In Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment, Rebecca Schneider challenges traditional notions of linear time. Drawing examples from the experiences of Civil War re-enactors, she calls attention to moments when “times touch” and distinctions between past, present, and future collapse or fold over one another. Schneider is but one of a number of scholars pushing theatre and performance historians to rethink their relationship to the past and to develop new methods for analyzing historical documents and other “matter.” In the Canadian context, scholars such as Jill Carter, Heather Davis-Fisch, and Ric Knowles have foregrounded Indigenous understandings of time and place in their efforts to decolonize linear historical narratives, many of which continue to inform the “imagined communities” that we associate with “Canada.” Alongside these studies, a surge of scholarly interest in historical reenactment at museums, heritage sites, and related institutions has led scholars to think critically about the various ways that performance has been enfolded into public history projects in order to serve larger (sometimes laudable, sometimes questionable) political agendas.
Inspired by this research, I have been working with my research team to explore various aspects of nineteenth-century performance culture through practice-based research. Our activities have included cold readings of protean farces, staged quick-changes, and recordings of songs written almost two centuries ago. Follow the links above to learn more about this evolving aspect of the project.
Schneider, Rebecca. Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment. New York: Routledge, 2011.