Spotlight on Faculty: Marlis Schweitzer
1. Who are you?
I’m Marlis Schweitzer, and I’m a theatre and performance historian and love spending time in archives looking at scrapbooks, photographs, letters, and other documents from the nineteenth and early-twentieth century. The weirdest “object” I’ve encountered during my time researching at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC was a well-preserved piece of wedding cake from Charles Stratton’s 1863 marriage to Lavinia Warren. Stratton, better known as General Tom Thumb, was a hugely popular international celebrity for much of the century and his wedding to Warren (carefully planned by his manager P.T. Barnum) was comparable to a royal wedding in terms of scale and spectacle. In addition to looking at weird and cool objects, I like working as an editor. I’m currently working on a special issue on “Performing Girlhood” for the academic journal Theatre Survey.
2. Tell us about a creative or research project that you have been immersed in recently.
I recently launched a podcast called Scene Change, which features interviews with scholars on key turning points in Canadian theatre and performance history. In developing this project, I’ve worked closely with York Theatre student Adam Corrigan Holowitz who not only edits each episode but also designed the podcast logo.
3. What production or artist or scholar has had the most impact on you over the course of your career?
This is tricky… I seem to fixate on different artists or individuals with each project. My first book, When Broadway Was the Runway, was inspired by research I did on the early-twentieth century couturier Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon, the self-proclaimed inventor of the modern fashion show. For my current research on early-nineteenth century child actresses, I’ve been tracking the career of a girl named Clara Fisher, who performed Richard III over 200 times before the age of twelve!
4. Is there an image or a quotation that inspires you?
“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” — L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables