Identity and Collective Memory: Theatre’s Role in Memorializing the War

By Alison Jane Bowie.

Published by The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Throughout history, the arts have helped shape society’s understanding of self. The end of each of the World Wars created a cauldron for changing—or shaping—identities. As we are on the brink of losing the last of the World War I generation, we are faced again with a period of changing identities. We are moving from a period of living to archival history. How will we remember the past? Although Canada continues to be part of the Dominion and fought alongside England during both World Wars, these two countries experienced war very differently. For Canada, World War I was about proving itself as a new country and shaping national identity. For England, it was about demonstrating its power and performing its imperialist identity. These different voices—the colonial voice of Canada and the Imperialist voice of England—are clearly evident in the theatre written about how these two countries experienced World War I. This paper focuses on one play from Canada—Vern Thiessen's "Vimy"—in order to demonstrate how theatre can illustrate national identity and can serve as a collective memory for World War I.

Keywords: World War, Collective Memory, Conscience, Theatre, Memorializing

The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.31-37. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 321.527KB).

Alison Jane Bowie

Graduate MFA Student, Department of Theater, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA

Alison Bowie achieved her undergraduate degree in History from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 2006. Following that she began working at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, Ontario as the Bilingual Program Coordinator. She developed the French Educational Arts Program at the Centre through a Trillium Foundation of Ontario grant and the program is now fully self-sustaining. After two years in that position she transferred into the Performing Arts Department where she remained for another two years as Coordinator of Performing Arts. She is currently in her final year of the MFA program in Dramaturgy at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA, USA.