Presented by Dr. Jenna Soleo-Shanks, theatre historian and director in the UMD Theatre Department.
Every summer for more than 800 years, the city of Siena has staged a celebration that combines civic pride with religious devotion, in an event that looks to outsiders like a horse race. Il Palio, however, is much more than that. In fact, Siena’s famous tradition is merely a shadow of a long history in which festive and ephemeral traditions functioned to help construct, articulate, and promote the city’s distinctive identity.
Dr. Soleo-Shanks’s research focuses on the ways in which medieval performance traditions shaped the Siena during its Republican era (12th-16th centuries). From the architecture of its central piazza to its relationship with holy patron, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Siena is indebted to the power of performance. In this presentation, Dr. Soleo-Shanks will discuss the ways Siena used theatrical spectacles throughout its history and the challenges of excavating evidence of such performance practices today.