- Editorial: Remembering Performances
CTR 174 is thematized around commemoration, considering how performances allow people to remember together and the sociohistorical function of theatre as memory-making machine. If performances are significant locations of cultural memory, then it is critical to examine how they work: documenting, archiving, and recording. As many contributors suggest, however, commemoration is a fraught practice, one that too often allows dominant voices to inscribe and naturalize troubling and violent histories and to marginalize, or even erase, the experiences of the less powerful.
Performances document, archive, and record experience and memory, but in order to track their cultural labour over time, we also must examine how performances are documented, archived, and recorded. The three contributions to this issue’s “Views and Reviews” section take up the question of how performances remember and how performances are remembered, foregrounding how performance and memory work together by considering how documentation and archiving intersect with artistic practice, how performances are translated into records for the future, and how to remember performances that exceed the typical bounds of the play as the traditional unit of theatrical experience. Each author responds to the challenge of remembering and documenting performance in a different way, suggesting new possibilities for critical discussion of performance.
In her discussion of Zuppa Theatre’s The Archive of Missing Things, Dawn Tracey Brandes explains this unique performance, providing thick description of how Zuppa Theatre reversed the typical order of theatre history by first creating an archive, then sending audience members on individual quests to the Heart of the Archive, through both live clues and a digital repository. Brandes remarks that “while the participant’s exploration of the Archive is ostensibly a scavenger hunt or detective mystery that she must solve, it also struck me as provoking a deeply personal rumination on each participant’s own relation to objects, to theatre, to loss, and to collecting and archiving the past.” The Archive of Missing Things offers a meditation on how theatre creates and preserves both memory and absence.
Ric Knowles then takes us through Living Ritual, an Indigenous performing arts festival held in Tkaronto (Toronto) in July 2017. Knowles’s account of his experience at the festival begins with its opening ceremony, a “powerful and gracious welcome” that also functioned as “a declaration of sovereignty.” By discussing all aspects of the event—workshops, ceremony, artist talks, and performances—rather than focusing only on “mainstage” evening performances, Knowles counters the tendency of critics to fixate on artistic product and reminds readers of the important cultural work taking place throughout the entire gathering. The numerous images that accompany his contribution provide a parallel account of the event, an alternate record of the interdisciplinary exchanges he witnessed, and a complementary way of remembering the festival that challenges the typical role of reviewer as artistic mediator.
The final contribution to “Views and Reviews” is a co-written response to the Experiencing Indigenous Work—Developing Critical Voices gathering held at the National Arts Centre in June 2017. Brittany Johnston contextualizes the event against the announcement of Kevin Loring’s appointment as the first Artistic Director of Indigenous Theatre at the NAC and describes the questions about critical voice that the event was convened to discuss. Carol Greyeyes then describes her reaction to Corey Payette’s [End Page 77] musical Children of God, which was presented at the NAC during the course of the gathering, raising crucial questions about artistic representations of traumatic histories and demonstrating how one might sit with personal history in critically responding to performance. Cole Alvis then reflects on the gathering by drawing an analogy between zebra mussels, an invasive species, and the challenges colonialism has posed to Indigenous critical practice. Alvis concludes by asking, “How do we ground ourselves in our own knowledge and experiences so we can be brave and receive critique? What are the ways we can be generous with our response to the work of our peers so they can be supported while being challenged to grow?”
Taken together, the three pieces in this issue’s “Views and Reviews” not only record and document events through the juxtaposition of subjective response and critical framing, but also provide...