Improvising Moll - staging dialogues between queer pasts and presents
University of Brighton
Supervisor: Dr Kate Aughterson
Institutional email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This research takes as a starting point the question posed in The Present Future of Lesbian Historiography: “How might we stage a dialogue between one queer past and another?” (Traub 2016) in juxtaposition with the improvised performance of cross-dressed Mary Frith at the Fortune Theatre in 1611, as prologue to The Roaring Girl , a play fictionalising her life. Frith’s performance, and the known, unknown and fictitious details of her life provide a unique fulcrum from which to launch an investigation into improvisatory performance practice as a tool for queer historiography. Queer lives, as discussed by Halberstam, are often lived marginally, outside of societal structures or factual certainty. To attempt to know a past queer life requires a radical approach. Halberstam, Pryor and Freccero acknowledge the need for queer methodologies to enable understanding of past queer lives that have not left trails of facts or historical knowings behind. This study explores potential for improvisation to open up conversations between the queer Early Modern and now. Improvisation performance practices have “capacity to trouble the assumptions (and the expectations of fixity) fostered by the dominant systems of knowledge production” but “there are few sustained interdisciplinary resources” in this emerging field of research (Caines & Hebel, 2015). This study responds to that knowledge gap through investigation of improvisatory performance practices as queer methodology.Research outputs include improvisatory performance(s) and workshops, and critical commentary of these in the form of written thesis, presentation of papers/creative processes, and facilitation of knowledge exchanges for academics and performance practitioners. Combining queer historiography with improvisation as queer performance practice, this study forms a continuum of knowledge production and exchange challenging traditional teleological methodologies, bridges gaps in both impro practice and queer theory and places interdisciplinarity at the research’s heart.