Memory, solo performance and the excavation of a performance archive

In a world in which (perhaps no matter what century or epoch) there are few reliable sources and more and more dangerously single stories (a point that the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, among others, makes), it is imperative that voices bearing witness to what is actually happening in the world get heard in all their complexity and diversity and that is the work of the solo performance. It is the work of the audience member to make sure those stories get remembered and get passed on. Some of this does happen via word-of-mouth, social media, blogs (both popular and academic), academic texts, and daily/weekly/monthly print publications. But the stories are mostly treated singly, by performer, and all too frequently are not printed or filmed. And what about the cumulative effect that all of these performances seen together over the course of a lifetime (as has been the case with me) can have? What about the conversations that can be had between the various stories? What about the potential for close textual study? What is there in place to make sure that that happens? This blog as monologue, then, is the attempt to capture one audience member’s take on the conversations she heard and the connections she made between stories. Perhaps this blog can also shake up the current model of theater review criticism which is problematic at best and more often than not mirrors the reviewer’s prejudices, biases and knowledge rather than the performance itself under the thinly veiled cloak of objectivity.

So it is time to make the stories in these solo performances come to life in all of their sensory detail. BUT, Houston, we have a problem. My memory. My laziness in not taking copious notes after each and every performance, trusting to my once-working memory to house all the details of each and every performance. My deluded thinking that somehow by keeping the playbills for each and every performance, the way that people collect spoons from various states and countries or American Girl dolls or whatever the latest sneaker is that needs to be collected, that I would have something to show for my attendance.

2 thoughts on “Memory, solo performance and the excavation of a performance archive

  1. The thing about memory, I think, is the prefix, re. To return. Memory is not static, each time a memory is turned over it looks different. Notes, playbills are helpful, but they are the past. A memory takes the past and infuses it with the now, the now is too quick for note taking.


  2. I cherish the phrase you shared of “the now is too quick for note taking”. Though I didn’t have words for it, now, thanks to you, I do, and that is exactly how I feel when I’m trying my best to be alive in the present moment.


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