The Aesthetic of Place in the American Play-Cycle
Playwrights of the American play-cycle represent their characters’ displacement and attempt to cure that displacement through a return to a rootedness in place. The play-cycle form demonstrates a unique theatre narrative that insists on an aesthetic of place. The play-cycle is viewed through contemporary American agrarian writers concerned with rootedness in place, YiFu Tuan’s geographic explorations of space and place, and Edward S. Casey’s seminal philosophical discussion of place as the primary experience of human identity. August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle—ten decades of the African American experience in Pittsburg’s Hill District—demonstrates the place-making effects of food. While Horton Foote uses built structures to place his characters in their Costal Plains town of Harrison, Texas, in The Orphan’s Home Cycle.
Because the play-cycle performance is intended to require an extended embodied commitment to a locale by an audience and performer community, the form suits Yi-Fu Tuan’s dictum “place is pause.” The theatre that rises out of this pause-inducing form both compels a place narrative and attempts to cure audience displacement creating an encompassing aesthetic of place.