“The study of theatre history and historiography is something of an adventure, not so much a survey of what was, as an investigation of what might have been. It is about questions not answers and it should continually allow new approaches and new possibilities.”
--Jim Davis, Research Methods in Theatre and Performance, p. 97.
This fall, my article “Reflections on the 2012 Institute on Roman Comedy and Performance:
Revising the Procedures of the National Endowment for the Humanities through Theatre Production as Research and Pedagogy “ will be published in the journal Theatre/Practice. In this piece, I discuss the work of the institute through a performance as research lens.
Although the institute was not officially classified as “performance as research” or “PAR,” I argue in my writing that the categorization fits. Throughout the program, we participants combined traditional methods of research such as close reading of primary texts with exercises in live performance that brought a physicalized, “human” element to the work. Drawing on my own experiences, accounts from fellow participants, and the PAR scholarship of Baz Kershaw, Robin Nelson, Ian Watson and others, I discuss the ways in which embodied engagement with Classical texts suggests potential insights into ancient practices and offers guideposts to how these plays may be performed today.
While I admit to previously tending to view PAR with some skepticism, my work with the Roman comedy program has changed my outlook considerably. I believe that an approach to history afforded by PAR can be quite fruitful, whether in the classroom, on the stage, or in a hybrid space that combines both. As evidence, I conclude my article by reflecting upon my work developing an ecofeminist script adaptation of Pericles: Prince of Tyre at Simpson College near Des Moines, IA. As the director, I utilized the performance-as-research skillset that I developed at the NEH performance institute in order to stage this late Shakespearean play with undergraduate students.
Sara Hill as Gower, the narrator/the goddess Diana in Pericles at Simpson College; March 2015. Photo by Luke Behaunek.