In two weeks of covering the Fringe, I created about 200 files that will land in the archive. These include photos and video recordings of performances at Venue 13 as well as a few audio recordings of interviews with cast and crew members. Then there are all the dozens of fliers and ticket stubs that I collected from other shows, as well as another hundred photos from other parts of the Fringe. Add these to the hundreds of files that my classmates have created or collected, and we’ll have a fairly sizable archive for this year’s Fringe. It’s interesting to think about how much ephemeral information we captured that would ordinarily have persisted only in the memories of the people who took part in these events.
But what or who is the archive for? On several occasions over the past few weeks I’ve been asked about who might use all of these files. The theatre people from CalArts and York University seemed happy to be recorded and delighted at the thought of having representations of their work preserved in a library, but many of them wondered about who might use this archive one day.
I’ve asked myself this question, too, and found myself imagining several possible users, including scholars and practitioners. Maybe some historian one day will want to study the evolution of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival or of CalArts productions at the Fringe. Maybe in 50 years a scholar will want to explore what sort of social, political, economic, or gender issues were involved in American college theatre of the early twenty-first century. Maybe a biographer will want to examine the early work of an actor or dramaturge who went on to become very successful. Maybe a producer will want to consult the video recording of a particular drama because they are thinking of restaging it. Or maybe one of the actors we filmed will want to show their grandchildren something from their days in drama school.
Because of my experience studying musicology, it’s a little easier for me to picture the possible scholarly applications of archives in the performing arts. When I was researching a particular piece of music from the 1930s written for a play, I would have loved to have access to any documentation from the original production, let alone oral histories of those involved, yet there seemed to be little available because the show was not very successful. At the time, who would have thought to invite a team of archivists to capture and preserve information about the production?
I hope that future scholars and theatre companies will discover and use the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe archive that my colleagues and I worked so hard to put together. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll want to explore it myself for research or just to be reminded of a very rewarding experience.by