Staging Session III

Beth Burns

Skyping Shakespeare: The Hidden Room’s International Collaboration on Rose Rage

Berns enters and has a screen in front of the discovery space broadcasting an image of Skype, she explains how she brought over British actors to the stage to audition, cast and rehearse a show. Berns advocates blocking via video conference although she does stipulate that they do not choreograph fights over Skype.

Why do people hesitate to work with people far away?

An actor referred to as Lawrence heads to the downstage back of the space.

An actor referred to as James then calls us on Skype and says “Hello everyone in America” the sound is adjusted.

They turn off the Skype camera and get back to Lawrence.

Three men come on from upstage, Lawrence from off stage reads his lines while one actor enacts his blocking in front of the audience.

After the actor silently embodying Lawrence trips over a cord we pause and then Lawrence asks for a few different stage pictures which Burns directs them in.

Now Lawrence is announced to have arrived in the states from the UK and Lawrence enacts the blocking he learned over Skype.

Berns remarks that Lawrence incorporated everything that Jude (the body double) suggested.

Lawrence goes onto explain how he found some of the choices Jude very interesting,and they influenced his interpretation of the scene.

Then Berns and James play a game where she had him stare into her eyes where he saw them on the screen and then give a similar gaze into the camera to show the audience the difference.

Lag is important to manage.  One has to mitigate the lag as much as possible through tech and practice

Actors naturally find a rhythm that works with lag.

Daves and James an(suit) d another man act a scene together across Skype until James phone goes of, but then they continue, when James wants to make eye contact he looks directly into the camera

James says fairwell and is turned off

Dr. Davies, who was an actor in the original project, tells a story about making noise in the kitchen while rehearsing over Skype his father came in and asked how many people were on his computer and he replied “About thirty-five”

Berns puts on a scene with half international actors and half from the states to show off the results of the Skype rehearsal project.

The blocking was well defined, all the actors seemed certain of where they were supposed to be when, no one was upstaged and they were able to interact very naturally and had clearly had sufficient rehearsal.

Robert Matney the tech designer meantioned that theater practitioners are usually luddites. We present a live, real alternative to other entertainment.

We need to retain what is precious about live theater but it is important to overcome luddite tendencies and if you use technology to your advantage you can fold and flatten the world. It is worth the extra effort to be able to rehearse with people on the other side of the world.


Kim Carrell

Variants in the Quarto and Folio texts of Richard the III

Textual veriants

Carrell explains that in the Quarto and Folio Richard the III have a lot of small differences, different names, and punctuation differences one speech 12 lines shorter but in Act one, Scene two there is one other massive difference…

Three actors take stage and start the Richard III and Lady Anne scene from the 1597 Quarto. Everything goes as expected and at the end when Anne leaves and Richard says he’ll take her but only or a short time, the audience barely reacts at all.  We are not sure he has won Anne as thoroughly as he thinks he has.

Now they perform the folio.

I Q1 Richard offers her a ring and delights at the way it looks on her finger, when they get to this point in the Folio she offers him the ring first and then he silently gave her a ring and had the same line admiring the way it circles her finger. The reaction of the audience was quite noticeable, and the actors related to each other much more sympathetically for the rest of the scene. The shock was much greater then, after she left and he callously said the same dismissive lines, because we had just seem what looked like a marriage ceremony or at the very least an engagement and he was already making it clear that his vows of love were lies.

Carrell said he came to the idea when he was in an unrehearsed cue script production as Richard III and performed this very scene, he thought he knew what to expect, but when she offered him the ring (which he wasn’t expecting) it really changed the scene.

Carrell asks audience what they think.

MFA student Kelly Elliot says that the moment when Anne offers ring makes Richard’s later speech a much bigger reaction.

Carrell advocates taking advantage of the many sexual jokes. Whitefriars, where Richard says he is going next was red-light district of London.

One little switch makes such a huge difference, so it is really worth it to check the differences between texts.


Julia Nelson

Modern audiences are used to proscenium staging, movies, privacy, technology, and less human contact. Early Modern audiences had no privacy, and theater was a communal space where space and light were shared.

So, why would Shakespeare and his contemporaries encourage a rowdy audience to participate in the show with audience asides and soliloquies where the actors directly address the audience and ask them questions?

In places like sports stadiums and Rocky Horror Picture Show modern audiences still get rowdy, shout, and in the latter case (but we hope not the former) throw things at the stage.

Rick Blunt performs Falstaff’s Honor speech. Julia asks him to try if first in the “first circle Stanislavski” style and ignore the audience.  Julia asks the audience to talk back and heckle Blunt.

The audience heckles Blunt while he desperately tries to do his scene and ignore the audience.  The audience got so loud it was difficult to hear Blunt whose character was having an internal discussion. Someone even threw a wadded up piece of paper at him.

The second time Julia asked Blunt to engage the audience as much as possible.

Blunt responded to every shout out and really connected with his audience, the speech with the question and answer format made much more sense the second time around. The audience never got as rowdy as they had the first time, by interacting with the, Blunt was able to keep them in check. Audience interaction was a form of crowd control.

If the play was a disaster on first performance and authors weren’t usually paid until second or third performance.

Nelson explains that the first was similar to modern staging where actors are encouraged to not acknowledge the audience. She then opened the floor to questions and comments.

The actor from the previous scene, known as Lawrence, had been doing Trinculo as audition speech then got the role and then at first performance an overly talkative audience member started interacting with him duringa sene:

L:  What have we here a manor fish?

A: Fish!

L: A Fish. Dead or alive?

A: Dead!

The interaction calmed the unruly audience member down and worked well with the scene.

Another audience member pointed out that we police the audience using the lights, when the audience can see each other they are much more likely to interact. What allows us to hoot and holler is that were sharing the same pool of light.

Staging Session II: Auditory Worlds Onstage: Hearing, Overhearing, Eavesdropping, and Stage Whispers – Blackfriars Conference 2013

Good afternoon from Clare at the Blackfriars! I will be blogging on the second staging session of the 2013 Blackfriars Conference.

Staging Session II: Auditory Worlds Onstage: Hearing, Overhearing, Eavesdropping, and Stage Whispers

With little to no practice, the OCS residence cast and their facilitators will work through complicated staging situations. Please see: Staging Session II Handout

Moderator: Sara Vazquez, OCS stage manager

1. Much Ado Masked dance: Conducted by Walter Cannon and Nova Myhill (Much Ado About Nothing 2.1)

2. Eavesdropping in Measure for Measure: Gayle Gaskill (Measure for Measure, 3.1)

3. Public vs Private speech in Hamlet: Laury Magnus (Hamlet, 3.2)

1) Myhill and Cannon will look precisely at the moments of hearing and non-hearing, and how the scene changes when characters over-hear, and when they fail to over-hear each other.  They also want to gives special attention  to the way that masks which usually give individuals power over each other, or render each other powerless. The actors will first play the scene all masked and then time with only the men in masks.

The first time the actors played the scene, they all danced and only the head couple spoke to each other.  The other actors were not distracting themselves from hearing, but also did not appear to react much to the head couple. They were all masked.

The second time, the women wore no masks and again only by the two interlocutors heard the conversations.  Each couple broke off from the dance to their individual conversations after they spoke to each other in the dance for their own private conversations. The women also played the scene as having more agency over the men who are unable to answer for themselves when the women confronted them about themselves while the women enjoy displaying their wit.

2) Differing editions of Measure for Measure have the duke and the provost exit in a scene 3.1., or stay on stage and eaves drop during the conversation in which Isabella confesses to her brother that she must sleep with Angelo to save her brother’s life. Does the duke upstage the other actors if he is seen overhearing the actors?

The first time, the duke and the provost left and then the duke reappeared listening from the balcony. Claudio’s initial support of Isabella’s chastity gave the duke in comfort, but at Claudio’s first request for Isabella to save him by sin, the duke rushed out of the balcony and reappeared later to stop the two from their argument.

The second time, the duke and the provost remained on the apron of the stage, downstage left, and listened to the conversation,  The duke even inserted a few non-verbal auditory reactions. He then chooses a specific instance to insert himself. His motivation for reappearing appeared to change.

3)Just before the play within the play, Hamlet is playing the harlequin which keeps him from culpability while simultaneously insulting the characters (possibly without their realizing they are being insulted). The actors have their hearing visible by their onstage reactions, and the actors are free to respond as they will to the speech. This scene has an elaborate architecture of seeing and hearing.

The first time, the scene began with Hamlet putting on a harlequin disguise for the sake of the court. Before the play, the characters who were not interlocutors played mostly sock and disgust regarding Hamlet’s words, but little reaction to the dumb show, and were not watching each other watch the play, with the exception of Hamlet on a diagonal downstage of them and able to see them.

The second time, Hamlet did not put on a disguise and appeared in earnest, acting more like the typical Romeo character, and when he was speaking with one individual, the others broke off to have their own private conversations which allowed Hamlet to comment on people without the subjects of the comments aware he was speaking of them. This staging also allowed the actors to watch each other watch the play and each others’ reactions to the play. During the break in the play, when the characters comment on the play, Hamlet got up and pulled characters to the side to have conversations with them about the play and direct specific ideas toward them. This allowed him to be much more manipulative and direct in his comments, but lead to some discontinuity when other characters commented on the individual conversations.

The audience was divided on the positioning of the duke. Many felt that his position on the apron of the stage found it difficult to see him and divided their attention.  There was also a lot of debate on whether or not the Duke, or Isabella and Claudio should be the focus of the scene.   Most of the staging today used dumb show conversation to indicate not listening.  They also talked about the difficulty of having to listen for cues while also pretending not to listen.  The actors posed the example of Malviolio reading the letter in 12th Night.  In this scene the actor must be extremely aware of where the other characters are hiding, and how they are reacting to his speech so that he does not look at them, while simultaneously pretending to be oblivious. The actors stated that the presence of the provost was difficult.  They also stated that it is particularly difficult to find ways of NOT doing something (such as not listening).  They said that in Hamlet it can be difficult for the King and Queen to not see the play and then be startled, but by having Hamlet pull people to the side created more for them to respond to.  In Much Ado, the actor playing Claudio (Chris Jonston)  found that the private conversations gave him more to use as an actor when he watched Pedro and Beatrice flirting.  The actor playing Benedick (Ben Curns) found that it was frustrating to play a stupid Benedick.  This comment opened the question of whether or not the women are masked.  Textual evidence suggests that women could be masked or not without working against the text. One of the actors raised the question of what constitutes the harlequin character, how it should be played, and how the scholars present would have liked to see the responses and actions of the characters on stage for the Hamlet scene. They also asked if there is something that the other players should be doing.  Another question was the way to play NOT hearing, in any way other than doing something else, or being distracted.  The scholars were hoping to achieve a “sneak attack” by Hamlet on Claudius. Some audience members felt the private staging of the Hamlet scene was much more powerful than the public version of the staging.  Audience members also requested what a good balance could be between the public and private versions of the scene.  The scholars and actors found it difficult to map who hears what lines. The private version placed an interesting highlight on the lines about the chameleon.  Hamlet (Dylan Paul) found that the public version trapped him in a type, whereas in the private version he felt able to play tactics and work individually on specific people. Everything needs to be based on deciding what story the production wants to tell and what is the best way to tell the story they have.

Blackfriars Conference 2013 — Colloquy Session #7: Rhetoric

Good afternoon, everyone — Cass Morris here with one of today’s four colloquy sessions: Rhetoric. The participants in this session are: James Beaver, Scott Crider, Fiona Harris-Ramsby, Jane Jongeward, and Kyle Vitale, moderated by Chelsea Phillips. I will be liveblogging this session from 3:30-4:45pm.

Phillips begins by suggesting that the participants introduce each others’ papers, move onto the papers themselves and discussion of the role of rhetoric in  each participant’s larger work, then move on to the responses to each paper. Phillips also encourages the auditors to participate throughout.

We begin with Beaver and Jongeward introducing themselves and each other.  Jongeward’s paper concerns statistical analysis of unfinished lines in King Lear – using mathematics to judge verse irregularities, specifically unfinished lines. Lear has the highest ratio of unfinished lines (11%). Jongeward finds this high proportion significant, as it is “a play full of people who will not listen to each other.” Beaver’s paper argues that the rhetoric used for describing the wood in Titus Andronicus shapes the social relationships on-stage. He notes both the discrepancy between the court and the woods, with the latter perfect for enacting violence, as well as Tamora’s use of rhetoric to effectively build a set. Beaver relates to Latour’s concepts of objects (in this case, the woods) as both social and physical.

Second, Vitale and Harris-Ramsby introduce each other. Vitale’s paper argues that scholarship neglects to account for Elizabethan notions of reverence. He examines how Shakespeare’s attitude towards reverence is complex and uses to satirize and appropriate religious conformity fostered by the Tudor state and reinforced throughout time. Concerned with relationship dynamics of reference, Vitale questions how Shakespeare enacts the bodied act of reverence in royal figures. Vitale argues that Shakespeare collapses the concepts of “crown” and “crowd” through an examination of Richard II. Vitale notes that he is also working with Beaver on “books as gatherings.” Harris-Ramsby’s paper looks at Troilus and Cressida, challenging the notion of Cressida as subjugated female body by arguing that Cressida’s rhetoric fights against that idea and against the external construction of Cressida’s self by others. She looks particularly at Cressida’s use of aposiopesis, arguing that she literally “becomes” that figure of speech. Harris-Ramsby’s larger work looks backwards towards the origins of rhetoric in the construction of character in Greek drama, and how that informs modern theories of performativity.

The third pair is Phillips and Crider. Crider argues that the Macbeths use periphrasis, among other rhetorical devices, for unethical purposes, and that their use of it initially brings them together but ultimately erodes their relationship. He believes that the rhetorical constructions in Macbeth help to illustrate the slippery slope between words and action. Crider comments that he is looking more closely at Ciceronian concepts of rhetoric. He is interested in working with others who are interested in figuration as integrated with the larger world of rhetoric. Phillips is examining instances of repetition in Othello (see the Wordle she created to illustrate). Her focus is centered on the psychological effect of repetition — that the truth of a statement is assumed with its repetition. Phillips looks particularly at Iago’s use of repetition to manipulate Othello, and that his ability to do so decreases after Emilia takes it over. She focuses on three forms: general repetition (from audience or reader perception), intentional repetition (character perspective), and compulsive repetition (spontaneous from character perspective). Phillips argues that Emilia’s imitation of her husband’s rhetorical forms reveals his villainy.

Phillips then opens up to questions. Vitale asks Crider if he’s thought at all about how the play Macbeth itself acts as figuration, presenting an idea for the audience/reader. Crider responds, “My answer at first is, ‘I don’t know.’ But that doesn’t mean I won’t respond.” Crider says he finds that acts of persuasion within a play often act upon the audience in a similar manner. He questions the idea of if a rhetorical figure can, in itself, have an ethical configuration — and concludes that, no, probably not, they have to be examined in context — particularly since the figures generally appear tangled with each other in use. He says he does believe that the figures in the play and the play on the whole do have the potential to move the audience ethically. Vitale further questions if Crider thinks it relates to the early modern/Puritan idea of theatre’s ability to affect the audience. Crider responds that he thinks the play itself negates the probability that the audience would rest at complicity with the Macbeths, since we see the outcome.

Phillips notes that this idea of morality in rhetoric appeared in several of the papers, particularly turning the attention to Harris-Ramsby’s ideas on Cressida as intentionally performing certain figures or as speaking them spontaneously. Harris-Ramsby discusses that, with aposiopesis particularly, it draws attention to the compulsive power of silence. “It depends on how the actress embodies the figure, because there’s a decision to be made as to the duplicity of the figure itself.” Is it that Cressida is overcome by bashfulness, or does she break off her speech in order to reflect? Is she reclaiming some of her own power, working against the constitution of her as duplicitous? Phillips connects this to the silences in Jongeward’s paper — what do we do with these silences? Jongeward notes that her discovery led her to question that, if we see a rhetorical device heavily in use in one play that we don’t see in others, “can we change how we normally see it?” Phillips relates this to how we think a lot about “not seeing” in Lear, but that Jongeward’s paper made her think about other sensory deprivations, particularly “not-hearing”. Crider interjects that “rhetorical figures have a very broad effect.”

Phillips tells the auditors that the group has had a lot of comments on how “rhetoric creates reality” or space, and directs the conversation to that theme. She draws attention particularly to Beaver, to the issue of language “literally creating space” on the early modern stage. Beaver says he wants to “get away from thinking of language as referential,” noting that no stage tree is going to be able to do all the things that Tamora says or implies. And, he doesn’t think the audience expects that. “They want the image of the words conjuring something.” He also notes how Aaron sort of forces her to shift her approach, since she starts out “in the wrong genre.” Beaver notes that Tamora’s speech draws us off into different temporalities, particularly with her use of seasonal vocabulary and her ventriloquizing of other voices.

Vitale has an interesting reading of the first scene of Richard II, noting it as one of the only representations of a “divine king already troubled”. He relates the conversation in this scene to passages from the Book of Common Prayer. He considers that the language, in a way, transposes the audience to the space of a church, importing the desires and meanings of prayer, and the “potential failures of all that that prayer is wrapped up in”, essentially “placing the audience before the Eucharist”. Vitale notes that “reverence is an incredibly invisible term” — oft relied upon, rarely enumerated. Reverence, he claims, was used as both strategy and tactic in the early modern church. Relating to the idea of the forceful use of reverence, Harris-Ramsby says that she thinks that, when we discuss rhetoric constructing reality, we tend to think too restrictively. Troilus and Cressida, she notes, is very much about reconfiguring — and notes that the typical construction of Cressida as a whore is problematic in lights of that subversion. Crider discusses how it relates to the idea of praise and dispraise, and to rhetorical underpinnings of “the sublime”.

Phillips then turns the group’s attention to the performance possibilities of these rhetorical understandings — how does the actor embody them, and what affect does that have on the audience? “Can it be genuine flustration,” Phillips asks (wondering if she can use that as a word) “in one instance” and somewhat intentional and crafty in another? Harris-Ramsby notes that, even if it is intentional, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, particularly seen as a strategy of self-preservation.

Harris-Ramsby then asks to interrogate the notion of persuasive rhetoric as seen in a negative light, especially in Othello, and if that changes when Emilia subverts the expectation, turning it more cathartic and “gets the bad guy”. Phillips replies that Emilia’s repetitive rhetoric starts off with her caught in a cycle, repeating “My husband”, but that she eventually becomes able to use that in order to damn Iago. Phillips notes that these repetitions cue Iago to speak, but also prevent him from speaking — and that she finds something quite powerful about how the character who has had 1100 lines is thus not only silent, but frustratingly silent. The group spends a moment discussing the rhetorical struggle between Iago and Emilia in that last scene, and Harris-Ramsby notes that Emilia’s triumph moves the audience from being passively complicit with Iago to feeling themselves represented and vindicated by Emilia. Phillips states that, “What is really insidious about Iago is that he doesn’t have to repeat things very frequently to make people lose their minds over it.”

Beaver brings up the fact that everyone wrote about rhetoric in tragedies, and particularly the idea of repetition leading into violence, as well as the focus on repetition, either within a trope or of a trope. Phillips thinks it relates specifically to Crider’s points about the relationship between language and action. “Maybe we run out of rhetoric at some point and then have to stab somebody.” Auditor Peter Kanelos notes that, in comedies, “They use rhetoric and then, instead of stabbing somebody, they kiss somebody.” Crider points out that you may have to do either; Kanelos notes that, “if it’s Jacobean, you do both at the same time.”

Crider states that he started look at the Macbeths because he wanted to look at a marriage, not a courtship. He’s interested in how the use of rhetoric to deliberate does eventually force an action on the stage. “If we think of human deliberation as a category, we can then see why speech yields to action.” Vitale relates that to the early modern period’s ideas on theology — and thus, its logic — in a way that the 21st century doesn’t necessarily track. Crider thinks that relates to the romances, with their strong themes of redemption and transformation. Phillips asks Crider if Macbeth’s deliberation seems to grow less frequent; he confirms and says that he thinks it moves from periphrastic to hyperbole to a plain style by the end of the play.

Crider seeks to shift the focus to the idea of how people respond to being treated “with a kind of verbal violence” in Troilus and Cressida and King Lear, and he inquires if Cressida acquires agency in the kissing scene through the rhetorical forms. Harris-Ramsby thinks she is “more performing the complete illogicality of what’s happening to her”. Crider then asks if she rather compels an audience to recognize how her agency has been taken from her. Engaging with an auditor, Harris-Ramsby discusses what choices Cressida has in that moment. When the auditor asks, “Could she pull a Lucretia and kill herself?”, Harris-Ramsby replies, “I think I’d rather just break off my speech.”

Noting that we are nearly out of time, Phillips poses a last question, inspired by a point in Beaver’s paper: Looking at rhetoric and performance as a cycle of reproduction, what is then produced? Beaver says his best answer is, in his text, what Aaron says, “an excellent piece of villany”. Jongeward notes that, at least in the tragic worlds of these plays, what they produce is only destruction, and therefore nothing. Vitale thinks that mere catharsis is too passive; he sees “a call that requires a response of some kind”. Crider wants to know what it is that actors get out of rhetorical consideration of the text. Harris-Ramsby agrees, stating that “rhetoric and performance always intersect at the body”. And Phillips says that that was her answer: what we get is performance possibility.

Thanks to everyone who attended this session! (We had a very full room). This was a great discussion and I think will generate a lot of further thought and study.

Honorific – Blackfriars Conference 2013

Hello, my name is Clare, and I will be blogging for the Honorific session of the OCS Blackfriars Conference 2013.

Honorific is an event in honor of George Walton Williams IV.

Ralph Alan Cohen opened with anecdotes about being a student of George Walton Williams. He states that Dr. Williams was an intimidating teacher because he could look into the eyes of a glad student and see into his soul. He is also a guide to students, and steered them towards areas where they would most flourish. He gave complete support to Shenandoah Shakespeare Express, including hosting the troupe as they passed through the area on tour, and they shared academic and life stories.

Today, the “academic children” and “grandchildren” of George Walton Williams read one of his children’s books entitled The Best Friend. The OCS residential troupe accompanied the reading with acoustic music and sound effects. The Best Friend is about a locomotive laid from Charleston to Augusta. In 1830, on Christmas morning, the train (the best friend) made its first run. One morning in June, the boiler burst and the train had to be reassembled, but the train was reassembled as the Phoenix. The workers made the biggest railway in the world, beginning the railroad age. The reading ended with the musical number “Love Train.”

Dr. Williams is very passionate about music, especially Gilbert and Sullivan. In his honor, the OCS residence members performed a re-write of the lyrics of “Modern Major General” as “A Scholar Bibliagraphal.”

Dr. Williams followed the session by thanking the presenters, and saying a word about each of the readers of The Best Friend. He stated that the OCS is among the happiest of his grandchildren, and his biological grandchildren are enjoying the camps and events at the OCS. He ended with thanks to all gathered.

Blackfriars Conference 2013 –Paper session IV

Hello!  Whitney Egbert here again, live blogging our fourth paper session at the Blackfriars Conference from 2:00pm to 3:15pm today.  Our session is being moderated by Amy Cohen of Randolph College with paper assistance given by OCS actors Emily Brown, Ben Curns, Rene Thorton Jr., Rick Blunt, and Patrick Midgley.  (I am posting a little early so that those here at the conference can get the handout for the first paper electronically if they so desire.  Check back after two as the session gets started for further updates.)

Leslie Thomson, University of Toronto
“Give me the light”: Illuminating Discoveries on the Early Modern Stage

(Please see Leslie Thomson handout)

Leslie Thomson is discussing the use of light as a sign of darkness and illumination, the idea of the light as both a figurative thing and a literal thing.  In addition, she will explore the idea that the light may have been used in the dimly lit discovery spaces of the theatres where light was provided by candles or natural light.

The handout has six scenes Thomson will use as examples – the first three for outdoor spaces, the second three for indoor spaces.  The first scene is from Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II – an exchange between Gurney and a character named Lightborn, an obvious indication of the topic of light as well as the language used about light in the scene.  The second scene Thomson uses is from Romeo and Juliet where Paris indicates he sees a torch coming towards Juliet’s tomb (indicating Romeo’s approach).  Thomson also points out the further use of indicating needed light for the tomb scene.  The third scene is fromThomas Heywood’s The Rape of Lucrece where a taper is used to illuminate the bed behind the curtains.  The fourth scene is from John Fletcher’s Monsieur Thomas – another example of a playwright helping the audience better see what is happening onstage by calling for additional light for a specific moment.  The final two examples are from Fletcher’s The Knight of Malta and Heywood’s Love’s Mistress in moments where additional light is needed again to help illuminate a moment for the audience.

Torches and lamps being used as practical items as well as illuminating truths is an intriguing idea as an actor that I will definitely be taking with me into future exploration of plays.

Ian Borden, Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, University of Nebrask-Lincoln
Rebooting the Stuart Stage: An Examination of Early Modern Thrust Staging in the Restoration Theatre

(there is a handout for this presentation which will be made available at a later time)

All our actors join us to kick off Ian Borden’s discussion of how proscenium and presentational staging changed theatre and the problems that they might have possible posed.  Borden wonders if the Stuart houses would have changed for the new style – what would you have done about the doors for entrances, the sight lines for balcony scenes, etc.?

Borden discusses many examples of stage directions written in scripts that create many complications when compared with the pictures and drawings of the stages and performances.  Borden is using all five of the actors and the Blackfriars stage to show how complicated and confusing the new style might have been.

One of the examples Borden uses is a scene where you would have EIGHT fighters onstage at the same time – a moment that Borden questions as a fight director who is not allowed to knick the set which would be difficult to avoid with so many swords present.  Borden leaves us curious and interested in what all the change in styles might have meant.

William Proctor Williams, University of Akron
“Where’s a parking lot when you need one?”: What Happens to the Princes in the Tower Onstage

William Proctor Williams discusses the murdering of the two York princes in the tower by Richard and his cohorts across three different plays: The True Tragedy of Richard III by an unknown author, Shakespeare’s Richard 3, and Thomas Heywood’s Edward 4.

Williams is most interested in what each play says is done with the bodies after the boys have been killed – burying them under the stairs in one versus being brought onstage (our actors bring in large stuffed monkeys to represent the two boys) and leaving them for a priest to bury in another.  In this later example, the bodies are not, according to the script, taken offstage at the end of the scene and the next scene must enter and walk over or around them.  Not an easy feat for actors or directors and Williams calls for ideas and help on the matter.

Melissa Aaron, California State Polytechnic University at Pomona
The Fortunate Comedy: The Financial Rise of All’s Well That Ends Well
(Please note, this is a different title than listed in the published program, which was the title of Melissa Aaron’s paper presented in 2011)

Melissa Aaron starts off by saying that All’s Well That Ends Well (abbreviated here after as just All’s Well) is a play about money (not the unfortunate comedy as it is often known) – follow that money trail!

Aaron talks about the curses of Macbeth and an opera referred to as “The Unfortunate One” and of All’s Well where the  curse was found in the box office.  Aaron argues that this is not true and that many other factors played into this history for All’s Well, things that can be, and have, changed.

Aaron uses the OCS as an example with information from Dr. Ralph Cohen – when you are doing three shows a year, you have specific types that you are trying to hit every year that maybe All’s Well doesn’t fall easily into; when you start doing more productions each year, you can start doing some of the lesser known plays or plays that don’t carry the major names that are read by every high school student across the country, such as All’s Well.

Aaron is walking us through several recent productions of All’s Well and the finances that the producing companies had for that production year – she is using the OCS,the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Globe, The National, and The Royal Shakespeare Company.  All of those companies had good financial years in the seasons where they produced All’s Well.

Aaron has earned herself some extra time by bribing the bear with honey!  Well played Ms. Aaron.  Well played.

Aaron has left me with the thought that maybe it is time we stop avoiding some of the lesser done plays merely because they are lesser done and people don’t know them as well.  Maybe it is time to start diversifying the shows we teach in school, maybe it is time to broaden our horizons.

Evelyn Tribble, University of Otago
Where are the Archers in Shakespeare?

Evelyn Tribble will be discussing the of archers in Shakespeare’s Henry V, both the lack of their presence onstage in the battles and yet the presence of deaths by arrow.

Tribble’s first example is Clifford’s death, when he enters with an arrow in his neck (Clifford portrayed by Curns).  Then comes the parody of that – Blunt as a character named Ralph (from a play who’s title I did not catch) with a forked arrow through his head.  Our third example brings the first appearance of a long bow in the hands of Hercules which is actually shot in the scene to kill a centaur – a staging challenge to be sure but made easier by the centaur being offstage.  Our final example is of a scene where both the shooter and the victim are visible on stage when the arrow is shot and strikes which our actors played with the shot going into the discovery space.  I am unsure how you might actually shoot an actual arrow as that would be a very special kind of stage combat staging to make sure it got off stage without hurting anyone.

Tribble’s final points are on the fact that arrows make no noise for stage battles and that Shakespeare may have been making a statement about those who used them.

James Keegan, University of Delware
A Piece of Cake, a Bit of a Dance, and a Fat Suit on Its Knees: Staging the Epilogue of Henry IV, Part 2 at the Blackfriars in 2010

(please see James Keegan Handout)

James Keegan illuminates the staging of the epilogue based on his experience here at the OCS after having played Falstaff in both parts of Henry IV.

There were script cuts made merely for time – indicated on the handout – but Keegan’s main concern will be how do you indicate the actor without the character with only 13 lines between the exit and the re-entrance.  Keegan talks about the choice to quick change out of his costume and into an outfit that an actor might wear into the rehearsal room while creating a Falstaff puppet of sorts that could be brought on at the same time so that the audience could see the actor and the shell of Falstaff all at once.

The more Keegan describes the final moments of this play, the more I am saddened at having missed the production.  It sounds beautiful and poignant as a visual to end the Henry 4 plays.

Keegan describes the final moments as a wake of sorts – a chance for the audience and him as the actor to bid farewell to the character.  In reference to the lines indicating dancing (Kemp, who would have been delivering this originally, was a skilled dancer), they developed a moment where Keegan would pick up the kneeling puppet of Falstaff and waltz with him as a final dance.  Keegan closes his presentation with a touching recounting of the timing of his mother’s death on the opening of the production and how, in the final moments, it was not just one good-bye, not just one more dance, but two.  A truly touching end and moment.

Blackfriars Conference 2013 — Keynote Russ McDonald

Hello, I’m Charlene V. Smith and I’ll be live blogging Russ McDonald’s keynote: Shakespeare and the History of the Bookish.

McDonald opens by admitting a kind of fatigue evident in his title, using the work “bookish,” and confesses that today he is taking on the role of “Mr. Fussy” and complaining about both bibliography and performance, at the risk of offending everyone in this room.

1. Doubting the Text

Recent books and articles have over-filled the hole found in Shakespeare studies twenty years ago: the book trade and the culture of early modern print. In this section of his paper, McDonald questions the supremacy this topic currently has in Shakespeare studies. McDonald wishes to cast a skeptical eye on some of this scholarship and some of its “dubious orthodoxy.” Though scholars have paid much attention to the book, they have paid little attention to the text. McDonald confesses to being irritated for two decades by the well-known and frequently cited essay, The Materiality of the Shakespearean Text by de Grazia and Stallybrass. The arguments in this essay have achieved and maintain importance in our field, shattering textual certainties. In their essay, de Grazia and Stallybrass argue that “word,” “work,” “character,” and “author” are vexed terms. McDonald points out that these words are changeable and complex, but not incomprehensible. He warns that we must not allow the history of the book to erase the text itself.

2. Cutting the Text

McDonald next objects to the despotism of modern directors; in particular, the way they cut the text. Recent productions of  A Midsummer Night’s Dream  have lacked wonder and a sense of transfiguration, partially caused by the excising of some of McDonald’s favorite speeches. Next McDonald points to the lack of Queen Margaret in Mark Rylance’s current production of Richard III, running in New York. In 2012, the BBC announced the production of The Hollow Crown. While initially excited by the idea and the line up of actors and directors, McDonald views the resulting TV movies as acts of vandalism. McDonald feels the cutting was too ideological, such as the lack of references in Richard II to the king’s guilt in in the Duke of Gloucester’s murder. McDonald feels the most damaged play in this series was Henry IV, part 2. This long and leisurely work of 3300 lines was reduced to 1 hour and 52 minutes. A colleague of McDonald’s pointed out, “It’s a pity the BBC didn’t make this series for the people who would watch it, instead making it for those who won’t watch it anyway.”

3. Reading the Text

McDonald asserts the importance of reading the text in order to experience scenes which you wouldn’t see on the stage. Directors frequently cut scenes that do not advance the plot. If they seem to have no function, McDonald points out, they must have a function. Shakespeare had a reason for including these scenes, which often add to the texture of the play. McDonald then discusses 4.3 of Coriolanus, a frequently cut scene between a Roman and a Volsce, two characters we haven’t seen before and won’t see again. McDonald argues that the scene is thematically rich, especially in fire and heat imagery. McDonald also looks at 3.1 of The Winter’s Tale, a scene, again, with two characters we haven’t seen before: Cleomenes and Dion. According to McDonald, this scene sets up the possibility of magic and establishes the oracle of Apollo as something special. The two characters feel diminished, “I was nothing,” in the wake of their experience, an idea that stands in direct contrast to Leontes’ hubris. These lost scenes give depth, layers, and texture to a play.


McDonald ends by arguing for disciplinary balance: an awareness of what others in the field are doing. He promotes the value of pluralism: page and stage, book and text. McDonald praises George Walton Williams, the honoree of this conference, for always maintaining this balance in his teaching.

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 I: Staging Choices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blackfriars Conference 2013 — Paper Session #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben Curns, American Shakespeare Center

Richard: Portrait of a Serial Killer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Werner, Folger Shakespeare Library


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introducing the BFC13 Blogging Team

As we did in 2011, OCS Education will be live-blogging the Blackfriars Conference in its entirety. Every Plenary, Staging, and Colloquy Session, as well as 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 7th Blackfriars Conference in all its glory:

Whitney Egbert
Whitney 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 has been the Managing Director for The Shakespeare Forum in NYC for the past year. 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.

Nora Manca
Nora Manca is a 2nd year MLitt student working on her thesis on Shakespeare as an Other. She was the founding artistic director of Storefront Shakespeare in Chicago.  After graduating Nora plans to establish a new professional Shakespeare theater company, probably in New Orleans.  

Sarah Martin
Sarah Martin is a second year M.Litt student at Mary Baldwin College. She is originally from Florida and holds a BA in Theatre from Florida State University.

Ashley Pierce
Ashley Pierce is a current student in her second year at Mary Baldwin Colleges Shakespeare and Performance program. Holding a B.A. from Florida Southern College and a A.A. from Northampton Community College both in Theatre Arts Performance, her background is primarily in performance. As an actor, direction, costume designer, stage manager and much more, she had a firm understanding of play performance from original concept to opening nights. 

Charlene Smith
Charlene V. Smith is an actor and director from Washington, DC and co-founder of Brave Spirits Theatre. She has a BA in English and theatre from the College of William and Mary and studied at the London Dramatic Academy. She is currently in her final year of the MLitt/MFA program in Shakespeare and Performance at Mary Baldwin College.

Clare Von Rueden
Clare Von Rueden graduated from Ave Maria University with a degree in literature.  The majority of her stage work has been centered in violin performance, but she has been helping with plays since high school. Her love of Shakespeare began with a love of literature, and some of her first Shakespeare memories come from reading Shakespeare out loud with a group of friends in high school, and having lengthy conversations about Shakespeare with her sister. She is currently a second year in the Shakespeare and Performance program at Mary Baldwin College.

Molly Zeigler
Molly Zeigler is a post-bac student with the Shakespeare and Performance program. Her major areas of focus include Shakespearean dramaturgy, directing, and theatre history. Molly received her MA in Shakespearean Studies from the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon. From Buffalo, New York, she is happy to be back this side of the pond and she’s excited about studying with another world-class institution. Molly is the proud Mom of eight year old Isabel and she looks forward to sharing her passion with family, friends, and future students.

Those of us on Twitter will also be making quick updates there, so follow #BFC13 for those tidbits. Check out the schedule of events on the OCS website, and come back here starting at 8am, Wednesday, October 23rd for all of our real-time updates.