Hello again, intrepid fans of bad plays! This week, I’m looking at a professional melodrama set during the war: William Haworth’s The Ensign (1892).
To my knowledge, the copy I got from the Sherman Collection at Southern Illinois Universitymight be the only extant copy of the play. But it seems that a lot of unpublished typescripts are squirreled away in odd places/papers, or haven’t been catalogued, or the finding aids aren’t digital/online, so I could be wrong on this front (please contact me if you know of any other copies out there!).
Anyways, actor/playwright/director William Haworth chose a rather unexpected location for the start of his play (at least, unexpected compared to many other popular Civil War melodramas).… Read more
Yeah, I’m headed off to southern Illinois tomorrow for an archive trip. I’m staying at the Best Western Saluki Inn. There’s no wifi in the rooms. It’s right next to a Buffalo Wild Wings. Where does Indy go? Peru. Nepal. India. Egypt. Hangs in castles and temples. Crashes in beautiful hotels in Venice. My most exciting research trip to date? Gettysburg, so I could sweat my ass off during an incredibly humid July while watching a bunch of men run around in wool costumes and play with fake guns.… Read more
The piles designated as “shelf-overflow” in our small apartment are growing as I begin accumulating more books for my research project on war reenactments. I had to create a one-page works cited for a recent abstract submission on the Gettysburg Sesquicentennial, but it is time for me to start building a more substantial list/Zotero library. The scope of this project will include Civil War and colonial-era war reenactments. I’m hoping to shamelessly crowd-source to help bulk up this bibliography (shout-outs to be included, of course), especially drawing on the expertise of performance studies colleagues. Suggest away.… Read more
When I arrived at the reenactment at the Redding farm this morning, I was determined to spend more time with the living historians, who had seemed – overall – quite a bit more chatty and willing to engage with the spectators than the reenactors in the camps. This is part and parcel of the division between reenacting and living history though as I understand it: reenactors may engage with the performance for a variety of reasons, but living historians have a pedagogical interest. Yesterday, tintype photographer Rob Gibson suggested the main reason people began re-enacting was “99% fun” from what he’s gathered in his many encounters.… Read more
Though the main celebrations won’t kick off until tomorrow – July 4th – there have been plenty of living history/reenactment events throughout the past couple of weeks in Gettysburg building up to the official 150th of the battle. This afternoon was the Pickett’s Charge commemorative march, and as I made my way through the streets of downtown Gettysburg (slowly, every so slowly in the traffic), I couldn’t help but be struck by theodd juxtaposition of Civil War-era costume and modern day trappings as reenactors and interpreters ambled through town. It was jarring; women in hoop skirts and men in wool uniforms draped themselves over meticulously restored porch railings while tourists with fanny packs drifted by.… Read more
Researching black performance in the late nineteenth century poses a host of problems for a theatre historian. The archive is, at best, spotty, though there have been many excellent recent attempts to redress these gaps. In my efforts to find plays and productions speaking to slavery and Civil War memories staged by black performers in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, I found a short but tantalizing bit about Charles Sager’s production The Negro (1899)in Errol G. Hill and James V. Hatch’s A History of African American Theatre.1 I decided the production merited a bit more digging, as it was a rare example of black history staged for a larger audience around the turn-of-the-century, when touring plantation shows were the most popular modes of black performance.… Read more
See Errol G. Hill, “New Vistas: Plays, Spectacles, Musicals, and Opera,” A History of African American Theatre, eds. Errol G. Hill and James V. Hatch’s (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 140. ↩
During my research, I stumbled across an 1894 article from the Atlanta Constitution that crystallizes many of the tensions in US Civil War memories at the end of the nineteenth century – and how these memories participated in the construction of race. While it turns out I will not be incorporating this archival bit into the chapter I’m drafting, it did seem a shame to relegate it to an untapped digital dissertation-research cloud somewhere.
To begin, one must understand the power of plantation nostalgia, running rampant through the increasingly industrialized landscape of the late nineteenth-century US. Northern cultural products produced by and for predominantly white audiences bemoaned and romanticized the supposed loss of the Southern planter elite of the antebellum system and slavery alike towards the century’s close.… Read more
“They’re Dying Out,” Atlanta Constitution, September 9, 1894, 2. ↩
Of late, there have been several reminders for those of us on or about to go on the market that the fields of theatre studies and the humanities more broadly are in crisis. In early January, an anonymous writer proposed in the Chroniclethat theatre PhD programs be dismantled; I am, apparently, one of those “seeking the folly of an academic career.” Established scholars William J. Doan, Heather S. Nathans, Patrick Anderson, and Henry Bial wrote a rebuttal to the piece, claiming that it is time for a conversation about the career trajectories of graduate students in theatre/performance studies:
As representatives of disciplinary societies, and as faculty members who regularly advise graduate students and serve on search committees at our home institutions, we welcome the opportunity to engage in a public discussion about the many possible career options for students who have completed an M.F.A.