York postdoctoral researcher named Banting Fellow

Heather Fitzsimmons Frey
Heather Fitzsimmons Frey

York University Postdoctoral Fellow Heather Fitzsimmons Frey has been awarded the prestigious Banting Fellowship for her upcoming research project with York’s Department of Theatre in the School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design.

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 the country’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 Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. Her 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.

“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. “We will look at diaries, letters, and scripts together, and work through some scenes, discuss some images, and I will use youth insights to get 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 the understanding of twice-silenced Victorian girls, while increasing young people’s understanding of girls in history, and 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, girls’ involvement on record helps scholars recognize their experiences and influence on historical events.

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

Fitzsimmons Frey will begin at York University this month under the supervision of Marlis Schweitzer, associate professor in the Department of Theatre Studies, AMPD.

A full listing of this year’s Banting Fellows is available at banting.fellowships-bourses.gc.ca/en/2016-2017-eng.html.