Counselor Katie Logan on a special moment of YCTC Session 1

Katie Logan, this year’s Camp Coordinator, shares her thoughts on Session 1 of YCTC. Thanks, Katie!

***

“In the midst of a sweltering summer, 37 young people created one of the most unique sessions of camp I’ve ever witnessed. We welcomed old faces and new ones. Some campers had committed large chunks of the canon to memory, while others began camp having read a single play or two. Musicians, choreographers, and a juggler filled our ranks.

This wide variety of talent and experience excited everyone; we were all curious to learn what others had to offer and to share some of ourselves. The campers’ generosity to one another popped up every day, both onstage and off. Every camper noticed and pitched in if someone else was having a rough day. In rehearsals, they worked hard to listen to one another. When using a stage without a lighting system, one director explained, actors had to be each other’s spotlights. They had to give their focus to the person speaking so that the audience would do the same. These young performers took that advice to heart.

Session I was in Staunton during the Fourth of July, and we hiked up to Mary Baldwin’s campus to catch some fireworks. Many campers were still in the outrageous costumes they’d worn to our masquerade dance earlier in the evening. Several brought instruments. As it grew darker on our patch of hill, the guitarists began rehearsing a song they had learned for their Pre-Show performance. Soon, the whole camp was singing along. When I think about Session I 2010, that will be the moment I remember—an evening when what these remarkable individuals wanted most was to create something beautiful together.”

***

Katie is the Director of Education for the Empty Chair Theatre Company in D.C., a small company founded by former YCTC campers — which just goes to show how far the bonds made at OCS summer camps can take you!

Theatre is a vital part of all of us

This blog captures my thoughts on the theatre experience so well–so much more so when we think about Shakespeare’s way of doing theatre–lights on–audience there–life happening before you, with you.
Note especially audience interaction, but argue with schools/education who think it is easily dismissed. The sciences NEED/CRAVE creativity. Creative people. Everyone who reads and experiences Shakespeare will not move onto performing Shakespeare. They will move on to identifying with humanity, creative problem solving–one thing this blog leaves out is this amazing skill those who create it possess–not to mention: a love of life and all of the things that make it spring. Read it. Tell us what you think!
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-gunderson/wherefore-theater-why-is_b_626687.html

Midsummer Day Camp Performance

Last night I had the great joy of attending the final performance of our Midsummer Day Camp, part of our Life Long Learning program. I use the word “joy” very consciously, because that’s what the Blackfriars Playhouse was so full of. As I took my seat, I could see that the thirty-odd campers waiting on stage could barely contain their excitement. Their energy was reflected by Doreen Bechtol, Director of Youth Programs, and Laurie Riffe, this year’s Day Camp Director, both of whom greeted the audience with enormous smiles and buoyant enthusiasm.

This was the fourth year of the Midsummer Day Camp, and this year the camp returned to its roots by producing an hour-long version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bechtol explained that she hopes the camp will return to Midsummer every third year for many years to come. Riffe described the performance as a chance for the campers and their friends and family to “celebrate their joy and their creativity.” I could see so much of both in the campers. It was such a delight to see nine-to-twelve-year-olds embracing Shakespeare’s text with so much eagerness — and with no fear! Though counselors were on hand to prompt or to feed in lines, none of the campers got flustered when those supports were necessary. They all seemed to just be enjoying the experience of a play, in the truest sense of that word.

I hope we’ll be seeing some of these kids back for YCTC in coming years. There was some real budding talent on that stage, some ingenues in the making, and some born comedians. I’m so thrilled that the OCS has the opportunity to reach kids so young — I really think that’s the key to making sure they appreciate great words and great theatre their whole lives.

The Midsummer Day Camp was presented this year as part of a grant sponsored by the Bank of America — thanks you, Bank of America!

YCTC Session 1 All Wrapped Up!

The first session of YCTC 2010 has come to an end. The OCS’s Young Company Theater Camps are part of our College Prep program, geared towards offering high school students Shakespeare study, theatre training, and performance experience on the Blackfriars stage.

The campers from Session 1 performed on July 11th to an enthusiastic house, full to brimming with family, friends, and members of the community. I was glad I got there early enough to get a good seat! While prefacing the shows, Director of Youth Programs Doreen Becthol summed up this year’s Session 1 with one word: “endurance.” Apart from the rigors of putting up a show in just three weeks, while also attending classes and lectures, these campers did it all during one of the hottest summers Staunton has seen in quite some time. Bechtol, the OCS actor-directors, and the camp counselors could not praise their young actors enough for their energy and their determination, and the final performances showcased all of their hard work and dedication.

The first show, Love’s Labour’s Lost, directed by Kelley McKinnon, was a wild romp of a romantic comedy. McKinnon said her goal was to make the campers make their own choices about the show, and also to help them “understand what a gift the Blackfriars stage is.” The actors took her lessons to heart, engaging the audience at every opportunity. The action of the play reached its height during a hilarious Muscovite masque, as the young men attempted to woo their ladies in disguise. The masque featured some of the special talents of the campers, including dance, tumbling, trumpeting, drumming, knife-juggling, and a bagpiper playing “Scotland the Brave” — which I feel to be a reasonable representation of how Navarre, Biron, Dumain, and Longaville would have interpreted Muscovite culture.

Though director Dennis Henry warned the house that the second show, Richard III, would be quite a change from the comedic Love’s Labour’s Lost, the actors managed to bring some black humor through the darkness nonetheless. I always enjoy it when a show proves something of what we teach about the value of “doing it with the lights on.” Richard’s relationship with the audience is so crucial to the success of the play, and universal lighting creates an extraordinarily different atmosphere. In this case, it encouraged some ironic laughter – either nervously, as the audience became his unwilling conspirators, or a touch vindictively, as we were allowed to enjoy his downfall. Contact with the audience also increased the pathos for the play’s many tragic victims. Boiling Richard III down into a one-hour format made for an intense tragedy, with a body count that spiraled rapidly towards the show’s thrilling final combat between Richard and Henry Tudor. The campers also took the opportunity to show off their musical talents with three songs at the beginning, mid-point, and end of the show.

The last show of the day was As You Like It, directed by Josh Carpenter. This performance highlighted physical comedy and lots of action; the campers were not at all afraid to throw their whole bodies into the production. I was really impressed by the good use the As You Like It cast made of the Blackfriars stage, with actors demonstrating what they had learned about the blurring of the distinction between audience-space and actor-space: Orlando scaled a column to pick apples, and the shepherd Corin spent one conversation fishing off the edge of the stage. These actors were really thinking creatively, giving this production of As You Like It a unique flavor. I particularly enjoyed the addition of sheep to 3.2, who wandered onstage to eat Orlando’s poetry (probably the best possible thing to do with it). Enthusiasm and energy never flagged in this pastoral comedy, which ended in a lively dance.

As all the campers took their final bows and gathered for pictures on the Blackfriars stage, I saw actors laughing, hugging, and crying. At the beginning of the afternoon, Ralph Cohen had told us, “When you’re working and having fun at the same time, there’s a place where you can’t tell the difference.” I think those two conditions had truly become inseparable for these campers. The actors of Session 1 had both worked hard and played hard, and none seemed ready, at the end of the day, for the experience to end.

I’m already looking forward to YCTC Session 2, for campers ages sixteen to eighteen, which begins on Sunday, July 18th, with final performances on August 8th.

Pictures from Session 1 can be found at our College Prep Flickr group.

No Kidding Shakespeare Camp (for Adults)–What a week….

It’s only been a couple of days since we wrapped up our inaugural No Kidding Shakespeare Camp but I already miss our “campers” and the time we spent together studying Shakespeare’s plays and the clues for reading the stage that they, and the historical culture surrounding their composition, contain. We had a FANTASTIC group of 19 fans, teachers, professors, and friends who listened to lectures, participated in workshops, dances, acted, clowned, played, and, ultimately performed–if I could spend every week this way, I absolutely would.

This one week is the result of many requests (from our other camper’s parents, and from teachers) and previous successes with other programs. For instance, we were sad to hear, last year, that UVA would be changing up its Summer on the Lawn program, a program OCS had been delighted to partner with UVA on for several years. We were grateful to Jim Baker and UVA, though, for giving us permission to offer a program in their “slot.” The UVA program was a well-oiled and well-run machine which offered participants the unique opportunity to lodge in the Lawn rooms at UVA–talk about history! Our architectural offering of the Blackfriars Playhouse sans Lawn Rooms was enough to attract some return campers from UVA–and they seemed to enjoy the options we provided at both Mary Baldwin College and local hotels, all walking distance from the playhouse. Other campers included teachers and parents who’d heard about OCS programming via our website and emails and teacher seminar weekends. The resulting group was a wonderful combination of people with a wide variety of interests and experiences. Couldn’t have gotten a better group if we’d paid them to come (not that we wouldn’t like to try that method of recruiting!).

The week was about much more than the right combination of architecture and people–although some might argue that Shakespeare’s company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men and later the King’s Men, was JUST THAT, a great combination of sharers, theatres, and (yes, it must be said) playwrights. What we were doing was investigating the clues provided in Shakespeare’s plays and his playhouses to gain insights into appreciating them on the page and the stage. With our Director of Mission and the Gonder Professor of Renaissance Studies, Ralph Alan Cohen, we studied Rhetoric, Meter (see notes below from super intern David Techman on those topics), the history of directing and actor agency, and Audiences. With Bob Jones, OCS actor and Richmond Shakes director, we heard and saw the effect that simply acknowledging and engaging with Shakespeare’s embedded stage directions can have on performance. Our own Associate Artistic Director, Jay McClure, shared his insights on casting, doubling, and every thing that goes into script and pre-production preparation (in the words of one participant “The Best”). We heard lectures from prominent scholars Carole Levin from the University of Nebraska and Paul Menzer from Mary Baldwin College on Backgrounds and Echoes in Othello and Taming of the Shrew and on textual variants, respectively. And then we observed rehearsals of OCS’s next show to open in the Summer season (On Friday July 23) Wild Oats, played with cue scripts, entrances and exits, staging conditions, Elizabethan dance (Doreen Bechtol rocked), costume (the amazing Erin West), combat (thanks to Colleen Kelley), the history of Shakespeare’s theatres, and too much more to mention–all in the span of 5 days. And I didn’t even talk about the plays (participants, however, couldn’t stop talking about the artistic quality–one said it was the best Othello she’d ever seen). The actors were so generous with their time at both the talkbacks and the cast party, and Sarah Fallon’s and Ben Curn’s visit to our last session on Friday was just inspiring.

I am out of time, but next time I will dwell on our field trips (to a vineyard) and social activities…all in all, a wonderful week that I can hardly wait to repeat. Hope you will agree and join us–if you will, what else would you like for us to cover?

A peek into a few of our classes, as observed by David Techman:
6/29/10
In the first afternoon lecture, Dr. Cohen discussed figures of speech. Every boy who went to grammar school (as Shakespeare did) would know rhetoric, including many figures of speech. The schools forced them to repeat the figures of speech until they were deeply engrained in the boys’ brains. The figures of speech that a character uses provides information about that character and even the surrounding action. That gave original actors, who only had sides, hints of how to portray them.
Dr. Cohen then gave a slideshow on Elizabethan and contemporary audiences. The anti-essentialists argue that we can’t know and can’t replicate the experience of original Globe, and even if we could, today’s audience would have a completely different reaction. Cohen doesn’t agree, and points out that lines intended to be funny then are still intended to be funny today. He cites Ben Johnson and the ancient Greeks as evidence that in some ways humanity essentially doesn’t change. Modern audiences figure out the conventions and how to react to audience interaction just like the original audiences did; some incidents when the Globe opened parallel anecdotes we have from Shakespeare’s day. A convention, such as asides not being heard by other characters, can be learned instantly and automatically. Audiences may be moved to interact by four factors: text, space, actors, and directors. Even if the anti-essentialists are right, it is still work to attempt to make an authentic atmosphere by interacting with the audience because it leads to wonderful theatrical moments and tells us things about present audiences regardless of whether or not that mirrors past ones.

6/30/10
The group sat in on a rehearsal of Wild Oats this morning, so Dr. Cohen discussed the rehearsal process. A director is there to “keep a lid on things.” If the director has an idea and an actor does something different that still works, the director usually shouldn’t take up rehearsal time to make the actor explore his idea too, for time is very valuable. In this company, most of the actors are veterans whom the director can trust. Actors should very seldom show any resistance to what a director says—it shouldn’t happen more than once a rehearsal. Being nice and collaborative is more important than acting skill and proves invaluable to actors finding work. Directors also shouldn’t micromanage actors’ readings of specific lines. Sarah revealed that, after we left, Mr. Warren started to give the actors more notes that he didn’t want the viewers to overhear. That rather surprised me and seems it could be a problem for the open rehearsal process. Next, Dr. Cohen and Sarah led a workshop on casting the audience. Sarah and Cass began by playing the scene listing the suitors in Merchant of Venice twice, once in a proscenium staging and once as a thrust staging indicating a viewer as each suitor. Needless to say, the second time was better. For most of the time, we focused on the St. Crispian’s Day speech from Henry V. It starts out talking to Westmoreland, but to be effective and rousing, parts of it must be delivered to the audience. We went through it line by line, deciding which ones should be said to onstage characters and which to audience members, then exploring how to best deliver the audience-directed ones. We don’t have historical anecdotes saying that actors addressed the audience like that, but Dr. Cohen provided enough textual examples to convince anyone. I didn’t know that actors could gauge whether or not to select a given person for contact, and this was the first time I learned the actual definition of an aside: an aside is heard by the audience and not the other characters, whereas most lines said to the audience are heard by both.

Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions with Rick Blunt

Our recently featured Rick Blunt led a workshop in Shakespeare’s staging conditions for 50 Bath County High School students, and I thought it might be fun to drop in and take a look at the ways our actors help further the educational mission of the American Shakespeare Center.

Blunt begins by asking the students to list some of the ways the OCS uses Shakespeare’s original staging conditions to present his plays. Blunt combines the answers of leaving the lights on and thrust staging into our overall theme of audience inclusion. That’s how we try to make Shakespeare’s plays accessible, but what are the barriers to this access?

Blunt’s next exercise involves saying “Shakespeare” and asking the students to think of a word. “Old,” “smart,” “Stratford,” “plays,” and “poetry” are popular choices, and Blunt seizes on this description of old and introduces the idea of Shakespeare’s modernity. One of the students in the group points out the years of Shakespeare’s life, to which Blunt responds that to us the texts are old, but Shakespeare was writing for, what was for him, modern times. The plays of Shakespeare are meant to be living things performed on the stage.

But how do we make the plays come alive? Blunts classroom is configured in a U-shape, which simulates the Blackfriars’ thrust-stage; he then performs a monologue from his role as Rafe in Knight in the Burning Pestle using an imaginary Susan on the stage. To illustrate how Shakespeare’s staging conditions are different, Blunt then performs the same monologue as he does in the performance, identifying a young lady in audience as Susan: this always gets a laugh in the show, and it gets a bigger one in this group. When Blunt asks them why it’s funny, the universally offered answer is that it was because of the audience reaction. Asked who they were looking at, the students respond that they were watching their classmate. Blunt explains how this makes for a different performance every time.

Of course, audience inclusion is only one aspect of Shakespeare’s staging conditions, another key element is the lack of large sets and lighting effects to create the world of the play. Blunt has a student volunteer perform the first two lines of Romeo and Juliet’s prologue (“Two households, both alike in dignity / In fair Verona, where we lay our scene), and then asks the students where they are. As a chorus, the students in the workshop respond that they are in “Verona.” Blunt explains this is only one way that Shakespeare uses language to indicate how to perform his plays.

Blunt asks for another volunteer, and introduces him as “a friar who trembles, sighs, and weeps” (Romeo and Juliet 5.3). Blunt asks the student volunteer how he thinks he should be acting if he (Blunt) introduces him as “a friar who trembles, sighs, and weeps.” They perform the entrance again, and the student volunteer suits his entrance to the Blunt’s lines, and Blunt then offers an explanation of embedded stage directions.

Of course, embedded stage directions require a further understanding of the way in which the directions are both given and received. Blunt illustrates the point by choreographing the opening street fight of Romeo and Juliet and comparing the effects of Benvolio telling them to “part, fools” and the Prince calling them “rebellious subjects.” Benvolio is ignored, but the prince is obeyed; and thus Blunt introduces the way that Shakespeare can use the status of the speaker to direct the action of the scene. Blunt goes on to demonstrate how actors can reinforce the status of Shakespeare’s characters by having his student-volunteer-cast turn and kneel to the prince as he enters. He describes this as the OCS’s way of using actors to put other actors in the proverbial-spotlight.

Speaking of lighting: how does one play darkness when we leave the lights on? Blunt introduces the balcony scene as a challenge to OCS actors because the scene is dark. It takes place at night, after all. Blunt has another student volunteer recreate their own personal experience of darkness by asking them to demonstrate what happens when they wake up in the middle of the night to get a snack. The student volunteer tries to “feel” his way through the space to the door and walks carefully. He also uses a cell phone to help him see the floor. Blunt explains that actors can create the darkness by the way they move, and Shakespeare can help them by giving them a prop, or using language to describe the environment.

Blunt ties these elements together for the students in the balcony scene. Having two more volunteers perform the roles of Juliet and Romeo, Blunt shows them how Juliet can begin by talking to the audience, but needs to use the darkness of the environment to not see Romeo, who (in the current production) hides among the audience. Romeo’s questions are directed to the audience, which involves them in the conversation. Both of the lovers are talking to the audience, but neither one knows that the other is talking to the audience. “[Shakespeare] makes you a confidant in this relationship,” says Blunt, excited “it’s unbelievable!”

Shakespeare’s language is sometimes perceived to be an obstacle, but Blunt reminds his students that 98% of Shakespeare’s vocabulary is modern. The words may be unfamiliar, but you know what “be-screened” means without having to look it up. He also points out the heightened nature of Shakespeare’s language: “if you’re Romeo, and you just got caught creepin’ in some girls yard, and she asks you what you’re doing here, you better come up with something good.” The average Renaissance-Londoner didn’t ask for a glass of water by making classical allusions, but Shakespeare’s characters use heightened language to talk about their heightened circumstances. This language directs the circumstances of the actors.

Blunt also touches on the cross-gendered casting that we use at the OCS, and describes some of the ways that Shakespeare made us of the convention of an all male acting company. He uses more student volunteers to illustrate the idea of a boy actor playing a female character who dresses as a boy and then pretends to be a woman in As You Like It. Shakespeare didn’t write his plays under the presumption that, in 400 years, they would be able to get it right and use female actors to play female roles, he wrote his plays specifically to take advantage of the conventions of the time, which is why it is essential that we cross-gender cast our plays.

“This guy Shakespeare was a smart man,” Blunt concludes.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the ever ebullient Blunt’s workshop was the way he engaged the students, especially the ones who were shy or trying to remain uninvolved. Participation is not an option in Rick Blunt’s workshop, and while not every student got a chance to perform, the number of volunteers increased every time he asked for them. Getting our audiences to want to engage Shakespeare on his own terms is one of our core principles, and Blunt’s success with this group is a testament to that mission.

Bring ’em Back Alive presents "Love’s Fire"

In 1998 seven modern playwrights were commissioned to write new plays inspired by Shakespeare’s sonnets, and the resulting collection, Love’s Fire, was presented as part of the American Shakespeare center’s Bring ’em Back Alive staged reading series.

The Bring ’em Back Alive series was conceived to help bring new voices and less performed works to the Blackfriars, and last night’s readings realized that goal on a whole new level. OCS resident and touring troupe members combined forces with Mary Baldwin College graduate students, The Hamner Theatre, the University of Virginia, and the Maryland Shakespeare Festival to bring six of these plays to the Blackfriars Stage.

Inspired by the transcendental music of Shakespeare’s greatest love poetry, a painter tries, and fails, to paint his lover; a couple finds romance through jazz, and a group of students try to understand two sonnets and discover the roots of the Tree of Knowledge.

We hope you’ll join us for the next reading in our Bring ’em Back Alive series will be Thomas Middleton’s A Mad World, My Masters, on Sunday, October 20, 2010 at 7:30 PM. If you would like more information, or would like to volunteer as a reader, please contact Colleen Kelly, Director of Training, at [email protected]

C-Span Talks Shakespeare

C-Span has put their video library online, and never being one to pass up a chance of typing “Shakespeare” into a search engine, they’ve got some pretty interesting results available. Peter Brook, Myra Manning, George Whitman and others are featured. Check it out.

Tina Packer on Leadership

The American Shakespeare Center plays host to another Federal Executive Institute today, and Shakespeare & Co’s Tina Packer, director of this semester’s M.Litt/MFA production of Pericles was on hand to talk on leadership in Shakespeare’s works. While this is a private event, your friendly neighborhood OCS education department blogger is on hand to bring you the inside scoop.

Packer starts by asking what struck institute attendees from their readings from her book Power Plays, which institute attendees have been reading, and what has moved them personally in the last couple of years. She promises to also “spill her guts” to help get the conversation moving. While going around the room, Packer introduces the idea that leaders need “to be the generator of the energy.” Persuasion and manipulation can go hand in hand. “Am I manipulating everybody? Yes. Can they be happy I’m manipulating them? I hope so. I’m only averse when you’re manipulating them to something bad.”

Packer characterizes rhetoric as being the essential component of Renaissance education. “Whether they were studying history or the humanities” the students of the Elizabethan schools were always studying the art of communication. This is what enabled the enlightenment, and Packer identifies the influence of Renaissance rhetoric on the founding documents of the United States. She considers that modern sensibilities of truthfulness have veered away from refined language and the art of communication. We too often today associate honesty with being “a man of few words” and focus on “truthful grunting.” This, she argues, is not a type of communication conducive to effective leadership. The tools of acting and persuasion can be used to create a more truthful leader who is more connected to both their causes and those whom they lead.

“We often don’t know how our creativity is going to affect other people” she says, citing Ira Aldritch’s influence on British Parliament’s decision to not support the Confederacy during the American Civil War. She argues that human beings are inherently creative, and that by harnessing the impulse to play with others that we all share, you can start to become truly creative. “All resistance is energy that’s blocked,” she says.

She concludes her session by having institute attendees experience finding the tension in their own bodies in an attempt to release that tension. She also directs them in a breathing exercise to help them control themselves through control of their bodies. With that, it’s time for the FEI to move on to another session, but Packer leaves us on a great note of individual empowerment, and with another great example of art influencing life.

And it’s time for me to be moving along, too, but thank you for joining the American Shakespeare Center Education Department once again.

Carter Hailey, Tiffany Stern, and Zachery Lesser present "On Paper: Documents of Performance"

Our partners in Mary Baldwin College’s M.Litt/MFA program have arranged for three of the worlds leading scholars on Early Modern theatre to lecture today at the Blackfriars. Carter Hailey, designer of the Hailey’s COMET portable optic collator, Tiffany Stern, the Beaverbrook and Bouverie Fellow and Tutor in English at University College, Oxford, and Zachery Lesser, author of the award winning Renaissance Drama and the Politics of Publication: Readings in the English Book Trade. Hailey and Stern both presented at our recent Blackfriars Conference, and we’re all eager to hear what their bringing to the Blackfriars this evening.

Paul Menzer introduces our guest scholars by pointing out that paper is one of the key raw materials and waste products of the world of performance, but that we make conscious efforts to remove any sign of paper from the world of the performance space. “The Playhouse is a virtual scriptorium,” Menzer says, noting that the backstage areas contain several computers, printers, and copiers, along with stacks of internal documentation, and books for sale in the lobby. Paper enables performance, facilitating and memorializing it, and today’s lecturers will help focus our attention on the raw material that we use to construct our theatrical world.

Carter Hailey: Artefacts of the Early Modern Professional Theatre: The Paper Trail
Hailey describes himself as a “book detective,” and introduces his studies as being akin to the way an archaeologist examines an artifact. He examines books in a similar way, “like archaeology without the mud.” In his analysis of books as physical objects, Hailey has been recently drawn to watermark designs. Watermarks are imprints in the paper (you may be familiar with the term from its usage in digital photography), and they come in a variety of characters including pots, crowns, and bears. Manuscripts and printed books, like other archeological artifacts, give us clues to the cultures that produced them, and the watermarks in the paper of the early modern period are a great key to understanding the process of manufacturing linen paper and books.

Paper was, in Early Modern London, a more consciously visible part of the book. In Histriomastix, William Prynne complains not just about the printing of play books in folio, but that the paper used to print them is of a better quality than in many Bibles printed at the time. References to quires can be found in Shakespeare’s 73rd Sonnet (“bare ruined choirs”), further implying a self consciousness of the process of book making.

Hailey describes the development in the time of a “turned chain quarto.” The description comes from the fact that chain lines in the paper of a folio usually ran vertically, whereas in quartos they tend to run horizontally. Turned chain quartos, comprising less than 1% of extant quartos, are slightly larger than the standard quarto format, and have vertical chain lines; Hailey describes them as resembling a folio in miniature. While some scholars dismiss the format as an anomaly resulting from a bad run of paper, Hailey dismisses this due to the breadth of authors and genres produced in the turned chain quarto format. The format was produced by different printers at different times, and it would have been impractical for printers (or anyone else) to keep a stock of “bad” paper like that over the period. The cost for a turned chain quarto would have been at least 50% higher than a standard quarto, making it further improbable that it was simply an attempt to eliminate bad stock.

Hailey argues that the slightly more rectangular shape of the TCQs, coupled with their vertical chain line, is made to suggest the folio format. There was likely a limited market for these TCQs, but they challenge the notion that early modern play texts were not considered material of literary prestige.

Tiffany Stern


Stern begins by showing us an example of differently offset text from the folio. The Song” and “A Letter” both appear in italics, suggesting stage directions, but they are not stage directions in the commonly understood sense. Stern contrasts these with the title of the epilogue of the play, which modern editors tend to accept as the title of a separate section and leave intact.

Stern goes on to call attention to the lost songs in Marston’s Antonio and Mellida and in Shakepseare’s Julius Caesar. In the former case the name of the song is printed large, but both the lyrics and the music are lost. In the latter case, a stage direction simply says a song is to be played without any indication of what it might be. Fro Jonson’s The Devil is an Ass, Stern refers to a stage direction “Hee gives him a paper wherein is the copy of a Song.” This argues for the separation of song text from play text within the playhouse, which indicates that the songs given to printers may have been separate.

Stern goes on to further show how printers have mislaid lines surrounding songs within the play text. She cites an example of an extant song compared to the song printed in the text of the play. The song in the play text includes additional lyrics, which is suggestive of a printer mis-setting text. The opposite is also true: songs within texts are sometimes set as lines of text and not as songs. A further example is a printed margin note of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfy “The Author disclaims this ditty as his;” which means that the author saw the song in the printing process when it was too late to remove it from the run, and so (in keeping with stop-press correction practices used at the time), the marginalia was added.

From Quarles’ The Virgin Widow, Stern offers the example of a bill, read by one of the characters, laid out in the same manner as an actual bill. She proposes that the bill may have been laid out in the prompter’s book to show how to make the property, or that the stage property was brought to the printer. In either case, the representation in print is a pointer to the representation of the object in performance.

“We’ve been tricked into thinking that the term stage direction is a stage direction,” Stern says. These are more often “scribe directions;” cross references to the inclusion of another textual object. Thus the “stage direction” “red ink” appears in The Spanish Tragedy: perhaps the letter is to appear as if it is written in blood and this is a reminder to the book-keeper, or perhaps there was a note in the printers copy indicating that this part is to be printed using red ink. Whichever the case, it is clearly not a playable action for the stage.

Prologues and epilogues suffer similar fates. They were paper documents of performance, like letters, notes, wills, and songs. From surviving wood cuts of the period, we can infer that prologues and epilogues were materials that were read on the stage. They were not always included with texts, and thus many are lost.

Zachary Lesser: 1594: When Plays Became Playbooks


Lesser begins by calling attention to the tongue in cheek nature of his title, saying that “printed playbooks, like sexual intercourse, had been there all along.” Many plays from the professional London stages of 1593 and before never made it into print, and even fewer of them have come to us in manuscript form. Lesser offers evidence demonstrating the number of plays printed in 1594 nearly quadruples from the next most productive year: 5 were printed in 1592, 18 in 1594. After 1594, numbers fell to single digits again. Why this spike in 1594?

Some scholars have argued that piracy was a key factor in the rapid explosion of plays in 1594, but others have argued that the publication of manuscripts might have served as advertising. Even if companies were more willing to bring their scripts into print, contrary to their previous practice, why would the stationers want them? There was no evidence of a high demand of playbooks before. Contradictorily, if there was no market for playbooks, why would London playing companies want to use an unpopular and untested market as advertising for their already popular offerings?

Lesser demonstrates that playbooks were not a risky investment for printers, which casts aspersions on the theory that the 1594 spike representing a glutting of the market. “Plays published in the 1590s were more likely to sell out within 5 years than other books were in 20 years,” he says. Sales and reprint rate of play texts should have dropped off if the 1594 spike represented an over supply in the market place, but this was not the case. From entry in the Stationers’ Register to availability for purchase usually happened within the period of a year, but entries made between June and May of 1594 often did not appear for several years. Lesser demonstrates this delay in publication as being the result of three printers with a large supply of titles in their companies not wanting to “hedge their bets by printing them all at once… In both cases, the publishers purchased a number of scripts around the same period, published some, and waited to see how they would perform.” There is the possibility that the publishers could simply not keep up with the demand of printing, or that they were being cautious in releasing their holdings. In either case, Lesser sees this as what one would expect to see at the beginning of a new market.

In the time between1598 and 1613, a significant number of first editions and reprints were printed. The marketplace for printed playbooks, young and developing in the early 1590s, had a chance to mature. Conventional wisdom, which says that playbooks were not popular commodities, does not hold up to the facts of the number of printed playbooks. This popularity of the medium is why most of the plays we know have come down to us today.

And with that, we’ll have to bring this forum to a close. To paraphrase Dr. Menzer, we must now repeat history and let paper yield to performance so the actors can get ready for tonight’s Twelfth Night, but just as I recall when from the Blackfriars Conference, my head feels full. I must beg pardon of our guest scholars, and of all of you: the notes that I have been able to take on their work tonight of necessity only reflects part of their work, and I doubt does justice to their scholarship. From their research however, I can derive some solace. The print artifacts of Renaissance London have left us with an incomplete picture of the world of performance, and even as this is about to enter the world of hypertext, apparently not a lot has changed in 400 years.