Associate Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies
Phone 2: 401.863.2128
Research interests include theatre historiography, Mexican theatre and performance, Latino/a theatre and performance, avant garde theatre, critical race studies, dramaturgy and directing. Publications include articles in Aztlán, Theatre Journal, Gestos and the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism. First book project: Performing Conquest: Theatre, History and Identity in Tlaxcala, Mexico(Michigan, 2009). Her second book project is on Latino Theatre under Neoliberalism.
Patricia Ybarra received her B.A. from Columbia University in 1994 and her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in Theatre History and Criticism in 2002. She is the Focus Group representative for the Latino/a Focus group of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. Her first manuscript Performing Conquest: Theatre, History and Identity in Tlaxcala, Mexico is under contract with University of Michigan Press. Recent and forthcoming publications include articles and reviews in Theatre Journal, TDR, Aztlan, and the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism. Her area of specialization is theatre historiography of the Americas, with emphasis on the relationship between theatre, nationalism, and American identities in North America. She is also a director, dramaturg and the former administrator of Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Theatre.
My manuscript Performing Conquest: Theatre, History and Identity in Tlaxcala, Mexico 1538-2004, examines theatrical and political performances in Tlaxcala, Mexico, to answer two seminal questions. First, how have "stagings" of the Spanish Conquest and subsequent colonization in state-sponsored pageants, theater productions, and political events been used to manipulate concepts of indigenous, local, and national identity so as to support competing political or socio-cultural agendas? Second, how do these events reveal how and why performance has emerged as a primary mode of political speech in contemporary Mexico, and to what end? I answer these questions by analyzing how the creators of these events used historical and cultural information to articulate a distinctively Tlaxcalan identity and how they manipulated performance practices popular from the Spanish Conquest forward to stake their claims.
For most Mexicans, Tlaxcala's history centers on its indigenous residents' 1519 choice to fight with the Spanish against their traditional enemies, the Aztecs. Disease and financial hardships caused the area's fortunes to decline by the seventeenth century despite their receipt of special privileges from the Spanish Crown. Tlaxcala's economic disenfranchisement continues today. It is the nation's smallest and least productive state, and is politically marginalized within the nation. Tlaxcala is also historiographically maligned; when Mexican independence movements that employed the Aztecs as their symbol of solidarity commenced in the nineteenth century, the Tlaxcaltecans were written into political treatises, literature, and historical narratives as traitors to the emergent nation, creating a frought relationship between regional and national historiography that continues today. Nonetheless, its mostly mestizo (of mixed European and indigenous descent) residents continue to negotiate their place in the Mexican cultural sphere by staging the Tlaxcalan past in order to attain their various political, social, and personal aims. The combination of Tlaxcala's unique history, difficult relationship with both New Spanish and Mexican governments, and its rich tradition of theatrical representation make it an ideal site to consider how underrepresented communities within Mexico came to use artistic production as a mode of political speech.
Because I am interested in the presentational nature of politics as well as political performances, I include plays, festivals, state-sponsored pageants, and "staged" political acts as objects of study. My archival sources include published and unpublished play texts, reviews, municipal records of processions and political acts, civic maps, production photos, soundtracks, and video archives. I also use interviews, performance and rehearsal viewing, and participant observation to determine how artists articulated and audiences understood these events and their production processes as modes of identity construction and/or political speech.