Take a step back in time at ‘Moving Photographs: A Vanishing Georgia’ theater production

Theatre AUG’s production of Moving Photographs: A Vanishing Georgia will be running at Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre from Thursday, March 21, through Saturday, March 23, at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, March 24,  at 3 p.m.

The show is a result of a research and creative scholarship project Assistant Professor of Communication Dr. Melanie Kitchens O’Meara has been working on since the summer. She was awarded a Research Scholarship and Creative Activity grant from the Katherine Reese Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences to conduct research and generate the script.

Over the last 15 years, O’Meara has been studying the performance of photographs. While teaching at the University of Georgia, she taught a special topics class that focused on the Vanishing Georgia Collection (VGC), an archive of over 18,000 photos housed in the Georgia Archives.

“I have always wanted to write a full-length show about the archive and bring select photographs from the archive to life,” O’Meara said.  “The timing was right, and I knew I had a good group of students to work with on this particular show.”

The script, which was written in collaboration with a group of students, draws on histories and memories represented in a select number of Augusta photographs in the “Vanishing Georgia Collection.”

“The process has been a little different for me,” O’Meara said. “I generally go into rehearsal with a finalized script that I have adapted from a text, but with this show, I left room for the students to do some generating of the material for the show as well.  When we first began to meet, I gave them writing prompts, and we had writing circles.”

The VGC is an archive of about 18,000 private photographs collected from 1977 to 1996 by archivists and historians who traveled around Georgia in a repurposed school bus transformed into a mobile photograph lab. “Moving Photographs: A Vanishing Georgia” uses visual, communication, theater and performance studies theories and methodologies to critically analyze, represent and recreate the VGC, focusing specifically on a selection of photographs collected from the Augusta area.

“I had selected about fifty photographs that I brought with me to these meetings, and the students wrote haiku’s, smoke poems and short stories based on the photographs,” O’Meara said. “I then took these writings and combined them with my own as well as some of the histories I could dig up from the photographs and other texts.”

O’Meara just returned from traveling with students to New Orleans to the Patti Pace Performance Festival and Conference. They premiered excerpts of the show at the Contemporary Arts Center and got excellent feedback.

“We have created something that we are really proud to share with the community, and we hope that folks will connect with the histories and stories that we have to tell,” O’Meara said.

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Written by
Kashalah Robinson
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