Blackfriars Conference 2013–Special Panel

Hello everyone! Sarah Martin here to liveblog Saturday afternoon’s Special Panel in the Blackfriars Playhouse. Today, we will hear two presentations: Tiffany Stern from the University of Oxford’s Why Der Berstraffe Brudermord Might Be a Puppet Play (you can see Der Berstraffe Brudermord performed as a puppet play courtesy of Beth Burns and the Hidden Room theatre this evening at 9:30pm in the Blackfriars Playhouse) and The Complete Works presented by Paul Menzer from Mary Baldwin College, Jeremy Lopez from the University of Toronto, Andrea Stevens from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Genevieve Love from Colorado College.

Tiffany Stern, Oxford University

Why Der Berstraffe Brudermord Might be a Puppet Play

Stern begins her presentation with a brief explanation of Der Berstraffe Brudermord saying that it is an “eighteenth-century play of extraordinary awfulness”. She says that Der Berstraffe Brudermord is probably not a puppet play, but that this possibility is certainly there. Stern’s interest  in the play began with research about puppet plays and the discovery of a puppet Hamlet. She explains that the text of the Der Berstraffe Brudermord is very close to the Quarto 1 Hamlet.  This informs us that Q1 Hamlet must have been circulating in Germany at some point before Der Berstraffe Brudermord was written. Stern notes that the first mention of the possible puppet Hamlet was in 1779. She explains that Germany experienced a period of fOCSination with Shakespeare’s works during the eighteenth century. She gives a brief history of English players in Germany. She explains that the same English players also performed in the Czech Rebublic. A Czech account of the English players’ performances states that the actors, “alternately performed an actors’ and a marionette repertoire”. Stern gives an example of an Italian puppet Hamlet called Amleto from the 1660s that informs us that Shakespeare’s plays were circulating on the continent before the plays were available in good translations.

As evidence for why Der Berstraffe Brudermord might be a puppet play, Stern notes that the Prologue requires four women, but the play only has two women characters. When the character of NIGHT enters, she does so in “flying machinery”–much easier for a puppet to accomplish rather than a person, obviously. The play also includes a lot of violent moments that occur from behind. All action in puppet shows takes place from behind and this contributes to why Der Berstraffe Brudermord might be a puppet play. Stern notes that Der Berstraffe Brudermord has several moments of fireworks–another hallmark of puppet shows. She points to the “Closet Scene” moment when the Hamlet character sees the ghost of his father and fireworks go off. Including fireworks at this moments seems odd and contributes to the “absurdity” one expects in puppet shows.

Sterns contacted Beth Burns about the possibility of the puppet show performance and Burns jumped on the idea. Stern says that she was nervous about the actual performance, and said “what if I’m wrong, oh but what if I’m not” and that led to tonight’s production.

Paul Menzer, Mary Baldwin College; Jeremy Lopez, University of Toronto; Andrea Stevens, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and Genevieve Love, Colorado College

The Complete Works

Paul Menzer begins his presentation by having the Mary Baldwin College MFA students pass out sheets of paper that contains lists of words all beginning with the same two letters (I have “ex” words). He then asks the audience to read aloud all of the many words on their pages as he does the same. As the reading comes to a close, Menzer notes that the OCS will produce Timon of Athens this Spring and will at that point, have performed all of Shakespeare’s words. He then points out that we have done just that in a matter of a few minutes. The papers contained all of the words found in Shakespeare’s works. Menzer points out that our performance, in claiming to have performed The Complete Works of Shakespeare, represents a “scaling fallacy”. He notes that the “Complete Works” idea has the problem of scale. He explains that Shakespeare’s Complete Works is large in comparison to Marlowe, but not compared to that of Thomas Heywood.  Menzer then goes on to note that “Shakespeare’s Complete Works is not bigger than Marlowe’s, there’s just more of it”. He points out the problematic idea of “Complete Works” is that it implies a finishing point. He explains that scale is a measure not just of size, but of form as the agent doing the measuring is part of it. We, as those agents, contribute to Shakespeare’s Complete Works–and contribute to what that term means exactly.

Jeremy Lopez begins by telling the audience that the word “disappointed” occurs only once in all of Shakespeare’s works. Lopez gives several examples of word counts throughout works of great literature. Lopez argues of such “word counting” exercises are only applied to iconic authors and plays. He argues that we only decide to look for the instances of the word “blood” in Macbeth, for example, because we already know the play. Giving examples of several such instances of repeated words in plays that do not really have anything to do with those words, Lopez argues that repetition does not equal emphasis or meaning. He notes that though his paper, “is about disappointment, the word “disappointed” appears only once.”

Andrea Stevens begins her presentation with an explanation of the use of the term “invulnerable” in Shakespeare’s plays. She explains that it is the “vulnerable” bodies that are the victims of violence. Quoting Judith Butler, Stevens notes that our bodies are never exclusively our own. Our bodies also always have political value. She argues that Shakespeare’s tragedies are explorations of how characters discover that they are, in fact, vulnerable and that their bodies are not their own.

Genevieve Love begins with a discussion of the “vulnerable”. She talks about how characters with missing limbs and other physical disabilities give important bibliographical and textual history as well. Prosthetic bodies, Love argues, represent the incomplete articulation of the plays themselves. She points to Dr. Faustus–a play with both “A” and “B” texts as an example of how the disability of the body also represents the disability and deformity of corrupt texts. She argues that the dismemberment and multiplication of one, whole body into diverse incomplete parts is a reflection of the corruption and mutilation of early modern texts.

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Colloquy #11: Methods III: Acting in Shakespeare: What We Teach and What We Learn

Hi everyone! Sarah Martin here to liveblog Colloquy Session #11: Acting in Shakespeare: What We Teach and What We Learn. Today’s session chair is Caroline Latta from Columbia College Chicago and features presentations from Tara Bradway of St. John’s University and Adirondack Shakespeare, Kevin Gates of Texas State University, John Harrell of the American Shakespeare Center, and Allison Glenzer of the American Shakespeare Center.

Tara Bradway began our colloquy with a brief summary of her paper which focuses on Shakespeare’s kingship cycles. Bradway asks the question, “what makes a good kingship cycle?” She compares the kingship style of Richard II and Henry V. Richard’s focus is internal while Henry is aware of needs of those around him. Richard’s internal focus, Bradway argues, leads to his demise. She also notes that Richard’s internal nature is problematic for an actor in performance. Mary Baldwin College M.F.A. student Cyndi Kimmel then gave a portion of Richard’s monologue in the famous deposition scene. Bradway says that it is this moment in which Richard is most “theatrically potent” as he identifies himself as an actor without a role. M.Litt student Jamie Jaeger then performed a section of Henry V during which the title character likens himself to the sun. This metaphor, Bradway argues, shows that Henry is putting on a mask of kingship in contrast to Richard’s unmasking during his deposition. Henry’s ability to  successfully perform kingship is what leads to his ultimate victory. Richard, Bradway argues, discovers that he also has this ability, but after his deposition. Kimmel demonstrated this moment as she performed a brief section from the end of the play.

Kevin Gates wanted to find a new textual approach to performance of Richard II. Gates was inspired by John Barton’s 1963 production in which the same actor played both Richard and Bolingbroke. He was also inspired by the American Shakespeare Center’s production of Hamlet that featured a coin toss at the beginning of the play to determine whether the quarto or folio text would be performed. In Gates’s production, the actors tossed a coin to determine which actor would play Richard and which would play Bolingbroke. Gates argues against the idea that Richard was too heavily under the influence of flatterers. Gates asked his two lead actors to come up with their own interpretations of each character and this resulted in two highly contrasting depictions of Richard and Bolingbroke. The shortened rehearsal process (three weeks for each character) created some confusion in terms of blocking, but did not cause any major problems for the production. Costumes also played an important role in Gates’s production. Richard wore an gold tunic while Bolinbroke work a red tunic. The actors donned their costumes at the moment of the coin toss and this created the need for Bolingbroke to have a quick-change. Gates says that he, “underestimated” the challenge this quick change would pose to the performance. Gates stated that greatest affect the double casting method had on the performance was the portrayal of Bolingbroke. Whereas Gates’ counterpart played Bolingbroke’s ambiguity, whereas Gates’s portrayal showed Bolingbroke as a man “ready to fight”.

Colloquy chair Caroline Latta transitioned the discussion from the stories of two theatre companies, to the pedagogical methods she uses when teaching Shakespeare to acting. She devotes the first portion of classes to Elizabethan language with an emphasis on the theory that Elizabethan audiences went to “hear a play” rather than see it. She teaches actors the basics of scansion and rhetoric and how scansion can inform performance. Latta engages her student actors with the text “physically rather than intellectually”. She explained that she might separate women from men and have them each shout lines at one another to demonstrate the rhythm of iambic pentameter. She says that physicalizing the language helps her students engage with the text–Shakespeare’s or even contemporary playwrights. Her actors use the First Folio text to find speech and performance cues in the plays. Latta also shows a clip from Playing Shakespeare in which David Suchet and Patrick Stewart each perform a different version of Shylock from The Merchant of Venice in order to teach the students how actors make choices.

Latta then opened up the discussion to the panel which includes OCS actors John Harrell and Allison Glenzer. She asked the panel, “what are companies looking for that we are not teaching?” Bradway mentioned that her company relies on actors who can scan and analyze text and come prepared on the first day of rehearsal. She also looks for actors who can listen to each other to have ownership of their text and realize that, if an actor truly listens to another, “they can’t help but say their line”. Latta asked John Harrell and Allison Glenzer what they look for as acting teachers through Mary Baldwin College. Harrell said that his graduate students tend to have very good backgrounds in scansion and rhetoric and that he tries to translate the intellectual intelligence that the students have into functional performance. He noted that a complex idea is just a series of simple ideas and that it is those simple ideas that an actor performs. Glenzer said that the “rigor” of the process of acting–the commitment to emotion and repetition is what she tries to instill in her student actors.

Latta and Glenzer demonstrated Latta’s “gauntlet exercise” in which she has two groups of actors to perform lines from Richard and Lady Anne. The actors volley the text back and forth line by line. The exercises forces actors to listen to one another and then return the energy of the other actor.

Latta and Glenzer also discussed the problematic nature of grading students in an acting class. They talked about how important it is to have a student actor write a paper so that the actor learns to articulate his or her process and the teacher has something tangible to grade. Glenzer and Bradway then discussed the importance of a shared vocabulary in a company with limited rehearsal time. Latta asked the panel how they get actors “in the body”. Bradway said that she puts together a playlist of songs relevant to the play and has the actors find moments in the songs that exemplify their character relationships and demonstrate those relationships through movement.

Harrell said that he emphasizes specificity of action when he teaches actors. He asks students to slow down and realize that they have to stop one action before they start another in order to demonstrate specificity onstage.  He then is able to “suck the air out” of the space between the moments so that performance remains dynamic.

Glenzer and Bradway performed a short scene from The Winter’s Tale in which Harrell asked them to demonstrate a “snapshot” version of the scene. Glenzer and Bradway created specific shapes with their bodies to exemplify moments within the scene. He said that the exaggerated physical gestures eventually pare down into playable stage pictures.

Harrell and Gates discussed their experiences in their respective “coin-toss” productions. Harrell said that he preferred performing the quarto order of scenes in Hamlet whereas Gates preferred playing Richard.

Latta emphasized the importance of keeping student actors in the moment and allowing them the space to make a discovery. Harrell  said that he urges students to find moments of discovery in the other actor onstage rather than from an internal or abstract place.

The colloquy conversation concluded with a discussion of different suggestions and anecdotes about the auditioning and casting process that included both panel and audience. The group discussed the difficulty of teaching acting as acting classes so rarely actually reflect the profession of acting. As John Harrell said, a classroom of eight to ten actors has almost nothing to do with the actual job of acting in several shows a week and performing a show over and over again while making each performance fresh and exciting.

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Lunch and Learn Session: The World Shakespeare Project

Good afternoon! Sarah Martin here in the Blackfriars Playhouse to liveblog the second Lunch and Learn Session of the Conference. Today’s session about The World Shakespeare Project features presenters Sheila Cavanaugh from Emory University and Kevin Quarmby from Oxford College, Emory University. The title of today’s session is “It is a Novelty to the World”: The World Shakespeare Project in a Global Context.

The World Shakespeare Project links Oxford, Georgia and Atlanta, Georgia so that students at both of Emory University’s campuses can can hold digital classes and group projects via Skype. Cavanaugh and Quarmby give examples of students sharing sonnets on separate campuses  and joint classes as far apart as London and Argentina.

Cavanaugh lends her iPad to Emory professor Paul Peterson who explains how the internet connection between the different locations works. He shows students the maps of the different internet cables that are beneath the world’s oceans and how they literally connect the classrooms across the world.

Cavanaugh and Quarmby also reach out to the world’s classrooms outside of the confines of Shakespeare. Cavanaugh explains that they connected with a classroom in Casablanca who did not have an anglo-centric curriculum and were able to adapt their English literature emphasis to French. Quarmby provides an anecdote of the Morrocan students’ views of fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as dangerous versus our Western views of fairies as magical and harmless and how this sparked other conversations between the students and provided a forum for cultural exchange.

Cavanaugh explains that non-native English speakers “are incredibly attentive to meaning” and Quarmby says that their Argentinean students “had an appreciation for the beauty of language”.  The international students’ attention to the nuances of the language helped American students find moments and meaning in the text that they might have missed out on otherwise.

The project has gone to India, Morrocco, and countries in South America. Cavanaugh explains that students in Argentina and Brazil are only one hour away from her American students in terms of the time difference so they can hold joint classes during traditional school hours. Cavanaugh’s travels to India have been both rewarding and potentially perilous. She said that each time she has traveled to India, she has been given twelve armed guards. Cavanaugh and Quarmby are quick to explain that they do not intend to patronize third world and war torn regions, but rather to highlight the similarities between the seemingly disparate cultures of the United States and nations thousands of miles away.

Cavanaugh and Quarmby use popular video chat program Skype to facilitate their virtual classes. Quarmby says that one university that they visited in Casablanca received government funding as a result of their project and now boasts video conferencing suites and a theatre with complete internet access.

The World Shakespeare Project  has  been able to conduct virtual sessions with Internet Shakespeare Editions and the Folger Library in Washington, DC.

The project’s classes are three and a half hours every day to provide students with a full semester’s worth of classes in three and a half weeks and often include exciting moments of cultural exchange. Stephen Unwin of the Rose Theatre  Kingston in London  directed Emory students from his theatre in the UK.  During one class meeting between Macbeth director Tom Magill in Belfast, students in Argentina, and students in Atlanta a unique moment of cultural exchange that might have been impossible previously. When the discussion turned to the common comparison of Lady Macbeth to popular political figures only two weeks after the death of Margaret Thatcher, students in Northern Ireland and Argentina were able to describe the impact of such a comparison from each of their perspectives to American students.

Salman Rushdie visited Emory in a particularly special moment for the Project and even performed Iago for that day’s class.

Cavanaugh concludes by stating that the ultimate goal of the Project is to “use Shakespeare as conduit” to bring together local traditions with the classic texts. For more information about this fOCSinating initiative, visit

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Paper Session #6

Happy Friday, everyone! Sarah Martin back here in the beautiful Blackfriars Playhouse to liveblog Paper Sesion #6 of the conference. This session’s moderator is Betsy Craig of Grove City College and features papers from Katherine Cleland, Brian Chalk, Jessica Schiermeister, Antonia Forster, Danielle Rosvally, Deb Struesand, and Travis Curtright.

Katherine Cleland, Virginia Tech

“This woman’s of my counsel”: Clandestine Marriage and the Politics of Female alliance in John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi

Cleland begins her presentation with a summary of the fOCSination that scholars have with Cariola’s relationship with the Duchess in The Duchess of Malfi. Cleland notes that scholarship has neglected the complex relationship between the two women. She examines their relationship through a political lens. As witnesses were not required to legitimize early modern marriages, many clandestine marriages were difficult to prove and “morally suspect”. Cleland points to the fact that the clergy were outspoken opponents of such secret marriages as evidence of the risk of clandestine marriage. Cleland states that the Duchess’s marriage  is inevitably political and that the Duchess uses Cariola’s presence at the marriage to legitimize her otherwise incredibly risky union. Cleland argues that the Duchess’s use of the word “counsel” when she says, “this woman’s of my counsel” in reference to Cariola elevates the maidservant to the position of legal counsel. Cleland references the OCS Touring Troupe’s recent production of the play in which the stage configuration of the Duchess, Antonio, and Cariola made Cariola look like the officiator at the wedding, underscoring Cariola’s role in legitimizing the marriage. Cleland notes that Cariola is reluctant to be complicit in the clandestine marriage, but has no choice because of her low social status. Cleland argues that the relationship between the Duchess and Cariola is “exploitative” as the Duchess’s actions condemn Cariola to death. The legal power of the female alliance is solidified When the Duchess and Antonio’s son is named the next Duke at the end of the play.

Brian Chalk, Manhattan College

Fletcher’s Future: Dividing Posterity in Henry VIII

Chalk argues that Henry VIII demonstrates that posterity is  the product of collaborative action–whether that posterity is the issue of the title character, or the text itself. Henry VIII is included in the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, but scholars agree that the play was a collaborative work between Shakespeare and John Fletcher. Chalk notes that Henry destroys the lives of others because of his lack of posterity in personage of a son. The end of the play, which features a prophecy about a phoenix, links Elizabeth with James I. Chalk argues that “in death, Elizabeth produces the male heir she could not in real life”. Henry’s posterity is not only his biological children, but an outsider–Elizabeth’s cousin. Chalk argues that the Tudor name culminates in the Stuart dynasty, noting that Henry’s posterity is the product of two names, just as the play is itself. Fletcher, Chalk claims, cared about the afterlife of his works and understood that the collaborative nature of posterity was essential to his success.

Jessica Schiermeister, Mary Baldwin College

“Youth in Petticoats”: The Early Modern Boy Actor, the All-Male Stage, and Female Performance

Scheirmeister argues that the long-held assumption that women were not allowed on the early modern English stage is incorrect. She notes that women were involved in guilds and that guild-members took part in the staging of small plays. Women performed in Mountebank productions as musicians, acrobats, and even actresses. Scheirmeister gives an example of such an actress, “Vittoria”, who was so popular, she had to have bodyguards accompany her home. Foreign troupes that had actresses also performed in England. Scheirmeister argues Queen Anna of Denmark acted in a mask and Queen Henrietta Maria gave instruction for such masks. Moll Frith could perform onstage because she dressed as a man, Scheirmeister argues. She notes that in Henslowe’s Diary, women are listed as pawnbrokers–very much a part of the commercial theatre world. Scheirmeiser argues that women had a commercial interest in theatre itself. Scheirmeister argues that the reason women were not employed as actresses because of the apprentice system in early modern England. Companies hired theatre apprentices, boys, to play the female roles in their plays. Scheirmeister argues that the lack of women on the early modern English stage was a “product of convenience, rather than ideology.”

Antonia Forster, University of Akron

Another History Play

Actors: Stephanie Holladay Earl, Patrick Earl, and Fernando Lamberty

Forster asks OCS Touring Troupe actor Stephanie Holladay Earl to perform a section of a history play. She first delivers a monologue alone and then is joined by actors Patrick Earl and Fernando Lamberty who inform her that the queen of the play is dead. The scene takes place in the middle of a battle. Forster notes that, in 1795, forged letters between Shakespeare and Elizabeth I and a copy of King Lear and another unnamed play were discovered and circulated. Samuel Ireland who discovered the forged letters and the play, known as Vortigern and Rowena, claimed that it is Shakespeare’s until his son, William Henry Ireland, admitted the forgery. The scandal surrounding the play’s discovery led to a performance in London. Audiences did not respond positively to the play and it had to stop mid-performance. Forster notes that London newspapers lambasted the play and detailed the audience’s disdain for the play. Forster argues that Vortigern and Rowena was dismissed in performance because of the scandal of its forged origins.

Danielle Rosvally, Tufts University Department of Dance and Drama

“Off With His Head!”…so much for Hewlett/Brown; The African Grove Theatre Presents Richard III

Rosvally gives a history of the first African American theatre company who performed for an African American audience: The African Grove Theatre. Their 1820 production of Richard III led to their arrest in New York City. Authorities even made the company members swear that they would never again perform Shakespeare. Rosvally gives examples of what The African Grove Theatre’s performance space may have looked like. She notes that Richard III was uniquely suited to their small performance space because the play does not require many set pieces. Rosvally provides brief biographies of the principle actors in the company and also describes the appearance of their costumes. She describes the acting style of the company and references reviews that claim the acting was “intense and intimate”.  The performance had one actress act each of the female parts in the play. Rosvally argues that the director, William Brown,  significantly cut the text to allow such doubling. She claims that the text would have been around 13,500 words and would have taken about 90 minutes to perform and would not need an intermission. Rosvally concludes by asking theatre historians to learn more about William Brown’s company and their significance in the American theatre history narrative.

Deb Streusand, University of Texas at Austin

“Pardon, gentles all”: Performing the Meta-theatrical.

Actors: OCS Touring Troupe members Patrick Midgley and Patrick Earl

Streusand discusses how metatheatricality operates in performance. She argues that the most difficult moment of metatheatricality for an actor is a textually-mandated direct reference. Streusand states that using humor can help an actor overcome this difficulty. She gives an example from the 2011 Blackfriars Conference. OCS actor Patrick Midgley performed a section of a speech from Henry  V while Streusand played a Western theme on a melodica. She argues that using the audience’s modern shared film reference helps the audience envision the horses that Midgley spoke about. The humor, she argues, “conveyed the significance of the reference”. Streusand also talks about the “metaphor of performance”. Streusand also references  the 2012 OCS production of Julius Caesar’s preshow. OCS actors Patrick Earl and Patrick Midgley took to the stage and sang “Clap Your Hands” and invited the audience to participate. Streusand argues that the actors “primed the audience”to become involved in the performance. She states that the textually-mandated direct reference alienates the audience more than the performance metaphor, but that both use humor to engage the audience in the moment of metatheatricality. Both methods use extratextual elements in order create that humor which should, “enhance the audience’s understanding of that reference”.  Streusand argues that such humor should be used in different ways by different companies and admits that the Blackfriars (with its thrust-staging and universal lighting) may have an advantage in such practice.

Travis Curtright, Ave Maria University

Kate’s Obedience Speech as an Exercise in Declamation

Curtright argues that the obedience speech at the end of The Taming of the Shrew represents a schoolboy’s successful understanding of the use of rhetoric in the early modern humanist education system rather than the defeat or “taming” of Kate. He argues that Shakespeare was familiar with the grammar school exercise of declamation and made references to it in several of his plays. Curtright notes that early modern grammar schools were dedicated to the “marriage of Classical rhetoric to Pauline Christianity”, and that Kate ironizes the curriculum of the grammar school, Richard Brinsley’s recommendations for declamations, and the overall obedience theme. Curtwright argues that Kate “uses rhetoric’s art to alter or expand the terms of Petruchio’s argumentum” and that, in doing so, she was able “re-describe and appropriate the moral content Brinsley’s method takes for granted.”  Hence, “actors who play Hortensio, Lucentio, and Petruchio must choose how to respond to these lines, from cheering Kate on to playing some recognition of irony.”

Blackfriars Conference 2013—Colloquy #8: Adaptations and Sources

 Good afternoon, all! Sarah Martin here to liveblog Colloquy #8: Adaptations and Sources. Our session took place in the S.P.A.C.E. building in downtown Staunton.

Chair: Edith Frampton, San Diego State University

Presenters: Amy Bolis from the University of Minnesota, Julia Griffin from Georgia Southern University, Amanda Hughes from the University of Alabama Huntsville, Tsui-fen Jiang from National Chengchi University, Mel Johnson from Mary Baldwin College, Louis Martin from Elizabethtown College, and Edward Plough from Delta State University.

 Our Chair, Edith Frampton from San Diego State University, began today’s session with a brief autobiography before asking each of this afternoon’s presenters to do the same.

 Frampton then gave a brief overview of her paper. Frampton argued that Shakespeare used moments in his plays to mock Robert Greene’s famous diatribe in which he describes Shakespeare as an “antic playwright” and a “shakes-scene”. Frampton pointed to moments such as the entrance of the simpleton William in As You Like It and references to the “green-eyed monster” in Shakespeare’s plays as evidence for her claim.

 Julia Griffin’s paper explores the relationship between Shakespeare and Plutarch and emphasizes the role of intermediary translators as sources for Shakespeare’s plays. Griffin used Antony and Cleopatra as her example of such influence. Griffin demonstrated that the influence of intermediary translators led to moments that lack clarity in Shakespeare’s plays, such as the suggestion that Cleopatra celebrated her birthday twice a year.

 Mel Johnson’s paper drew parallels between the “bedchamber scene” in Cymbeline during which Iachomo sneaks into Imogen’s bedroom as she sleeps and The Rape of Lucrece. Johnson argued that The Rape of Lucrece imbued Cymbeline with a sense of antiquity and authority and a sort of “creation myth of Britain” as James I, a Scottish king, became the English monarch.

 Edward Plough began his presentation with a brief performance. Musicians Scott Campbell and Jordan Zwick performed both Gower’s prologue from Pericles and a song from Plough’s musical adaptation of the play, Of Moonjays and Motorcycles. Plough’s paper explored the relationship between Gower in Pericles and a female nurse in Of Moonjays and Motorcycles. Plough explained his choice to create the Gower character as a nurse as Gower mentions that his, “physic” has worked before. Plough chose to pen a musical with Pericles as his source text because, he argued, Pericles is uniquely relevant to the millennial generation.

 Tsui-fen Jiang’s paper explored the role of Shakespeare in adaptation through the play, Goodnight Desdemona/Morning Juliet, a play that asks the audience to consider whether or not Othello and Romeo and Juliet were meant to be comedies. Jiang argued that we view female characters through the lens of patriarchal society and explored what happens when Ann-Marie McDonald, a female playwright with a female heroine, revisits the two iconic Shakespeare heroines.

 Louis Martin’s paper examined the different film versions of Hamlet and the role of the ghost in each one. He gave descriptions from several film adaptations including Kenneth Branagh’s and Franco Zefirelli’s Hamlets from the 1990s. He explored how the films both reflect and challenge Shakespeare’s play and in some cases, further the ambiguity that Shakespeare created in Hamlet.

 Amy Bolis discussed two adaptations of Othello: Harlem Duet and a hip-hop adaptation, Othello The Remix. Both adaptations portray Desdemona only as a voice and not a realized character that an actor embodies. Bolis argued that, while in both productions, Desdemona is only a “stage device”, Desdemona’s role in Harlem Duet is actually progressive as the absence of Desdemona highlights the “white privilege that Desdemona holds over” Othello and the problems that entails.

 Amanda Hughes’ paper explored the role of the Gothic in Shakespeare’s plays from Richard III to Hamlet and its decline in the Romances. Hughes argued that Shakespeare’s plays were influences on 19th Century Gothic writers as well as being Gothic texts themselves. Hughes argued that Richard III epitomizes the Gothic in Shakespeare’s plays through his use of binaries “dreadful marches, delightful measures”. Richard subverts the norm and creates an “atmosphere of terror” that effectively makes the play Gothic.

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Lunch and Learn Session: “The Actors are at Hand!” Bringing the OCS to your town

Hi everyone. Sarah Martin at your service once again. Today marks the first “Lunch and Learn Session” of the Blackfriars Conference at 11:30am in the Tyson Education Center at the OCS.

Our session featured presentations from OCS Tour Operations Manager Darlene Schneck, OCS Director of College Prep Programs Kim Newton, and Dr. William (Rusty) Jones from Murray State University.

Our session also featured short scenes from two of the Touring Troupe’s 2014/2015 World’s Mine Oyster Tour productions (Othello and The Merry Wives of Windsor) and featured Touring Troupe actors Rick Blunt, Russell Daniels, Patrick Midgley, Patrick Earl, Stephanie Holladay Earl, and Bridget Rue.

Today’s session began with a brief scene from Shakespeare’s Othello featuring OCS Touring Troupe actors Patrick Midgley and Rick Blunt. OCS Tour Operations Manager Darlene Schneck then asked everyone in the room introduce themselves and gave a brief overview of the Touring Troupe’s tour schedule and the locations they usually visit. According to Schneck, the Touring Troupe manages approximately seventy performances and one-hundred workshops (which range from stage combat to clowning to rhetoric sessions) on the road. Schneck described the frons scenae that the Touring Troupe uses to adapt the myriad of different stages to the thrust staging popular in Shakespeare’s day.

Dr. William (Rusty) Jones from Murray State University and the Chair of the Murray Shakespeare Festival talked to the session attendees about the benefits of having the OCS Touring Troupe come to one’s institution. Dr. Jones passed around a handout that detailed the history of the Murray Shakespeare Festival and a breakdown of events from this year’s festival that was produced in conjunction with the OCS Touring Troupe. Dr. Jones explained that the Murray Shakespeare Festival helped to get students involved with Shakespeare, both in terms of scholarship and performance. The Festival encouraged students to enjoy their studies included a screening of the recent film version of Coriolanus starring Ralph Fiennes of Harry Potter fame and a campus-wide Shakespeare insult battle! Dr. Jones also recruited local high school students to join in the festivities and asked the OCS actors to get involved with the local community theatre. Dr. Jones encouraged the attendees to, “make it a town event” when the OCS comes to visit. The  Murray Shakespeare Festival culminated in a final performance of Twelfth Night that had an audience of seven hundred and fifty!

OCS Director of College Prep Kim Newton then took the floor to discuss the logistics of OCS Touring Troupe residencies and the various workshops and educational seminars available to teachers. Echoing Dr. Jones’ example, Ms. Newton discussed the possibility of making an OCS residency a true community event. OCS Education programming has workshops and seminars appropriate for all ages, from school-aged children to different business retreats. Newton also explained that OCS Education can customize workshops  for specific classes and gave an example of an instance where the residency was able to customize a workshop for a class that was studying Bertoldt Brecht–not an obvious choice for a Shakespeare company!

After Ms. Newton’s presentation, Dr. Jones screened a video that captured the OCS Touring Troupe’s residency at Murray State.  The video featured OCS actors Jacob Daly and Rick Blunt who explained the American Shakespeare Center’s emphasis on using Shakespeare’s staging conditions in performance as a pedagogical tool. Rick Blunt also talked about the opportunity for the OCS actors to form relationships with the community, especially when the OCS returns to a town year after year.

After the video, Dr. Jones explained how an institution manages to pay for a week-long residency. He emphasized outreach within the community, such as getting local schools involved to become your audiences. He also suggested selling merchandise, contacting alumni, selling advertising to local businesses, and  applying for external grants to generate funding. Dr. Jones mentioned that he also advertises through the local NPR station a few weeks before the residency by broadcasting what he calls, “a moment with Shakespeare” twice a day as the residency approaches. Social media and regional newspapers also provide helpful advertising space for the residencies. Dr. Jones works with a committee of professors, student employees, student volunteers, and community volunteers to make the Murray Shakespeare Festival run smoothly.

Murray State University uses a theatre much larger than the Blackfriars during the OCS residencies and they are able to fit sixty gallant stools on their stage! Dr. Jones talked about issues of space and how the OCS can adapt to incredibly small performance spaces. The actors took to the stage, or, rather, to the floor in the small Tyson Education Center to demonstrate just that with a brief scene from The Merry Wives of Windsor that featured Touring Troupe actors Bridget Rue and Stephanie Holladay Earl.

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Paper Session #3

Good morning everyone! Sarah Martin here to liveblog the third paper session of the Conference. Our session’s moderator is Louisa Newlin from the Folger Shakespeare Library and features papers from Jeremy Fiebig, Davey Morrison Dillard, Kimberly West, Heidi Cephus, and Michael Wagoner. Amy Rodgers, from Mount Holyoke College, was unable to present her paper, “Choreographing Shakespeare” due to illness.

Jeremy Fiebig, Fayetteville State University/Sweet Tea Shakespeare/The Shakespeare Standard

“Actors’ Renaissance Rehearsal as Actor Training: A Case Study”

Fiebig began his paper with a question: “does the Actors’ Renaissance Season (ARS) model produce better prepard actors?” Fiebig decided to use the ARS model with his company, Sweet Tea Shakespeare. Fiebig’s initial results showed that, yes, the ARS model does produce better prepared actors when he entered the first day of rehearsal and found a cast who was completely off-book. As the rehearsal schedule went on, however, Fiebig found that the stresses of using the ARS model led to some interpersonal conflict and morale problems. Fiebig stated that the best benefit of using the ARS model was the incorporation of a “sharer” model akin to the the practices of early modern theatre companies. Fiebig argued for the ARS model as a pedagogical tool which shifts the focus on students from “what can you do” to “how can you be?”

Davey Morrison Dillard, The Grassroots Shakespeare Company

Stressing Audience Interaction: Soliloquy as Dialogue in Richard III

Actor: Mary Baldwin College MFA student Charlene Smith

Dillard began his presentation with a re-enactment of the Grassroots Shakespeare Company’s production of Richard III as Mary Baldwin College MFA student Charlene Smith performed Richard’s soliloquy from Act 5, scene 5. Smith first performed the soliloquy without any audience interaction and then again where all of Richard’s questions were directed to the audience who were invited to respond vocally to each one. Dillard argued that the audience’s vocal influences the direction of the scene and called this, “a sort of Elizabethan choose your own adventure”. Dillard stated that actor/audience interaction can transform the text and create meaning that may not be apparent in a reading or performance that lacks such audience interaction.

Kimberly West, Cumberland School of Law

“Shakespeare and the Law”

Law professor Kimberly West uses Shakespeare’s plays to teach courtroom skills to future lawyers.  She said that she always begins with The Merchant of Venice because of its famous courtroom scene. West analyzed Shylock’s failure to gain a pound of Antonio’s flesh as the result of a faulty bond. West detailed what exactly voided the  bond between Shylock and Antonio that led, ultimately, to Portia’s ability to save Antonio.

Heidi Cephus, University of North Texas

“The Thundering Audience in King Lear”

Cephus argued that the storm in King Lear represents the audience’s judgment. She stated that the audience becomes the storm in Lear and is “responsible for judgment” in place of the king. Cephus argued that the storm is a consequence of Lear’s refusal to weep and passes the judgment that Lear cannot pass himself. She explained that rain represents the audience’s tears as Lear commands that the storm (or the audience) go on to destroy the world of the play and that it is the audience’s role as the storm that, “transforms the actors into the characters”. For Cephus, the storm is no mere special effect, but the process by which the audience creates the play they are watching.

Michael Wagoner, Florida State University

“Imaginative Bodies and Bodies Imagined in Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Fletcher and Massinger’s The Sea Voyage

Actors: Sarah Blackwell, Kelly Elliot, Liz Lodato, Riley Steiner

Wagoner began his presentation with an explanation of the process of “extreme casting”: doubling so extensive that actors must change character without leaving the stage. Wagoner explored how extreme casting affects the process by which actors and audience create character. His example from The Tempest had actors Sarah Blackwell, Kelly Elliot, Liz Lodato, and Riley Steiner use only voice and physicality to demonstrate character difference whereas his example from The Sea Voyage asked the same actors to use costume and prop signifiers. In the example from The Tempest, actress Riley Steiner changed her vocal pitch and accent from that of an old man with a deep voice, to a high-pitched, nasal, and ethereal voice when she switched characters from courtier to spirit. In his example from The Sea Voyage, actress Kelly Elliot showed her character changes through the presence or absence of a hat. When Elliot removed her hat, she changed character, but another actor held Elliot’s empty hat to show that Elliot’s first character had not left the scene. Wagoner explained how, in the first example, the audience does not see a visible absence of the first character but recognizes the character change through the vocal and physical modulation. In his second example, the audience learns that the abandoned signifier, in this case a hat, showed the audience that the non-speaking character was still onstage, but the actor was now playing another character. Wagoner then discussed how the extreme casting process provides links between audience, actors, and characters. For example, casting the courtiers as the spirits in The Tempest constantly reminds the audience the the courtier is also a spirit and vice versa. This practice, Wagoner argued, highlights the audience’s experience of performance.

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Colloquy Session #2: Methods I, Pedagogy and the “Renaissance Run”

Hello Everyone, my name is Clare and I will be blogging for the 2013 Blackfriars Conference Colloquy II. This colloquy is presided by Greg Fiebig and the presenters are Craig Edwards, Kendra Emmett, Katie Wampler, and Jeremy Fiebig.



G Fiebig: I chose to use the Renaissance Run (Ren run) as a means to start rehearsals for a Shakepeare in Performance class working on Much Ado About Nothing. My son, Jeremy has done extensive research on the method and employed it in his work as a theater director.

This is a case study, which looks at the twelve man doubling group, limited rehearsal time, lack of director, and other period staging practices.  I cast myself as Don Jon, and the first watchman.

Looking back on the experience, we often view Ren run as a flipped classroom, (not using fact based knowledge towards a production, but learning by doing).  There are four major aspects of the flipped classroom.  1) Students arrive off book with a paraphrase, so they have experience before the class. 2) Students have an incentive to work hard.  These students had a contract, and had to perform after a week.  3) Instructors assess student understanding through conversation rather than tests. 4) Students learn through problem solving in performance.  Students worked in acting, directing, theater management, and literature.


J Fiebig: I used a rehearsal process similar to that of the American Shakespeare Center (OCS) Renaissance Season (about 5 weeks rehearsal with 2 weeks Ren style, and no director) as a device for the Sweet Tea Shakespeare Company.  In particular, we will looked at Romeo and Juliet.  Contracts with the actors made them sharers in the production.


G Fiebig: On the question of acting, what is the learning outcome or objective you want students to learn in an acting class?


Wampler: I want students to create and pursue character objectives.  Also, I work on the idea of presence on stage and productive moments of breaking the fourth wall.


J Fiebig: I want them to look at the ability to solve problems on their own.  I want them to look at how to prepare a text, to understand how to deconstruct early modern texts, and how to find embedded stage directions connecting to tactics/objectives.


G Fiebig: How does this Ren run model help actors accomplish those learning objectives/outcomes?


Wampler: Objectives orient towards the other characters on stage and interacting with the audience.


G Fiebig: Kendra played Beatrice, and continually wanted feedback. What did you get from me and how did you manage and achieve these outcomes?


Emmett: As an actor, you look to your director for feedback and guidance.  Even though we discussed that you would not be a director, you put forth the model, so you remained an authority. The response I got was “If I don’t like what you are doing, I will let you know,” therefore, I had to trust what I was doing and keep doing it with the knowledge that if something was wrong we would address it. There was a lot of problem solving we had to do on our own.


G Fiebig: Did you grow as an actor?


Emmett: Yes, I learned to come to rehearsal with multiple ideas to play with moments, or multiple ideas for tactics and how to test them.  I might only get to try one or two before I perform it.  I had to come with multiple options to solve the moments, and I had to have those ready.


G Fiebig: How does this confront the idea of the lazy actor?


J Fiebig: In the Blackfriars, I get a high on the space and the way that it works.  I come out thinking that the process will make good actors, but I do need good actors to make the process work well.  I need actors who are dedicated, but there is a definite value which I am still seeking to define.


G Fiebig: The model appears to become better over time. Having done it twice, does the process become better and does it make better theater?


J Fiebig: I would like to use the model again, I do not know if my actors would like it.


G Fiebig: What is the place of the director and how does it help with pedagogy? I had to teach students to act and what entrance and exit conventions are, etc. So I directed act 1, and Kendra did act 2 last minute, and we delegated the responsibility of the point person for each act from there.  However, there is also an individual who has to make acting decisions. How much influence in the casting and the audition process effects the production?


J Fiebig: It is true that a good deal of directing is choosing the best cast. I found that my role became that of a coach to make sure that actors did not freeze up, and continued to make choices.


G Fiebig: What, as a company member, did you learn about directing from stepping into that role?


Emmett: I was also taking a directing class at the time, but this was my first chance to direct (this class started before the others). I was a complete novice. For this style, I became a “traffic cop.”  It was the biggest piece of what we had to do for the second day of work.  The process began with looking at entrances and exits; then we sorted out where the actor needed to be.  Mostly it was organic, in that actors figured it out for themselves.  We only stopped if we had a problem in the flow.


G Fiebig: Her act also had the masquerade which was chaotic. It was interesting getting to watch them figure it out and being able to make them figure it out.  The end result was something about which I had no previous concept, including the music used. Was there some directing taking place in the absence of the director during the Ren run?


J Fiebig: Yes, the actors sort out a person to take the lead in each situation (often things like Hamlet having to direct Rozentcranz and Guildenstern).  I had a lot of teachers who wanted to take control of the chaos and fix it.  The major explosions of the process came from too many people wanting to take control.


G Fiebig: After the performance of Much Ado, I got pages of directors’ notes from audience members, and I had to choose which to acknowledge and send forward to the actors.  There were moments where I did not like what I was seeing on stage, which was frustrating for me as a teacher, director, and audience member. There was one particular instance in which I felt that I had to step in.


G Fiebig: What is the literary take away from a Ren run rehearsal process?


Edwards: I wanted to look at the objectives.  I wanted students to locate, identify, and interpret literary devices and how they convey meaning in a macro and micro sense on stage.  I also want my students to be able to interpret the literary devices visually. I wanted my students to be able to see both rehearsals and productions.  I am particularly interested in symbolism, and how a symbol can have multiple meanings on stage.  (Students often have a one-to-one correlation with symbolism).  I saw Alli Glenzer able to interpret a speech (I don’t remember which) in which she physically interpreted a repeated idea four or five different ways, and I want my students to be able to see those multiple possibilities and the ways they can realize these ideas.


J Fiebig: I think there is a desire to play the ambiguity here at the OCS rather than looking at is as an option. The rehearsal process is about negotiating which of the options to pursue and how it affects the other characters in the scene.  There is comfort in allowing the audience or the reader to choose what the ambiguity means rather than trying to have the actor solve it. As a result, the performances are more conversational, and less essays.


G Fiebig: There is ambiguity in the way they play the text as well as how to read the text. You allow students to do their own cutting, and some of the actors at the OCS are allowed to do the cutting.  How does that play into the pedagogical or learning outcome?


J Fiebig: The reason for this model is less to engage in a conversation about literary choices, and more about opening up clearer acting choices for the actors, it is more about performance time and clear story telling.  We do have literary conversations and I do insist on certain lines which will not be cut.  In Romeo and Juliet, we had to replace Juliet, and the first Juliet made several of her own cuts, and the second one wanted to make different cuts which was difficult for Romeo.  There is also a conversation about cutting famous lines.  But this is all less of a literary focus.


G Fiebig: We talk about original practices as conventions of theater (such as the OCS use of a bell for an intermission signal).  There are certain ideas which an audience must be taught, and certain objectives for what we teach the audience.  What are the learning outcomes for the audience members and how does the Ren Run methodology allow us to active that?


Wampler: We want to entertain and educate audience members.  How do we do that so that they know what to expect? Your expectations of the experience effects the experience itself.  So how can you prepare the audience for a certain experience in order to help them get the most? We look at marketing (the OCS does podcasts) we want to let them know that the lights will be on, so they do not expect the quiet of a black out over the audience.


G Fiebig: What do we do when we get them there? How do we teach an audience that audience interaction is okay, and can be good? You talk about circles of energy, how can you use that to connect to the audience?


Wampler: Circles of energy range from introvert to overbearing an audience member.  We need to look at where the audience members fall with these circles of energy and how they will react and respond to audience targeting.


J Fiebig: To me, this seems like a new convention in which I wonder if we are teaching people to respond in a particular way because they are trained at other events how to be audience members, and I wonder how audience members can react new ways. There is something about performance, because if it is just Shakespeare that we love, we would read it at home. 


G Fiebig: The idea of new and familiar conventions raises the question if there is anything new.  Shakespeare had to create a different kind of place for a different kind of event for what his audience members would experience.  The audience has to agree on the proper channels of reaction to a given situation.  In every performance, we have to teach the audience and they have to learn how to respond to things. One of the things we use for audience pedagogy is marketing.  We need to persuade people that the performance is something they want to be a part of, and that they want to come.  What is the marketing/theater management aspect of the Ren run?


J Fiebig: People need a reason to come to a play.  For many people, the fact that Shakespeare is “important” is a part of it.  For my company, the Shakespeare aspect, the outdoor aspect, the homespun aspect, the food and drink, the beautiful people and animals in the performance are all attractions.  The artist in me struggles with the idea that the performances are strictly pedagogical, and with the idea that what we are doing is branding and marketing. I like to look at the idea of value instead, and the idea of building value. I like to look at where we go to get values.


G Fiebig: How does that balance with theater management?  Our ticket sales were dismal in terms of the project.


Wampler:  The biggest marketing technique is “word of mouth.” We had students sit by the cafeteria and call out to people about the production.  We could have a great performance, but still few people came.  Being able to engage in the performance is really beautiful, and it is sad when we cannot share it.


J Fiebig: We found that taking pieces of the production to the community and performing in a different space and made it reach to a larger range of people.  We found that the Ren model caught attention and interested people.

G Fiebig: We performed in lots of different places which made the performances and the audience response unique.


Wampler: One of the performances was particularly interesting because a lot of people passing through, (including small children who came to watch) and were interested in the world we were able to create.  Kids do not like to sit quietly, and they do not always learn the audience conventions we create in interactive theater. The interaction and the world are a huge part of the process.


J Fiebig: The idea that it is cheap theater is not always applicable.  Sometimes the cheapest show to produce is much better.


G Fiebig: The Ren model turns the classroom upside down. We tried to look into it, are there any questions we can clarify?

Audience member: How do you balance the circles of energy and direction?

Wampler: I have to coach individually and make them repeat it until they get into the proper circle, the students can feel it and can identify it, and find which one best creates the relationship with the other characters and the audience.  See also, Patsy Rodenburg on body, breath, and voice. (see links and

Audience member: what lead you to the decision to rehearse in multiple different spaces?

G Fiebig: I chose to do so because I knew we would be performing in different spaces, and wanted to build into their experience the ability to adapt to environment.

J Fiebig: I wanted to do that as a marketing technique (we did not have a large marketing budget).  The press release about our traveling practice attracted media attention as well.  Another reason is to allow the actors and audience to have potential access to liquor and coffee.  In addition, different places have different aesthetics and different tones which allow different parts of the text to emerge. Having the actors encounter lots of things that are not part of a pristine environment allows them to grow in their ability to respond to each other and the environment (and become accustomed to inoculate particular distractions), it is also helpful for responding to a live audience.

Audience member:  I have seen that characters can embrace and use the environment as part of the performance, so why inoculate?

J Fiebig: Some things have to be ignored because the character has a larger concern. You have to choose what to inoculate for a clearer and more effective performance.

Emmett: Often embracing the moment becomes comic and you have to balance the meta-theatrical and the tragic.

J Fiebig/audience member: there are moments when meta-theatrical are used to intensify rather than for comic effect

G Fiebig:  Placing new actors in a new environment gives actors more to respond to.

J Fiebig: We also found that it can create more intimate moments between the actors when they have to hold the environment at bay.

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Paper Session #2

Hello again! Sarah Martin here to liveblog the final session of Day 1. Our moderator for Paper Session #2 is Mary Hill Cole of Mary Baldwin College and features papers by Alan Armstrong, Sid Ray, Holly Pickett, Bill Gelber, Cass Morris, and Peter Kanelos.

Alan Armstrong, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

“Dost thou not know my voice?”: Metadramatic Reference to the Doubling Actor in The Comedy of Errors

Actors: M.Litt Students Ian Charles and Nicola Collett and MFA student Dane Leasure.

Armstrong argued that the actor who first played Egeon in The Comedy of Errors also played Doctor Pinch. He argued that the actor must have had a distinct voice and that recognizing actor doubles was pleasurable for early modern audiences. Armstrong argued that Shakespeare “could not have resisted” the opportunity to exploit the doubling. Armstrong used Mary Baldwin M.Litt/MFA students to demonstrate a moment where Shakespeare breaks down the fourth wall to expose his doubling choice when Egeon asks his sons, “Dost thou not know my voice?” M.Litt student Nicola Collett played Egeon while Dane Leasure and Ian Charles played the twin sons as they are reunited with their father who, Armstrong argues, they have heard before in the person of Dr. Pinch.

Sid Ray, Pace University

“To make an unskillful laugh” Shakespeare’s Rhetoric of Belches

Actors: OCS Resident Troupe Members Lee Fitzpatrick, Josh Innerst, Dylan Paul, and Gregory Phelps

Ray explored the role of Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. With such a  descriptive name, yet no explicit moment for a belch found in the text, Ray gave some examples of where such belches may occur in the text and where editors have chosen to insert these noises. Ray explained the cultural relevance of the belch through her discussion of Robert Burton’s iconic early modern text, The Anatomy of Melancholy. Ray argued that Sir Toby must belch and provided her own choice moments for said belches in the play. She enlisted the assistance of OCS actors Lee Fitzpatrick, Josh Innerst, Dylan Paul, and Gregory Phelps to illustrate some of the possible moments for the important belches.

Holly Pickett, Washington and Lee University

“Kiss of Death: Poisoned Properties in The Revenger’s Tragedy

Actors: OCS Resident Troupe Members Josh Innerst, Dylan Paul, and Gregory Phelps

Pickett used OCS actors Josh Innerst, Dylan Paul, and Gregory Phelps to act out the climatic scene of The Revenger’s Tragedy in which Vindice convinces the Duke to kiss the poisoned skull of Vindice’s love as an act of revenge. Pickett compared the gruesome scene to the Catholic practice of kissing Holy Relics which the devout believed held healing powers and how The Revenger’s Tragedy perverts that practice. Pickett gave examples of numerous reliquary busts of female saints which were intended to hold the skull of the saint and decorated with the image of a well-born sixteenth-century lady. Pickett then had her actors take the stage and heightened the religious imagery present in the poisoning scene by placing the image of a sixteenth century lady on the fake skeleton of Gloriana. When the Duke kissed the image of the lady, the actors pulled off the picture and revealed the skull. Pickett’s ultimate argument was that the poisoning scene represented English Protestant dismissal of Catholic relics.

Bill Gelber, Texas Tech University

“I Can Smile and Murder Whilst I Smile”: Harold Pinter’s Shakespearean Strategies

Actors: OCS Resident Troupe Actors Lee Fitzpatrick, Dylan Paul,  Gregory Phelps

Gelber began his presentation with a moment from Harold Pinter’s Betrayal as Gregory Phelps performed a monologue in which his character masks his true anger with mocking, a Cockney practice known as “taking the piss”. In this practice, one character subtly mocks another, but the target of the mocking knows that the other character is “taking the piss”. Gelber argued that Pinter adopted this strategy in his plays from the works of Shakespeare, particularly Shakespeare’s villains. Gelber, aided by OCS actors,  gave examples from Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Love’s Labour’s Lost where the characters demonstrate “taking the piss”.  Gelber himself stepped in to act opposite Lee Fitzpatrick in a “taking the piss” demonstration.

Cass Morris, American Shakespeare Center

“Why do you thus exclaim? Emotionally Inflected Punctuation in Editorial  Practice and Performance”

Actors: OCS Resident Troupe Actors Lee Fitzpatrick, Dylan Paul, and Gregory Phelps

Morris began her presentation with an explanation that her job as Academic Resource Manager for the OCS has exposed her to numerous editions of Shakespeare’s plays and that she has noticed that modern editors tend to use punctuation to convey the emotional sense of a phrase rather than simply denoting the grammatical structure of the phrase. While these “emotionally inflected punctuation” marks are found in editions intended for students below the graduate level, Morris argued that such editions are commonly used in both amateur and professional performances. Morris also used OCS actors to demonstrate the implications of such punctuation in performance. Morris argued that “emotionally inflected punctuation” can limit character choices because of their prescriptive nature and leaving them out allows for more choices in terms of character choices. Morris concluded with the argument that performance choices should be left to the performers themselves and not editors with advanced degrees.

Peter Kanelos, Valparaiso University

Richard III and Embodied Rhetorical Figures on the Early Modern Stage

Kanelos began with an example of Lady Anne’s monologue over the body of Henry VI in Richard III and an analysis of the rhetorical figures which conjure Richard III. He argued that Richard is a product of rhetorical figures. Kanelos gave a brief history of the ancient privileging of rhetoric and our modern devaluing of the art of argument.  In a discussion of the play’s prophecy that, “G of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be”, Kanelos argued that the G stands not only for Gloucester, but that the G is the figure of the deformed villain himself. Kanelos used the image of the “G” to trace Richard’s character arc from Duke to murderer to King to dead man. Kanelos explained that  Richard’s sense of self is divided rather than unified and his rhetorical figures demonstrate just that. Kanelos concluded his explanation of the “doubled self” just before the famous Blackfriars Conference  bear made Kanelos the first victim of this week’s presentations. Well done.

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Colloquy Session #3: The Feminine in Early Modern Plays

Hi Everyone! Sarah Martin here at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel Skyline Room to liveblog Colloquy Session III: The Feminine in Early Modern Plays at 2:30pm on Wednesday, October 23. The chair for this Colloquy is Christopher Clary from Emory and Henry College and features presenters Sonia Desai from University of California Irvine, Amber Karlins from Hillsborough Community College, Paris Shun-Hsiang-Shih from National Chengchi University, and Karoline Szatek from Curry College.

Professor Clary opened this Colloquy Session with the announcement that Amber Karlins will not be presenting, but has still submitted her paper for discussion. Amber Karlins’ paper deals with models of femininity that are both within and outside of the law. Professor Clary then asked each presenter to say a bit about their specific paper topics. Professor Karoline Szatek’s  paper deals with how Shakespeare’s birds represent both women and men. PhD candidate Sonia Desai’s paper is about moments when Shakespeare references the boy actor under a woman’s costume. Paris Shun-Hsiang-Shih is presenting a paper about the role of the eunuch in Twelfth Night and Professor Christopher Clary’s paper is about the anatomy of Moll in Middleton and Dekker’s The Roaring Girl.

Professor Clary began discussion with a question about the role of gender in boy actors and eunuchs: are they gendered or non-gendered? Desai and Shun-Hsiang-Shih discussed how eunuchs employ a liminal space in terms of gender as Shun-Hsiang-Shih argued that Viola uses the role of eunuch to her advantage. He explained that in ancient Chinese folklore, the eunuch is always underestimated and then becomes successful because no one views the eunuch as a threat. Desai brought up The Country Wife as an example of another character who uses the guise of eunuch-hood in order to get what he wants–in this case, the other women in the play. As the discussion of power and the role of the eunuch continued, Clary pointed out that Caesario’s state as a eunuch is usually de-emphasized in performance, but it greatly affects the relationship between the characters. For example, a potential marriage between Caesario and Olivia would be childless and Clary asked if Olivia desires Caesario because of the power that she would hold over him.

Desai discussed the theatrical practice of “double vision” where an audience sees both the “mechanics of theatre” and the imagined characters and story itself–in this case, that an early modern audience both follows the narrative of the play while constantly aware that the characters they are watching are being played by boys.

Clary then turned over the discussion to Professor Szatek’s paper on ecofeminism with a question about how Shakespeare’s female characters relate to nature. Professor Szatek argued that Shakespeare contrasts women and men through how each group treats nature. Szatek explains that males in Shakespeare’s plays are, “often equated with hunting” and that, “women are treated as prey”. Szatek argued that in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare reverses that practice. Clary and Szatek discussed the role of pollution and how pollution, essentialism, and nature interconnect.

Clary continued the Colloquy with a discussion of the role of what Desai calls, “true femininity” in the early modern period. Desai explored how “true” can mean both honest and legitimate and how that would be performed on an early modern stage. This, Clary pointed out, is something that would change over time just as the plays themselves do.

The Colloquy concluded with a brief discussion of Clary’s paper in which he explores the anxiety over the possibility that Moll could become male through her use of male clothing and how gender that is performed reflects or subverts the biological anatomy of the actors portraying the characters– a shared interest among the presenters at this afternoon’s  informative and fOCSinating Colloquy.