Blackfriars Conference 2015 – Colloquy Session II: History Plays

Hello!  Whitney Egbert here, blogging about Colloquy 2 in the first slot of Blackfriars Conference 2015.  The session took place in RR Smith Center Lecture Hall from 9:00 to 10:15 this morning.  Due to internet issues, this is being posted after the fact.  The session was moderated by Megan Lloyd (who also wrote a paper) and included papers from Iska Alter and William Long, Robin Bates, Marisa Cull, Kathy Hardman, and Tara Lyons.

This morning’s session hosted papers on a variety of historical plays – Henry the Fifth, Tamerburlaine, Henry IV Part 2Edward 2, and two paper on The Valiant Welshman.  Lloyd asked everyone to give a brief description of the larger picture that the paper came from before opening up to the others for questions and discussion.

First up was the paper on Henry V by Alter and Long.  They are interested in the ways in which the quarto texts differ not just as merely one actor’s remembrance but as potentially differing staging.  Alter highlighted that the context in which Henry V is performed changes with the time it is performed in – “the notion of performance is a complicated business saved by many different moments of history,” the actual battle of Agincourt, Shakespeare writing about the battle of Agincourt, and the performance or conversation happening in the moment.  Bates commented how much she appreciated the thought that in the F1, there is a subversive tone to the kingship and how that might reflect a moment in time, what it might say about leadership, nationalism, and patriotism.  A conversation ensued about the moments – are they different or was the intention as a play for it to always change.  Alter noted that they try not to argue which version came first as “there is no way of knowing” and instead attempts to give preference to one over the other.  Long added “we don’t know, we think but we can’t prove with data.”

The second paper discussed was on Henry IV, Part 2 by Bates, where she focused on the disputes over land like the Forest of Gaultree.  It is part of her larger examination of how land and land use play into controversies in the plays.  Alter quickly added that that is also tied to the dual systems of law at the time – “one form of law counter[ed] another form of law” – so that an argument over land was often an argument about law.  Long pointed out that it wasn’t even just two types of law but two courts.  And that those could be worked counter to each other – if sued in one court, you could counter-sue in the other.  As a fellow auditor whispered to me “and some operated in old French,” making it all that much harder.

Next up was Cull’s paper on The Valiant Welshman.  The paper was part of a larger project in which she is editing the play for a project at Ohio State.  Cull noted that she wishes everyone could edit a version of the play they are writing about as it adds great illumination.  She is really interested in looking at this play less as a bad relic of the early modern stage and more at how our predispositions and assumptions keep us away from plays like it.  As an editor, she is really interested in how every edited text has a section of sources but how in so doing, we then approach the sources with an already loaded opinion.  The discussion ensuing focused on the idea of the two printed versions of the play as well as a German translation and the idea of playwrights who were creating the “greatest hits” or just plain old showing off.

With Hardman’s paper on Edward 2, the discussion centered around her examination of the homoerotic versus the queer (or non-normal as she specified) and how that is entirely left out of other versions of the recounting of Edward’s story.  Several of the participants found the distinction interesting as many others, such as Holinshed, shy away from the relationships in this story but not in others.  Why?  What’s there?  That transitioned into a broader discussion of futurity and the cyclical relationship between the current and the future.  I’m still not sure how it happened but it was lively and lovely to watch and listen.

Next up was Lyons paper on Tamburlaine.  She is interested in two main things – the dichotomy between the print archive and the performance archive and then the relationship between plays in a series.  She is posing the question of “what brings the text together and what does it mean to ask an audience to relate shows to one another?”  Hardman asked if there was a gap in the writing to the two parts, was there any bit of “the audience made them do it” to adding an additional part.  Long adds the element of Edward Allen, the actor who played Tamburlaine and his celebrity.  Lyons circles back to Long’s earlier point that we think but we don’t really know.  There is some thought that part 2 was being written as part 1 was being rehearsed but the closest we get to evidence that part 2 was performed at the same time is an audience member who was shot during a show that scholars propose was Tamburlaine, Part 2.  Lyons then posed the question she has of were they using serials to train the audience to continue to return to the theatre.  Alter pointed out that we must remember it was a business so getting people to return was crucial.  Bates added that there were so many new people in London every year that there were, in fact, always people to be trained.

Our final paper was Lloyd’s, also on The Valiant Welshman, but focusing on its place in her larger work on the Welsh language on the early modern stage.  She points out that “the Celtic other” was often used to say something about early modern Britain as the larger entity and not just England.  As she and Cull continued to discuss, Britain (aka England) is marginalized in this play and needs to be saved.  Lloyd pointed out that the show was written when James was trying to get Parliament to bring Scotland into the union like they had previously done with Wales.  Alter pointed out that this wasn’t a new idea, as the union had “existed in someone’s imagination” even back in Henry V with the captains of each nationality.  Alter went on to ponder if the emergence of The Valiant Welshman now at all related to the current state of the British union.

Many different ideas and matters to cover but a lovely conversation to listen in on and a great way to start the conference.

Blackfriars Conference 2015: Welcome address and Keynote: Paul Prescott

This is Merlyn Q. Sell live blogging from the Blackfriars Playhouse.  Today’s Keynote Address is The Life, Adventures, and Opinions of Sam Wanamaker presented by Paul Prescott from 11am to 12pm.  First, however, Dr. Ralph Cohen delivers a heartfelt welcome.

Cohen begins by remembering the late Tom Berger.  He recalls a time when Berger stuck his head into a firehouse and shouted “Theatre!”. The audience greatly appreciates the joke.   Cohen mentions that the best and worst part of the Blackfriars Conference is that there is too much to do.  He blames Sarah Enloe.  He introduces OCS resident actor, Allison Glenzer, who reads an email from Jim Warren.  Warren is currently on the OCS’s audition tour, seeking actors for upcoming seasons.  Warren points out the conference’s special focus on the intersection between academics and performance.  Mary McDermott, chair of the OCS board, also welcomes conference attendees.  The Blackfriars is a particularly fitting venue for such a conference in this legacy year.  McDermott makes a point of welcoming home students and alumni of Mary Baldwin’s graduate program.  The OCS staff introduces themselves from the balcony to the much-deserved appreciation of the audience.  Mary Baldwin College president, Pamela Fox, takes a moment to celebrate the fifteen year partnership between Mary Baldwin College’s Shakespeare and Performance graduate program and the OCS.

Cohen throws down his gauntlet in welcoming attendees to the only recreation of Shakespeare’s indoor playhouse and reminding us that the Sam Wanamaker is not a recreation.  Cohen introduces Steve Owen, Staunton city manager.  Owen lives up to his self-proclaimed role as a “ham sandwich”. After recounting some of Staunton’s claims to fame, Owen praises the OCS for the magic it has brought to the community.

Sarah Enloe takes the stage to accept a bouquet of roses and the gratitude of the audience. For the remainder of the conference attendees can look forward to hearing her before every keynote for changes to the conference schedule. With the help of Mary McDermott, Enloe retires the 2013 conference bear and introduces the 2015 bear and her signature pearls. After a few housekeeping items from Enloe, Cohen introduces Dr. Paul Menzer.

After a quippy rumination on time, Menzer welcomes attendees on behalf of the current MBC Shakespeare and Performance students. Menzeer warmly introduces today’s keynote speaker Paul Prescott.

Prescott provides an overview of the keynote’s main concerns at the outset. The address encompasses creation myths, ancestor worship, the stories we tell, the keeping of annals, the conditions under which theatres get built, and global mobility. Prescott believes that Charles Marowitz’ biography of Sam Wanamaker in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the best biography we currently have for Wanamaker. Prescott’s investigation of Wanamaker’s archives finds that that biography has one glaring error. Its assertion of Wanamaker’s lifelong devotion to Shakespeare is inaccurate. Prescott is interested in the background that led to Wanamaker’s eventual devotion to Shakespeare and the foundation of the Globe Trust.

Prescott provides a snapshot of Wanamaker’s background, including his childhood and teenage years. In 1943 Wanamaker visited the Chicago World’s Fair with his father and experienced a version of the Globe in the “Merry Olde England” section of the fair. In the Wanamaker archives a program from this event includes a post-it note on which an older Wanamaker had written “The beginning”. Later on Wanamaker acted on a Globe stage in Cleveland. Wanamaker was performing “tabloid” versions of Shakespeare, fifty minute populist reductions of the original texts in rep.

Wanamaker began spending time in London in response to his uncertain position in America as a communist. In preparing an affidavit for McCarthy, Wanamaker blamed his preparation to play the role of a young Russian soldier for his joining the communist party. Under these circumstances, Wanamaker moved to London. Because of his position in the United States, Mi-5 eventually placed Wanamaker under surveillance and even recommended his imprisonment in the event of emergency. In surveillance records Wanamaker’s interest in Stanislavsky’s methods was noted. Eventually the United Kingdom grants Wanamaker permanent residence.

In 1957, Wanamaker took over Shakespeare Theatre Liverpool. When the public was solicited to suggest new names for the theatre the winning title was The New Shakespeare Theatre. Wanamaker’s programming for the New Shakespeare Theatre focused on the antithetical combination of banned plays and popular family fare. Wanamaker had hopes that the theatre could become a “cultural community center”. Unfortunately after twenty months the New Shakespeare Theatre ran out of money and the venture ended. Wanamaker found a home at the New Shakespeare Theatre and even slept at the theatre. Wanamaker said of his work in Liverpool that it was particularly meaningful because it merged his selfish desires with a higher purpose.

Wanamaker’s Method style notes for his performance of Iago in 1959 are in his archives. He created detailed backstory for Iago including syphilis, possible bastardy, the loss of children, and marital infidelity.  His Macbeth was seen through the lens of the Cold War and was based primarily on a pervasive feeling of fear.

In the 1960s Wanamaker turned towards opera with mixed results. He also worked with Bertolt Brecht at this time. Looking at retirement and wishing to finally anchor himself in London, Wanamaker turned to the idea of the Globe. In a 1972 interview Wanamaker pointed out his desire to become a permanent fixture of a community. From 1972 to 1975, three seasons of performances were done under tents on the Globe site. During this time Wanamaker was curating a rough and tumble, populist approach to performance. Wanamaker’s expectations for the Globe did not include early modern performance traditions in any major way. He hoped for work that blended Brecht and Stanislavsky.

Inspired by someone’s rock opera idea for Macbeth, Wanamaker brainstormed couplings of Shakespeare plays and popular rockers. The audience responded with great enthusiasm to his combination of David Bowie with Hamlet. Wanamaker’s association of Sting with King Lear does not go over as well.

Prescott concludes, reminding the audience that the line from Sam Wanamaker to London’s Globe theatre is not a simple straight line but a collage of influences.

Blackfriars Conference 2015: Colloquy Session I: Audience and the Actor

Good morning, this is Merlyn Q. Sell live blogging from the Tyson Center.  This is Colloquy Session I: Audience and the Actor, running from 9:00am to 10:15am.  This session is chaired by Ralph Alan Cohen and the presenters are Heidi Cephus, Greg Fiebig, Amanda L. Hughes, Henry D. McHenry, Julia Nelson, Brittany Renard, Lisa S. Starks-Estes, and Natalia Razak Wallace.

The session begins with the presenters singing a tribute to Dr. Cohen’s pre-party and requesting audience interaction to complete the final verse.  The audience largely fails to pick up on the rhyme scheme but is engaged none-the-less.

Cohen advises us that the audience is the “third leg” of performance and the importance of thinking about the audience in the theatre and in the classroom.  The presenters have prepared responses to a set of questions regarding the audience and the actor and we’ll begin by hearing those.

Wallace is the first to speak.  Wallace’s interest is focused on the effects of eye-contact between audience and actor.  In researching this topic, Wallace has started looking at neuro-science to discover more about the biology of that contact.  Wallace points out that the current theatrical practice of putting the audience in the dark changes their role from participant to observer, which impacts how their memory of the event is created and stored.

Renard’s work investigates the staging of dismemberment and how that impacts the relationship of the audience to the actor.  She is looking at examples from ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore and The Changeling.  A realistic staging of these moments would have disrupted the audience’s understanding of an actor versus the thing their body parts become.

After working on a book regarding Shakespereare’s use of Ovid, Starks-Estes believes that early modern performance was heavily influenced by Ovidian metamorphosis.  Starks-Estes feels that early modern audience’s knew this and expected this in the theatre.

Nelson is interested in the use of vice in early modern domestic dramas.  The villain can be an avatar for the audience at the beginning as they share in the villain’s plotting.  As the plays continue, through audience interaction with soliloquies, the audience also influences the restoration of moral order.

Cephus speaks about the fleshy impact of performance.  Richard II allows the audience to experience the communion of actor body with historical figures.  As an audience’s loyalty transfers from Richard to Bolingbroke they are physically transformed.  Science backs up the idea that there is a biological impact linked to the act of forgiveness.

McHenry is interested in the audience as commonwealth.  Henry VIII is theatre within theatre as the theatrical audience views the characters perform for each other.  Woolsey’s behavior specifically is observed and commented on by other characters.   The audience is implicated as a commonwealth by joining these characters in observation.

Hughes’ company, Rocket City Shakespeare, is a “resource-driven” company that goes into the audience and requests direct audience interaction within performance.  She links this work to Wallace’s statement regarding leaving the audience in the dark.  Breaking with that tradition has a profound and exciting impact on the audience.

Fiebig is particularly interested in how audience’s construct meaning.  He feels the most important part of performance is that audiences comprehend what is being performed.  Based on a theory by Bernard Pierce, Fiebig finds that within the conversation between actor and audience the audience creates the performance reality.  Considering this, a dialogue between the audience and actor is preferable to the monologue encouraged by proscenium staging.  Fiebig introduces the idea of a “performance afterlife” or the discussions, responses, and impact of a performance after the curtain comes down.

Moving into discussion, Cohen asks the audience to respond to the posters lining the walls and points out that while eye-contact seems to be an integral part of the images, the audience is not included in the images. The presenters then move into a conversation regarding how an audience is taught new play-going conventions. The presenters mostly admit that a curtain speech is the most inefficient, but also an unsatisfactory, solutions.

Cohen brings the discussion back to the ideas of communion and dismemberment brought up by Cephus and Renard respectively. Nelson points out that beautiful theatres often inspire the same awe as a church building. Cohen notes that church-goers understand the expected behavior at churches throughout the world and theatre-goers understand the same thing. Cohen is interested in “the inconvenienced audience” as they experience disruption through dismemberment. Renard responds bringing up Fiebig’s earlier idea of a performance’s “after-life” and how live-tweeting and other technological engagement might influence that. Starks-Estes troubles the consensus that the movie theatre doesn’t allow for audience engagement and points out that the “after-life” may be more extensive for movies. Going back to Cohen’s comment regarding dismemberment, Starks-Estes believes the audience has a pleasurable response to dismemberment because it is so jarring.

Cohen wants to put some pressure on the “afterlife” concept. Wallace’s research has found that eye-contact is one of the most memorable aspects of performance for an OCS audience member. Cohen addresses the idea of muscle memory as audience’s learn and relearn how to experience theatre. Linking to McHenry’s discussion of the audience’s implication in the events of Henry VIII, Cohen points out that the real divorce trial between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon occurred at the Blackfriars, the same space where the play of those events premiered. The audience had to have known that and responded to it accordingly.

Cohen steers the discussion back to Nelson’s idea of vice characters as audience avatar. Cohen wonders how the audience’s alliance with the villain might link to the ideas of metamorphosis and transubstantiation. Nelson believes that through these vice characters the audience is able to experience taboo acts with the safety blanket of knowing that within five acts the moral order will be re-established.

Fiebig asks about Shenandoah Shakespeare Express’ experience in teaching audiences their style of performance. Cohen points out that repetition is key to managing audience expectations. At this point if the OCS turned the lights out it would be just as disruptive as it was to turn the lights on in the first place. Fiebig goes back to the curtain speech and how from a semiotic perspective relying on the curtain speech to guide audience behavior is a crutch. Fiebig mentions Christopher Sly from Taming of the Shrew and Hughes mentions Henry V’s chorus as characters that can be integrated into the audience to assist in directing audience behavior.

Cohen asks for final comments before opening the discussion to the audience. Cephus suggests that the influence of audience’s experiences of prior performances on future performances may be a part of performance afterlife. Fiebig is concerned about the introverts in the audience and admits to his own discomfort as an audience member. The actor has a responsibility to read the audience and respond accordingly. Nelson wonders if the audience self-selects by choosing their seats.

McHenry turns to the audience but is met with discontent by an audience member responding to the fact that the audience has been literally seated outside the discussion. She also echoes the idea that the audience exercises a choice in choosing particular seats, theatrical companies, and their own engagement with the performance.

Cohen throws it back to Wallace for the final word as promised. Wallace reiterates her ideas that eye-contact biologically impacts the audience’s recognition that they are human, just like the actor speaking to them.

Blackfriars Conference 2015 – Colloquy Session #3

Molly Beth Seremet here, reporting from Colloquy Session #3 at 9am on Thursday morning! The topic is Cultural Appropriation and the session is chaired by Monica Cross with presenters Scott Campbell, Raven Claflin, Angelina LaBarre, Louis Martin, and Richard Schumaker.

Louis Martin’s paper deals with Hero’s silence in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, focusing on the ways film adaptations manifest her silence. This paper focuses predominately on the Burgess, Brannagh and Whedon films. Martin first asks us to look at a clip from Burgess’ film, in which many of Hero’s lines are retained. Martin also points out that physically, Hero stands to deliver these lines and speaks quite clearly, exercising her own agency. By contrast, in Brannagh’s film, some of Hero’s lines are cut and the film depicts her physically on the ground with others towering over her. Martin then moves into exploring the Whedon film, in which Whedon depicts a Hero who is in fact not a virgin, having been in a previous relationship with the film’s Don John character. Martin describes a scene in the Whedon film in which Hero dons a Marilyn Monroe-style gown to wear for the party scene and further details a scene Whedon invents in which Hero pointedly refuses any further advances from Don John, using her own voice. In doing so, Whedon stages Hero’s agency and allows her to speak for herself.

Scott Campbell’s paper deals with original practices because, in his words, “it is the things we are most passionate about that deserve the most pressure.” Campbell interest lies in the cross-generational cultural appropriation that occurs when modern-day practitioners borrow historical practices in modern-day performance. Campbell terms this generative work, which results in the creation of something new, not a reconstruction of a historical mode. In his work, Campbell also posits that over time, modern-day companies that use original practice methodologies become facile in those practices as time passes, taking out the ‘danger’ elements that modern companies sometimes associate with original practice conventions.

Raven Claflin’s work delves into multi-modal poetics and Shakespeare. As Claflin posits, multi-modal poetics is a cross-genre theoretical approach and methodology that combines studies on Shakespeare with pop culture adaptations including comic books and graphic novels. Claflin’s paper focuses on a comic version of Macbeth, titled Macbeth the Graphic Novel and the supernatural soliciting therein. Claflin asks us to consider the placement of the Witches and ghosts across these comic book adaptations in connection with the ambiguities contained in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Angelina LaBarre’s work examines hip-hop adaptations of Shakespeare. LaBarre explains that these adaptations are often considered ‘bastard children,’ criticized by both Shakespeare purists and and hip-hop theatremakers alike. LaBarre reminds us, however, that audiences love these cross-genre performances. LaBarre posits that both Shakespearean drama and hip-hop are linguistic and poetic art forms and that some hip-hop practitioners including KRS-1 approach iambic pentameter in their work. LaBarre focuses in on the production Othello Remix, part of the 2012 World Language Festival at Shakespeare’s Globe. This performance was the only offering in the festival to sell out regularly. LaBarre points out that this production served as the United States’ offering in this festival, representing hip-hop as a distinct cultural language.

Monica Cross’s work focuses on Shakespeare’s language. She proposes that Shakespeare’s text melds with current-day language in modern adaptations of Shakespeare, looking closely at12 Ophelias by Caridad Svich. Cross states that Shakespeare’s language melds seamlessly in adaptation which, as Cross indicates, is a very timely concern given Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s upcoming translation initiative. According to Cross, Svich interpolates her own language into 12 Ophelias along with quotations from the past to weave Shakespeare into the present tense. In the act of remembering Hamlet. For Cross, this appropriative methodology brings Shakespeare into the present while still also staging elements of Shakespeare’s language.

The panelists now move into discussion surrounding their papers. LaBarre asks if using appropriative methodologies on Shakespearean texts serves our own ends only, or if in fact this approach can push our understanding of Shakespeare’s texts as well. Campbell wonders how much of this appropriative practice delves into the realm of translation. Claflin clarifies his belief that any transformation of Shakespeare becomes adaptive while appropriation involves a reframing of the source material into a specific cultural frame, drawing on Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood as an example. In a pedagogical sense, Martin urges us to work with multiple adaptations of a single Shakespearean source text, such as several films of Much Ado About Nothing,  to allow students the opportunity to see diverse possibilities to draw their own conclusions.

The discussion now turns to ideas of ‘original’ or ‘real’ versions of Shakespeare, with Campbell flagging the common tactic of holding up some artistic Shakespearean adaptations as ‘the real Shakespeare.’ As the panelists discuss, this emerges particularly in teaching applications, in which film versions of Shakespearean plays provides an easy way in for modern students. Claflin urges us to remember that while adaptations may be harnessed in this way, this pedagogical aim may not necessarily be the adaptor’s impetus for creating the work in the first place.

Cross then leads the panelists towards us an engagement with an audience’s knowledge of the source texts in adaptive practice. Cross refers us to Svich’s introductory materials in 12 Ophelias, in which Svich details that an audience that is familiar with Hamlet may see her play as a furtherance or extension of Shakespeare’s narrative, while an audience that has not yet contacted Shakespeare will see 12 Ophelias as the story of a stranded woman making her way in an unfamiliar world. The play therefore tells a cohesive and rich story for any audience, no matter how familiar that audience is (or is not) with Shakespeare’s Hamlet. LaBarre then turns us to an investigation of poetic structure in hip-hop and Shakespeare.  She introduces the notion of call-backs, such as rhythms, lyrics, melodies that harken back to earlier songs and artists. As LaBarre points out, this self-referentiality appears in early modern drama as well. Interestingly, LaBarre also points out that misogyny becomes a thru-line in both hip-hop and early modern drama.

The discussion now moves to a discussion of Shakespeare as cultural capital, examining the function and responsibility of using adaptations of Shakespeare as first points of contact for an audience. This brings the conversation into focus on issues of an original or authoritative text. Campbell recalls a childhood memory of an adaptation of Macbeth in the cartoon Duck Tales. LaBarre springs off of this to discuss the ways that she troubles the ideas of authoritative texts for her students, asking them to study both Shakespeare’s Othello and Othello Remix.  In doing so, LaBarre holds up both texts as possibilities, allowing students to form their own conclusions.

The discussion turns now to adaptations of Hamlet. Participant and American Shakespeare Center understudy Symmonie Preston asks us consider the ways that 17th and 18th century theories and preconceptions inform our readings of Shakespeare’s drama. She calls Ophelia into focus as an example, pointing to the ways that modern productions often strip away Ophelia’s agency as influenced by a 17th and 18th century lens that dictates what less-enfranchised characters should be. Preston argues that applying an adaptive hand to these plays can re-establish these characters’ agencies by removing the 17th and 18th century referential frame. Panelists Campbell and Claflin push this argument further asking us to consider the ways that even in authorial texts are adaptations mediated through the apparatus of textual culture.

The conversation now circles back to pedagogy, thinking through the ways that we can teach appropriation productively to instill agency in our students. A participant mentions using lines from Shakespeare as tool to allow students to ‘re-write’ them in their own words, expressing Shakespeare in their own vernacular. Claflin then points out that anytime we teach Shakespeare, we are in fact teaching our own adaptation of the play and in using strategies of appropriation, we might open channels for students to do the same for themselves.

An audience member asks the panelists to consider the ways that in other cultures, adaptations of Shakespearean drama often use elements other than the English language to form their adaptations. How do non-language-based adaptations factor into this conversation? LaBarre points out that hip-hop adaptations use a verse structure of their own to tell their stories. As in Shakespearean drama, the verse structures in hip-hop dramas change to indicate changes in mood, characters, etc. with the incorporation of beats that work for and sometimes against the verse language. Campbell draws on this idea of time signatures, reminding us of Spanish Golden Age drama, in which meter equates to emotion. Campbell then calls on notions of ‘disowning’ when considering foreign language adaptation of Shakespeare, asking if it is possible to write ‘against’ Shakespeare using Shakespearean language or conventions.

Now, the discussion turns to adaptations of Shakespeare into gendered languages. When language is gendered, what is gained or lost by making decisions surrounding these ambiguities? Claflin and Campbell hone in on the ways that ambiguity factors into Shakespearean drama. This opens a broader conversation in the room

Cross brings us back, reminding us that everything we have access to in the Shakespearean sphere can become part of adaptation. Our cultural moment allows us to make meaning out of all possible options that we have as theatremakers, adapters, scholars, and teachers. Cross urges us to remember that we always see Shakespeare through our lens.

And that’s a wrap for Colloquy #3. Thanks for a riveting conversation.

-Molly (@moxymolly)

Colloquy IV: Bilingual Shakespeare

Hello everyone – Liz Bernardo again, here to blog this session. This Colloquy IV is on Bilingual Shakespeare. The chair for this session is Joe Falocco of Texas State University. The presenters for this session are Ian Borden of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Tyrone Giordano of Gallaudet University, and Michael Saenger of Southeastern University. This session is in the Augusta Room of the Stonewall Jackson Hotel. Live blogging of this session runs from nine to ten fifteen this morning.

Borden explains his presentation What if Shakespeare Wrote for Actresses? Examining the Work of Lope de Vega as a Lens of Possibility for 21st Century Productions of Early Modern English Drama. Borden wonders if we have a skewed understanding of female characters on the early modern age due to Shakespeare writing for male actors, even in female characters. He speaks to the differences between Restoration female characters, who had greater liberty than female characters in early modern drama. He states that the early modern stage always reinserts female characters into the patriarchal system. He draws comparisons between early modern plays and de Vega plays in Spain. Borden talks about de presenti vows in The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster and the censurship of the Duchess who lives outside of the cultural norms. He notes that in de Vega’s version, the Duchess’ moral standing stays in tact. He compares the two and points out that the British version focuses on violence, which is not central to the Spanish version. He compares the Shakespeare and de Vega versions of Romeo and Juliet. Borden has scholars read from a translation of a scene from the de Vega version of the story. He points out Julia’s active role in the Spanish version and the comedic, rather than tragic, ending in the British version. He hopes to enlighten our views of female characters of the early modern stage by a comparison to their Spanish equivalents.

Saenger’s Shakespeare and Multilinguistic Affairs looks at conections between Ben Jonson and Shakespeare’s language. He speaks to the iconography of Shakespeare as a unifying force in English language. He speaks that modern cultures, especially cinema, undoes Shakespeare’s English. He speaks about adaptations, that must confront issues of language. He speaks about the dilemmas of performance to modernize or not and the ever-expanding contexts that Shakespeare is performed in. He states that adaptations are now the norm, rather than radical. He points out that cultural adaptations now often mix languages. He states that Shakespeare’s London was multilingual, hosting many Protestants, both in the streets and in the translated and printed books. He states that many linguistic modes mingled in Shakespeare’s day. He points out Shakespeare’s mix of languages, such as French in Henry V and Welsh in Henry IV Part I. He points out that Shakespeare’s foreign and magnetic Cleopatra implies the unreliability of English language in the presence of foreign influences. He states that several influences entered the English language since Shakespeare’s day. Saenger states that Shakespeare engaged in interlinguistic engagement, just as we live in a multilingual environment today.

Falocco begins his presentation with an introduction. He speaks of a desire to produce The Comedy of Errors where the characters from Syracuse speak English and the characters from Ephesus speak Spanish. In the production of this play, Falocco realized that several times characters speak English and Spanish to each other. He found the opening scene with Egeon difficult to translate between the two languages, which he solved with the creation of a character named The Bilingual Soldier who translated and acted out the speech into the new language. He explains that the Bilingual Soldier used a version of southwestern Spanish that “killed” in Texas.

Giordano signs his presentation with a translator. He states that he is in charge of the Folio exhibit that comes later this year. He shows a video about Shakespeare and translation issues with American Sign Language. The video comes from a project, #transformSHX. He explains that he does bilingual Shakespeare because Shakespeare is so ingrained into the curriculum, but translators must translate the text. He explains that the adaptation of the texts can be very limited and that often the deaf community must start at step one. He adds that there is a strong resistance to Shakespeare in the deaf community, but states that exploring Shakespeare with the integration of the deaf experience aids in embracing Shakespeare.

Falocco states that a unifying theme seems to be a call for diversity in theatre. He then opens the floor for questions. Student Melinda Marks asks Falocco the extent to which he workshopped his bilingual production of The Comedy of Errors. Falocco replies that the actor translating to Spanish as the Bilingual Soldier in his production would live-translate the Egeon speech every night. Marks points out that the Spanish speaking characters in the play seemed to rely more on hand gestures than language.

Student Sophia Beratta also asks Falocco if he was troubled to speak his English role (Egeon) with a translator (the Bilingual Soldier) translating what his words. Falocco replies that he did not have trouble. He adds that neither his Dromios nor Antipholuses experienced confusion too, whom he double cast into both roles with one pair speaking English and another pair speaking Spanish. He clarifies, with a question from Marks, that the production brought doubles on at the end of Comedy of Errors.

Beratta asks Giordano how ASL handles Shakespearean prose and verse. He explains that different hand shapes and repetition illustrate verse onstage and that audiences can see the meter and rhythm change to prose onstage with sign language. He states that other staging elements also help to amplify the changes. Marks asks a question about Shakespeare in international sign language. Lindsey, Giordano’s translator, speaks about translating Shakespeare into sign language in foreign countries. She states that translators in this case can either work from a translation to their native language or the base English text in order to translate to sign language. She points out that different colloquialisms appear locally. Giordano explains a difference between signing and gesturing and states that there are different sign languages for different cultures, even within the same native language. Giordano calls for translation straight to ASL from the original Shakespeare text. He hopes to develop a set method of translation for the future.

A scholar asks how signing works in Shakespeare with occupied hands. Giordano demonstrates that signing can still occur when the hands are in use. He states that violence and fight is different, but points out that ASL actors can play with both the fight and the language, which becomes solid in the rehearsal process. Falocco asks about different languages in sign language, particularly of British Sign Language productions. Giordano states that there have been BSL productions of Shakespeare. A scholar asks if there is a difference between BSL and ASL productions of Shakespeare. Giordano states that differences would depend on the direction. He also states that signing bilingual performers will honor the hearing audiences, but that hearing performers often do not honor deaf audience members.

Falocco ends with a plug for BXSW in Texas and encourages scholars and students to submit to present a paper at the conference. He encourages those within driving distance of Austin to travel to visit the conference.

Blackfriars Conference 2015 – Colloquy #5: Asides and Villainy

Good morning! I’m Cass Morris, and I’ll be liveblogging one of this morning’s six colloquy sessions: “Asides and Villainy”.

Chairs: Laury Magnus and Walter Cannon

Participants: Julia Griffin, Alan Hickman, Arthur Kinney, Caroline Latta, David Loehr, Ashley Pierce, Deb Streusand

Magnus and Cannon open the introductions, then have the participants introduce themselves and their favorite villains. Loehr’s is Richard III, Streusand’s is Mendoza, but favorite in Shakespeare is Claudius. Pierce says she loves them all, but claims Tybalt as a “twist my arm” top choice. Kinney’s is Iago, as is Hickman’s; Latta has chosen the Queen from Cymbeline.

Magnus notes that, for villains, asides are both secretive and attention-getters. She goes on to discuss several different types or purposes of asides as used by villains, including letting the audience in on their plans. She also notes, quoting Jim Hirsch, that villains can also deliver “asides” which are actually staged for the benefit of other on-stage characters, as with Edmund in King Lear. She adds that while there are comic villains who use asides, their use as a purposeful strategem seems more characteristic of dramatic villains.

By way of defining villains, via Charney: they “establish a network of evil”, they like to kill, they are arbitrary & irrational, they lack belief in anything greater than themselves, they try to present selves as plain and unadorned speakers, and soliloquies and asides are important to them.

Latta shares thoughts from an actor on soliloquies as discussions with the audience, then says she “began to obsess over how many different kinds of asides I could identify”. She shares a “taxonomy of asides”, with designations including: shared asides, conversational asides/solo asides, partial asides (by way of adlib/improv/impromptu remarks), whispered asides, shared onstage asides, visual/gestural asides, withdrawal asides/”fauxversations”, rapt soliloquy, cOCSading asides.

Streusand worked on The Malcontent, wherein the hero and villain “get more or less an equal amount of soliloquies”. She frames this as a competition for the audience’s interest and attention. Mendoza does not pretend to be a plain speaker, setting him apart from the typical Shakespearean mold.

Loehr worked on Richard III, noting that he is “an actor in life”, taking on various roles for his own self-interest. Throughout the play, he acts for everyone around him, showing his true self only to the audience and sometimes to his accomplice Buckingham. Loehr, Streusand, and Pierce read through a scene wherein Richard has examples of both overheard and non-overheard asides; the overheard aside forces Richard to adapt to the immediate circumstance. Loehr also notes that Richard takes a comic joy in his own villainy, demonstrated in the jokes he shares with the audience.

Kinney begins by saying, “We’re all trying to work out how villains make asides, and I’m trying to figure out how asides make villains.” He is looking at Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness, which lacks a clear villain.

Pierce has looked at both Tybalt and Iago. Though a small speaking role, Tybalt often still receives treatment as the villain of Romeo and Juliet. He has no prescribed asides, but there are two moments where performatively he is “alone” on stage, and they are the only moments when he speaks in rhyming couplets. “When Tybalt is wanting to kill and cannot kill, he speaks in rhymes to himself.” Iago not only uses asides, but uses them to his advantage. Pierce gives an example from 3.2, in which he comments on Desdemona and Cassio in earshot of Othello, but plays it off as an aside. Pierce claims that “[Iago] is fully aware of the impact of asides”. Magnus wonders if there are often verbal markers like “O” or “Ha” to villains’ asides.

Hickman is looking at Malvolio, often deemed a comedic villain in tragic circumstances. He notes that modern productions tend to “pile on the pathos”. Hickman theorizes that Malvolio does not begin the play as a villain but is one by the end: “Some are born villainous, some achieve villainous, others have villainy thrust upon them.”

Latta, working on the Queen in Cymbeline, distinguishes her from Charney’s definition of villainy — she is a careful plotter rather than irrational; she is capable of murder but does not treat it as a game; her interest is more for her son than for her own self. So, in considering her as a villain, “she is, but on her own terms.” She then uses student Glenn Thompson and Loehr to illustrate an instance of the “fauxversation” between Cymbeline and the Queen while Cloten talks elsewhere.

An auditor questions the use of asides taken to particular portions of the audience; colloquy members note that at the Blackfriars Playhouse, the gallant stools are often used in that way. Another auditor mentions that prologues often point out different sections of the audience.

Auditor Thompson questions the categorization of Malvolio as villain, and if it’s possible under Charney’s definition to identify Toby, Maria, et al as the real villains, particularly since Malvolio is generally acted upon rather than acting. Hickman notes that, “Malvolio drives Sir Toby to marriage, so he’s a villain.” Another auditor points out what Shakespeare chose to name the character, which literally means “evil wishes”.

In the last few minutes, Magnus redirects the focus to the performers in the room about the demands that asides place on an actor. Latta suggests that the specification of audience members is advantageous to bringing the audience in but also a challenge, since it requires making decisions swiftly in the moment. Loehr describes it as “making that person your scene partner”. Streusand comments that the audience member’s response also affects how the actor can deliver the aside. Pierce notes the “close connection” with the audience as one of the biggest advantages of acting at the Blackfriars Playhouse.

Cannon closes by posing a curiosity about the definition of villains and villainy and if it’s substantial or adequate, and offers a thought experiment regarding the character of Hal/Henry V.

–Cass Morris
OCS Academic Resources Manager

Blackfriars Conference 2015 — Colloquy Session VI: Shakespeare’s Life and Times: Contributing Context

Welcome to the 2015 Blackfriars Conference Colloquy, “Shakespeare’s Life and Times: Contributing Context.”   Kate McPherson of Utah Valley University and Kate Moncrief of Washington College chaired the colloquy session.  Dwight Tanner of UNC-Chapel HillWilliam Jones, Associate Professor of English at Murray State University and Karoline Szatek-Tudor of Curry College presented their papers as part of the colloquy.

Internet Shakespeare Editions has been operating now for fifteen years. The website,http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/,  includes a section covering Shakespeare’s ‘Life and Times’.  Michael Best originally created ISE as a CD-ROM in the late 1990s, and today the website receives 250,000 internet hits per month.  The idea behind the website’s organization has been for the user to be able to read its contents as a book, from the beginning of an article to the end of another.  Now, in a three- to five year-project, the site design is being overhauled, converting it into more of an encyclopedia format.  The website’s bibliographies have not been revised in over ten years, Professor Moncrief disclosed, but the ISE intends to update all of them as part of the site’s overhaul.

The Internet Shakespeare Editions site is designed to be user-friendly to high school students, and in keeping with this intended purpose, articles are limited to a length not exceeding one thousand words.  Footnotes are presented in the form of pop-up boxes.  Each page of the website includes one or two relevant images.

Ongoing pedagogical projects will allow educators and researchers to update and revise the information on the ISE website. Edition editors will be able to click on individual topics and make suggestions.  Today’s colloquy session is devoted to discussion of International Shakespeare Edition’s website, in particular the section entitled “life and Times,” as well as the discussion of five brief articles which the site’s continuing updating project generated.

The five authors named above presented their papers, beginning with Professor Jones who talked about his web-piece, “Shakespeare and Satire,” and he distributed copies of his paper, “A 1599 Poem in Praise of Shakespeare?”  He read aloud the subject of his paper, the 1599 John Weever poem to Shakespeare, “Ad Gulielmum Shakespeare” (“To William Shakespeare”) which in his view criticizes the playwright’s “Ovidian passion.”  Professor Jones uses this poem in his classroom, he told attendees, as a discussion topic for his students, presenting them with an opportunity to weigh in on the ironic tone and the satirical object of Weever’s poem. “Ad Gulielmum Shakespeare” demonstrates, as Professor Jones put it, the passive/aggressive attitude that Puritans leveled against playwrights and Shakespeare in particular.  A contemporary of Shakespeare, Weever was an aspiring poet and would-be playwright as well as a churchman.  Shakespeare may have used Weever as at least partial inspiration when he created the part of Sir Andrew Aguecheek in his play “Twelfth Night.”

UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student Dwight Tanner discussed his piece, “The Plague.”  Tanner’s article explores contagion, treatment, bureaucracy, and the plague’s impact on Early Modern Theater, particularly the impact it had upon theater owners.  The piece examines quarantine practices of the period and includes an example of a plague-victim, a man named ‘Decker.’  During the discussion, Professor Moncrief tried a site search to see how easily users can navigate to Tanner’s piece.  Eight years ago, Moncrief explained, the site managers integrated a rudimentary mobile app, and she wanted to see if it still functions and how it could be improved.

Professor Szatek-Tudor discussed as well as distributed copies of her paper, “The Twitters and Tweets of Shakespeare’s Birds in his Early Modern Plays.”  Shakespeare cited fifty-nine species of birds in his plays, though his bird allusions diminish in number in his later works, Szatek-Tudor claimed.  Shakespeare wrote about birds of prey as well as birdsas prey.  Professor Szatek-Tudor also talked about Shakespeare’s use of birds as verbs, giving as an example how Shakespeare wrote that Falstaff “quails” in fear.  She mentioned she is working on the History Plays and at the moment is looking for editing help with this.  The Professor distributed to attendees copies of an “Ornithological Chart of Some Birds in Shakespeare’s Plays” in addition to her paper.  Her chart classifies twenty-one different species of birds while grouping them under six separate classes, including “Land Birds” and “Water Bird.”  The Quail, for example, appears listed beneath the class of birds called, “Galliformes.”

Professor Moncrief discussed her article, “Childbirth.”  In the Early Modern period, a woman typically had six to ten children, she informed listeners.  Moncrief read a Jane Sharp quote from her paper and described the rest of its contents, including her paper’s references to Shakespeare’s plays, “Pericles” and “The Winter’s Tale.”  Most women spent their lives, she went on to tell attendees, pregnant or recovering from their pregnancies.  Her article explores the social impact of the culture’s views of morality and how that culture judged women, often disparagingly, by their pregnancies and childbirth.  The Professor discussed mortality rates in the session when she was asked about that, but she informed her listeners that she took that topic out of her piece over concerns of exceeding her article’s 1000-word length.

Lastly, Professor McPherson talked of her piece, “Early Modern Anatomy,” which explores anatomy as both subject of learning as well as spectacle.  She distributed to each attendee a copy of an illustration of The Anatomy Theatre at Leiden, circa 1540, which depicts the dissection of a human cadaver in an Early Modern operating theater.  Cadavers for dissection and study came from the gibbets and from other public executions.  The fOCSination with anatomy in that time period affected the depiction of dead bodies onstage to suit audiences’ demands for greater realism, she explained.

Blog posted by Bill Leavy, M.Litt. student, Mary Baldwin College graduate program in Shakespeare and Performance.

Wake Up Workshop: Cue Scripts

Hello everyone – Liz Bernardo, Mary Baldwin first-year student and OCS Marketing Intern, here to blog the first session this morning. This Wake Up Workshop is on cue scripts with OCS Education Artist, Mary Baldwin College MFA student, and member of Sweet Wag Shakespeare Patrick Harris at the Blackfriars Playhouse. Live blogging of this session runs from eight to eight forty-five this morning.

Harris introduces himself to the Wake Up Workshop attendees. He explains that high school students usually come to these workshops. He talks about Sweet Wag Shakespeare and Friday’s late night show, One Woman Town, where everyone can watch him perform.

Harris states that cue scripts allow actors much freedom on the stage. He explains that cue scripts were popular in early modern period, when printing scripts was expensive. He adds that his favorite part is that cue scripts only give the actor their roles, not even the title of the play. This creates some confusion because several plays have characters of the same name, such as Francisco, which is in The Tempest, Hamlet, and possibly other early modern plays. This can cause confusion with He further explains that cue scripts present a lot of performance conundrums – such as easily confused characters like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet. Harris adds that the Actors Renaissance Season uses cue scripts to stage the performances.

A scholar asks if the OCS publishes the Renaissance Season cue scripts, and Harris states that the OCS archives cue scripts and that actors often create their own cue scripts. He adds that usually stage managers will make cue scripts too.

Harris talks about false cues, when the cue for an actor is repeated several times in the scene prior to the actual cue. He explains that this creates urgency and interruptions. He also explains shared cues, when several actors say the same line at the same time. He elaborates that this creates an atmosphere of confusion and the strange energy that comes from speaking at the same time.

Sarah Enloe, OCS Director of Education, enters the room, and Harris asks her if the OCS archives Renaissance Season cue scripts. Enloe replies that the cue scripts are, however, actors mark the cue scripts. A scholar asks if any other organization uses cue scripts. Enloe replies that the OCS partners with the Folger Shakespeare Library to create a cue script from any digitized script. She also states that before the creation of this program from the Folger, actors created their own cue scripts. Following a question about cue scripts by other theatres, Enloe replies that typically other theatres do not use cue scripts for their productions. A scholar asks if actors often wait for their cues, and Enloe answers that the OCS actors often jump right to their feet. She adds that in the Actors Renaissance Season uses other staging conditions from Shakespeare’s day such as no director or designers. She says that cue scripts give clues such as which character leads a scene, which is not always the titular character.

A scholar asks about stage directions in cue scripts. Harris takes the floor to reply that a lot of embedded stage directions are within the cue scripts. Embedded stage directions are stage directions inherent in the dialogue. Harris previews that he will talk about false cues. Harris points out that the most descriptive stage directions in this scene belong to the Ghost of Hamlet. He elaborates that these are some of the most descriptive stage directions in a script, with the exception of dumb shows.

Harris applauds the scholar who walks the cues for the Ghost of Hamlet, who listens to the information that other actors share. He points out that the scholar also chooses to enter a specific way. He asks the readers to go through the scene again and requests the Ghost to respond to the embedded cues in the script while the other characters talk about the Ghost onstage.

Harris points out that some actors might accidentally skip a few lines, especially as Horatio, who has two very similar cues of, “Mark it, Horatio,” and, “Speak to it, Horatio.” He states that a good actor, such as the reader in this session, says all of their lines in order with their memorized lines. A scholar points out that if an actor playing Horatio jumps his cue or waits for the proper cue creates a different character for Horatio: a hot-headed character or a frightened Horatio.

A scholar points out that several actors might focus on their cue line and miss information stated on the stage. Harris agrees and explains that this is the reason why he stopped the scenes so many times. He explains that during the Renaissance Season, actors may stop each other several times in order to reorient themselves. He also adds that actors during the Renaissance Season crave the audience interaction, which helps shape the play. A scholar adds that actors in the early modern period might talk to each other about their roles and prepare themselves in such a way.

Unfortunately, we are out of time, and Harris ends the session.

Introducing the BFConf15 Blogging Team

As we did in 2011 and 2013, OCS Education will be live-blogging throughout the Blackfriars Conference. Every plenary session (as well as the majority of our colloquies, staging sessions, wake-up workshops, lunch meet-ups, and assorted other events) will have a devoted post here on the blog, updated in real-time, so that those of you who can’t join us in Staunton next week will still be able to follow along with the proceedings. I am pleased and proud to introduce the following individuals who will be helping me to document the 8th Blackfriars Conference from start to finish:

Elizabeth “Liz” Bernardo is a first year student in the Mary Baldwin Shakespeare and Performance program. Liz hopes to receive her Master of Letters and a Master of Fine Arts with a concentration in Directing. She is excited to assist with live-blogging and live-tweeting for her first Blackfriars Conference and cannot wait to share insights from the speakers and presentations throughout the week.

Whitney Egbert has been a theatre actor for 20 years.  She has been based in NYC for 4 years, adding work in the midwest and east coast to her west coast beginnings.  She is currently the Managing Director for The Shakespeare Forum in NYC. She has been a teaching artist with Shakesperience Productions, Inc., Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, The Shakespeare Forum, South Dakota Shakespeare Festival, and LaGuardia Community College.  Theatre credits include: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Love’s Labour’s Lost (The Shakespeare Forum); As You Like It (South Dakota Shakespeare Festival); Platonov (Columbia Stages); Romeo and Juliet (Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival); Much Ado About NothingOthello (Hip to Hip Theatre); Romeo and JulietJulius Caesar (Shakesperience Productions); Fat Pig, It’s A Wonderful Life: A Radio Play (Salem Repertory). B.A.: University of Portland. www.whitneyjegbert.com

Mary Finch is a first year M.Litt student in Mary Baldwin College’s Shakespeare and Performance program. When not in the midst of academics, she writes for Shakespeare Magazine as their US Staff Writer. She also dabbles in acting and enjoys spreading the love of Shakespearean theatre through education.

Bill Leavy is a first year M.Litt student with Mary Baldwin College’s Shakespeare and Performance program. He holds an MA in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College Graduate Institute and he earned his BA in Theater at the University of Albany. He entered the acting profession twenty years ago and is a proud member of Actors Equity and the Screen Actors Guild. Among his favorite stage roles are Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol and Lucius in a staged reading of Titus Andronicus with the Orlando Shakespeare Company. Bill’s paper on Shakespeare’s Richard II is available online at http://www.academia.edu. He is excited to be attending his first Blackfriars Conference and looks forward to attending many more in the future.

Merlyn Sell is currently a third year MFA student in Mary Baldwin College’s Shakespeare and Performance program.  Prior to her stint at MBC, Merlyn could be found on and behind stages in California’s Wine Country.  Merlyn is the publicity lead for Sweet Wag Shakespeare and will be directing their As You Like It this December.  Her future hopes include beginning a Shakespeare theatre in her home town of Deadwood, South Dakota.

Molly Beth Seremet is currently an M.Litt Candidate in Shakespeare and Performance at Mary Baldwin College.  She holds an M.Res with Distinction in Performance and Creative Research from London’s University of Roehampton.  She has worked professionally in Europe and the United States as an actor, dancer, and deviser.  Her writing has been published in Activate and Platform e-journals and Praxis Magazine. She works frequently with her own company, the New York City-based Morse Code Theatre.

I’m also pleased to announce that we will be livestreaming select keynotes and the Thursday morning, Wednesday afternoon, and Saturday morning sessions. Look for links on the OCS Twitter feed: @shakespearectr, and be sure to follow the official conference hashtag, #BFConf15, for other tidbits!

Check out the schedule of events on the OCS website, and come back here starting Wednesday, October 28th, at 8am, for all of our real-time updates.

–Cass Morris
Academic Resources Manager

You, O the dearest of creatures, would even renew me/with your eyes.

Snapshot of the October 12-October 17, 2014

 

Sunday: Filmed pre-show lecture and staged reading of the Menaechmi

Monday:  Shakespeare Theatre Association Executive Board Conference Call to finalize January Conference plans (secretary), finalize grant application for First Folio

Tuesday: All day retreat with Education Team, MFA production of Twelfth Night

Wednesday: Scholar interview with 9 OCS actors, host lecture, welcome visiting University group

Thursday: Comment on MFA workshop presentations, meet with British Education scholar, Marketing meeting for artistic season, train box office staff to use LCD projector,  host lecture, welcome visiting University group

Friday:​L​ed workshop with 3 OCS actors for University group, met with Globe Education Head of Learning, training on new software for Education Programs to implement this month

Saturday:Meet with ASL interpreters for upcoming show, welcome 3rd visiting University

Sunday:​Begin again

It​’​s been 5 years since I stepped into the role of Director of Education at the American Shakespeare Center.

​Each year has presented a variety of challenges and successes.  I am so proud of the work that the Education team has taken on​,​ and I am amazed by the output of such a small group of people. At our retreat this week, the reason we are able to do so much was once again made clear to me. We all believe strongly in the mission of this little company that can.

“The American Shakespeare Center recovers the joy and accessibility of Shakespeare’s theatre, language, and humanity by exploring the English Renaissance stage and its practices through performance and education.”

My first task when I took this position was to write the language for the annual brochure for Education.  I went straight to our mission and used the words there to describe each of our programs. That attention to the mission continues to be a focus of our work, so much so that our recent visitors from Shakespeare on the Road commented that we all, every department, each individual, knows what is at the heart of the work here and speaks about it in uncannily similar ways. So we know why we do this work. I think the question that tickles Education right now is how.

In my first couple of years in the job, changes in the company kept the work in Education fresh and new. Whether itwas the staffing changes brought about by the economic downturn forcing us to think in new, efficient, and creative ways, or the addition of a Managing Director with an actual ​arts management degree, who could encourage and allow growth, or the new staff in Education that growth supported, we seemed to have something new to celebrate every few months–publishing our study guides, putting out our own magazine, moving our camp to the college, adding college credit, adding a new camp for Adults, adding a summer teacher seminar, re-vamping our staged readings. Each change, and the success we experienced brought us joy and a sense of renewal.  But, each also brought more work to an already taxed team. How can we maintain our quality of programming and our commitment to the mission?

We made some inroads this week in answering that question.  We are going to be looking hard at the work we do and how we do it for the next little while.  Just because we can keep so many balls up in the air doesn’t necessarily mean we should.  As we move forward, I ask you for your help.  Tell us what comes to mind when YOU think about OCS education. It can be just one word, or it can be a paragraph.  With your help, we will continue to build on our programming and create new opportunities for many others to experience the joy that Shakespeare’s plays can bring to anyone.