Visualizing Historical Performances with Anita Gonzalez: Academic Innovators Series

Onawa Gardiner, Marketing Specialist

How do you capture a moment?  How about an entire performance piece?

19th Century Acts aims to recreate historical performances in order to capture these ephemeral acts and include them in an online space. Developed by Academic Innovator Anita Gonzalez, Professor of Theatre and Drama within the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, this tool collects a diverse scope of information on historical performances.

“Theatre is an ephemeral art form and we never really know exactly what the performance act was so we try to assemble visuals, audio and mapping to be able to imagine what a performance event might have been like.” – Professor Gonzalez

Anita Gonzalez lecturing to students

19th Century Acts serves as an interactive tool for students to learn about performances in a nonlinear path. It enables a personalized exploration of historical ephemeral acts through people, mapping and video sections that can be explored individually or in tandem. The people section focuses on images of the performers and the parts they played, highlighting the types of characters as well as the dress and style of performance during this time period. The geographical mapping section showcases the lengths traveled by 19th century performers Ira Aldridge, Jacob Adler, Jenny Lind and Edwin Booth during their careers. The video section breaks down the audience, staging, theaters, music and gestures used in this time period in order to illuminate performance culture. Cumulatively, these sections are designed to promote personalized learning paths that engage learners in associative and analytical thinking in regards to historical performances of the 19th century.

“The photos and images are what we need to imagine what it [19th performance pieces] looked like”  – Professor Gonzalez

Anita Gonzalez presenting to co-workers

In addition to visualizing historical ephemeral acts, the 19th Century Acts tool leverages its nonlinear and interactive platform design to encourage the formation of a multilayered reconstruction of historical performances. In doing so, the tool brings to light a descriptive and broad understanding of both 19th century performance acts and the realities of life in this time period.  

To learn more about Professor Gonzalez’s work as an Academic Innovator with 19th Century Acts, watch the Academic Innovators video:


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