Oral History and Performance Blog
What Can “Oral History” Teach Us?
[This blog was first published as a short paper on the ActiveHistory.ca website earlier this month]
From ‘Interviewee’ to ‘Character’ – A Reflection on Language and Discipline (blog 6)
From Transcript to Script (blog 5)
“The collection of transcribed interviews is the raw material and the art lies in the imaginative structuring, editing, sifting, and shaping of this material into a coherent and performable script.”
- Pam Schweitzer, Reminiscence Theatre, p 46.
“Making Rainbows”: David Fennario as Neighbourhood Storyteller (Blog 4)
What does performance offer oral historians and vice versa?
One of the questions that I have been asking myself in recent weeks is how I might integrate what we are learning in the “Oral history and performance” studio-seminar into my own practice as an oral historian? In my case, this is a difficult question. I am not an actor. Nor am I a playwright. How then might I usefully contribute to the staging of oral histories? And, conversely, how might performing these stories contribute to my interpretation of the interviews themselves?
FROM ORAL HISTORY TO VERBATUM THEATRE: A REFLECTION
“Verbatim Theatre is a form of theatre which places interviews with people at the heart of the process and product, since such interviews provide a foundation from which a script is developed that is then performed by actors.” Deirdre Heddon, 2009, p. 115.
“Documentary theatre has always been heavily context-based, and so tends to come to the fore in troubled times.” - Derek Paget (2010).
As part of my contribution to our continuing exploration of “oral history and performance” this term, I thought that I would write a series of reflections and post them in basecamp. These will, I hope, also serve as the building blocks of a (very) short article that I want to write for a special issue of alt.theatre on the Montreal Life Stories Project, being edited by Ted Little.
Oral History and Performance I: Origins
“I’m sinking in the quicksand of my thought”
I just completed my first formal activity as an intern for the Montreal Life Stories Project, filming a small-scale “Playback Theatre” event at Concordia University. This was to serve as an introduction to my future work with the Oral History and Performance working group, in which I will be interviewing Montreal artists who utilize their mode of expression to convey their experiences of displacement: either as refugees, immigrants, or survivors of violence or genocide (or possibly all of the above).
by Afsaneh Hojabri
In her recent blog entry “radio works so far” posted on 12/03/09, Caroline Kunzle provided insightful reflections and raised important points, especially with regards to ethics of representations when it comes to radio production. She made a very important distinction between producing oral history interviews and producing oral history interviews for radio where one has much less control over the final presentation of the story. It is in the light of this valid observation that I would like to reflect on my first and only radio experience.
I’ve been working on the Radio Works! component of the Life Stories project for a few months now and am finally taking the time to pause and reflect on my experience so far.
During the 2009 winter term, I had the opportunity to work as an intern in the project Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by War, Genocide, and other Human Rights Violations (Montreal Life Stories). My internship began on mid-January and came come to an end on 30th April, 2009, and I was working with the Oral History and Performance (OHP) working group under the supervision of Edward Little, professor and chair in Theatre Department of Concordia University.
On May 28th, after a nine months of bake sales and workshops, classes on listening and classes on ethics, laughing together and fighting in the hallways, interviewing, taking notes, editing, meeting fascinating people, watching documentaries, cutting up little pieces of paper, talking on the phone, writing letters and speeches and essays and press releases, sending millions of emails, and a thousand other things more important and more banal, the Humanities Collective felt everything come together.
I joined the training and ethics team of the CURA Life Stories project at a crucial turn of its life, in the beginning of March 2008, when the whole process of training- plans and practices were about to materialize; when a collective and energetic push was needed to place on the right track the load of previous hard works, fine tune it to the exact momentum, and make it run smoothly and evolve continuously for months to come. I am delighted to be a part of that significant moment!