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Enacting History

Edited by Scott Magelssen and Rhona Justice-Malloy

Publication Year: 2011

Enacting History is a collection of new essays exploring the world of historical performances. The volume focuses on performances outside the traditional sphere of theatre, among them living history museums, battle reenactments, pageants, renaissance festivals, and adventure-tourism destinations.
This volume argues that the recent surge in such performances have raised significant questions about the need for, interest in, and value of such nontraditional theater. Many of these performances claim a greater or lesser degree of historical “accuracy” or “authenticity,” and the authors tease out the representational and historiographic issues related to these arguments. How, for instance, are issues of race, ethnicity, and gender dealt with at museums that purport to be accurate windows into the past? How are politics and labor issues handled in local- or state-funded institutions that rely on volunteer performers? How do tourists’ expectations shape the choices made by would-be purveyors of the past? Where do matters of taste or censorship enter in when reconciling the archival evidence with a family-friendly mission?
Essays in the collection address, among other subjects, reenactments of period cookery and cuisine at a Maryland renaissance festival; the roles of women as represented at Minnesota’s premiere living history museum, Historic Fort Snelling; and the Lewis and Clark bicentennial play as cultural commemoration.
The editors argue that historical performances like these—regardless of their truth-telling claims—are an important means to communicate, document, and even shape history, and allow for a level of participation and accessibility that is unique to performance. Enacting History is an entertaining and informative account of the public’s fascination with acting out and watching history and of the diverse methods of fulfilling this need.
Leigh Clemons / Catherine Hughes / Rhona Justice-Malloy / Kimberly Tony Korol-Evans / Lindsay Adamson Livingston / Scott Magelssen / Aili McGill / Richard L. Poole / Amy M. Tyson / Patricia Ybarra

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-9

Enacting History is a collection of new essays by scholars in theater and performance studies tracing the ways recent performance practices have been used to select, devise, and perform narratives of the past to their participants and audiences. Such practices include living history museums, battle reenactments, pageantry,...

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Present Enacting Past: The Functions of Battle Reenacting in Historical Representation

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pp. 10-21

battle reenactments function as enactments of history, and their particular modes of representation address questions of authenticity, performance, and meaning. Popular since their initial inception in the 1960s, battle reenactments today boast hundreds of thousands of participants who portray soldiers from wars ranging...

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“This Is the Place”: Performance and the Production of Space in Mormon Cultural Memory

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pp. 22-40

fundamental to both the origin myth and the continuing identity of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter- day Saints (lDS or Mormon) is the conception of early church members as migratory and largely without national affiliation. from its inception, the church was heavily involved in missionary efforts in Europe and...

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Men with Their Muskets and Me in My Bare Feet: Performing History and Policing Gender at Historic Fort Snelling Living History Museum

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pp. 41-65

beginning in the late 1990s, a mini- genre of satiric commentary on managementlabor relationships at living history museums emerged on the literary stage with the pub lication of Julian barnes’s novel England, England; George Saunders’s lead story in his acclaimed short story collection, Pastoralia; and, most famously,...

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History, Archive, Memory, and Performance: The Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Play as Cultural Commemoration

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pp. 66-87

The Lewis and Clark voyage of Discovery was a defining moment for the fledgling United States. Two hundred years later, from 2004 through 2006, the bicentennial was marked by commemorative acts that included speeches, scholarly papers, articles, a multitude of commercial enterprises, and the creation of hundreds...

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Defining Museum Theater at Conner Prairie

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pp. 88-112

in november of 2006 i was offered a unique opportunity. Dan freas, the director of the Museum Experience Division at Conner Prairie, called me into his office and asked if I was interested in taking the position of museum theater specialist.1 in the past, the term museum theater at Conner Prairie had meant...

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Performing History as Memorialization: Thinking with . . . And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi and Brown University’s Slavery and Justice Committee

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pp. 113-133

Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. for the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years....

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Is That Real? An Exploration of What Is Real in a Performance Based on History

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pp. 134-152

When spectators who have just seen a historical performance say, “it was so real!” what do they mean? Do they mean that the performance appeared to be a restoration, an honest down- to- each- detail recreation of history? is their interpretation of what is real grounded literally? i propose that what the spectator means...

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Dinner: Impossible—“Medieval Mayhem” at the Maryland Renaissance festival

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pp. 153-173

Good afternoon, Reader. your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to visualize a world lit only by fire, a time and place in which there are no televisions, no computers, no cell phones. in fact, imagine there is no electricity at all. Envision spending days, weeks, and even years attempting to recreate a time and place removed...

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Tourist Performance in the Twenty-first Century

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pp. 174-202

I slowly picked my way across the narrow stone walkway, perhaps twelve inches across 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...

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Ping Chong & Company’s Undesirable Elements/Secret Histories in Oxford, Mississippi

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pp. 203-228

Thus begins “Secret Histories: Oxford,” an iteration of the Undesirable Elements series developed by Ping Chong & Company. This production was written and directed by company member Leyla Modirzadeh.
World- renowned theater director, choreographer, and video and installation...

List of Contributors

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pp. 229-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780817385354
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817356545

Page Count: 230
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1