June 8, 2017

Postdoctoral Fellow Heather Fitzsimmons Frey has been awarded the prestigious Banting Fellowship for her upcoming research project with the Graduate Program in Theatre and Performance Studies at York University.

Heather Fitzsimmons Frey

The Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships program provides funding to the very best postdoctoral applicants, both nationally and internationally, who will positively contribute to Canada’s economic, social and research-based growth. The award is valued at $70,000 per year for two years.

Fitzsimmons Frey earned her PhD at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. Her doctoral thesis, titled “Victorian Girls and At-Home Theatricals: Performing and Playing with Possible Futures”, explored the significance, for girl participants, of 19th-century amateur theatre by young people. She will advance this research as a Banting Fellow at York.

“I will be studying 19th-century amateur theatre for children, and working with young people and children to get their insights into the productions,” she said. “Together, we will look at diaries, letters and scripts, work through some scenes, discuss some images. From their insights, I hope to gain a better understanding of what performing at-home theatricals might have meant in the lives of 19th-century girls.”

Fitzsimmons Frey notes that practice-based research is simultaneously knowledge creation and knowledge mobilization, and working with young people will enhance our understanding of twice-silenced Victorian girls, while increasing contemporary youth’s understanding of girls in history, and of historical research as a process.

“In practical terms, this means young people will participate in theatrical activities, comment on girls’ writing from the 19th century, and also make creative outputs of their own.”

The hope is to increase advocacy for girls in a number of areas. Foremost, putting girls’ involvement on record helps scholars recognize their experiences and influence on historical events.

“Involving girls today offers them opportunities to see the significance of girls’ lives in the 19th century, and to demonstrate that their own voices and ability to theorize girls’ lives are relevant in our time,” said Fitzsimmons Frey. “This research reveals and even creates moments of proto-feminist advocacy in hitherto unexplored spaces.”

Fitzsimmons Frey will take up her research at York this month under the supervision of Theatre Professor Marlis Schweitzer.