Volume 68, Number 4, December 2016

Aldridge in Action: Building a Visual Digital Interface

By Anita Gonzalez

Several key volumes locate the digital humanities as a developing discipline, struggling to define itself as both a methodology for research and as an engagement with technology in the service of the humanities. Patrik Svensson, in particular, positions digital humanities as occupying an in-between position that enables dynamism within the humanities so that “it can accommodate many interests and perspectives.” This essay discusses how the development of a digital theatre-history tool became a process for animating multiple sectors of the university, and stimulating their interest in theatre history research. The project of visualizing the careers of underrepresented performers dynamically activated an interdisciplinary team of students, staff, and faculty members around construction of the digital tool.


Supplementary matter to the December issue:

We invite authors of the print issue to provide additional images to support their essays, color versions of the images that appear in print in black and white, or other resources that help enhance their essay and/or extend debate. We include these resources to supplement the December issue:

Digital Historiography and Performance

By Sarah Bay-Cheng

In the wake of the so-called "digital revolution," media and technology affect not only performance practices, but also how the history of those practices can be documented, analyzed, and shared. The last several years have seen significant increases in digital research and scholarship projects as well as more official recognition throughout the field, including special issues and edited collections dedicated to the digital humanities in theatre and performance studies research. At the same time, digital technologies offer new approaches to history that may themselves resemble performance. These histories need not be only linear, narrative historiography, but can enable a conception of historiography that exists in multiple places at once, incorporates many voices (some contradictory), and is distributed, sometimes ...


Reassessing Obscurity: The Case for Big Data in Theatre History

By Debra Caplan

This essay considers what big data has to offer the field of theatre history. In particular, I apply data visualization to the study of Yiddish theatre between the two world wars. I argue that data visualization offers an important corrective to how Yiddish theatre has traditionally been regarded by theatre historians. Visualizing the data from Yiddish theatre programs and ephemera reveals how hundreds of individuals who scarcely appear in twentieth-century theatre history were in fact influential figures. Furthermore, I argue that that sources like theatre programs, cast lists, and correspondence are valuable repositories of historical data and ought to be evaluated as such. I demonstrate how compiling, aggregating, analyzing, and visualizing the data contained in these sources can offer new perspectives on the conventional ...


Archives, Numbers, Meaning: The Eighteenth-Century Playbill at Scale

By Mark Vareschi and Mattie Burkert

As a necessary precondition of large-scale digital humanities projects, texts, archival materials, and historical individuals must become data, a process that involves choices about collection, curation, and preparation. While scholars of media and digital culture make clear the mediated and constructed nature of data, practitioners of “distant reading” and related methods have been less inclined to offer a transparent account of their materials. In this essay, we model a theoretically rigorous approach to a new dataset of our own creation: a set of 1,421 playbills from eighteenth-century London. Tracing how categories operate over time on playbills, we find that the inclusion of genre is a more powerful mode of categorization for eighteenth-century theatrical publics than the inclusion of a named author. The case study of the ...


Mapping Movement on the Move: Dance Touring and Digital Methods

By Harmony Bench and Kate Elswit

A better understanding of the transnational networks of dance touring is critical to placing dance within larger theatrical and cultural systems. This essay demonstrates how digital research methods can work in tandem with more traditional scholarly methods to manage the scale and complexity of data truly necessary to account for what we call “movement on the move.” Drawing on the authors’ research on dance touring, namely South American tours by Anna Pavlova’s company during World War One and American Ballet Caravan during World War Two, it focuses on the database and the map as tools that expand our capacity to trace “dynamic spatial histories of movement.” The essay argues that larger questions of mobility, transportation, infrastructure, and cultural transmission are central to studying dance touring, and ...


Data Models for Theatre Research—People, Places and Performance

By Jonathan Bollen

How are theatre scholars sharing information about people, places and performance? This essay considers the current prospects for collaborative research on theatre production in the context of recent developments in the digital humanities. It identifies convergence in the way twelve projects around the world are collecting and organizing information about performance: Abbey Theatre Archives Performance Database (Ireland), AusStage (Australia), Hamm Archives, Brooklyn Academy of Music (USA), Global Performing Arts Database (USA, Singapore, Japan, Russia, China), IbsenStage (Norway), Internet Broadway Database (USA), Staging Beckett (England), Scottish Theatre Archive (Scotland), TheaterEncyclopedie (Netherlands), Theatre Aotearoa (New Zealand), Theatrescapes (Germany), and Toronto ...