STR Lecture Series: ‘Screening Sarah Bernhardt: Reinterpreting Acting on Silent Film’

The next talk of the 2015-16 Society for Theatre Research annual lecture series takes place on Tuesday 19 January 2016 at 7.30pm at the Swedenborg Hall, 20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH.

DR VICTORIA DUCKETT will present Screening Sarah Bernhardt: Reinterpreting Acting on Silent Film’

Sarah Bernhardt, the great nineteenth-century theatrical actress, was also the first major international film star. Appearing cross-dressed in a short Hamlet film before international audiences at the Paris Exposition of 1900, this 56-year-old French actress most famously went on to make Camille (La Dame aux Camélias, 1911) and Queen Elizabeth (Les Amours de la Reine Elisabeth, 1912).  Later appearing in one of the first celebrity home movies (Sarah Bernhardt at Home, 1915), she also made a WWI propaganda film, Mothers of France (Mères Françaises, 1917). This presentation explores these films as evidence of a productive exchange between the stage and the nascent film industry. Rather than see Bernhardt’s acting as evidence of the theatre’s incommensurability with film, it will demonstrate the legacy of her stage acting as she adapted it to early film. The talk will include screenings of the films accompanied by live music.

Dr Victoria Duckett is a lecturer in Media and Communications in the School of Communications and Creative Arts at Deakin University, Melbourne. She is author of Seeing Sarah Bernhardt: Performance and Silent Film (2015) and co-editor of Researching Women in Silent Cinema: New Findings and Perspectives (2013). Victoria is on the editorial boards of Feminisms, Medias, Histories and Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film and is a member of the steering committee of Women and Film History International.

The talk will be livestreamed: http://livestream.com/accounts/6741029/events/4679420

 

Forthcoming talks for your diary:

  • Thursday 11 February, Dr Kate Dorney, ‘Excavating Enthoven: the Life and Times of a Theatre Collector’

 

  • Thursday 10 March, Dr Tracy Cattell, ‘The Development of Professional Stage Management

 

  • Wednesday 13 April, Dr Naomi Paxton, ‘Re-evaluating the Actresses’ Franchise League: Suffrage Theatre, Networks and Activism’

These events are free and open to all. They commence at 7.30pm in the Swedenborg Hall, Holborn. For further details see the STR’s website: http://www.str.org.uk/.

 

CFP: New Researchers’ Network Second Annual Symposium — ‘Dumb objects, spoken for’? On Archives and Documentation

We are proud to announce details of our upcoming annual symposium, to be held at the Shard on 19th June 2015. Please share this widely with your networks and contacts.

nrnlogo

The Society for Theatre Research

New Researchers’ Network

Second Annual Symposium

Call for Papers:

“Dumb objects, spoken for”? On Performance Archives and Documentation

Friday 19th June 2015

The Shard

17th Floor, Warwick Business School

32 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9SG

The Society for Theatre Research’s (STR) New Researchers’ Network (NRN) is pleased to announce their second annual symposium, which will centre on the theme of Archives and Documentation.

In recent years scholars have taken greater interest in the documentation of live performance and the construction and curation of archives. The foundations of these ideas can be found in Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge (1969) and Derrida’s Archive Fever (1995), as well as more recent texts by Carolyn Steedman (Dust, 2001) and Helen Freshwater (‘The Allure of the Archive,’ 2003). Matthew Reason (‘Archive or Memory,’ 2003) suggests that a more nuanced understanding of human memory may offer ways to further explore the relationship between the live performance and its documents, and argues that an honest assessment of the archive must overtly perform the fact that it consists of ‘dumb objects not allowed to speak for themselves, but spoken for’.

These discussions have been recurring themes at the NRN’s events this year, in part due to the development of new technologies which simplify both the archiving and accessing of material. As new researchers, we are at the forefront of the developing field of new and exciting archival technologies, and whilst these new ways of archiving can bring exciting discoveries and increased accessibility, they also bring new challenges and difficulties. For example, digitisation is an expensive and time-consuming process, and as a result, which archives are catalogued, searchable, and accessible online is an increasingly political matter.

Other questions, raised at an NRN study day at the Live Art Development Agency, relate to the relationship between live performance and the ‘mad fragmentations’ (Steedman 2001) which form the collections of theatre archives. What does it mean to intentionally document a performance? How much can we really learn about past performance through the ephemera (flyers, prompt-scripts, photographs) which somehow, against all odds, now possess call numbers and item descriptions in our archives? How do those who curate theatre collections decide which of these scraps of paper merit preservation? What does it mean for those of us researching past performance that these processes of selection remain largely opaque?

In a recent talk as part of the STR’s Annual Lecture Series, Prof. Heike Roms acknowledged the trend for theatre and performance historians to abandon the archive in favour of more performative methods of research. While Jacky Bratton has used walking as a research tool in her book The Making of the West End Stage, others have used reenactment or reconstruction as part of their methodology to answer questions about theatre and performance. As a result, Roms asked ‘what is at stake in approaching historical evidence as event?’.

We invite proposals for papers that may consider, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Historical evidence as event

  • Archives in the digital age and the future of the archive

  • The archivist as curator

  • The benefits and problems of legalising and copyrighting art work

  • The performativity of the archive

  • The detritus of performance

  • Beyond the archive: Walking, Mapping and Re-Enacting

The NRN Committee welcomes proposals for papers of up to fifteen minutes from new scholars, postgraduates, and early career researchers, on any aspect of the conference theme, broadly interpreted.  Abstracts of up to 250 words should be submitted to nrn@str.org.uk by 20th March 2015. Successful applicants will be contacted by 20th April. The papers will be arranged into panel groups sharing a common theme; although we anticipate receiving a majority of proposals as single papers, we will also accept proposals for three-paper curated panels.

For queries, please contact Claire Read and Nora Williams on behalf of the NRN Committee: nrn@str.org.uk

For more details on the NRN, see http://www.strnrn.org

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