Evidence of things not seen

This post was originally posted on History@Work.

Where I am at home, only the sparsest stars
Arrive at twilight, and then after some effort.
And they are wan, dulled by much travelling.
The smaller and more timid never arrive at all
But stay, sitting far out, in their own dust.
They are orphans. I cannot see them. They are lost.
But tonight they have discovered this river with no trouble,
They are scrubbed and self-assured as the great planets.

Sylvia Plath, “Stars Over the Dordogne”

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Montana sky (The haziness is due to a series of western forest fires in the summer of 2018.) Photo credit: Priya Chhaya

There was a fire. The warmth a contrast with the cool Montana air. As the sun dipped beyond the mountains and dusk passed its way into the deep inky blackness of night, we glanced up to see a sight not often visible from my home in the suburbs of Washington, DC. From my perch on my balcony, I can often only spot one or two sparks of starlight; whereas, on this night, a vast dream of glitter, obscured a little by forest fire smoke from the west, lay above us.

Continue reading “Evidence of things not seen”

Kate Hamill: Vanity Fair and Adapting the Classics from the Female Gaze

This post originally appeared on FANgirl blog

Published in 1848, Vanity Fair falls within a broad category of novels often referred to as “classic.” Some may have read the novel as students, while others stumbled upon William Makepeace Thackeray’s serialized story through the Mira Nair film (starring Reese Witherspoon) or the recent mini-series on Amazon. Whatever the medium, the story of Vanity Fair details the life of Rebecca (Becky) Sharp and her friend Amelia Sedley, two women who come from vastly different circumstances and are thrust into — or take on, depending on your interpretation — a society that isn’t very kind to either of them.

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Thackeray’s intent was to be satirical and to be a mirror on society. However, like many classic novels it is often dismissed as lacking relevance in the here and now.

That expectation is what led to a challenge: How do you take a book like Vanity Fair and translate it to the stage, creating a more realistic and identifiable Becky and Amelia that serve, also, as a reflection of our times? Continue reading “Kate Hamill: Vanity Fair and Adapting the Classics from the Female Gaze”

Narrative, Empathy, Trust, and #NCPH2019

Circles are interesting things. Providing an illusion of comfort, they are made up of a series of dots meant to be equidistant from its central point. If you are standing in one, the shape provides a sense of belonging. That we are all in this, whatever this is, together.

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A give away from one of our exhibitors at NCPH 2019, I brought a stack of these postcards back to my office for my colleagues to fill out.

However, in a circle there is nowhere to hide. While they imply equal footing, equal power, they also represent transparency, or the hope for clarity.

With that in mind, I spent the 2019 National Council on Public History Annual meeting in circles. These circles were tangible, physical, and metaphorical — but they all connected to a central conversation about the ethics of being a historian. About our truths as professionals where neutrality is no longer an option.

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Podcasting, Podracing, and Celebrating Star Wars

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L-R Fangirls Going Rogue hosts Sarah Woloski, Teresa Delgado,  and Tricia Barr,  and myself at the Podcast Stage for Star Wars Celebration. | Credit: Brian Sims

I am not at all impulsive, but one day last year I gave in and purchased, without really thinking, tickets to Star Wars Celebration 2019. The event, which took place last month was what I had always expected it to be — a party with 65,000 of my fellow fans. Before attending I had been apprehensive about my diminishing levels of fandom for the GFFA, and this convention was the moment to see how I really felt.  As I wandered amidst the crowds I realized that:  Continue reading “Podcasting, Podracing, and Celebrating Star Wars”

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow: A Farewell to Michael Kahn

This is an extension of a hand written letter I sent Michael Kahn on the eve of his final production as artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. You might call this an ode to my love of storytelling on the stage, or more specifically a personal reflection on the importance of having access to theatre as a young adult.

Dear Michael Kahn,

I would like to start this message simply by saying thank you. For over a decade my experience with the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) included joy, wonder, terror, and awe — mostly in part due to your deft handling of the company’s artistic vision.

I don’t know when I began to truly love Shakespeare. It might have been when I was in middle school watching Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet or even later when I joined a college troupe of players known as Shakespeare in the Dark and ran props. But for a few years after that, subsumed beneath the weight of graduate work, I stepped away. Continue reading “Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow: A Farewell to Michael Kahn”

What Would You Save? Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity

From the playbill…

Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity is set during a war that has lasted one hundred years and devastated the entire world. Yet, three women from opposite ends of the conflict still manage to find common threads of humanity through the majesty of a painting. The idea that a beautiful work of art could transcend what seem to be insurmountable boundaries seems like it could have been ripped from today’s headlines and leaves the mind swirling long after the show has ended.

Despite its long title, this play was meant for me.

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In nine words, the title captures not only the imperatives of oral and intangible history of telling untold stories, but also with the final word — humanity— a dose of reality about what is at stake. I’ve written about my feelings about dystopian narratives, especially as they force us to take stock of the world while acknowledging its fragility.

Continue reading “What Would You Save? Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”

MuseumNext: Ten Things I Learned About Storytelling and Collaborative Projects

Last November I received a grant to attend a conference I’d had my eye on for a while. A two-day speaker driven event, MuseumNext  is a space where individuals from across the museum world (and I do mean world) gather to share the best examples in museum production and practice. For this particular Museum Next, the focus was “designing the future of museums,” and the talks presented dealt with topics ranging from using augmented and virtual reality, to creating unique experiences for visitor engagement.

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While not all of the talks were useful to me, I did end up with some key takeaways. These lessons ranged from the philosophical or motivational to practical tips for planning big (and small) innovative projects. Continue reading “MuseumNext: Ten Things I Learned About Storytelling and Collaborative Projects”

2019. Begin As You Mean to Go On

This was a year where I saw the endless sky above Montana, smelled the ravages of fire in California, and stood at the edge of the fantastic, sensing and savoring the sublime magnificence of edges along the Grand Canyon.

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At the Grand Canyon. April 2018. | Credit: Priya Chhaya

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Art Meets Art: Marking the Infinite

Marking the Infinite
June 7, 2018
The Phillips Collection

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Zoomed in image of Regina Pilawuk Wilson’s Sun Mat (2015). Taken June 2018 by Priya Chhaya

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Art Meets Art: No Spectators

No Spectators
August 8, 2018
Renwick Gallery

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View of one of the installations at No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man at the Renwick Gallery.

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