Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Series: Theater: Theory/Text/Performance
Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page, Dedication
Preface and Acknowledgements
Not too long ago, I heard a story on public radio. A group of Los Angeles area middle school students were simulating the events of the U.S.-led invasion of Grenada in 1983. This was at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Reporter Starlee Kine described how schoolchildren on field trips to the library are treated to a role-playing event in which they learn about the global particulars of the Grenada crisis, and then get to play out the ...
Part I. Simming the Past
1. "This Is a Drama. You Are Characters": Simming the Fugitive Slave in Conner Prairie's "Follow the North Star"
Adventure Network International offers extreme outdoor enthusiasts and exploration buffs a skiing expedition to the South Pole to relive the final portions of Roald Amundsen’s and Robert Falcon Scott’s expeditions in the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.” For an average of $57,000, skiers can be flown in from Chile and dropped off at latitude 89° S, sixty nautical miles from the Pole, to “ski the last degree” over the course of ten to twenty-one ...
2. Simming the (Virtual) Past
The Old Stubridge Village living history museum, which bills itself as the place “Where Early America Comes Alive,” offers immersive second-person programs that go further in some ways than those at Conner Prairie by dressing visitors in costume and putting them in the roles of village inhabitants. The History Immersion program, for instance, gives day-camping youth a two-to five-day experience of going to school, learning crafts, and doing chores, as would their peers in the nineteenth century.1 Sturbridge, a picturesque...
3. Playing Dead, or Living History with Corpses
“[M]odernity itself,” writes theater and performance historian Joseph Roach, “might itself be understood as a new way of handling the dead.”1 In his pivotal book Cities of the Dead, which draws its title from the evocative descriptor that came to identify the cemeteries of New Orleans, Roach “begin[s] to outline” what he calls the segregation of the dead from the living as part of the larger “segregationist taxonomies of behavior” that marked the European...
Part II. Bearing Witness to the Present
4. Learner-Driven Simming
On his visit to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, in April 2012, President Barack Obama boarded the bus in which Rosa Parks had refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, a confrontation that kicked off the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott now marked as a powerful and decisive chapter in the civil rights movement. The bus had been restored to a simming of its original appearance in 1955, but with period civil rights broadcasts...
5. Playing the Illegal Migrant: Tourist Simming in Mexico
I slowly picked my way across the narrow stone walkway, perhaps twelve inches at its widest, and tried to gauge the uneven footing ahead by the light of the moon. To my left was a steep plunge, the stone wall dropping far down to the bushes and mud of the river valley below. To my right, at arm’s length, was a rock face I could use for balance, if I didn’t fall into the murky water in between. This would have been difficult enough under normal circumstances, but it was made all the more so by the fact that the U.S. Border Patrol was...
Part III. Preenactments, or Rehearsing the Future
6. Preempting Trauma
While I was simming a Supreme Court justice at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia in chapter 4, another simming involving users and screens was going strong at a shopping precinct to the northeast. At the Army Experience Center in the Franklin Mills mall in Philadelphia, the armed services used video game simulation training, modeled on first-person shooter video games, to indoctrinate potential recruits fueled by the Red Bull...
7. Senior Moments
Trying to do simple tasks in the aging simulation suit had me in a frustrated sweat after only a couple of minutes. Velcro athletic pads tightly bound my wrists, elbows, ankles, and knees, and padded gloves made my fingers nearly immobile. Neck constraints prohibited me from easily turning my head to look around me, but, even so, I couldn’t see more than a pinprick of vision in each eye as my entire periphery was darkened to a black emptiness by special...
8. Rehearsing the Warrior Ethos
At the violent height of the tenaciously dug-in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan spanning the decade following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the U.S. armed forces looked to theater and performance for new counterinsurgency strategies to keep apace with the shifting specificities of the conflicts. To preexpose deployment-bound troops to combatants’ tactics, as well as to the sharp-eyed gaze of the local and international media, the army constructed vast performative simulations of wartime Iraq and Afghanistan....
From the back porch of my house in March 1990, I watched my hometown commit an act tantamount to self-immolation. Over the course of ten days, Hayward, Wisconsin’s firefighters, in a twist on their usual charge, set the town’s historic buildings ablaze and reduced them to ash....