When are Manassas 4 Cinemas closed?

Cultural education

Melanie Hinz

To person

Melanie Hinz, graduate cultural scientist, since 2006 research assistant and doctoral candidate at the University of Hildesheim with a focus on gender research. In 2010 she led the re-enactment project "Die Schlacht am Tegeler Weg" with Ulf Otto. Founding member of the performance collective "Fräulein Wunder AG", works as a performer, theater pedagogue and director.

Reenactments are a cultural and performative time machine: They repeat and reanimate a historical event in the present time and space. The participatory reconstruction of history enables the participants to have an aesthetic experience of the past on their own body and as a "live event" experienced together.

Link to the practical example of a re-enactment

The spirit of the 1968 comes alive again when students from Hildesheim re-enact a demonstration against the Springer publishing house. (& copy Andreas Hartmann)

REENACTMENT (Re-performance, re-enactment) refers to the meticulous reconstruction of a historical event or artefact that is brought to (re-) performance. Reenactments function as a cultural and performative time machine: They repeat and reanimate the past in the time and space of the present. They reactivate a cultural memory of historically distinctive events in national or cultural history by recreating them in a performance in the here and now. The participatory reconstruction of history enables the reenactors as well as their viewers to have an aesthetic experience of the past on their own body and as a jointly experienced live event.


Only since the turn of the millennium has reenactment found its way into the performative arts as an artistic strategy. [1] Theater studies are just discovering their interest in this form of performance, as evidenced by the conference "Not here, not now. The theater as a time machine and the gesture of re-enactment" [2], which took place in 2010 at the University of Hildesheim. As a specific form of theater in dealing with history, re-enactment thus represents an object that has yet to be researched and tested - for artists, scientists and theater educators.

Method characteristics

Brief descriptionReenactment (Re-performance, re-enactment) refers to the meticulous reconstruction of a historical event or artefact that is brought to (re-) performance. The participatory reconstruction of history enables the reenactors as well as their viewers to have an aesthetic experience of the past on their own body and as a shared event.
aimsDealing with, reconstructing and re-enacting a historical event
Number of participantsClass size
Age rangedepending on the selected event, from around 14 years of age
Time requirementin the proposed implementation: 4 sessions
room Classroom / theater room / outdoor area
Equipment / materials requireddepending on the event: historical documents such as photos or speeches, costumes, props, etc.
Division / area / fieldTheater / performing play

The history of re-enactment began not as an art form, but as a hobby. Its beginning can be dated to the centenary of the American Civil War, which took place in July 1961 in Manassas / Virginia. Under the leadership of a retired general, 2,500 actors played the civil war in front of 500,000 spectators for two days with the costumes and weapons of that time. "The Battle of Bull Run" is described as the "initial spark" of the Civil War reenactments. [3] This practice of repeating history, which mainly focuses on re-enacting battles, immediately aroused criticism: trivialization, trivialization, falsification, ideologization, illusion and eventization of history are the key words of the opponents.

It is justified to always check with which historical image is operated, with which objective, in which context and with which scenic means history is made in the form of a re-enactment. But it is also important not to let the term "reenactment" become an umbrella term. If in "Terra X" fictional scenes from Roman antiquity are re-enacted by actors who could have been something like this or something similar, these scenes should not be called re-enactment. And the documentary format "Bräute-Schule 1958", broadcast by ARD 2007-2009, in which young women of today live and are brought up according to the femininity and household rules of the 1950s, is at best "historiotainment". The vividly represented life of other centuries in open-air museums, in which costumes and rituals are presented, is part of a popular mediation of history, but better to be understood under the term "living history", ie the "costumed presentation of history" [4] .

All of these popular history communication formats mentioned do not have a concrete historical situation as their starting point, but instead invent scenes to make another century clear. Reenactment, on the other hand, is characterized by a scientific and detailed reconstruction of a historical event or a staging. "The prefix 'Re' makes it clear that something is being restored here that is not there, that is 'past'. The word component 'construction' indicates that the reality uncovered by research work is not something that can be found and, once explored, Is final. " [5]

The historical reconstruction through the re-enactment can take place in a participatory manner, in that all participants are informed about the historical processes and are equipped with appropriate costumes and props so that they can then perform them together. The re-enactment of a historical event in the form of a performance in front of an audience simulates the history and at the same time always makes clear its distance in terms of time, but also in political or aesthetic terms, and thus also that there can be no historiography of "this is how it was". The practice of re-enactment feeds on this paradox: Through meticulous research, she tries to construct the event from then as authentically as possible in the here and now and to make it tangible, while at the same time being aware of the existing difference between the not here and not now.

Paradigmatic for reenactment as an artistic strategy with a critical view of history at the same time is the art action by Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller "The Battle of Orgreave". As the title suggests, Deller re-enacted the Battle of Orgreave on June 16, 1984, based on eyewitness accounts (and not the mass media), in which the final clash between striking miners and mounted police, with 80 injured and two dead pickets. The battle symbolizes the historic defeat of workers and unions in the fight against the closure of 20 coal mines against the Thatcher government, which declared the strikers "the enemy of the country". On June 17, 2001, under the direction of a re-enactment agency commissioned by Deller, the battle of 800 actors, including mainly reenactment hobbyists, but also a third of contemporary witnesses, was retraced at the scene of the event. The film director Mike Figgis documented the preparation and implementation of the re-enactment and blended it with eyewitness reports from the miners. [6]