Accepted Paper:

Staged history in local settings  


Anne Kathrine Larsen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

Paper short abstract:

A number of historical plays are staged annually on selected (outdoor) sites in Norway, much through the efforts of local amateurs. Although historical in content, their message is contemporary and modern. These plays both retrieve and create memories, and it will be discussed why such dramatizations are so omnipresent today.

Paper long abstract:

During the last few decades there has been an enormous increase in locally based historical plays in Norway. These are staged by amateurs, although professionals may hold important positions both on and behind the stage. The dramas have their origin in actual or invented historical events located to the area, and the stage is carefully selected to create an aura of authenticity to the performance. The environment creates dramatic scenery as they are mostly staged outdoor, and the audience frequently have to make an effort to travel to the site of the performance.

Although these dramas claim to represent actual or typical historical events, their underlying message is contemporary and modern. They may be marketed as timeless and/or of current interest. As they are staged annually or biannually, they constitute a regular ritual performance in the community. At the same time, minor changes are allowed for from year to year, which are widely discussed and appraised by the audience and others.

This presentation will deal not only with how the past is preserved and expressed through these plays, but how they also become mediums for creating memories for the future. They are often part of annual village festivals where local identity is in focus, and it will be of pertinence to consider the wider dramas surrounding the actual plays. In conclusion, it will be discussed why historical plays and related kinds of acting out, such as dramatisations at cultural museums and even in churches, are so popular and omnipresent today.

Panel W110
Enacting pasts and futures: memory, identity and imagination