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Escape from the Archive Conference examines the relationship between performance and history

By: Julian Robison,  Cornell Department of Performing and Media Arts
October 24, 2017

Scholars and artists will explore the interaction between history, theatre and performance during the Escape from the Archive Conference, Oct. 27-29 at the Schwartz Center. The conference, organized by doctoral students Caitlin Kane and Erin Stoneking from the Department of Performing and Media Arts, features lectures, performances and roundtable discussions on theatre, film, dance and opera.

Georgetown Professor Soyica Diggs Colbert will deliver the conference’s keynote lecture “Archival Curiosities and Fugitive Geographies in Lorraine Hansberry's ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ " at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28 in the Film Forum. Colbert is the author of several books, including “Black Movements: Performance and Cultural Politics” and “The African American Theatrical Body: Reception, Performance, and the Stage.”

A roundtable “Queer Archives in Practice” at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 27 will answer the question, How do artists and scholars draw from LGBT history? PMA Associate Professor Sara Warner will facilitate a discussion between Lisa Merrill (professor at Hofstra University), Brenda Marston (curator of Cornell’s Human Sexuality Collection), and James Waller (president of the Arch and Bruce Foundation). The discussion will happen in Schwartz 124.

The LGBT theme continues with a workshop performance of Leigh Fondakowski’s “Casa Cushman” at 7 p.m. Oct. 28 in the Black Box Theatre. The play chronicles the life of 19th-century American actress Charlotte Cushman. Cushman is famous for challenging Victorian gender norms with her stage performances of male Shakespearean roles. Fondakowski’s play draws on more than 1,000 letters between Cushman and her lover Emma Crow.

At 11:30 a.m. Oct. 29, audiences can experience The Cherry Arts’ “Storm Country,” a walking play where participants will meet 

behind the Boatyard Grill at 525 Old Taughannock Blvd. and travel to the Cherry Artspace, 102 Cherry St. Audience members wear headphones as they travel along the one-mile journey through Ithaca’s history. The play, adapted by Professor Nick Salvato, PMA chair, and Aoise Stratford, visiting assistant professor, comes from the Ithaca-set novel “Tess of the Storm Country” and incorporates dialogue, music and environmental sounds. The play will be followed by a talkback with the writers and Rod Howe, executive director of The History Center in Tompkins County.

Kane and Stoneking share a passion for staging history through embodied performance: Kane works with documentary theatre and Stoneking focuses on historical re-enactments. The overlap between their work inspired the idea for the conference.

 “I am excited by the slate of artists and scholars who are participating, and I hope the mix of performances and academic panels will appeal to a wide swath of people,” Stoneking said.  

 A full schedule of events is available at pma.cornell.edu/conference. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, email Caitlin Kane (cak269@cornell.edu) or Erin Stoneking (ers276@cornell.edu).

 The Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts is located at 430 College Ave. in Ithaca.

 Julian Robison '20 is a communications assistant for the Department of Performing and Media Arts.

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