A Report From The Field: Medieval Drama at The Kalamazoo Conference

I’ve recently returned from my annual pilgrimage to the international medieval conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan: four days of talking shop with medieval drama scholars from various countries and different specialities. Medieval drama tends to be a pretty small field, so there’s always a certain element of reunion with friends to the conference.

One of the themes which seemed to keep popping to the surface this year was that of performance. The central question was, why is medieval drama so overlooked? As someone said, the ancient Greek dramas often make it to the stage, not to mention the obvious revivals of Shakespeare that proliferate across Britain (and everywhere else). But medieval plays have remained the province of small church groups or within academic halls. Why… and how do we find a way to break this paradigm?

The issues discussed would sound like a depressingly challenging, almost insurmountable litany, but it was actually very positive. There seems to be a subtle groundswell in favour of more productions, especially those that aren’t tied to a university course or department. This is where companies like HIDden come in. It’s always exciting to find that we are, in fact, part of a bigger movement, and in a position to really work toward a larger goal. We’ve always believed that historic plays should be seen, and can be enjoyed by a much wider audience than might be supposed. It was very encouraging to be among others who are thinking along the same lines.

Of course this is all regarding medieval drama specifically, which is just one era of many. But if one rather small corner of the historic drama picture is potentially moving out of the shadows, it means there is scope for other neglected gems from the past to come into the limelight. In short, it means that, in a wider context, we’re on the right track.

We’re living in exciting times with historic drama, and I for one feel quite lucky to be part of it all.