"The Pull of Horses" on Public Engagement
Center for Advanced Study
Levis Faculty Center, Room 210
919 W. Illinois, Urbana
This presentation offers an example of a recent digital humanities project that used performance studies approaches to bring scholarly research on human-equine interdependence in urban history to a general public audience. An original, full-length documentary film, The Pull of Horses in Urban American Performance, 1860-1920, played at life-sized scale at the center of a library gallery exhibit of archival documents and material artifacts, The Pull of Horses on National and Local Histories and Identities. Including film clips, exhibit photos, a model horse, and documentation of audience response, the presentation shows how performative multi-media public engagements with the archive can illuminate key dynamics of the high-density co-existence that shaped the bodies and identities of both species with enduring impact down to the present day.
Kim Marra, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Theatre Arts and American Studies at the University of Iowa where she was also a Collegiate Fellow and affiliate faculty in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies. She taught interdisciplinary courses in theatre and performance history for 31 years until her retirement in 2021. She holds degrees from Dartmouth College (B.A.), Brown University (M.A.), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (PhD). Her books include Strange Duets: Impresarios and Actresses in the American Theatre, 1865-1914 (University of Iowa Press, 2006, winner of NYU’s Joe A. Callaway Prize), three co-edited volumes on LGBTQ theatre practitioners in pre-Stonewall U.S. history from the University of Michigan Press, and the co-edited volume Showing Off, Showing Up: Studies of Hype, Heightened Performance, and Cultural Power (also from Michigan, 2017). A lifelong horseperson and former competitor (in the 1970s) in the cavalry-derived sport of three-day eventing, she has used her equestrian knowledge in pursuing historically oriented animal studies scholarship in multiple genres and formats, such as the solo autobiographical performance piece, Horseback Views, at Chicago’s Links Hall, and the prize-winning journal article about that experience, “Riding, Scarring, Knowing: A Queerly Embodied Performance Historiography” (Theatre Journal, 2012). Her ongoing research involves a multi-media arts and humanities project, The Pull of Horses in Urban American Performance, 1860-1920, featuring an original full-length documentary film that played at life-sized scale amid a related University of Iowa Library Gallery Exhibit in 2020. The exhibit shut down prematurely because of the pandemic but then gained a digital afterlife that continues to engage various publics online. For the last decade, she has served as associate editor of the Animal Lives Series of the University of Chicago Press.