Speak for Yourself: Considerations of Ethics and Aesthetics in the Performance of a Community Oral History Project


community, home, identity, performance, memory, ethics, aesthetics


This article outlines the creative and ethical process of staging a site-specific oral history community theatre project in the housing estate where I grew up in Omagh, Northern Ireland. Shandon Park -the name of the place and the performance- comprised of residents telling their own life stories in their homes in an investigation of memory, identity and place. The performance of memory articulated by people who were active agents in how they were presented investigated how the ownership of lived experience could exist within an effective dramatic structure. This article describes how the aesthetic qualities of performance within the reality of place were affected throughout the work by participants who continued to make changes to the piece. I describe how my dual role as past resident and present artist placed me at the intersection between ethics and aesthetics in the work and how my duty to members of my own community and my responsibility as an artist/researcher was in constant negotiation. In a consideration of Michael Frisch’s concept of ‘shared authority’ (1990), I will discuss how my own remembrance of Shandon Park was balanced with the needs of the participants and the requirements of the project to ensure that the work was both meaningful to an audience and indeed to my own theoretical enquiry.

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