When David Dean was invited by Peter Hinton (then artistic director of the National Art Centre’s English Theatre) to participate in a 2006 workshop of theatre professionals discussing the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, he had little idea that it would lead to several years of working with the English Theatre Company on a number of productions, and to his discovering a new field of inquiry: how historical meaning is created through performance.
The focus of his SSHRC funded project, Performing History, Making History, led to presentations and collaborations with theatre and performance studies scholars and practitioners, including organizing an interdisciplinary, bilingual and interdisciplinary conference in April 2012 with four colleagues from the University of Ottawa’s Department of Theatre Studies. Several of the papers presented at the conference are at the heart of a new collection of essays, History, Memory, Performance which has just been published by Palgrave-Macmillan.
The essays contribute to our understanding of how embodying the past through performance both re-enacts and enacts, returning to the past its own present. Thinking about history as performance, David suggests, recognizes the importance of “unofficial histories” – historical representation and history-making outside of academia. Exploring performances of the past in a wide range of trans-national and historical contexts, the book speaks to the historical turn in theatre studies and the performative turn in historical studies.