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History Of Theatre

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"History exists only when it is "made" by the historian." (Vince, 65). According to R.W. Vince, it is very easy for researchers to get lost between "fact" and "interpretation" when documenting theatre history. Even when scholars uncover identical pieces of information, they may each have their own personal explanations as to why these facts exist. In turn, readers must exercise critical analysis when studying scholar's research and not fall into the trap of viewing history from the author's perspective. Personally, I believe Leslie Read's chapter on the "Beginnings of Theatre in Africa and the Americas" is both fact-oriented and assumption-oriented, and must be scrutinized from many angles.

In the first part of the chapter, Read describes Egyptian theatre "festivals" dating from 2600BC onward. The documented festivals were found on "papyrus excavated... in 1896. Each scene in this "production notebook" consists of an account of an action, a mythological explanation, a short dialogue involving two or more characters, together with directions concerning subsidiary roles, the inclusion of song or dance..." (Read, 94) This ancient document is an actual record of the Egyptians performances and helps to explain their festivals. From these papyrus designs, Read concludes, "Every symbol, gesture, sound and embodiment seems shaped to trigger a chain of significations in the onlooker, so that each episode compacts and resonates with shared assumptions... continuity and coherence depend on the network of social, religious and political relations which are articulated and sustained, even taught, by these festival enactments." (95) After studying the Egyptian theatrical texts, Read draws conclusions about the messages and meanings the performers were trying to convey. In accordance with Vince's perspective, I believe that another historian could have studied the papyrus scenes and drawn a different conclusion as to the purpose of the Egyptian festivals. Perhaps by examining the documents, conclusions could have been made about the role of children or the importance of a strong work ethic. The point is that the document consisted solely of drawings and short dialogues between performers. There are limited facts available, and speculation is needed to complete the picture. The facts are but dots on the page, and Read connected those dots by providing possible explanations as to why these events occurred. Although these may be the correct inferences, after reading Vince's article, I realize that this is not the only explanation.

After I re-read Read, I noticed that



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