In this thesis history performs that which Della Pollock terms “historicity” in her “Introduction” to Exceptional Spaces: Essays in Performance and History. History as historicity is no longer an evolutionary master narrative that dictates essential Truths. Rather, it is a site for performance where unfinalized and partial fragments of the past cluster into stories that mingle fact and fiction. Historicity defines a space or an event where history is a doing. The performer of this history embraces agency, which she uses to place herself within history rather than dominate or be dominated by it. Observing history as historicity, Joseph Roaches “genealogies of performance” provide a method for my analysis of the performances of debutante culture as I represented them in Etchings of Debutantes, a script I compiled, and the performance of that script.
This thesis traces the historical performance of southern debutante culture by comparing and contrasting various texts and materials, included in my script, Etchings of Debutantes, as equal co-texts. The script is a belated response to my skeptical performance of a debutante at the Augusta Symphony Debutante Cotillion in Augusta, Georgia on November 26, 1999. At that time, I was assured by my mentor to one day be able to creatively engage dialogue with my performance of the debutante ritual. In 2001 I began the dialogue by collaging a script of icons, photographs, invitations, magazines, fairytales, personal narratives, music, dance, film, and literature. The following year, I staged the script in the Hopkins Black Box theatre at Louisiana State University. Learning about Joseph Roach’s genealogies of performance shortly after, I found genes or themes in the script and performance to insight new ways of exploring and interrogating my history performing debutante culture.
My thesis engages scholarly and performative discourse with the cultural performance of debutantes by observing various representations of debutante culture in the script and performance of Etchings of Debutantes. Etchings of Debutantes, followed by its staging and the writing of this thesis, are all part of my continuous dialogue with southern debutante culture.