Spring Thesis Festival – Session 2, Part 1

Hi everyone, I’m back. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll be helping Sarah Keyes with her presentation this afternoon, so I’ve recruited fellow graduate student Victoria Reinsel to keep things up to date while I operate a puppet.

First up, we’ll have MFA candidate Elissa Dubinksy presenting “Staging Henry IV, Part 1 in the Classroom: Using Dramaturgical Practices to Teach Shakespeare through Performance.” Dubinsky starts off by introducing her approach to dramaturgy as being the sort that is geared more toward the classroom than for performance. She highlights, however, the importance of performance in understanding the work of Shakespeare, and details some of her dramatrgical work as a teacher’s assistant in introducing a performance based-curriculum toward understanding the play. The introduction to the performance based curriculum had some predictable difficulties, requiring instructor intervention to highlight what stage actions were communicated through the lines of the text, but it was not long before they were discovering these moments on their own. It was from these experiences that led Dubinsky to develop a modern performance edition for students.

In preparing this edition, she used the Moby Shakespeare as it was an electronic, public domain text in modern spelling. She keeps Shakespeare’s text separated from the comments on stage directions, and uses footnotes doe individual word definitions. She also highlights the contrast between explicit stage directions and embedded ones, citing Gadshill’s need to borrow a lantern in 1 Henry IV as an example. Her performance text highlights clues within the text of the scene to suggest stage action that could create meaning in performance. She explores other scenes from 1 Henry IV, including Falstaff’s boasting of his fight and wounds during the robbery, Glendwr and Hotspur arguing over the map, and Falstaff’s mocking of the king, Hal’s father.

The crux of Dubinsky’s argument lies in the acceptance that literature students are too unfamiliar with staging conventions to envision dramatic possibilities on their own. The edits she has made to the text are to, in her words, help her students “see the text through a theatrical lens.” In Q&A Justin Schneider (who was heard form this morning) points out that there may be a danger in making these directions too specific as it limits the imaginative possibilities of the scene. Although Dubinsky argues that she has attempted to keep the directions vague enough to allow for interpretation, another audience member suggests phrasing these directions as questions. Dubinsky admits that she hadn’t considered that, but stands by her affirmation that she wants to keep the focus of her edition on students who are less familiar with reading Shakespeare as a performance text.

And now I need to run down to the trap room to get ready to unleash a dragon, so I’ll turn this over to Victoria.