Dr Susan Valladares, lecturer at St Hugh’s, is one of three academics to have curated a new exhibition at the Weston Library entitled Staging History, open until the 8th January 2017. The exhibition examines the influence of history and historical events in the writing and staging of theatre, opera and drama from 1780-1840, for while the historical play was not a new genre, this period of theatre saw a fresh drive for historical accuracy, with authors and playwrights advertising their plays as founded upon real facts.
The exhibition also examines how pioneering set design, and historically appropriate costumes and props, brought history to life on the stage. The quest for accurate re-enactment of real-life events pushed the bounds of theatrical spectacle: a water tank with model floating ships was deployed at Sadler’s Wells for the staging of the Siege of Gibraltar, and another production on the same theme used live cannons which set fire to the vessels in each performance.
Staging History is curated by Michael Burden, Fellow in Music at New College, Oxford and Professor in Opera Studies at the University of Oxford, Jonathan Hicks, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Music Department at Kings College London and Susan Valladares, College Lecturer at St Hugh’s College, Oxford and Departmental Lecturer in English at the University of Oxford. The exhibition is based on research into the history of theatre, in particular on the long running project The London Stage 1800-1900, headed by Professor Burden, which will provide an online calendar of stage performances in London theatres during the nineteenth century. A catalogue to accompany the exhibition, Staging History: 1780-1840, will be released in October 2016.
Dr Valladares’s research interests span the long eighteenth century, with a special focus on theatre and performance, political history, gender, autobiographies and print culture. Her first book, Staging the Peninsular War: English Theatres 1807-1815 (2015) explores the role of spectacle in the mediation of war, and the links between theatrical productions and print culture.