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

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



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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


G Fiebig: Did you grow as an actor?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Paper Session #2

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

Alan Armstrong, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

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

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

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

Sid Ray, Pace University

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

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

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

Holly Pickett, Washington and Lee University

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

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

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

Bill Gelber, Texas Tech University

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

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

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

Cass Morris, American Shakespeare Center

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

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

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

Peter Kanelos, Valparaiso University

Richard III and Embodied Rhetorical Figures on the Early Modern Stage

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

Colloquy Session V: Published Text

Doyle Ott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iska Alter and William Long

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arlynda Boyer

Plague, Playing, and Printing

A new narrative about Shakespeare’s writing history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shakespeare moved companies during first plague of 1593.

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

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

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

Closures continued through 1613 on and off.

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

Amanda Finn

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

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

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

Epicene means sexless or neuter in Geek.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mathew Vadnais

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Keynote: Peter Holland’s A Critic and a Gentleman: Publishing Performance

Hi again! Sarah Martin here to liveblog the first Keynote Address of the Seventh Blackfriars Conference: Peter Holland’s A Critic and a Gentleman: Publishing Performance.

Peter Holland, Associate Dean for the Arts and McMeel Family Professor in Shakespeare Studies at the University of Notre Dame is, as Dr. Cohen said in his introduction, “a great get” in terms of a Keynote speaker. Professor Holland began his presentation with the images of the title pages of two different editions of Hamlet: one the early modern title page with a record of the first performance and the second, an edition inspired by the Michael Grandage production of Hamlet at the Donmar Warehouse which starred actor Jude Law. Professor Holland explained that the reader of the 1676 edition thought he was getting “all of Hamlet“–the play as written and the play as performed, but the edition neglects to state that it is also heavily revised while the Grandage edition has been significantly shortened.

Professor Holland pointed out that, for the type of souvenir playtext exemplified by Grandage’s edition to be published in time for audience members to buy it, the text must be fixed in print well before the production actually begins performances. While an audience may believe that they are buying a true “performance text”, there is inevitable variation between the text in codex and the words spoken onstage.

Professor Holland discussed the role of what he called, “the theatrical edition” and asked what the intended use of such an edition is.  He explained that theatres always produce several editions–rehearsals scripts and so on that are not necessarily intended for publication, but are the material products of the theatre itself.

Professor Holland the discussed the role of the actor as critic and the censor as author. The “gentleman” in Professor Holland’s address is Francis Gentleman, who chose which moments of Shakespeare’s plays he thought ought to be included in editions and which should be omitted. Gentleman, Professor Holland argues, provides the “first performance commentary” on Shakespeare’s plays.  Professor Holland argues that such performance commentary is a “companion to the theatre” and no more. The Bell’s Editions (influenced by Gentleman and actor David Garrick) sold better than other scholarly editions in the eighteenth century. This, Professor Holland, argues has set the precedent for subsequent editions which include illustrations of performance and other theatrical or actor-centric images.  These images, however, are not necessarily representative of the plays in performance, but are of actors placed in suggested settings (such as an actress portrayed standing in the countryside) that are the product of editors rather than the actual performance history of the plays.

Professor Holland  argues that extensive performance commentary can actually be a hindrance to performance as it, “implies a right way of performing the play, not a range of possibilities”. Professor Holland argues that, while such extensive performance commentary shows impressive scholarship, it does not provide meaning. Professor Holland’s discussion of the Samuel French Acting Editions was particularly interesting and amusing to the audience as he compared the staging diagrams present in the editions to “IKEA self-assembly”. Such editions, Professor Holland argued, make the play no longer Shakespeare’s, but rather the product of the publishing house. Professor Holland’s Keynote Address, which explored the relationship between performance and the printed text, presented in a theatre that seeks to do just that, was the perfect start to the Blackfriars Conference.

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen’s Welcome to the Seventh Blackfriars Conference

Hi Everyone! Sarah Martin here to liveblog Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen’s Welcome to the Seventh Blackfriars Conference.

Dr. Cohen took to the stage in a packed Blackfriars Playhouse to welcome everyone to the Seventh Blackfriars Conference and began this celebration of early modern drama with, as he said, “the only somber moment” of the conference when he took a moment to recognize the memory Blackfriars Playhouse architect: Tom McLaughlin who died in 2012. Dr. Cohen then recognized several people who made this conference possible including the team who read through over three-hundred abstracts before introducing OCS Artistic Director Jim Warren who gave a brief history of the OCS and Blackfriars Playhouse. After Mr. Warren thanked the attendees for their contribution to Shakespeare scholarship, Dr. Cohen introduced OCS Managing Director Amy Wratchford and incoming OCS Board President Mary McDermott. Dr. Cohen also introduced Staunton’s mayor, Lacy B. King. Mayor King gave a brief history of how the OCS has impacted and enlivened our small, picturesque city.  Dr. Cohen also recognized this Conference’s patron, George Walton Williams IV and introduced the Director of  Mary Baldwin College’s Shakespeare & Performance M.Litt/MFA program, Dr. Paul Menzer.

The focus of Dr. Cohen’s Welcome was on community, both the local community of Staunton and the community of OCS employees and volunteers who are responsible for the success of the OCS and this week’s Conference. Dr. Cohen welcomed all of the OCS employees to the Blackfriars stage for a special moment during which each employee introduced him or herself to the Conference attendees. OCS Director of Education Sarah Enloe  then took the stage to explain some of the Conference logistics before introducing the hallmark of the Blackfriars Conference: the bear. Bears (or grad students dressed as bears) will come onstage to stop any presentation that goes over time. This fun practice is, of course, inspired by the famous stage direction in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, “Exit, pursued by a bear”.  Ms. Enloe, apparently, went over her allotted time because one of the bears entered and grabbed her paper before exiting. And so it begins…