Plenary Session VIII – Blackfriars Conference 2013

Good Evening from the Blackfriars!  This is Clare with the 8th paper session of the Conference!

Paper Session VIII
Moderator: Rene Thornton Jr.

John Mucciolo:  The Opening Storm Scene of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and its European Pictorial Milieu
Jacque Vanhoutte: A Lazar-like Ghost?
Peter Hyland: Scare bears: Mucedorus and The Winter’s Tale
Paige Martin-Reynolds:  “Anatomiz[ing] Regan”: Performing Parts in King Lear
Jeanne McCarthy: John Lyly’s Spectacural Plays for the Children of Paul’s
George Walton Williams: Retreat and Flourish: Backwards and Forwards on Shakespeare’s Stage
Virginia Vaughan: “Storm still”: Staging 3.2-3.4 of King Lear

Mucciolo:
It appears in The Tempest that the actors easily presented the ship on the Early Modern stage. The question then becomes, how did they present the ship? Ships from the period include the grand vision of the “Prince Royal” 1613.  There are many beautiful images of ships in storms or in sea scapes from the time period which Mucciolo presented in a slide-show and suggested that these paintings were common.  Pictures of ships had two common visual modes.  The first is that of fore-grounding in which the painter places the boat in the foreground.  The second is that of a ship at a distance in panorama. The Tempest views the ship from each of these two perspectives.  The first lines (1-4) begin with the foregrounded idea of the ship. In 1.2 the ship is described with a panoramic view by Miranda. The 2013 production at the globe presents the actors in the foreground carrying a ship which looks like a panoramic view. Mucciolo urges we examine the way that we present this idea with a self-conscious decision about these two.

Vanhoutte:
In Medieval culture, leprosy was a spiritual and physical disfigurement. Theater is also connected in some ways to leprosy and the idea that you can present one thing while being another.  Melancholy, introversion, impersonation, etc. “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” are all indications of leprosy presented in Hamlet. The descriptions surrounding the ghost (a rotting individual) sound similar to leprosy. Early Moderns also suppose the insatiable need for sex to indicate leprosy.  Claudius shows many transgression marks and characteristics of leprosy, but no physical symptoms. He himself uses “foul,” “rank,” and other ideas of rottenness and sin (which Early Moderns thought of as closely related to leprosy). Claudius does not show any of the physical signs of leprosy.  Claudius’s offense makes his soul black, but his body remains whole, making it difficult for Hamlet to know for certain if he has sinned. The ghost is not a leper, but Lazar-like, an emblem of the ancient diseases. The doubling of the ghost and Claudius allows the conversion of the conversion from simile to metaphor in and the appearance of leprosy.  The actor playing the ghost may even have painted the marks of leprosy which Shakespeare indicates in the description of the ghost’s skin.  Shakespeare may be indicating that the accidents of leprosy stand for the fading assumptions that looking sick indicates being sick at heart.

Hyland:
The most famous stage direction in Shakespeare is from the 1613 folio text “exit pursued by a bear” however, this comes from the 1598 Mucedorus play which was revived in 1610 in which a polar bear chases characters on the stage. The common theory is that theater practitioners used real bears in performances.  Mucedorus was the most popular play in its period with 17 quarto editions.  The bear in Mucedorus dies, and a man disguised as a shepherd carries in the bear’s head.  Later, another character stumbles upon the bear.  The question then arises whether there really was a real bear.  Bears were available in the time period as dancing bears and bear bating were common forms of entertainment.  A problem arises, however, in training a bear to follow stage directions. A real bear would most likely have caused unwarranted anxiety in the audience  at a point in the play which does not call for such a reaction.  In Mucedorus, a character defends himself saying that it must have been a person disguised as a bear.  Using a person in a bear’s disguise negates the dangers of using a real bear and the necessity of using a real bear. The staging of the bear is crucially significant to establish the tone of the rest of the play for both Mucedorus and The Winter’s Tale.

Martin-Reynolds:
Audiences have a fOCSination with the dead body on stage.  Plays show a particular fOCSination with examining the female corpse, both from interest of the text itself and from other characters. Lear and the audience often anatomize Regan as wicked.  Lear suggests that attendants cuter her open and examine her evil anatomy after she dies.  Early Moderns also pulled criminals to theaters of anatomy in which people watched dissections.  Regan often uses the royal “we” and identifies herself with power.  She is a sophisticated reader of her own circumstances. Her father threatens her according to his moods, and threatens to the honor her mother if she does not show constant love and affection to him. All the daughters in King Lear must realize that loyalty and love have limits. Martin-Reynolds states that audiences often place Lear as the morally correct individual, and that it is the fault of the daughters that drive him to madness rather than him driving himself mad. At the end of the play, the girls become faceless bodies laid out on stage and ready to be anatomized.  Lear’s fantasy of Regan’s atomization leads back to the beginning of the play in which he wants lists of her love.  Martin-Reynolds asserts that the audience is not responsible for what happens to the girls, but it is responsible for siding with Lear when his transgression begins the play.

McCarthy:
John Lyly writes highly literary drama as well as many spectacle events in his plays written for children players. Lyly changes the relationships of characters and identifiers. For example, some have different family from their classical sources, or different professions. Lyly invites audiences into the interpretive and philosophic act of the plays. These plays present philosophical debates and literary images. Lyly’s use of properties draw on traditional symbols and questions the idea of signifiers and symbols.  He also places a literary abuse of logic in his plays (reliance on traditional symbols, rather than logic for conclusions).  The privileging of the meaning of traditional symbols over logic can also lead to a discussion of grammar. The plays emphasize a detached artifice.  The actors’ use of emotion also plays into the idea of what is presented as a signifier. The question of whether the children were having fun pretending, or seeking to imitate other acting they had seen is often left out of this discussion. The plays should present an interior state rather than an exterior show. The props also should signify something deeper than what they represent. Lyly’s Blackfriars plays are similar to court masques. The achievement of John Lyly is his promotion of a thoroughly literary drama.

Walton Williams:
Trumpets often symbolize movement backwards, forwards, and retreats on the Blackfriars.  Specific trumpet flourishes accompany each of these movements.  There is little or no written music which survives for trumpet accompanied stage directions. Sometimes words will imitate sounds of the percussive trumpet style.  The sounds of retreat often indicate the end of a war, and can lead into the new sound of a flourish for coronation.  There are some scenes in Shakespeare which do not indicate a scene change between the end of a battle and the beginning of the coronation, but there is a flourish. The trumpets could indicate the change of scene, and the dead bodies could then remove themselves rather than building a change of scene into the written text.  These transitions often occur at the same point in the play and the stage directions simply read “retreat” and on the next line read “flourish.” Even though the location of the action does not change, the characters enter into a new fictional location of action for the play. Victors can also enter at the sound of a flourish into a discussion of the battle by other characters. This is a transition on stage which indicates the clear ending of one scene and the beginning of another. Other plays have a moment of success which is followed by “flourish,” and then“alarum” and “retreat” there is no other indication of change of locus. Some editors indicate that there is a change of place, however, and some question the placement of these stage directions.  Walton Williams has not found an explanation for these reversals which he finds satisfactory to himself, but he does find that the phenomenon indicates the end of one scene and the beginning of another.

Vaughan:
In King Lear, Shakespeare revolutionized the representation of the tempest on stage.  The storm in King Lear runs for 22 minutes, over multiple scenes (approx 340 lines). Multiple scenes open with the indication “storm still.” The question then arises whether the storm is stilled for a time, whether the direction indicates the continuation of the storm.  Vaughan proposes that the storm is continuous, this requires wind machines and other storm affects.  The characters themselves indicate a continued storm. The characters often describe the storm, and must also be heard over the sound effects. Twenty minutes is a long time for a storm.  Previous to this direction, thunder and lightning indicated the gods being angry, a severe emotional disturbance, or a foreshadowing of something bad about to happen. Lear is raging, emotionally upset, and the patriarchal structure is falling apart.  The play shows a disruptive social order. The audience does not hear about the tempest in the abstract, but hears the storm itself.  The storm does not just act as a chorus, because there is no single meaning that the audience can take from the storm. This play does not have the gods “pulling the strings” but humans enacting with each other, and no divine body intervening to restore order.

Colloquy XIV (Playing Mad)- Blackfriars Conference 2013

Hello Everyone!

Colloquy XIV: Playing Mad
Hello Everyone, my name is Clare and I will be blogging for 2013 Blackfriars Conference Colloquy XIV. This colloquy is presided by Symmonie Preston  and the presenters are Nicholas Helms, Lauren Shepherd, Christina Squitieri, and Meredith Will.

Preston: This colloquy will allow the speakers to speak a little longer and should have more time for a Question and Answer.  Each will present a paper.

Helms: Keys to the Mind, Madness and Spectating Shakespeare’s Characters

Helms looks at applying the philosophy of mind and theories about mind reading to character studies.  Mind reading refers to the ability to arrive at logical conclusions about a person based upon his behavior. There is theory, theory of mind reading, and simulation theory of mind reading.  Theory, theory applies the theories behind what could trigger a person’s reaction.  Helms will be referring to theory, theory as inference.  Simulation theory is to try to “walk through another person’s shoes.” Simulation theory also applies to sympathetic emotions. The two different theories have often struggled for dominance, but they should blend.  Madness is the inability to communicate, and audience members/readers often erroneously apply it to characters such as Toby Belch for saying things that are out of context.  The Jailer’s Daughter is the most extensive presentation of madness in Shakespeare.  The doctor uses lots of inference and never speaks the daughter until the end of his last scene with her.  The simulation theory and imaginative study better describes her breaking point. The imaginative approach invites the audience to participate in the emotions of the character.  She is emotionally compelling in the beginning, weaving a narrative of her present mental state and her fears of the forest, she even states she would rather die than go mad and lose the ability to perceive reality. No one tries to communicate with the daughter, but the doctor proposes that there is a middle ground in which the other characters communicate with her on the level of her delusions.  It does not show a full level of mind reading, but it grants credibility in her delusions so that she can feel a part of the community again, and hopefully be brought back into the community.  Early moderns considered madness to be a temporary distraction from the norm, and from reality. Some of the ideas for the daughter’s madness may come from the collaborative process with Fletcher.  Scenes like this also appear in King Lear with Gloucester and Edgar (who plays into the fantasy of Gloucester’s depression to pull him out of the depression), As You Like It (her cure for love as a cure for madness).  Helms hopes to look further into these ideas in his continued research.

Shepherd: Diagnosing Madness on Stage: A Perspective on Madness in Fletcher, Middleton and Rowley, Shakespeare, and Webster.
For Elizabethans, there are different views of madness. Madness and distraction are not as interchangeable as most scholars think they are and the two together are what moderns accept and receive as the mad character in Shakespeare.  Specific expectations and events lead to a diagnosis, and the means to a cure. Shepherd looked at The Changeling, The White Devil, The Duchess of Malfi, Two Noble Kinsmen, and Macbeth. Madness is indicated by  the direct act of relating to the character as other, the speech patterns the character employs, and the set of questions which characters ask themselves or  which other charactes report about them. Madness often starts with the idea that a character is “not himself.” Antonio (Changeling) begins to mimic the teacher at the asylum.  It appears through his rhetoric and wit that he knows how to play mad.  Gratiano enters mad and distracted and his actions should appear so.  He has disjointed language, but has a common theme, so it is not madness, but can be perceived as such.  There is an outside influence which affects our vision of his “madness.” Another character displays a number of different symptoms of madness and is diagnosed as such.  It appears that the actors may be using madness to resolve their situation.  The madness of the women is different.  Cornelia recalls bloody hands; many women refer to the bloody hands, flowers and herbs, a night owl screech, and describe the outside with urgency.  No one diagnoses Cornelia.  Playwrights often subscribe madness of women as specifically feminine and offer female madwomen a wider emotional range to play. The community of others isolated mad women.  Playwrights often shaped the mad women like a chorus member with a different agency in the play.  Many mad women also sing and have similar speech patterns.  Women also often engage in a pathetic language of madness, and employ language concerning the body.  Some scholars see the turn towards bodily language as a prelude to death, but this is not consistent in Early Modern women. Confession or sexual intercourse were common cures to temporary madness, but death was the only cure for a complete mental illness.  Shepherd is also interested in how people talk about a mad character after he has died.

Squitieri: Catching Passion: Hamlet in the Contagion of Theatrical Madness
The four humors and bodily spirits are synonymous with disease and madness in the Early Modern period. Some spectators condemned players for infecting the audience with a theatrical pattern. Some scholars connect the audience and actors in a moral act by which the two groups undergo a transformation. By entering the playhouse and partaking the play, an audience becomes morally responsible for the way in which the actor can transform him.  In Hamlet, the audience can therefore be responsible for driving Ophelia mad.  The question also rises whether or not Hamlet becomes mad, or if he merely plays mad, and at what point he may become mad.  Hamlet begins by simply acting madness.  The vision of Hamlet’s madness begins with a performances for Ophelia.  He transforms her.  She relates the vision and uses the word “thus” which infers that she is not just remembering, but repeating the physicality of the madness for Polonius. Hamlet’s transference of madness to Ophelia can also come from the physical contact when he grasps her in the vision she reports. Early Moderns also considered physical contact and eye contact as a means of transference (especially eye contact as transference of souls between lovers). The physical act of the play can also encourage the madness, and the “get thee to a nunnery” speech presents madness to her. Ophelia demonstrates a knowledge of the contagion of madness, after these confrontations, she begins to use the same types of epizeuxis which Hamlet uses to portray madness. She also speaks of having “sucked the music of his honey vows” which can also carry disease.  Early Moderns believed breast milk was blood which the breasts transformed into milk, and that as such, breast milk could transfer diseases to children. Hamlet’s performed madness changes Ophelia and the spirits Hamlet releases in his performance of madness posses Ophelia. Madness also connects to the idea of sexual unchastit.  The idea of plucking petals off a flower becomes Ophelia stripping her own virginity.  This play demonstrates the idea that individuals can catch madness, just at the Early Moderns believed.

Will: A Pansy for Your Thoughts: Ophelia’s flowers in Film Adaptations
Some symbols which Shakespeare used have lost their meanings for contemporary audience. Ophelia’s flowers are one of these symbols.  Many modern productions have to find a new means of presenting these symbols. Theater facilitators often connect the flowers to the world of the feminine.  Areas early moderns connect to the female realm are emotion, and nature, and Ophelia embodies both.  Ophelia sings and reveals the truth in her madness.  Directors often either substitute the prop flowers with other symbols or have Ophelia use bodily actions which render the flowers useless.  In one film, Ophelia passes out Hamlet’s love letters, now making them public (or fragments of love letters).  The letter fragments infer a specific interpretation to her reason for madness.  She also must distribute specific sections of the love letters to other members of the court which indicates a method to her madness. One director has Ophelia distribute bones and pieces of straw.  They are from nature, and represent death.  The director does not indicate the source from which Ophelia procured these much more menacing props. These props also confuse the ideas which the flowers  represent. These may give different ideas, but the audience can experience and impact these props. The other option is to have physicality explain the flowers and the way in which she distributes them. Using body language tends more towards the emotional side of the idea of madness. In another production her hands are filled with flowers and she does not give the flowers, but throws some, and spreads out the other flowers.  The way she plays her emotional state is the way that the characters and audience memebrs understand the meaning.  The Emphasis of the visual effects can allow the audience to gain a deeper understanding of Ophelia through different methods, despite the grief of Shakespeareans who bewail the loss of her written lines. (Will also asked that further questions about further films be directed to her).

Preston: Let’s look at Two Noble Kinsmen 5.2
In this scene, the jailer’s daughter does not act like the usual mad person, beginning with the fact that she speaks in verse when mad characters typically speak in prose. This play frequently has characters eaves dropping on other characters, and jumping into scenes.  The rhetoric in this particular scene suggests that she is eaves dropping on the others.  The doctor’s cure worked, and she is now playing mad in order to get what she wants from her suitor. She has multiple verbatim repetitions of what others have said before she enters (such as “in the way of honesty” which has different meanings coming from the father and then from the daughter). She also suggests finding a blind priest for the marriage (a blind priest will realize it is not Palamon).  The biggest repeat the doctor’s use of  “twenty times” they should kiss, and when the suitor suggests they kiss a hundred times she replies “and twenty?” The two can share his response “and twenty” as a means of recognizing her sanity.  Another proof of her sanity is that she clearly notes the difference of men (the height of Palamon vs. Arcite). She now loves the suitor who has corrected his means of wooing (she complains about his methods earlier and emphasizes things important to her and he does these things when he pretends to be Palamon). She sets up a fake Palamon and fake Arcite in this last scene and points out that their height difference has changed (“how you have grown”).  Many Shakespeare plays have the men masked (when they should not be) and the woman refers to the end of the world, as a descriptor for marrying the right person.  The jailer’s response to her request to sleep is “Yes, marry, will we” showing his desire to marry her.   Just previous to this, a messenger enters to relay information we already know which heightens the intensity of the scene and allows the two characters to come further.

Questions:

How often are male characters treated for madness? Not often, but we have more examples of their supposed madness being treated than their actual madness.

The Dark Room and Malvolio: The idea behind the use of a dark room is to mute the sensory overload, but for sane characters it drives him mad.  Some characters even speak of such sensory deprivation as a means which would drive them mad.

Why does only Ophelia go mad with the idea of transference? Women were supposed to be more susceptible to madness, and Hamlet first chooses Ophelia to watch his performances of madness.

Is there a way to show catching the infection of madness?
There are some ways; one would have to ask a director.  Not everyone in a modern audience would understand the means of transference, so there are only a few ways that this can be staged.

What is the clinical discourse of madness and the humors in the Early Modern period? Since we live in a clinical culture, we often think that we can separate the metaphor from the clinical, but that is not always necessarily so (breast milk does transmit certain illnesses).  The flowers are always metaphors, so you have to make a different metaphor.  How do you relate our medical language to the play?
The theatrical language is particularly interesting in exploring this idea.
There is not always a distinct clinical discourse, the focus is on excess of qualities, it is more about a tipping point than distinct lines and we can identify an excess or a balance of the humors.
Even today we cannot always identify what is wrong with mental illnesses.
The idea that we can put mental illnesses in check boxes is beginning to erode, and the distinction was very blurred in Early Modern England.

How does the idea of transference in Hamlet relate to the idea of holding a mirror up to nature, and trying to enlist the audience on Hamlet’s side?
Hamlet is aware of the idea of transference and how others can receive madness.  He is conscious of the perception of theater.

Plenary Session V – Blackfriars Conference 2013

Good Evening from the Blackfriars! I am Clare and will be your blogger for Paper Session V of the conference 2013.

Moderator: Michael Hirrel.

Ann Pleiss Morris: Patient Auditor to Gentle Reader: Transforming the Introduction from Playhouse to Printhouse

Annalisa Castaldo: “Your majesty came not like yourself”: Staging and Understanding the Glove Episode of Henry V

Andrew Carlson: Performance as Public Dramaturgy

Steve Urkowitz: Shakespeare Shaping Richard in Versions of Henry VI 2 &3, or “The Bard Licking the Boar”

Ann Jennalie Cook: Life in Shakespeare’s London: A  First-Hand Account

Pleiss Morris:

Previous to the invention of the printing press, plays were primarily known as plays, and not as books.  Therefore, the audience members did not move from “page to stage.”  When presses started printing plays, they also printed epistles describing how the reader should react to a play text, and how they should move from stage to page.  Some scholars believe that the prologue and epilogue was a means for the actors, playwright and audience to construct theater together.  Some actors felt that the publication cut at the artistry, and highly limited the plays. Playwrights and actors were also concerned about the difference between the play and the theatrical experience, and the ways in which the editors could change, cut or misprint the text.  Some epistles suggested that audience members think back on the text as they saw it performed.  Publishers could easily intend printed plays therefore, to solicit nostalgia and not for a first encounter.  Beaumont was particularly concerned that the reader recollect the atmosphere of the playhouse in the plays.  Beaumont wrote to Jonson to voice some of his concerns. Introductory epistles also lay out the “correct” reception of a play and teach readers how to read it “properly.” Fletcher does so by laying out the scene and wishes that it could act more as a prologue did. Playwrights concernedly sought to shape the experience of the readers and can help re-envision the movement we undergo from page to stage.

Castaldo:

Henry V’s use of the glove to trick Williams, is perhaps the most problematic instance in Henry V.  The joke often appears not to work, so Castaldo looked at why Shakespeare kept the scene in his script.  Directors often cut the scene because it is problematic.  Scholars often overlook the scene as well, especially in political readings of the play (which keep the first Williams encounter, but the not second).  Audiences see a discontinuity when a King in full armor plays a practical joke. The moment falls in the middle of a set of clearly solemn moments.  Henry also appears to set up for mockery and possible execution one of the soldiers who has just won the battle for him. The fact that the beginning of the scene is inundated with the repetition of the idea of a traitor and impending punishment, offsets the honesty of Williams. The way Henry offers a payment to Williams frames the treatment of other major themes in the play. The OCS touring troupe actors presented the scene first as lighthearted, and then as sinister. Even when presented humorously there is a threat, and even when sinister, there is some humor in the scene.  This scene may also remind audiences/readers of Jack Cade.  (Time and the OCS bear cut the paper short).  Shakespeare wrote his plays knowing how things will be resolved, which is another reason for the strangeness of this moment.

Carlson:

Disparagement in the reading of a text and what some audience members perceive in the text and the performance can be used as dramaturgy. The audience and actor can build a character together.  Over-clarifying and tagging particular characters and motives through Shakespearean study leads to the problem of trying to present the “correct interpretation.” Striving for “correctness” is dissatisfying for audiences and actors.  Stanslavski methods say actors should “do” not “think” and that actors should not over-think characters but react. Actors must “not think” in order to act and simply try to obtain something from another character, or affect a change in the scene partner. This approach cuts out playing a state of being.  However, audience members can think that characters are types and bring qualities of the character to mind rather than what the character does. What audience members experience is neither inherently correct or incorrect, but a version of the story to which the audience can respond with different adjectives.  The audience proscribes what the character is rather than the actor trying to do so, the actor acts on an objective. It takes extensive textual work to get to the point where the actor has the objectives he wants to use and is able to use them in continuity with the text. Actors often struggle with directors who give direction based upon a state of being (ex. “you’re being too _____”) rather than helping to shape the objectives.  Directors have to shape their direction according to the language of the actor.  Using performance as a public dramaturgy is not “the right textual analysis” but a shared process of collaboration to create the art.

Urkowitz:

Urkowitz began his talk by asking everyone to gather the handout he provided that they might fill it out during the presentation. Theater, like an etching, is a form of visual arts, and there are many different kinds of changes which take place between any two productions of the same thing. (Urkowitz directed our attention to two different preparatory etchings by Rebrant for one of his works).  Each of Richard III’s brothers present the blood of their enemies to their father, and Richard presents the head.  Each is praised for his work, and Richard addresses the dead head, asking it as if it is dead (much like a child’s joke when a child addresses an inanimate object).  Richard appears to take delight in examining his handiwork. This same joke appears in Mucedorus when a character addresses the body of a dead bear and ask if it is dead. Severed head jokes must have been circulating in the theater at the time. Many textual adaptations to revised texts of the Henry plays highlight Richard III in monstrous ways. For more information please contact Urkowitz (the OCS bear took his paper too). There is an anxiety of humor to the plays and movement through degrees of sympathy.

Cook:

John Stow is a prolific writer, and commenter upon Shakespearean England.  He titled himself “gentleman” and was able to comment on the court as well as the town.  Even though scholars often turn to certain areas of Stow’s work, the annals provide a better idea of the play-going culture.  Scholars often overlook the surveys and Stow’s works with regard to theater.  Stow is able to comment on theater in the noble’s houses and he also uses the theater as a locale for many of reports.  He is extremely helpful in establishing the area around the theater.  Audience members often observed whippings, beatings, hangings, beheading, etc in their culture.  Therefore, they had a different visceral response to the violence the actors presented on stage.  Things actors presented on stage were able to be directly compared with real life experiences (such as the queen’s garments).  The sets of associations are very different for the playgoers then and now.  Many of the details of what actors presented in plays can be fleshed out with concurrent similar instances of historical events from the time period in the annals. Stow gives us great accounts of the life he shared with Shakespeare.

Staging Session II: Auditory Worlds Onstage: Hearing, Overhearing, Eavesdropping, and Stage Whispers – Blackfriars Conference 2013

Good afternoon from Clare at the Blackfriars! I will be blogging on the second staging session of the 2013 Blackfriars Conference.

Staging Session II: Auditory Worlds Onstage: Hearing, Overhearing, Eavesdropping, and Stage Whispers

With little to no practice, the OCS residence cast and their facilitators will work through complicated staging situations. Please see: Staging Session II Handout

Moderator: Sara Vazquez, OCS stage manager

1. Much Ado Masked dance: Conducted by Walter Cannon and Nova Myhill (Much Ado About Nothing 2.1)

2. Eavesdropping in Measure for Measure: Gayle Gaskill (Measure for Measure, 3.1)

3. Public vs Private speech in Hamlet: Laury Magnus (Hamlet, 3.2)

1) Myhill and Cannon will look precisely at the moments of hearing and non-hearing, and how the scene changes when characters over-hear, and when they fail to over-hear each other.  They also want to gives special attention  to the way that masks which usually give individuals power over each other, or render each other powerless. The actors will first play the scene all masked and then time with only the men in masks.

The first time the actors played the scene, they all danced and only the head couple spoke to each other.  The other actors were not distracting themselves from hearing, but also did not appear to react much to the head couple. They were all masked.

The second time, the women wore no masks and again only by the two interlocutors heard the conversations.  Each couple broke off from the dance to their individual conversations after they spoke to each other in the dance for their own private conversations. The women also played the scene as having more agency over the men who are unable to answer for themselves when the women confronted them about themselves while the women enjoy displaying their wit.

2) Differing editions of Measure for Measure have the duke and the provost exit in a scene 3.1., or stay on stage and eaves drop during the conversation in which Isabella confesses to her brother that she must sleep with Angelo to save her brother’s life. Does the duke upstage the other actors if he is seen overhearing the actors?

The first time, the duke and the provost left and then the duke reappeared listening from the balcony. Claudio’s initial support of Isabella’s chastity gave the duke in comfort, but at Claudio’s first request for Isabella to save him by sin, the duke rushed out of the balcony and reappeared later to stop the two from their argument.

The second time, the duke and the provost remained on the apron of the stage, downstage left, and listened to the conversation,  The duke even inserted a few non-verbal auditory reactions. He then chooses a specific instance to insert himself. His motivation for reappearing appeared to change.

3)Just before the play within the play, Hamlet is playing the harlequin which keeps him from culpability while simultaneously insulting the characters (possibly without their realizing they are being insulted). The actors have their hearing visible by their onstage reactions, and the actors are free to respond as they will to the speech. This scene has an elaborate architecture of seeing and hearing.

The first time, the scene began with Hamlet putting on a harlequin disguise for the sake of the court. Before the play, the characters who were not interlocutors played mostly sock and disgust regarding Hamlet’s words, but little reaction to the dumb show, and were not watching each other watch the play, with the exception of Hamlet on a diagonal downstage of them and able to see them.

The second time, Hamlet did not put on a disguise and appeared in earnest, acting more like the typical Romeo character, and when he was speaking with one individual, the others broke off to have their own private conversations which allowed Hamlet to comment on people without the subjects of the comments aware he was speaking of them. This staging also allowed the actors to watch each other watch the play and each others’ reactions to the play. During the break in the play, when the characters comment on the play, Hamlet got up and pulled characters to the side to have conversations with them about the play and direct specific ideas toward them. This allowed him to be much more manipulative and direct in his comments, but lead to some discontinuity when other characters commented on the individual conversations.

The audience was divided on the positioning of the duke. Many felt that his position on the apron of the stage found it difficult to see him and divided their attention.  There was also a lot of debate on whether or not the Duke, or Isabella and Claudio should be the focus of the scene.   Most of the staging today used dumb show conversation to indicate not listening.  They also talked about the difficulty of having to listen for cues while also pretending not to listen.  The actors posed the example of Malviolio reading the letter in 12th Night.  In this scene the actor must be extremely aware of where the other characters are hiding, and how they are reacting to his speech so that he does not look at them, while simultaneously pretending to be oblivious. The actors stated that the presence of the provost was difficult.  They also stated that it is particularly difficult to find ways of NOT doing something (such as not listening).  They said that in Hamlet it can be difficult for the King and Queen to not see the play and then be startled, but by having Hamlet pull people to the side created more for them to respond to.  In Much Ado, the actor playing Claudio (Chris Jonston)  found that the private conversations gave him more to use as an actor when he watched Pedro and Beatrice flirting.  The actor playing Benedick (Ben Curns) found that it was frustrating to play a stupid Benedick.  This comment opened the question of whether or not the women are masked.  Textual evidence suggests that women could be masked or not without working against the text. One of the actors raised the question of what constitutes the harlequin character, how it should be played, and how the scholars present would have liked to see the responses and actions of the characters on stage for the Hamlet scene. They also asked if there is something that the other players should be doing.  Another question was the way to play NOT hearing, in any way other than doing something else, or being distracted.  The scholars were hoping to achieve a “sneak attack” by Hamlet on Claudius. Some audience members felt the private staging of the Hamlet scene was much more powerful than the public version of the staging.  Audience members also requested what a good balance could be between the public and private versions of the scene.  The scholars and actors found it difficult to map who hears what lines. The private version placed an interesting highlight on the lines about the chameleon.  Hamlet (Dylan Paul) found that the public version trapped him in a type, whereas in the private version he felt able to play tactics and work individually on specific people. Everything needs to be based on deciding what story the production wants to tell and what is the best way to tell the story they have.

Honorific – Blackfriars Conference 2013

Hello, my name is Clare, and I will be blogging for the Honorific session of the OCS Blackfriars Conference 2013.

Honorific is an event in honor of George Walton Williams IV.

Ralph Alan Cohen opened with anecdotes about being a student of George Walton Williams. He states that Dr. Williams was an intimidating teacher because he could look into the eyes of a glad student and see into his soul. He is also a guide to students, and steered them towards areas where they would most flourish. He gave complete support to Shenandoah Shakespeare Express, including hosting the troupe as they passed through the area on tour, and they shared academic and life stories.

Today, the “academic children” and “grandchildren” of George Walton Williams read one of his children’s books entitled The Best Friend. The OCS residential troupe accompanied the reading with acoustic music and sound effects. The Best Friend is about a locomotive laid from Charleston to Augusta. In 1830, on Christmas morning, the train (the best friend) made its first run. One morning in June, the boiler burst and the train had to be reassembled, but the train was reassembled as the Phoenix. The workers made the biggest railway in the world, beginning the railroad age. The reading ended with the musical number “Love Train.”

Dr. Williams is very passionate about music, especially Gilbert and Sullivan. In his honor, the OCS residence members performed a re-write of the lyrics of “Modern Major General” as “A Scholar Bibliagraphal.”

Dr. Williams followed the session by thanking the presenters, and saying a word about each of the readers of The Best Friend. He stated that the OCS is among the happiest of his grandchildren, and his biological grandchildren are enjoying the camps and events at the OCS. He ended with thanks to all gathered.