Article: Deliberate Starvation: Hunger Artists in Kafka, Różewicz, and Sinking Ship

Article: Deliberate Starvation: Hunger Artists in Kafka, Różewicz, and Sinking Ship

After a couple of years from when I presented the paper on the same topic at the PSi Performance Studies international Conference “Hunger,” my article “Deliberate Starvation: Hunger Artists in Kafka, Różewicz, and Sinking Ship” is being published in Global Performance Studies 6, nos 1–2 (2024). A special thanks to the Sinking Ship creative team for providing the photos for the article!

Come celebrate the launch of the combined double issue of Global Performance Studies and Performance Research in London at Hoxton Hall (130 Hoxton St, London N1 6SH) on Saturday, June 22 from 7 to 8 pm!

In my article I attempt to respond to the question: How can a negative action, the decision to abstain from food, be enacted on stage? Examining hunger as a conscious choice to avoid food for spectacle, I illustrate several ways to make hunger visible in performance through the critical lens of actor-network theory (ANT) applied to modern and contemporary case studies. In the West, self-inflicted starvation became a form of entertainment in the late nineteenth century, when living skeletons and hunger artists were shown at circuses, fairs, and amusement parks. Franz Kafka’s short story “A Hunger Artist” (1922) looked back at the profession’s history, identifying the main components of the spectacle of hunger. Polish playwright Tadeusz Różewicz turned the short story into a play, The Hunger Artist Departs (1977), exploring the potential for dialogic interactions and developing side-characters only implied by Kafka. By contrast, the contemporary NYC-based company Sinking Ship created A Hunger Artist (2017), an adaptation that expanded the short story’s theatricality around a single performer who plays multiple characters with the aid of all the resources of theatre, from puppets to audience members “enrolled” in the show.

Sinking Ship, A Hunger Artist (2017) – Photo Kelly Stuart


Stebos is a stage director, producer, and dramaturg, based in Las Vegas and New York City in the United States.

Stebos has 47 posts and counting. See all posts by Stebos

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