You are now in the main content area

Media Representation and Archives Lab

Students in line serving themselves food

WHO WE ARE

The Media Representation and Archives Lab (MRAL) aims to unpack, examine, and critique media representation (in film, television, photography, social media, and ephemera) and widen the scope of archival research in the performing arts in Canada.

GOALS

To engage with dancers, actors, musicians, visual artists, critical thinkers, creative practitioners, filmmakers, and playwrights on topics related to the archive. MRAL facilitates intersectional, cross-disciplinary ideation and research-creation. 

Student taking a picture of an event

HISTORY

MRAL is an outgrowth of research director Cheryl Thompson’s Early Researcher Award (2021-2026) which is mapping, cataloging, and reimagining the boundaries of Ontario’s Black archival collections. We aim to facilitate discussions, symposiums, and collaborations across the university, nationally, internationally, and with community partners on questions of media, archives, performance and promotion, power and politics.

A photo of Dr. Cheryl Thompson
Dr. Cheryl Thompson

In 2022, Dr. Cheryl Thompson joined Performance at The Creative School at the rank of Assistant Professor. She was previously faculty in Creative Industries (2018-2021). Dr. Thompson is the author of Uncle: Race, Nostalgia, and the Politics of Loyalty (2021) and Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada’s Black Beauty Culture (2019). Dr. Thompson is currently writing her third book, Blackface Up North: Minstrel Shows, Variety Acts, and the Boundaries of Community Stages (anticipated 2024; Wilfrid Laurier Press). Her first edited collection, Creative Industries in Canada (Canadian Scholars Press), co-edited with Dr. Miranda Campbell, will be published in Summer, 2022.

Dr. Thompson is the recipient of multiple Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grants. The first, funded through an Insight Development Grant (2019-22), has produced an open-source resource website, external link that will launch in 2022, and a YouTube Channel , external linkcomprised of educational videos that help to explain the complex history of blackface, the emergence of the North American theatre, and the sociocultural politics of race, mimicry and mass entertainment from the 19th century through today. The second, funded through a Connection Grant (2020-22), is in collaboration with Toronto-based film company Pink Moon Studio. Together, we are co-producing a feature documentary film on Canadian blackface.

In 2021, Dr. Thompson was a recipient of an Ontario Early Researcher Award (2021-26) titled, “Mapping Ontario’s Black Archives Through Storytelling,” this project aims to catalogue Ontario’s Black archival collections, and through ethnographic interviews with the province’s creative community (dancers, choreographers, museum curators, visual and performing artists), we will, over a five-year period, collect stories about how Black archives have been used as storytelling vehicles. This project will culminate with a public exhibition curated by Dr. Thompson and her research team. Her research lab MRAL (Media Representation and Archives Lab) at The Creative School Catalyst will serve as the public arm for this research as well as a place to widen the scope of archival research in the performing arts in Canada.

Dr. Thompson holds a PhD in Communication Studies from McGill University. She previously held a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship (2016-2018) at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Theatre, Drama & Performance Studies, and the University of Toronto Mississauga’s Department of English & Drama. She has published in popular newspapers and blogs, peer-reviewed journals, and literary magazines. Dr. Thompson recently served as guest editor of a special issue of The Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d'histoire on “Black Canadian Creativity, Expressive Cultures, and Narratives of Space and Place.” She is currently writing an article on casting in the 19th century blackface theatre that will appear in the Canadian Theatre Review in 2022. In 2021, Dr. Thompson was named to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.