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.

Wake-up Workshop: “If This Were Played Upon A Stage”

Good Morning and Welcome to the 2nd day of the 2013 Blackfriars Conference, its Ashley Pierce again. I will be live blogging the 2nd ever Wake-up Workshop, “If This Were Played Upon A Stage” presented by OCS Director of College Prep Programs Kim Newton. This session took place from 8:00 to 8:45 AM on Thursday October 24th at the American Shakespeare Center.

As Newton welcomed the attendees to the 2nd day of the conference and explained what it was she did for the OCS, she welcomed one of her previous camp interns who was kind enough to come this morning. She then explained that this particular workshop would be pertaining to embedded stage directions in Shakespeare’s plays. Further explaining that like the previous day, this is a chance for the attendees to get an idea of what it is the program offers in the way of education workshops, Newton explained how each time she presents a workshop she likes to bring a fresh piece of work to the session. With that in mind she wished to talk to the group about how embedded stage directions help the attendees students and actors.

As Newton asked for a volunteer, she handed a gentleman a piece of text from Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” which was a particularly long stage direction. She then asked the group to explain what we learned from that stage direction, with a member of the audience saying “particular action is dictated by stage direction.” Other conclusions included information about the world of the play, costumes, and props. This then brought about the idea of if this stage direction was intended for the audience or the reader. Newton made the correlation between Stoppard’s stage directions and Shakespeare’s, saying that Shakespeare’s are not nearly as long or descriptive.

Newton then offered a selection from “Pericles Prince of Tyre” by William Shakespeare, a scene in Tyre with four actors present. She asked for four volunteers to join her on stage, and then arranged them on stage. The volunteers then began a reading of the scene to start to discover the embedded moments in this scene, moments like Helicanus dropping to his knee, Pericles dismissing the Lords present on the stage and Pericles having Helicanus rise and then sit. Newton then asked the volunteer actors if there was any written stage directions in this scene, to which there were none. Moving forward they were then asked if there were any embedded stage direction, to the which the rising and sitting was brought up for discussion. A participant mentioned that this moment could be a joking moment, which then led to the question of Helicanus’s age and less joking since he is in the presence of a king. Another embedded stage direction moment came from Helicanus in the form of a description of one of the Lords present on stage. One of the big things that was discovered was that the actor playing Pericles must listen to his fellow actor to obtain the needed information from the scene as it pertains to movement. It was with a bit more discussion that an audience member came to the thought that stage directions, embedded as well as explicit, dictate status on stage. 

In respect of time Newton then brought Act 3 Scene 4 from “Macbeth” she wished to explore to discover and show embedded stage directions. Making a quick disclaimer, Newton explained this is a cut version of the script; the attendees then went around the room to read a line each. After the read through Newton explained how there were many of the same types of embedded stage directions as with the scene before, this time with a greater number of actors. The important thing to note is the discovery of when Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo and when he is talking to the other actors in the room. Also the directions for the other Lords in the scene as well as for the ghost of Banquo are embedded within the scene.

As the time wrapped up Newton asked those who attended to please continue to think about embedded stage directions and how it can help their actors and students to understand the scenes and characters better.

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.

Colloquy Session V: Published Text

Doyle Ott

As a circus performer and director, Doyle Ott is interested in how much abuse plays may take, and if it gets a laugh, let it rip. Ott explains that circus and Shakespeare have a habit of feeding off each other.

Starting in the 1800 across Europe and America there were clowns who had solo Shakespeare and performance acts. Acts were introduced to by short speeches and full of physical comedy.

In the 1800 circuses would mount versions of Shakespeare histories and battles.

Audience would have been familiar enough with the plays to recognize the verbal parody of the Shakespearean clowns.  Most circuses would boast a Shakespearean Clown or Jester.

The scenarios in which Shakespeare’s language was used were often little related to original scenario, for example “to draw or not to draw” referring to a tooth ache.

One clown was referred to as “the Shakespearean Jester” and another “the Touchstone of the circus”

The repartee of Shakespearean clowns was influenced by Shakespeare’s description of York in Hamlet.

The clown evokes Shakespeare’s name to lend himself authenticity as a fool.

Dan Rice was a prominent Shakespearean clown in the United States.  His costume recalled Uncle Sam, and he didn’t wear clown white, he was more jester than buffoon.

Another famous Shakespearean clown, Wallace, once worked with Rice on short notice, Wallace played high status fool, and Rice took the place of the lower status clown, playing off of Wallace’s pretensions.

In 1849 the Rose Olympic Circus was built where Othello, and Richard II were performed by actors described as second rate actors but first rate clowns.

Shakespearean clowns had to have enviable knowledge and experience of Shakespeare’s works in order to parody them so effectively.

Lack of documentation leads many to discount them but relevant to Shakespeare performance tradition.

Iska Alter and William Long

Sidestepping feuds over who wrote what in Romeo and Juliet Alter and Long examine a few key important storytelling differences between the First and second Quarto publications.

First seven scenes of Q1 and Q2 are similar, but the variations they have are very import and inform context and content that inform audience about the play.  Differences abound even in title pages and in the opening Chorus. In Q1 the prologue starts out “Two household, both friends in dignity” which sends a very different opening message than the version in Q2 “Two households, both alike in dignity.”

Servants and their conduct differ slightly in Q1 and Q2.  The space they occupy is quite different because the servants dominate action in Q1, which suggests that comic action dominates the scene whereas Q2 is bawdier and the action shared more among the servants the young men of the family and the Lords.  Q2 also names 3 out of 4 servants who appear.

In Q1 “I” is used more in this scene and in Q2 “we.” What might this mean?

In their entrances in Q1 Benvolio and Tybalt don’t speak, but in Q2 we immediately are given clues to their characters by what they say. In Q2 Benvolio has a better idea of how fight affects city and the families. In Q1 everyone just stars fighting, in Q2 we get to know the characters a little better.  Q2 folio presents citizens entering fight led by officer.

When Lord Capulet and Lord Montague join the fight with their wives resistance are we meant to laugh at the sight of old men attempting to use their long swords?

In Q1 the Price’s speech after the brawl is shorter than in Q2.  However, it is not merely the length of the respective speeches, but prince’s condemnation is fiercer in Q2.

Q2 folio gives us are presentation of the destabilizing effects of the feud.

Arlynda Boyer

Plague, Playing, and Printing

A new narrative about Shakespeare’s writing history.

Ms. Boyer points out that gaps in the publication history of Shakespeare’s plays coincide with outbreaks of plague.

Most quartos boast of diverse and sundry performances, which could only happen out of plague time.

What if the plays weren’t published because they weren’t being performed?  Plague interrupts playing, which in turn interrupts publication.

Playing and plague shared a relationship, opponents blamed theater for plague infection partially because they believed that theaters offend god.

For plays to resume totally mortality rates in London would have to stay under between 30 to 50 people a week for 20 days depending on the date.

Privy Council was so anxious to ward off infection would often close theaters at the smallest risk.

1603 1 in 5 would get the plague that finally ended in late 1609. Shakespeare wrote some of his darkest plays during this period, not knowing when they would be performed.

Quarto publication followed performance between 18 months to two years on average. But if plague interrupted performance for too long this formula was shaken and if plague lasted even longer we have to wait for folio for the publication of the play.

Shakespeare moved companies during first plague of 1593.

During the long 1593 closure Shakespeare wrote Venus and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece.

Only Lear, Pericles and Othello were published in quarto out of nine plays written in plague the 1603-1609 plague years, Pericles may have been sold by co-writer because of hard financial times.

Julius Creaser and As You Like It are thought to have been written in 1599 but not published until folio, even though there wasn’t a large plague outbreak during this time. However, anything that interrupts performance influenced publication.  In June-October 1599 Henslowe records no income, but plague was virtually unknown. This is one of the only instance where not all playhouses closed and opened together, it may have been financial difficulty at Rose or may perhaps improvements to the playhouse. In times of unrest a crowd could turn violent quickly State and city were on edge all summer long, it is possible that this was the reason that the theaters were closed down.

Closures continued through 1613 on and off.

The one thing Early Moderns new about plague was that it spread in crowds, so playgoers may have been staying away, which might have deterred publication.

Amanda Finn

Nothing is so funny as a man in drag unless you’re the butt of the joke.

Changing the spelling of Epicene’s name changes the emotional feel of the play

2008 edition of Johnson’s work limited the stage direction of the elaborate clothing removal.

Epicene means sexless or neuter in Geek.

Epicene was a common name for sexless characters so Early Modern audiences would not have been as shocked by the twist ending

Not one character in Epicene is meant to be taken at face value.

At one point an editor decided that removal of clothing was unnecessary and to just removing the wig.

The revelation in act V exposes the men as the fools that they are.  Removing clothing is more shocking than removing a wig to show definite proof of gender, this is a pivotal scene for nocking men off their pedestals and destroying their social position.

While the men are acting effeminately towards everyone the women are acting mannish. Epicene is the only women who acts the way that a character earlier in the play defines as “womanish.”

Considering the lack of stage directions from this time, it seems unjust to remove this one.

Mathew Vadnais

Plays of the Queen’s Men influenced Shakespeare’s writing style as well as content.

Queens’s Men were designed to divide to reach the most places possible.

Playwrights would not have been able to write for specific actors.

In order to make performance cue parts easier developed strategy of longer speeches and easily recognized cue lines.

The demands of a company that broke and came back together made playwright focus on structure.

By pairing plays with later Shakespeare history plays we see same speech percentages.

Colloquy Session IV: Audience

Hello again, Ashley Pierce here again to live blog the 4th Colloquy about Audience on Tuesday October 23rd from 2:30 to 3:45 PM, as part of the 2013 Blackfriars Conference. In this session Garth Michael Clark, Becki Jones, Abigail Montgomery, Abigail Fine, Patricia Wareh, and Michael Boecherer discuss their papers that deal with various audience interactions, staging issues, revisions,  and audiences psyche.

A Midsummer Night’s Mess: Staging a Mechanical Play Towards Royalty by Garth Michael Clark

Dealing with the issues of the staging of the play with in the play moment in A Midsummer Nights Dream, Clark talks about how this can be problematic in various ways. Included in these problems are where the actors are position on the stage and how this can cut out certain members of the audience. Clark wishes us to keep in mind that we must “maintain a good relationship with all audience members…” by positioning this particular scene in such a way that either allow audiences on all sides or to limit the space audience members are allowed to position themselves. This will thus ensure no moments of alienation to the members of the audience, including the royals (who Clark argues could be placed either on the far most end of the balcony or placed on the stage with the actors).

Why a jig? Try a jig! by Becki Jones

Jones talks about the prospect of placing jigs at the end of various Shakespearean plays and how this effects the audience. More specifically, jigs that have been performed at The Globe theatre in London England, as well as ones that Jones had choreographed. Talking about the different types and movements of the jig and how this moment in the performance started to fall into the hands of the clown character to choreograph in 1600, which influenced the jig in disrepute and became increasingly bawdy. Jones requested that everyone refer to her YouTube to see the jig at the end of Richard II and how this worked to not only removed the dead bodies from the stage, but to also infuse life back into the theatre and audience.

“I am Richard…know ye not that?” Possible Tudor Critiques in Two Pro-Tudor Plays by Abigail Montgomery

In looking at Richard III and Henry VIII Montgomery talks about how audience members will think and see Richard III and Henry VIII and the parallels between the two men. Making comments on recent productions at the OCS and how even the costumes are ingrained in the minds of people and how they shape appearance choices. Montgomery also asks; “What, in particular, does Shakespeare argue about Tudor history through the portrayals, words, and actions of major women characters in these plays?” “What does the unsaid and the unperformed argue about Tudor history in these plays?” and “How much of this comes from Shakespeare, how much of it comes from the audience, and how much of it is jointly created in reading, performing, and watching the plays?”

The Profitable Art of Revision by Abigail Fine

Fine talks about how audience reactions would infer upon the revisions of plays in the early modern period. Actions from the audience such as booing, hissing, heckling, etc. would shape the play they were watching. Early modern audiences were not held to the strict actions of today’s audiences, instead playing an important role in shaping the plays and their revisions. Citing a moments in The Knight of the Burning Pestle in which “Beaumont leaves no space for the audience to perform/revise/relate as they normally would during a play.” This then angers the audience, forcing them to dislike the production because “the play had not been written with their pleasure in mind…” Fine says the early modern audience had a sense of rights when it came to revisions in a production and reacted poorly when said that action was removed.

Courtesy, Judgement, and the Audience in The Merchant of Venice by Patricia Wareh

Wareh suggests “that examining another fundamental concern of the text, courtesy, can also shed light on the play’s insistent ambiguity.” This is in regards to recent studies that have focused on the plays illumination through attention to economics and religious issues. Courtesy, as Wareh sees it, determines ways characters interact with each other but brings different forms of judgement together. Contrasting Shylock’s “single-minded pursuit of judgement” to the Christian characters “flexible judgement.” Wareh leaves us with the following thought; “The Merchant of Venice also invites the audience to examine their own judgement.”

“Putting a Spell on You”: The Performance of Language, Stagecraft, and Demonism in Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors  by Michael Boecherer

Boecherer makes the statement that early modern audiences would be able to make correlations between Antipholus’s speech in The Comedy of Errors and their lives in London. This shines a light on witchcraft and how it would effect the audience as they watched the actions and heard the words from this Shakespearean play. The audience’s understanding of witchcraft and demonic spell work is essential to how they would interpret The Comedy of Errors, as well as how they would react to this play. Boecherer addresses the fact that witchcraft is not seen on stage in this particular play, but is instead talked about, which is enough to conjure images and tones in the minds of the early modern audience.

Staging Session 1 Wednesday 10/23/2013

Good afternoon everyone.

This is Molly Zeigler, MBC MLitt/MFA student, here to live-blog Staging Session 1 (10/23/2013) at the 2013 Blackfriars Conference.  This Staging Session is being presented at the Blackfriars playhouse.

Session Moderator: Doreen Bechtol, Mary Baldwin College


Douglas King, Gannon University

Brett Gamboa, Dartmouth College: Dramas of Disclosing: Some Intrusions of Actor and Stage

James Loehlin, The University of Texas at Austin: Comic and Tragic Eavesdropping Scenes in Shakespeare 


Ben Curns, Lee Fitzpatrick, Josh Innerst, Gregory Phelps, and Rene Thornton, Jr.

These Staging Sessions are an opportunity to explore how staging, architecture, and physicality impact interpretation and performance. Today’s scenes are being presented ‘on the fly,’ with little preparation (a fact infusing the session with a certain energy and a sense of immediacy). There are future Staging Sessions scheduled.

Presenting first is James Loehlin from the University of Texas at Austin. Loehlin’s work is focused on eavesdropping scenes in the plays. Loehlin suggests viewing the representation of eavesdropping in Early Modern drama as “concentric rings” of communication – consider eavesdropping in Troilus and Cressida and in Love’s Labour’s Lost (namely the four young men and their sonnets).  Of special interest are the examples of eavesdropping where one character believes himself to be hiding and listening effectively, but in reality his location and activity are well known to other characters in the scene and this fact is exploited for maximum impact.

First, the comic eavesdropping: Act 2, scene 3 of Much Ado About Nothing, the garden of eavesdropping (Benedict hides, he thinks, unbeknownst to others).  The scene is played beautifully by Ben Curns, Josh Innerst, Gregory Phelps, and Rene Thornton, Jr.  By exploring different versions of the same scenario (with Benedict being the focus, with the others being the focus, with Benedict hiding in plain sight, etc) we can begin to see how the act of eavesdropping impacts the performativity of the piece.

Eavesdropping and its representation pose intriguing questions: Who benefits from hearing certain things here?; Who needs to hear what at this moment?; Why does this character hide at this moment?; What does this ‘hidden’ activity mean to the overall story?

Second, the tragic eavesdropping: Act 4, scene 1 of Othello, Iago and Cassio talking about Bianca while Othello eavesdrops (and mistakes the conversation for being about Desdemona). The scene is explored by Ben Curns, Josh Innerst, and Rene Thornton, Jr. In this examination close attention is paid to proxemics (spatial relationships between actors, between actors and audience) and to auditory concerns – how much does Othello hear, how much does he need to hear?

It is interesting to see how the staging of eavesdropping, and the considerations and choices that may be made, can alter and direct perception of character, plot, story, tragedy, and comedy. (And how much freedom there may be in a given text to represent eavesdropping.)

Presenting second is Brett Gamboa from Dartmouth College. Gamboa is presenting his work: Dramas of Disclosing: Some Intrusions of Actor and Stage.  Gamboa is exploring the line between actor and character and how they are both represented on stage.

Assisted by Ben Curns, Lee Fitzpatrick, Josh Innerst, Gregory Phelps, and Rene Thornton, Jr. several scenes from several works (including Othello and Hamlet) are explored.

We are looking, here, for the interesting and obvious mix of the actor and the character being performed.  At times, and supported by production histories and texts, a character may present aspects of the performer while the inverse remains true for the majority of the time.  Consider when characters ‘forget’ lines (Hotspur, Polonius), it is an act that many actors encounter and in its performance the line between expression of action and action itself is blurred.  Consider, as well, when characters suffer falls or other injury within the play and the concern expressed by other characters may represent concern between actors. It is also interesting to consider the impact of the playing space. In King Lear when a blind Gloucester is being led up a ‘hill,’ he his not being led up a hill, rather the ‘ground’ is as flat as a stage.

Conventions can limit and shape a performance – these conventions are used by Shakespeare and by actors in production after production. Consider the feather in front of a dead Cordelia’s face – it will stir.  Stage and character conventions help continue and shape a character’s body of representation.

The mingling of reality and the reality of the play and the ‘reality’ sought by the characters as played by the actors makes for an interesting blending of representation and meaning.

Presenting third is Douglas King from Gannon University.  Starting off with a performance of the wonderful back and forth between Katherine and Petruchio in Act 2, scene 1 of The Taming of the Shrew (delivered with great enthusiasm by Lee Fitzpatrick and Gregory Phelps), King’s work explores the relationship between speech, language, and physical representation.  The scene was performed several times paying attention to the relationship created between Katherine and Petruchio as expressed by words and by physicality.

Is there value in refraining from physicality, even when the text seeks to create it? Is there value in creating an enhanced sense and use of physicality?

The scene from The Taming of the Shrew was performed with a pronounced distance between Petruchio and Kate and with an undeniable closeness (resulting in a playful dance between Fitzpatrick and Phelps that ended with them swooning together over a fallen stool – quite to the delight of the audience).  Merit and meaning were found in both versions.  A distance between the leads creates a tension while the closeness exploits any tension allowing it to overcome the characters (and the actors) in an expression of intensity.  It’s interesting to consider how choices regarding physicality and the demands of the text can come together to shape meaning.

We had fun this afternoon.  The audience perched about the Blackfriars hung easily, almost wantonly, off the snippets of performance and text which were mingled just so on the golden stage. The Staging Sessions’ use of the Blackfriars Stage and actors makes for some fOCSinating and fleshed out scholarship. See you at the next one.

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.

Blackfriars Conference 2013 — Colloquy Session I: Staging Choices

Greetings: Charlene V. Smith here, live blogging  from the Tyson Center, Colloquy Session I: Staging Choices, which runs from 2:30pm to 3:45pm. Jemma Levy is the chair for this session and the presenters are Matthew Carter, Annette Drew-Bear, Andrew Harvey, Donald Hedrick, Claire Huber, Claire Kimball, and Angelina LaBarre.

This colloquy is about staging choices; Levy points out that the papers are eclectic, dealing with choices from a number of different angles.

Carter’s paper is about the use of weapons as indicators of characters in Romeo and Juliet, specifically looking at outsiderness and ethnicity. His argument is that since modern audience will no longer recognize the ethnicity attached to stage combat and weaponry, we need to identify these differences in other ways, possibly through costume. Levy asks how using costume to indicate ethnicity is different from what already happens through costume design. Carter suggests that costume designers may need to look more into combat and weapon based visual signifiers. Spanish style fighting was cut-centric instead of stab-centric, for example. Another example: Capulet calls for his long sword, implying an older style of fighting, which an early modern audience would have recognized as inappropriate for the fight. The participants discuss what information an audience may or may not recognize through modern or early modern weapons. Carter says he is convinced that a modern audience is more finely tuned to costume design than weaponry technology.

LaBarre’s paper explores the question of stage management in the early modern theatre through her experience as a member of MBC’s MFA in Shakespeare and Performance 2012-2013 company, Roving Shakespeare. She investigates different terms that were present during the early modern era that may have been equivalent to a modern day stage manager and the responsibilities of these positions. For example, medieval prompters would be placed in the center-front of the stage and would prompt not only lines, but also movements with the use of a guiding stick. Later the stage manager domain shifts to backstage due to greater spectacle and increased technology. Levy points out even today a stage manager’s duties can vary greatly from production to production and director to director, musing that the shifts in terms and definitions historically continue for that position to this day. Hedrick asks about how the hierarchy of these positions have shifted over time. LaBarre points out that the high status of the book keeper in the early modern theatre stems partially from the fact that the book keeper had access to the play’s full text.

Drew-Bear wrote on the staging of evil in Lust’s Dominion (possibly written by Thomas Dekker). Drew-Bear refers to the character of the machiavellian Moor (Eleazar) as a playwright, and LaBarre, connecting to her paper, suggests that he might actually be more of a book keeper. Drew-Bear’s paper explores the metatheatricality of Eleazar and his text. Lust’s Dominion has a play-within in which Eleazar sets up the staging and tells the actors what to do in a pseudo-rehearsal. Drew-Bear points out that Eleazar is quite self-conscious in his use of theatrical terms. Levy asks whether there is an implication that Eleazar is performing the role of villain, as opposed to actually being a villain. Drew-Bear thinks it is more accurate that Eleazar is revealing in the role of villain as opposed to suggesting that he is, at heart, someone else.

Kimball’s paper argues that we should re-embrace The Bloody Banquet as a prime example of Jacobean revenge drama and identifies elements in the play that would be appealing to a modern audience. Kimball is fOCSinated by the fact that this play contains so many theatrical elements and yet modern companies are unfamiliar or uninterested in this play. She loves both the gore and violence, but also the number of staging repetitions that are set up in the play. For example, the play contains a pre-banquet in addition to the titular banquet. Kimball says part of the viability of the play can be found in the title. An audience is expecting to see a bloody banquet, an expectation which is frustrated by the inclusion of a first banquet that isn’t the bloody one. Carter asks how Kimball would recommend situating this play to make it marketable. Kimball suggests linking it with other violent or Jacobean pieces such as Titus Andronicus or The Duchess of Malfi. (As possibly the only person in this room other than Kimball to have read this play, I heartily support her recommendation to stage it!)

Harvey’s paper is on Julius Caesar, arguing that Brutus exemplifies Aristotle’s definition of the Noble Man and is the moral center of the play. With that line of thought, Caesar’s ghost cannot be a manifestation of Brutus’ guilty conscience. Levy asks what journey this leaves the actor playing Brutus and Harvey says he sees the character as static and as one that doesn’t have a journey. As a staging choice, Harvey suggests having Caesar’s ghost come from the trap, indicating to an audience that he is a malevolent spirit.

Hedrick’s paper looks at Henry V’s wooing scene with Katherine as part of a larger work on the arousal of monarchs in history plays. Hendrick questions how arousal might be played. He provides a scale of options: 1. Do nothing physically, using only the language of love. 2. A la Laurence Olivier, saddle up close to your acting partner. 3. Monty Python approach, with a wink wink, nudge nudge to the audience or let the other actors react to or point out the arousal. 4. the Lysistrata method. Hendrick points out that James was against the use of codpieces in costumes. He asks how we point out the possible subversiveness / comic effect of an aroused monarch for a modern audience? LaBarre suggests that both comedy and violence lives in all these choices. Levy asks at what point would an audience member be removed from the play and miss moments as they process a large prosthetic or a naked appendage. Carter points out that the Princess in Henry V is body-centric while learning English, which might suggest something about how she would react to a possible erection.

Blackfriars Conference 2013 — Paper Session #1

Hello!  Whitney Egbert here, liveblogging our first paper session of the 2013 Blackfriars Conference from 1:00pm to 2:15pm.  The session is being moderated by Herb Weil from the University of Manitoba, with help from OCS actors John Harrell, Chris Johnston, and Tim Sailer.

Kara Northway, Kansas State University
“[M]y spirit is moved, the fire is kindled, and I must speake”: Nathan Field’s Epistolary Defense of the Vocation of Player

Northway will be discussing Field’s life off the stage and his letter known as The Remonsterance, and his argument with Sutton.

In this epistolary defense, Field refers to his profession as an actor as “my poor talent,” acting as “harmless matters of delight,” and rebuts the arguments from clergyman Sutton against the deeds of actors in that what they do is from their god given talent.

A fun quote from Field –  “you waited very low in your hatred of us.”

Field asserted that a sermon was meant to be the winning of souls not demoralizing as Sutton was doing – Field then said that his point was that there are “faults in all professions.” Oh isn’t that the truth!

Northway closes with points about the fact that letters could get similar publicity to poetry through manuscript circles, which seems an interesting point to me and one that might be interesting to learn more about.

Lindsey Snyder, Gallaudet University
Speak Hands for Me: Why Shakespeare Scholars, Educators, and Performers Need American Sign Language

Snyder’s work at Gallaudet, a school for the deaf, and her paper is about the work and how teaching Shakespeare to deaf students is different from teaching hearing students.  Snyder talks about how all the work starts with translation as everything has to be translated into American Sign Language (ASL).  Snyder talks about the difference in her classes – starting with a voice class won’t work; tension is held in her students around making sound so getting them to even make a sigh can be difficult.  The idea of the gallop can be hard for students to understand – their rhythm is different than ours.  But ASL brings in the idea of hold and release – two sit (one tap of fingers on the other hand) in a chair (two taps) always has a hold between.

Snyder talks about some productions – a production of Richard 3 where Richard was deaf and Anne was hearing which created a beautiful landscape of hold and release; a Hamlet production directed by deaf students where the ghost was a projection on the back wall of just hands (AMAZING!!)

UH OH … THE THUNDER!!  Snyder is going to skip ahead for times sake …

Snyder is directing an upcoming production of Richard 3; from that she and John Harrell perform one of the monologues, Snyder using the ASL translation she has created.  The visuals are beautiful.

Snyder wants to encourage future research into how the relationship with ASL can further the rest of our work.  I am particularly intrigued by the difference in tension and the idea of hold and release.

ADDENDUM: A question was asked after all the papers had been presented about how breathe plays into Snyder’s work – she spoke to her own work in translating during a performance.  Snyder’s relationship with the OCS has allowed her to get to know many of the actors so that she can fall into their breathing rhythm, use some of their gestures, etc.  Working elsewhere can be harder as the breath does matter to allowing her to live in the same space and time as the actors.

Ben Curns, American Shakespeare Center

Richard: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Curns is going to discuss his research as he prepared to play Richard in Richard 3, specifically the characteristics that have been connected to serial killers.

The first characteristic Curns discusses is fetal brain injury which Curns believes that Shakespeare establishes through the Duchess of York as she describes his birth.

Second characteristic – the upbringing with his parents – York loves to tell everyone that they are the rightful bloodline to the monarchy and when Richard kills, he gets his fathers praise and love.  Richard also learns from his father that women (like Joan de Pucel who York kills) are not to be trusted.  And then there is the isolation – many serial killers (and their mothers) have talked about how they were set apart from the start from other children or siblings.

Third characteristic – fantasy – as Richard watches Edward marry Elizabeth Woodville, he then turns to imagining winning the crown.

Curns believes that Richard does not kill Anne or the princes in the tower to secure his crown but rather because he is addicted to killing.

The final characteristic is fetishes – Curns believes (but does not want to spend much time elaborating on) that Richard exhibits signs of fetishes with both stabbing and necrosatism.

ADDENDUM – A question was asked of Curns after all the papers were through about how some of these factors played out in performance for him.  Curns spoke about how in the scene with Lady Anne, Richard is, as many serial killers do, returning to his greatest crime, the killing of Henry VI, and so feels, in that scene, more mOCSuline, more sexually aroused than any other time in the play. It certainly creates a stronger reason for Richard to approach Anne then than at any other time.

Darlene Farabee, University of South Dakota
My Kingdom for a Boat

Farabee is discussing “The Poor Man’s Comfort” (by Robert Daborne) and how the nautical language used in so many of the plays at the time changes the meaning and setting.  It would, as Farabee points out, require actors and an audience that are knowledgable about the nautical terms and their multiple meanings

Harrell, Johnston and Sailer join us for a scene – made all the better by Johnston’s donning of a skirt and a lady’s demeanor. At least for a moment.

I missed who said it but Farabee quotes that audience members come to the theatre ready for a voyage – I really love that thought.

Sarah Werner, Folger Shakespeare Library


Werner will be discussing how fragments of performances are now being used to teach and discuss productions and what we might be losing from that usage.

Going from reading to performance can be hard enough – from your own imagining to someone else’s vision of it – but to then take a performance and chop it up, you lose so much more – “it leaves the text whole” but it simplifies the presentation.  Werner also makes the point that the more we allow this, the more we will lose the productions that are possible; the more we ignore the problem, the more we miss the patterns that are visible only through the whole production. “What damage are we doing breaking the whole into fragments?”

“Why do we prioritize the convenience of clips over the messiness of art?” – a poignant question by Werner.

Werner’s use of Harrell was delightful – he delivered a speech, and then, throughout the remainder of her presentation, he would suddenly arise and deliver a few lines of that speech or other well known speeches.  A truly wonderful example of her point.

Matt Kozusko, Ursinus College
Why Are Shakespeare’s Characters so Relatable?

 Kozusko is discussing how characters are both relatable AND “relatable.”

Since, as we all know, the language is the first hurdle – how can we say they are actually relatable?  We are seeking to understand the words, the many meanings, the deep thoughts but “we know we can all misunderstand him as well.”

In speaking about a Punchdrunk performance of Macbeth, Kozusko says that Lady Macbeth becomes “not so much relatable but related” – the performers use well known physical actions to create Lady M so what exactly are we relating to in those moments: a character? A stereotype?  Is that really relating?

Kozusco asserts that student relations with Shakespeare’s characters often times need “chaperoning” – not only because there are many selling an easy way to understand but because if we are preemptive, then bad relationships don’t get in their first.

Kozusko’s closing was a great, striking theme for us all and how I will close my blog for today: “getting Shakespeare right matters to all of us” – we might not always get it right but we sure can try.