mimic human capacity to learn language and then to exceed normative human abilities by increasing the scale of data analyzed and the speed of output. The developments of machine learning and deep neural networks are altering the fields of theater and performance studies and have (arguably) the potential to surrender active human control of the machine to the algorithm. 

The implications of this shift have yet to be fully understood. For example, in an interview in Wired, France’s President Macron mentioned healthcare and mobility (autonomous driving and such) to be two of the primary fields in which AI might significantly enhance social wellness. At the same time, he has expressed concern over the risk involved, noting that the collection and instrumentalization of big data threatens national ideals; technology is thus intertwined with politics. Such potential and actual dangers have, of course, been noted along with the inherent biases in the algorithms that organize large data sets (Safiya Noble, Algorithms of Oppression). At the same time, numerous possibilities to utilize such technologies in unanticipated ways have emerged, as has occurred in the formulation of what Abigail de Kosnik calls in her eponymous book "rogue archives." 

This special issue will attend to AI in its many manifestations from bioinformatics to data mining to pattern recognition to robots. Contributors are welcome to submit essays comparing theatrical examples such as Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. to that of directors like Oriza Hirata and Julian Hetzel. Other approaches might consider how theatricality informs touchstones of AI discourse such as Masahiro Mori’s “Uncanny Valley” or the ways in which new media installations draw on AI to alter or shape forms of human (and potentially) non-human interaction.

This issue takes as an opening premise that AI is always embedded in socio-political structures. In this vein and especially in this moment, contributors are encouraged to consider how AI supports existing racial hierarchies and also how those same technologies might be used to destabilize or even explode them. How might existing technologies be used differently to understand the construction and impact of racial categorization on and for racialized communities? What are the possibilities for understanding human categorization available through what has been called mediascapes and technoscapes (that is, how does race filter through both representation and the material means—in this case, the hardware and software—of social reproduction)? How do we describe the impact of digital technologies on the various publics addressed by and, in the case of on-line communities, constructed through technological platforms?

This special issue will be edited by Theatre Journal coeditor Sean Metzger. We will consider both full length essays for the print edition (6,000-9,000 words) as well as proposals for short provocations, video and/or photo essays, and other creative, multimedia material for our on-line platform (500-2,500 words). For information about submission, visit:

Submissions for the print journal (6,000-9,000 words) and for the online platform (500-2,500 words) should reach us no later than 1 December 2020.

Submit via ScholarOne:

Feel free to contact the editors with questions or inquiries:

Sean Metzger, Coeditor at

Margherita Laera, Online Editor at


Call for Papers

Special Issue for December 2021: Shooting

In the spring of 2019, Daniel Fish’s revival of Oklahoma! became the first play of the commercial theatre to join the Hollywood Gun Neutral initiative, pledging that, for every gun appearing onstage, the producers would donate money to organizations “committed to helping solve the gun violence crisis by destroying firearms that should be out of circulation.” A founding member of the production company, Level Forward, stated: “While artists must be free to honestly portray the world in which we live, that privilege comes with a great responsibility to do our part in advancing gun safety.”

Level Forward’s statement points to the relationship between art and society, and particularly, the impact of representation on culture. While film and theatre artists hope to offset the glorification of gun violence with political action, gun violence has become synonymous with the American identity here in the U.S. and abroad. One third of people in the U.S. own guns, and both the pandemic and the protests saw marked increases in gun sales. The U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership and gun deaths of any nation in the world. The Second Amendment has become an all-important electoral issue while there is now widespread recognition that it has its roots in the history of slavery and continues to result in systemic racial violence.

The rate of police shootings of people of color is five times the rate of police shootings of white people. The protests over the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor poured over into every city in the U.S. and cities around the world. In response, police and federal troops shot at protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets, most notoriously in Washington, D.C. to clear the way for Trump’s photo shoot. That contrast reveals an ongoing tension between actual shooting and the various media platforms that show them to the larger world, or, to reiterate, between violent events and their representations.

Such a dialectic continues to shape American politics in particular. The Democratic and Republican national conventions have both featured guns in dueling political narratives. Each featured a parent of a murdered Stoneman Douglas High School student. The Democratic convention highlighted the protests, the fight for racial justice, and the need for gun control. The Republican convention, by contrast, celebrated gun ownership and the stressed the importance of protecting the Second Amendment.

The 2021 December special issue focuses on “shooting,” broadly construed. While guns are inextricably bound to the history and identity of the United States, the act of shooting (via duels or gun shows) constitutes a performance of its own throughout the world. Put otherwise, shooting is a vexing performance that exposes the contradictions inherent in social and political organization, as revealed so well in Suzan-Lori Parks’s The America Play. Essays may cover a range of topics, including, but not limited to the protest gesture of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” Black Panther Police Patrols and the protest of the Mulford Bill, police shootings in The Red Line and the opera Blue, duels in Hamilton and Eugene Onegin and duels in general, wild west pageants and gun shows, portrayals of marksmen such as Nat Love and Bass Reed, virtual reality patrols as treatment for trauma in veterans, and the proliferation of shooting in video games. What narratives are constructed of shooting in its varied contexts? What is at stake, physically and psychically, for the protagonists and also those rendered object in scenes that involve shooting? What ideologies are reified and what ideologies are challenged by portrayals of gun violence?

This special issue will be edited by E.J. Westlake. We will consider full-length essays for the print edition (6,000-9,000 words). For information about submission, visit our website:

Print submissions should submitted no later than 1 February 2021.

Submissions should be uploaded through our ScholarOne portal:

Feel free to contact the editor with questions or inquiries:



Submissions are always welcome for the journal’s general issues.

Submission FAQs

1.     How often can I publish an essay in Theatre Journal?

An author may be published in the journal no more frequently than once every two years.

2.     Can I have an essay published in Theatre Topics in the same year as Theatre Journal?

While the two journals are independent, it is best to space submissions to them so that essays by the same person are not appearing in the two journals at the same time.

3.     If my essay is rejected by Theatre Journal when can I try to submit another essay to Theatre Journal?

An author must wait a year before submitting a subsequent essay to Theatre Journal.

4.     My essay is about a single production. Will this affect its chances of being accepted?

Yes: Theatre Journal tends not to publish essays on a single play or production. Exceptions are occasionally made when essays explore a very broad and well-contextualized understanding of a moment or an aspect of performance or when the assessment of a single production is a springboard to a larger argument.

5.     My essay is about a single play. It is a deep and thorough reading of that play. Would Theatre Journal be interested in that?

As with the answer to the question above, Theatre Journal tends not to publish essays on a single play unless they use that exploration to reinterpret the play or the author’s oeuvre, etc. Such an essay would need to demonstrate a very thorough knowledge of the ways in which the play has been read to that point.

6.     My essay doesn’t deal very much with theatricality or performance. Will this be a problem?

Theatre Journal is interested in performance aspects first and foremost so it is very important that essays engage with theatricality.

7.     My essay is very historically focused. Is it true that Theatre Journal privileges contemporary work?

Theatre Journal publishes the best essays relating to theatre and performance, regardless of era. Historical essays that are not accepted may deal with a specific moment in time without any indication of how that moment matters to a broad theatre readership.

8.     Do I need to send in an abstract to get the editors’ approval before submitting an essay?

No, please do not submit an abstract: we prefer to read the full essay and make an assessment on that basis. If your essay is accepted, we will ask for an abstract then.

9.     How many images can I expect to include in an accepted essay?

We can publish roughly five images per essay, but images are not essential. We urge authors to include only high quality images that contribute to the essay’s argument.

In some instances, depending on the topic, more images may be necessary and we deal with such matters on a case by case basis. The online platform can support images that are not able to be included in the print version. This platform can also support other forms of illustration/supporting material. Any images there are in color, while images in the print version are black and white.

As ever, it is the author’s responsibility to secure the high-quality images, the permissions, and to pay any cost for them.

10.  How many images can I expect to include in an accepted performance review?

There is a maximum of two images per performance review, unless the review covers a festival.

As with essays, it may be possible for additional images to be uploaded to the online platform.

11.  How often can I write a performance/book review?

An author can contribute one performance review and one book review per calendar year.

12.  How often do the roles of Co-Editor, Editor, Online Editor and Book/Performance Review Editors turn over?

The Co-Editor has a two year term, followed by two years as Editor (four years total). The Online, Book and Performance Reviews Editors have three year terms. Calls for applications for these positions appear through ATHE approximately 6 months before the previous terms expire.

13.  What is the function of the online platform?

The online platform extends the print journal and provides an exciting space for creative research that engages with multimedia and digital opportunities, such as video and photo essays, podcasts, documentaries, rehearsal footage, video interviews, etc. It is also a space where we can publish supplementary material that can’t be contained between the print covers (charts, extra illustrations, video clips, podcasts, etc). Through the online platform, the Editors can also communicate with readers about news from the team and from the field.

14.  Can I propose to edit or co-edit a special issue of Theatre Journal?

While Theatre Journal has two special issues per year, the Co-Editor and Editor edit these. The journal doesn’t normally bring on guest editors. If you have a topic that you feel the journal should consider, please speak to one of the editors. 

15.  How can I have my say?

Please speak to one of the editors either at a conference or via email:

E. J. Westlake:

Sean Metzger: