The first of our fall regionals is in the books, and Bill Kerwin and Natalie McCabe Tartiere of the University of Missouri are to be commended for organizing a wonderful Midwest regional meeting this year. Co-sponsored by the Consul General of Ireland and the English, theatre, history, and women’s and gender studies departments at the University of Missouri, the conference featured thirteen panels, two plenaries, readings in creative nonfiction organized by Jim Rogers, and a impactful performance of Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats directed by McCabe Tartiere and staged at MU’s Corner Playhouse.
Resistant Ireland! was the designated theme for the conference, a selection that prompted a range of papers on poetry, theatre, fiction and nonfiction prose, and history examining the meaning of resistance and examples of its manifestation in the Irishcontext. A Saturday session on theatre lead by Kay Martinovich, Dayna Killian, and McCabe Tartiere, for example, investigated the notion of resistance within both theatre production and playwriting, with a look at contemporary efforts to reorganize dramatic production space around the needs of Mothers Artists Makers (MAMs) and parent-theatre practitioners, and an examination of “women who resist” in plays by Carr, J.M. Synge, and Margaret O’Leary. A number of panelists investigating historical topics, including participants Tim O’Neill, Tim McMahon, Peter Strickland, and Timothy White in a Friday morning panel and Alex Mackintosh Carlson and Ian Burns in a Saturday session, surfaced what seemed to be an consistent theme within early twentieth century Irish politics in which claims to nationalist resistance sought to enact political goals but without assuming the mantle of “political party,” a label that brought with it associations with narrow sectional interests and the problematic prewar Home Rule movement.
Plenary lecturer Sean Farrell traced out the competing interpretations of a single event, the 1854 Trillick railway outrage in which a forced train derailment by unidentified perpetrators led to an attempted prosecution of railway laborers and a fierce press coverage with religious overtones — a microhistory that reveals the importance to midcentury contemporaries of shaping the reaction to an event as much as the event itself, and the ways in which resistance also prompts counter-resistance and conscious counter-narratives. Friday night’s performance of By the Bog of Cats, itself a play that features stark and startling acts of resistance by its main character, was also notable for its postperformance talkback session featuring the director, cast, and Martinovich, who staged its American premier in 2001. The conference concluded with a banquet on Saturday night and a performance by musicians Tim Langen and Julie Henigan.
The midwest ACIS contingent, now led by new ACIS Midwest Representative/President Molly Ferguson of Ball State University, will be moving on to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, for next year’s meeting. To browse this year’s program, click here.