Past Lives: Performing Canada’s Histories. Ed. Heather Davis-Fisch. Playwrights Canada Press, 2017.
“Historical drama is not just about the past, but is about both present and future moments as well,” writes Heather Davis-Fisch in her Introduction to Past Lives: Performing Canada’s Histories—the companion anthology to her scholarly collection Canadian Performance Histories and Historiographies. In Past Lives, Davis-Fisch, who is Associate Professor at the University of the Fraser Valley in BC, continues to trouble—as she did in Canadian Performance Histories and Historiographies—the seemingly contradictory yet concurrent matters of the “strangeness” of identifying what constitutes ‘Canadian’ drama through the variegated stages of colonization and Confederation, and the anxiety over what constitutes a ‘Canadian identity and culture’ in itself. Bringing together familiar and lesser so plays from the late nineteenth to the late twentieth centuries, Davis-Fisch chronicles a century of these ongoing debates through the dramatic texts that have engaged them. Altogether an editorial tour-de-force, Past Lives’s most valuable contribution to theatre and performance studies in this shared land may be Davis-Fisch’s methodological intervention into how one theorizes history through its dramatic retellings—both in the stories these plays reveal and those they withhold—and our critical engagement with them.
Queer / Play: An Anthology of Queer Women’s Performance and Plays. Ed. Moynan King. Playwrights Canada Press, 2018.
Toronto-based writer, performer, director, and curator Moynan King brings together ten performance texts by emerging and established queer artists in Queer/Play: An Anthology of Queer Women’s Performance and Plays, introducing each not with the conventional scholarly narrative but rather with an interview between the playwrights and scholars, theatre artists, writers, comedians, even grants officers (!). These interviews not only animate the texts into new contexts and conversations, but also give the artists critical voice alongside the creative. King bookends Queer/Play with two especially personal pieces—the Introduction, in which she imagines performance for both readers and audiences as “a living exchange”—and a roundtable comprised of Canadian comics that King facilitates. “I think that we are the radicals of the whole art scene,” Dawn Whitwell says at one point, and, while she is talking about comedians’ intervention into a stratified art world, we think that her comment resonates with the force grounding King’s collection. This book, with its divergent collection of artists, vivid photographs of performances, and innovative organization of chats and texts, creates a not only a necessary archive of queer feminist performance but also, like play—“Play is fun,” King notes—a thoroughly fun experience.
2019 O’Neill Committee: Nikki Cesare-Schotzko (Co-Chair), Kim Solga (Co-Chair), Jen Harvie, Harvey Young