Prologue: Setting the Stage

This article remembers and also theoretically situates a staged reading of In Memoriam: A Performance Piece on Haunted Pasts, in Four Acts an occasional play written for presentation and performed by its authors at the 2009 Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in San Francisco. Included here are the script of that performance at CCCC, audio and video records of a performance by the Acadiana Repertory Theatre (ART), a critical essay that interrogates text and performance as rhetorical acts, an essay about the development of the script and original performance, and performance programs for both the CCCC and ART performances. A haunting moment10

In Memoriam is an interwoven performance piece that looks at the ways in which we both inhabit and are inhabited by the memories of those who have come before and after us. The play enacts and reflects on pedagogical and rhetorical experience in the classroom and in the community beyond the classroom walls. It is haunted by the ghosts whom we (intentionally and unintentionally) bring with us into our classrooms. These ghosts dramatize how memory -- often called the “lost canon” of rhetoric -- intersects with pedagogy, teaching, writing, activism, and performance. In Memoriam performs our memories of our classrooms, our teachers, and our dead, but with the “concern for future generations of others” (17) that Benjamin D. Powell and Tracy Stephenson Shaffer identify as an ethically essential dimension of performance. While all teachers live and teach in a sea of memories of their own, In Memoriam recognizes that they also become the source for the memories of their students, colleagues, and community members, thereby creating a powerful pedagogy of memory.

How do we inhabit memory? How do we learn to live with our own ghosts? In its narratives and reflections and in its performativity, In Memoriam suggests that we do so by writing, by reinscribing those memories and ghosts in texts. And yet, the polyvocality of this performance piece resists being a mere inscription; the original performance also invited its audience (at CCCC an audience of other teachers and scholars of writing and rhetoric) to voice their memories, to invoke their ghosts -- to become a part of the performance.