Dream Loops and Short-Circuited Nightmares

Post-Brechtian Tempests in Post-Communist Bulgaria


  • Kirilka Stavreva Cornell College


"Dream Loops and Short-Circuited Nightmares" explores the surge of interest in The Tempest among Bulgarian theater professionals and audiences after the fall of communism. The essay analyzes the interfaces between the Bulgarian post-communist cultural condition and three experimental performances of the play, discussed here as embodying the principles of Brechtian dialectical theater. In a notable divergence from postcolonial revisionist performances of the play, the Bulgarian directors choose to have Prospero remain on the island. Theirs is, however, a local Prospero, re-figured alternatively as the modern little man who desperately needs to make peace with the ghosts of his past, as the psychotic who has severed his ties to a reality outside of himself, as the Balkan and European colonizer/colonized incapable of connecting his past and his present in a narrative that would eschew annihilation. If postcolonial re-visions of The Tempest reconstruct its plot and dramatic conflict to focus on the cultural and political agency of the Other, the post-communist Bulgarian productions redefine the metropolis as the Other. Nobody gets elevated in these re-visions of The Tempest — not aesthetically, politically, or morally. Instead, they nurture poignant curiosity for fallen idols like Prospero, as well as for the Calibans, Ariels, and Mirandas these idols have traumatized — all of them little people exiled in their own minds.

Author Biography

Kirilka Stavreva, Cornell College

Kirilka Stavreva is Associate Professor of English at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, where she teaches and writes about early modern literature, drama, and its performances across historical and cultural divides. Her essays on the drama, popular culture, and gender politics of the Renaissance, as well as on critical pedagogy, have appeared in book collections and journals, such as The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Pedagogy, and The Journal of Popular Culture. She is completing a book on the violent speech acts of women in early modern England.