Alexandra Johnston Award
Winner: Gittleman, Elena. “‘All heaven is his stage’: Theater, Performance, and Architecture in Hagios Georgios, Thessaloniki.” MRDS: Performance in the Global Middle Ages at ICMS, Kalamazoo in May 2022.
The committee found this to be a fascinating paper that not only offers a strong, well-supported argument about performance culture in Byzantium, but also opens the door on connections between scholars of early Latin drama and the Greek world to the East. Gittleman makes the compelling point that the scholarly assumption of the Byzantine rejection of theater has thus far led the field to underplay or overlook evidence of performance cultures. However, Gittleman's use of architecture and urban planning as evidentiary source materials teaches us that the traces of performance can survive in unexpected places. We were thoroughly convinced by her central provocation that those who sponsored, built, decorated, and worshipped in religious buildings such as the Hagios Georgios might have had different attitudes towards theater from those who preached in them, and we appreciated the paper's lively review of the history of performance in Thessaloniki, as well as the deftness with which it navigates the complex levels of role-playing and artifice in Philemon's vita. We enjoyed Gittleman's work very much and are thrilled to be able to present her with the Johnston Award.
Committee: Daisy Black, Kyle A. Thomas, and Mariah Junglan Min (chair). Awards announcement and presentation took place during the annual MRDS business meeting in May 2023, at the 58th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan.