Sondheim’s Memory of Water: collaborating with the past

Symonds, Dominic (2012) Sondheim’s Memory of Water: collaborating with the past. In: Music Theatre working group, International Federation for Theatre Research Conference 2012, 22-28 July 2012, Santiago, Chile.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


Stephen Sondheim's Follies is a musical that is redolent with ghostly images, and conscious of past lives: the plot stages a nostalgic reunion of the famous Weismann Follies of yesteryear; the characters live with memories of their past and younger selves; ghostly chorus girls parade memories through the theatre; and the theatre itself has crumbled with the weight of long neglect. Even the identity of the show oscillates uneasily between the different rewrites and previous incarnations that have been staged on both sides of the Atlantic over a period of forty years. Such layerings of past and present, made very visible through this musical, are inherent features of theatre in many respects. Every performance is layered like a palimpsest over what has gone before, whether that ghost is last night's success, a previous production's legacy, the iconicity of a particular star's performance, or the self-consciousness of a new interpretation. Indeed, regardless of material or text, the very act of performing is itself a dialogue with other acts (my acts; acts you've seen; acts of this character; this venue; this director's work; dynamics of tradition, style, culture and memory). In this sense, performance's very liveness is challenged by a presence of what has gone before. But should we see this as a hangover, as a kind of pollution, or instead as something that supports the immediacy of performance ? a kind of collaboration? What does it mean for performance when it can never quite be in the Now/Here?

Keywords:Stephen Sondheim, Follies, Collaboration, Palimpsest, Ghosting, Marvin Carlson
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W310 Musicianship/Performance studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
ID Code:22450
Deposited On:09 Mar 2016 14:26

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