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.

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.

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.

“If’t be summer news, smile to’t before”

Accolades for OCSTC 13 Session 1 CampersWhoever dubbed this time of year “the lazy days of summer” sure didn’t work for OCS Education. We’re much more about “the very Midsummer madness”. Perhaps most prominently, this is the time when we host the annual OCS Theatre Camps for high school students. We’re in the  middle of Session 2 now, with students deep into work on The Taming of the Shrew, Richard II, and Ben Jonson’s Volpone. Their final performances are on Sunday, August 4th. Though it can sometimes feel like the camps dwarf all other activity during the summer, they are far from the extent of OCS Education’s aestival programming — and this year, we seem to have more going on than ever before.

Since 2010, we have also held a summer camp for adults, the No Kidding Shakespeare Camp. This summer, we’re taking the show on the road and heading to London for a week exploring Shakespeare’s old haunts. Several friends of the OCS, including MBC Professor Mary Hill Cole, archaeologist Julian Bowsher, eminent Oxford scholar Dr. Tiffany Stern, Globe Education Director Patrick Spottiswoode, craftsman Peter McCurdy, and director and actor Nick Hutchison, are graciously sharing their time and expertise with the group. Our travels will take us to many important London monuments, as well as some lesser-known gems, including: the Bloomsbury and Covent Garden districts, the Globe, the new Wanamaker Theatre, Shoreditch, St. Bartholomew’s, St. Paul’s, the National Portrait Gallery, several of the colleges of Oxford, the Blackfriars District, Guildhall, the Inns of Court, Southwark Cathedral, the Museum of London, the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, where Ralph is delivering a lecture on the early modern Blackfriars Theatre and our Blackfriars Playhouse as part of the “Shakespearean London Theatres” series. We’ll see A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth at the Globe and One Man, Two Guv’nors at the Haymarket. We’ll also be exploring London’s culinary delights, from traditional pubs to Thai and curries. It hardly seems possible with all of those scheduled wonders, but we’ll also all have some time to explore the city on our own. (I’m hoping to catch a musical in the West End on one of our free nights, since, as I’ve confessed before, musical theatre is another of my great loves). Since I’m something of a photo-hound, I’m sure I will return with many, many pictures of our adventures, so look for those on Facebook and in an upcoming blog post, and if you follow me on Twitter (@OCS_Cass), I’ll be posting real-time updates with hashtag #NKSC13.

Summer is also a great time for Educator Resources. In 2011, we began hosting Summer Seminars in addition to our already-established school-year programs, and two weeks ago, we hosted the 2013 Summer Special Teacher Seminar, welcoming teachers from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Michigan. This seminar was a “Class to Cast” special, focusing on methods of producing a Shakespeare play in the classroom or as an after-school activity. We covered everything from cutting and doubling to audition techniques, from tablework to blocking and embedded stage directions, from marketing to music. You can hear the playlist we built for The Comedy of Errors on Spotify, and the Study Guide we used is available on Lulu. Here are just a few of the comments we received from teachers who attended this seminar:

  • “This was the best and most useful workshop I have ever taken.” — Martin Jacobs, Lincoln High School, Ypsilanti MI
  • “I would love to attend Class to Cast again. I feel comfortable with Shakespeare as an English teacher, but I knew very little about directing. This seminar gave me a good sense of the overall process of putting on a show, including things like stage management and marketing, which, as an English teacher, I probably would have overlooked. I learn something new and understand my prior knowledge even better every time I come to a seminar, so I would definitely come back. … Most of my other professional development experiences have been full of generalities without actionable suggestions. I can see direct applications of the techniques from this seminar, such as scansion, reading from cue scripts, and cutting the text, to my classroom.” — anonymous
  • “AMAZINGLY helpful! I would recommend this (and have!) and will be returning.” — Jeffrey Cole, Director of Education, Henley Street Theatre/Richmond Shakespeare
  • “I am used to attending seminars that are presented in a strictly academic manner. This seminar called upon me to participate fully, heart, mind, and , body in exciting ways. … I would not hesitate to recommend the seminar to a high school drama or English teacher. My first thought at the end of each day was that I didn’t want it to end. My first thought at the completion of the seminar was, “When can I take another OCS seminar?” The instructors were extraordinarily knowledgeable, creative, and articulate. Now, I understand why so many of the people taking the seminar return again and again.” — Barbara Johnson, Drama Instructor, Faith Christian School
  • “I will be back for sure! This was an AWESOME workshop! … Cass and Sarah were exceptional hosts and provided a wide-reaching program that really helped to capture and address some of my hesitance with approaching Shakespeare. With greater confidence, I plan to embrace the Bard this upcoming fall!” — anonymous

We were thrilled to welcome so many enthusiastic educators, and we thank them for being willing to step outside of their comfort zones for a few days. Best of luck to them as they take on the challenge of directing in their schools! And we hope to see everyone back for future seminars.

Summer is also, as Sarah noted back in June, high tide for our flow of interns. Our offices are teeming over with eager students, working on a variety of different projects. Just this week, we welcomed Ellington, a rising senior at Oberlin University, who will be working on media and technology for us. Jess, who will be with us through the fall, is preparing dramaturgy packets for the upcoming Actors’ Renaissance Season. Emily has joined the World’s Mine Oyster troupe, preparing materials for The Merry Wives of Windsor as well as helping with their workshop prep. Self-described “jack of all trades” intern Sadie is helping out with Hospitality, Development, and the Box Office, and Sara has delved into our archives. To keep up with our fabulous interns and their research, following the OCS Interns’  Blog.

So, once the summer ends, do things slow down at all? Not in the least. As soon as schools are back in session, we begin welcoming groups for tours, workshops, and Little Academes, as well as starting our regular Student Matinee schedule and the Blackfriars Lecture Series. Our Fall Teacher Seminar is October 4-6th, focusing on Romeo and Juliet and All’s Well That Ends Well. And, of course, the 7th Blackfriars Conference occurs at the end of October. Acceptance letters for plenary papers and colloquy sessions will go out next week, and then we set to work finalizing the schedule, arranging banquets, preparing entertainment, printing programs and nametags, arranging catering, and shepherding all the other miscellany that go into making the Blackfriars Conference a unique and valuable experience for all of the scholars and practitioners who attend. Like the OCS’s Artistic Department, performing shows 52 weeks a year, OCS Education is truly a year-round institution, and we hope that you’ll come to the Blackfriars Playhouse soon — or talk to about bringing our Education Artists to you, wherever you are.

How did I get here?

Do you ever take a look around you, and ask yourself: “Now, how did I get here?” I found myself doing that a lot during the last week of October. The question wasn’t the kind of thing that wakes you in the middle of the night in a cold sweat (though in the weeks leading up to October 25, there were plenty of those). Rather, it was a query of wonder. As I stood in the Blackfriars Playhouse October 25-30, I felt as though I had super-glued rose-colored glasses to the bridge of my nose and couldn’t shake that amazing feeling that comes when one is surrounded (at home, no less) by dear friends (new and old), excellent conversation, amazing scholarship, and the joy of the work of two years coming to fruition in a beautiful way.

Ah, the Blackfriars Conference 2011.

My parents have a difficult time understanding me when I say “I won’t be really available for a few weeks, the conference is coming up.” What, exactly, could be keeping me so busy? To be fair, when we were separated by only 90 miles, as opposed to the 1300+ that divide us now, my life was pretty hectic. In my occupation as a high school Theatre teacher, teaching five classes daily, producing six shows a year, with set-building, costume construction, tech rehearsals, I was never as consumed as I am when Conference time rolls around in the odd-numbered year. It’s different, a different kind of busy – an all-consuming, all-anticipating, all-energizing, and yes, all-exhausting kind of feeling that builds for 24 months and culminates in a week of shared excitement, with faces both new and familiar. And the joy of overhearing as the answer to “How did you get here?” not “Bus, train, car,” but “I heard about it from…” or the even more gratifying “I come every time, wouldn’t miss it.”

My first conference was at its third incarnation in 2005, when I was in my first year in the Masters Program at MBC. Two months into the program, and I found myself in the same room with the authors of my textbooks and all of the articles I was looking up in Shakespeare Quarterly.

Why, hi there, Russ MacDonald (*RUSS MACDONALD?!?!?*). Oh, you’re from Texas, too? How nice to meet you!

Well, hello Tiffany Stern (*TIFFANY STERN!!!!*) I love that skirt.

And over there is Stephen Booth, George Walton Williams, Roz Knutson, Leslie Thomson, Alan Dessen. And some friends no longer with us, Bernice Kliman, Arnie Preussner, and Barbara Palmer, whose absence we have felt with sorrow since our last parting.

I knew, in that moment at my first Early Arrivers’ party, that this place was special. What other grad program gives its students the opportunity to network on their home turf? In this case, the turf of the Blackfriars playhouse, always a space of generosity and intimacy and, for one week in October on odd-numbered years, a space of enviable scholarship and flourishing ideas. How was I lucky enough to get here?

My previous conference experiences were all in my undergrad discipline, Theatre Arts. Those conferences featured more workshops than papers, more seminars than presentations, more off-the-cuff speaking than formal delivery. It was a shock to my system to see people reading from a lectern on the stage. But then, the OCS actors arrived. Their contributions linked the two worlds as no other glue or bridge could. They are proof that seeing is the quickest path to believing, whether one needs to be shown a character or helped to understand a presenter’s thesis. In the years since my first conference, it has been my privilege to work with those talented actors to improve interactions between presenters and their actors, to improve communication, to improve the general affect of the conference. We’ve come a long way, and though I know we still have some way to go toward a perfect system, the coming-together of actors and scholars in the way the Blackfriars Conference encourages makes me exclaim: how did I get here and how long can I stay?

In 2007, 2009, and again in 2011, the Conference gave me the opportunity to work along side my mentor, and, I am glad to say, my friend, Ralph Alan Cohen. When I took over from Sarah Pharis (aka Sarah #1) in 2007, I had big shoes to fill. Sarah’s organizational structure — her daily work flow chart is still the basis for everything that happens behind the scenes — made it possible for me to step in and to help Ralph to achieve his goals: good papers, good friends, good food, good times. It’s not as easy as it sounds. This year, I began to think of it as akin to planning a 6 day party for 250 of my dearest friends. Each hour of each of the 16 hour days just needs to be scheduled with events, food, drink, and plays. I’d just need to contact each of the 100+ presenters, the 50 grad students, the 15 actors, the 5 caterers, and the 5 venues to give them individual instructions for each minute of that time, get the invites and the publicity out, and then make sure everyone feels pampered and loved while they are here. Not so hard. It’s not, really.

Not this year, anyway. For the first time since my 2005 conference (when I was merely a volunteer), I had a full team in place and on board so early with planning and strategizing, that I actually got to watch my friends, both presenters and actors, in every session, and I watched the rest of my friends in the audience enjoying every minute.

How did I get here? Well, for that, I have loads of people to thank. Ralph, for trusting, the OCS actors and artistic staff for being so generous and sharing their talents in the highlight event of each day, Cass, Ben, Christina, Asae, Kim, Anne, bear wrangler Brian, Clara, Paul (Menzer and Rycik), the entire admin staff at OCS, the wonderful box office staff, the artistic staff and actors for making each session and evening performance memorable, the MBC students who exceeded their colleagues at past conferences in both volunteering and contribution of scholarship. They made it look (and feel) easy, and I am tremendously grateful.

Some highlights for me at the 2011 conference included:
• The delicious food at the early arrivers’ party.
• Stephen Booth’s paper on Shakespeare and Audiences.
Go Dog Go, as devised and performed by Chris Johnston, John Harrell, Jeremy West, Dan Kennedy, Greg Phelps, Miriam Donald, and James Keegan.
• Hearing about the new Indoor Theatre in London from Neil Constable (Heck, meeting Neil Constable).
• Bill Gelber’s ‘ A “Ha” in Shakespeare….”
• Ben Curns sleeping onstage (as directed) in Casey Caldwell’s paper (and then using lightening quick reflexes not to knock over the 100 champagne glasses set behind the curtain as he exited).
• Chris Barrett.
• Joe Ricke and Jemma Levy in a morning session to rival all others.
• George T. Wright and James Keegan’s mutual admiration discussion.
• Finding out “Why are there no blowjob jokes in Shakespeare” from Matt Kozusko.
• Beth Burns and the Hidden Room.
• Stuart Hall’s participation, thanks to Brett Sullivan Santry.
• Natasha Solomon and Dan Burrows acting in Bob Hornback’s Renaissance Clowns paper.
• Seeing our Conference Attendees see John Harrell’s Hamlet.
• Our late night shows (wow).
• William Proctor William’s experiment.
• Seeing OCS actors at every paper session (even the EARLY ones).
• Watching worlds come together in Scott Kaiser’s keynote.
• The bear(s).
• Talking teaching.
• Tiff.
• Colloquies.
• Insights on our space in session X.
• The Banquet.
• Doreen Bechtol in everything she did, but especially Lady M as played by Sarah Siddons (pregnant).
• Hamlet Conversation.

And so, a little over a month past the last day of the conference, I have a little time to reflect. A little time to look around at the people I work with, the place I work for, and thank heavens that, however it came to be, I landed here.

What will you remember?

Blackfriars Conference 2011 – Hamlet Conversations

Christina Sayer Grey here for the last presentation of the 2011 Blackfriars Conference. It’s been a lot of fun to live-blog for you all this week. Enjoy!

Ralph announces that this panel was suggested by Rene Thornton, Jr.

Moderator: Matt Davies

Hamlets: Khris Lewin (2005 at the Blackfriars), Benjamin Curns (2007 at the Blackfriars, Actors’ Renaissance Season, Q1), James Ricks (2001 at the Blackfriars), John Harrell (2011 at the Blackfriars), and Thadd McQuade (1995 with SSE, also played Hamlet in the German MFA project)

Matt says that the purpose of this panel is to talk about what it means to play Hamlet here versus playing him elsewhere. This panel will be in the format of an extended talkback.

Contest: Best Collective Noun for a Group of Hamlets (the best one I’ve heard, A Sulk of Hamlets)

Q: Why do you think that Hamlet chose you?
T.M.: I think that’s a question for the directors.
J.H.: I think I’m a Polonius, but I never saw Hamlet on my path. It was always something for other actors to do, so I never paid much attention to it. I never thought I would play it and I never thought I wanted to. The Hamlet you see now is what I, personally, see the play to be from a very virginal perspective.
B.C.: It was my 2nd Renaissance Season. I had had really terrific parts in the first season, but I wasn’t carrying any of the plays. When I heard they were planning to do the Q1, but I didn’t know what that meant. I just asked to have my mind floated along in the pool of names, just to consider me. My understanding of Hamlet is that its unique in that the lead character has a scene with every other member of the company.
M.D.: Hamlet is interesting because Hamlet is the only character who really knows what’s going through the whole play.
K.L.: First gig out of college. I was 21 and I was the understudy for Hamlet. I remember sitting at the first rehearsal, and the guy playing Hamlet seemed too old to play Hamlet to me. That’s when I felt that Hamlet chose me. And then when I finally played him for real, at 33, that miraculously felt like the perfect age.
J.R.: That sense of being chosen – “why is this happening to me?” and using that. You get to have a relationship with everyone else onstage with you.

Q: Why is this role considered the testing ground for actors? What is with the prestige? Does it deserve its reputation?
B.C.: Of course it does. It demands of the actor a lot of different things. You have to build relationships with every other in the play and, in this space, build a relationship with the audience. And, you’re in 90% of the play. That, in a way, makes it easier. You don’t have time backstage to get nervous.
J.H.: Shakespeare as a cultural figure seems to get lucky sometimes, but the thing about Hamlet as a great part makes me, as an actor, way more self-conscious about performance than I’ve been in any other part. And that’s a big factor in the part, too. The role and the actor ramify in that part. It doubles the experience.

Q: Which is the character that you, as your Hamlet, most connected with?
J.H.: Horatio, which surprised me.
K.L.: It’s amazing – I really felt a special connection with all of the characters at different times.
B.C.: For me, it was the ghost, hands down. Shakespeare writes this amazing scene – “I know you have a million lines before and after this scene, but in this moment “‘list.'” The ghost gives the best pieces of advice to the actor playing the role in this speech. The ghost has so much to say, and Hamlet is required, in that moment, to listen.
J.R.: The ghost, as well. We really played with tenderness in that scene. The audience, though, was the relationship I paid the most attention to. I tried to befriend them as much as I could.
T.M.: It’s much more for me about the actors playing the roles than a particular character on paper. Horatio, though, is an enormous challenge. What is he doing there except to act as a witness and a fellow audience member. The room can alter it quite a bit, of course.

Q: Hamlet’s Theatricality – for Hamlet the audience becomes a major character that he has to deal with. How much did the audience become a mirror for you, playing at the Blackfriars?
B.C.: It made the role way easier. If I had to do it in the dark, I’d find the role much more challenging. “To be or not to be” – the inclusivity of the pronouns.
J.R.: I found it liberating and very comforting. We miss a huge opportunity when we put up that 4th wall. To that extent, the role becomes the actor.

Q: Hamlet can, in some ways, be an isolating part, but in this space, he’s never alone in a very obvious way.
J.H.: I’ll buy that.

K.L.: To the other Hamlets, how did you use the house for soliloquizing? Stagecraft-wise?
J.H.: I started by doing the “too, too solid flesh” speech in the DSR corner. That first speech is nerve-wracking and that acted like a security blanket almost.
K.L.: From center stage, that first speech made me feel like an insect under a microscope.
B.C.: That speech is a place where you feel like you’re being judged as an actor as well as the character.

Q: How have Original Practices affect your develop of the role? What was the relationship of O.P. to your Hamlets?
B.C.: OP version of special effects. How can we use “magic doors” and sound cues for the ghost? Ostensibly, the scene calls for five people, but it’s really an all-call for the supernatural elements.
K.L.: I did Hamlet two years later in a traditional theatre, we had lights and fog, etc. Was there a precedent for using mist?
Lauren Shell (from the gallery): Yes.
J.H.: I like how this kind of space…the advice to the players – making this really advice to Hamlet from himself. It made for a very interesting little puzzle when relating to the role and this space.

Q: Hamlet wasn’t a Blackfriars play, it was a Globe play. Hamlet ribs the groundlings and some scholars have said that it make him an elitist. Are there groundlings in this space?
J.H.: You are being ruthlessly upstaged by the players. There are always people who are WAY more interested in the dumbshow than in anything Hamlet says.
T.M.: In this space, the groundlings are above in the gallery. It’s very tangible, that split and it’s very exciting. Different communities/audiences on different levels.

Q: In this space, does Hamlet then throw the “groundling” lines up rather than down?
J.H.: I always pick the one person on the stools who isn’t paying attention because there is one, inevitably.

Q: A show of hands for who has or is about to play Hamlet – What’s the experience watching someone play Hamlet in this space?
A (Justin): It seems like such a wonderfully intimate venue. It’s enclosed and you can feel like the audience is always so close.
Q: And you did your Hamlet in a graveyard?
A (Justin): We started in a 19th-century opera house and I felt it was harder to reach the audience in that space than it was outdoors.
A (Daniel): This space is quite similar to the Winedale space. It’s surrounded by audience on three sides. You can touch/get in the face of someone in the front row. It allows you to connect very personally with the audience members, convince them that they’re the person about who you’re talking.
A (Bob): Outside in central Texas. It’s very hot. The challenge of the role is less about the lines than just the physical exercise involved in performing the role. At Winedale, audiences are constantly fanning themselves and shifting around. It makes it impossible for the actor to stay still the whole time. Added to the manicness of the character.

Q: In “all occasions,” there is a passage – “will and strength and means…” 26 consecutive monosyllabic words, begins and ends with a caesura. So, basically – pause, 26 monosyllables, pause. Have you thought about what that’s all about?
J.H.: The leaden ratio – that speech happens at the moment the audience most palpably wants Hamlet to shut up. And, you are out there saying something that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Q: Act – motive, intention, and performance. If you apply that concept to what Hamlet is saying –
J.H.: If he just changed to the past-tense “If I HAD cause and will…” it would make so much more sense.
T.M.: I think that the thing is what Mamet called the ‘Kitten monologue’ – someone grinding the play to a halt with a jarring, nostalgic moment. It’s like a play-sized caesura. It’s a different flavor for Hamlet. He can misrepresent himself to himself, self- deception. I think it’s an interesting moment that, if you’re looking for fluidity, continuity, and rationality, it’s clear why it gets cut, but it can be a moment where Hamlet and Fortinbras can suss out the differences in their characters.
K.L.: I didn’t do it here, but I did it elsewhere. And it’s interesting – it’s the last big speech, it’s the only one not at the castle. And it’s the turning point after which he acts – he deals with R&G, he gets involved with pirates, he gets his revenge. He becomes this sort of action hero-y character offstage.
J.H.: And, I found it incredibly easy to memorize.

Q: Offstage – why do you think Hamlet goes to Ophelia’s closet and what it he trying to do there?
J.H. [laughs]: What are they generally trying to do there?
B.C.: If you believe that he goes there directly after the ghost scene, he goes there to tell the person he trusts the most, but when he gets there, he remembers he’s sworn to secrecy and so stands there in silence. He hopes to find a support system, but can’t.
K.L.: It’s one of those near misses. Like, if only that servant could read and didn’t have to ask Romeo…
J.R.: Jim had us rehearse that scene to get a reference point.

Q. In this particular theatre, we’re willing to join you on an imaginative journey, do you think it matters how old Hamlet is?
J.R.: Modern audiences certainly relate to college Hamlet and his buddy Horatio. I think it assists their understanding.
K.L.: It is such a wonderful role, and I want to see all kinds of different Hamlets. I want to see Hamlets of all kinds.

Q (Maxim): If you could give yourself advice as you were playing Hamlet, what advice would you give?
B.C.: Ask for help. In a season with no director, I was really fortunate to have Rene as Horatio and he set aside time to sit with me as I worked the soliloquys. Rather than feeling like you have to carry the show, take in as much information and feedback as possible.
J.R.: I would tell myself…give myself permission to fail. I came in with a lot of preconceived notions and couldn’t allow myself to let them go.
M.D.: It brings up the thought – is this the sort of role you should really play twice?
J.H.: I wish I could have been able to relax about it.

Q: Is it difficult, as Hamlet, to be directed? Since it’s such a dominating part?
T.M.: Not at all. I think I would have been a lot more at sea if I hadn’t had Ralph as the director. The director can be a very useful pressure to create a clear form. Otherwise, the part could just spill everywhere.
J.H.: The best directors at least give you the illusion of ownership. I feel that I can answer for everything I’m doing on the stage.
J.R.: I felt that Jim was an ally and really helped in fleshing out each of those relationships, one by one.
B.C.: It’s great to be asked a lot of questions. As to ownership, the answer is yours. A good director won’t tell you the answer but encourage you to ask the question.

Q (Paul Menzer): To Ben, could you talk about doing the Q1, a Hamlet that is familiar and so different.
B.C.: I always thought that “there’s the point” would get a giggle because it’s jarring. But, the Q1 feels like the difference between an action film to an arthouse film.
K.L.: It’s just so exciting to have that feeling.
T.M.: The German translation version is structured differently even from Q1, but there are still recognizable bits. And those were the moments where the audience could get onboard with something familiar before something strange and jarring happened. Hamlet is in our cultural consciousness and there are a lot of people who may not know the play well enough to be jarred greatly by the differences.

Q (Casey Caldwell): On the subject of Folio and Q1, what is it like working with a play that has different, somewhat competing versions?
B.C.: Simply, I ignored all the other versions.
K.L.: I had a fifty email exchange with the director that was like a bargain – bartering lines. I did miss some stuff that wasn’t there, but how long do you want to make the evening? Every line can help you as an actor.
J.H.: We worked from the Oxford and Jim had done the cut. And, usually I’m a bargainer, but in this case, I just went with it. I only asked for one line back. And then, trying to learn the Q1 sequence was very confusing. I had learned Hamlet’s path one way and that was Hamlet. So, learning that different version of the character was cool.

Q (Rene): Is there a part of Hamlet that you don’t like?
J.H.: Osric. I don’t understand why he’s there and I don’t think I ever will.

Q (Tom Berger): When you offer a conflated version of Hamlet, that doesn’t exist. It’s a 19th century play.
J.H.: It’s really a 21st-century play. We’ve taken these pieces and played with them more.
T.M.: But, it only matters if you’re trying to authorize it in some way. In the playing of it, does it really matter?
K.L.: It adds to the mystery of what is this Hamlet.

Collective nouns: A Procrastination, A Prevarication, A Bedlam

Blackfriars Conference 2011 – Plenary Session XI

Hi! I’m Julia, I’ll be liveblogging Paper Session XI from 9:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.

Moderator: Tom Berger, Saint Lawrence University

“Lyke unto a right weather woman”:
Prophecy and Performance in William Percy’s Mahomet and His Heaven

Daniel Keegan, University of California, Irvine

Keegan’s main purpose in discussing Mahomet and His Heaven was to show that the play is worth studying by students of Renaissance drama, although perhaps not worth performing. He showed that the Weather Woman element is an important key to the theme of hybridization in the play, a theme that is important to understanding characters within the play, and also to understanding Islam.

The Canonical Bard:
Ninagawa Yukio’s Attempt to Dismantle the Altar of Shakespeare in Japan

Sara Boland-Taylor, University of Illinois

Boland-Taylor presented Ninagawa as an interesting Japanese director who struggled against the way his countrymen viewed and performed Shakespeare as a pageant of Western culture. In his work, he made great strides in owning Shakespeare, using such creative tactics as setting The Tempest in a rehearsal at a prison, which eliminated the need for extraneous elements (such as blond wigs) that otherwise were considered necessary for performance of Shakespeare plays. Ninagawa crossed the ancient with the avaunt-garde in an attempt to embrace Shakespeare, and encouraged his audiences to do the same.

Rousing the Audience in the Sleep-Walking Scene:
Lady Macbeth as Faustus Figure

Anne Gossage, Eastern Kentucky University

Gossage posited the idea that instead of a crazy or asleep Lady Macbeth, she should wake up during the sleepwalking scene, so that her hysteria and anxiety are not from false visions but from the realization that the reality she fears is her reality; she has not dreamed it. Gossage also showed Lady Macbeth as a vice character, descending through the pit at the end of the scene while the Doctor and the Gentlewoman watch as the good and bad angels from above.

“I Have Given Suck:”
The Maternal Body in Sarah Siddons’ Lady Macbeth

Chelsea Phillips, Ohio State University

Phillips discussed the career of Sarah Siddons, who in the 18th century performed many of Shakespeare’s female roles while pregnant with her various children. Phillips focused on Siddons’ portrayal of a pregnant Lady Macbeth, because this choice in particular highlighted and transformed many of the references in Macbeth to children and motherhood, and also brought the subject of Banquo’s children’s succession to the throne to an interesting question.

“Dearer than a friend”:
The Satire of Relationship Dynamics in The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Cass Morris, American Shakespeare Center

While many productions try to rush past the awkward ending of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, or somehow correct for its strangeness, Morris suggests leaving the troubling moment as it is. She believes that Shakespeare was deliberately bringing to light the problems with the classical model of a divinely inspired male friendship, and she showed in her paper that Proteus and Valentine are following that model perfectly. Morris suggests that Sylvia’s silence after the attempted rape and after Valentine’s offer of her to Proteus is so far out of character that she could only be doing it on purpose to draw attention to the strangeness of the situation.

Blackfriars Conference 2011- Staging Session IV

Hi, Deb Streusand here. This afternoon I’ll be liveblogging Staging Session IV at the Blackfriars Playhouse from 1:00pm to 2:15 pm.

Seeing Ghosts: The “sensible and true avouch of mine own eyes.”
Kate McPherson, Utah Valley University and Freddie Harris, University of Utah

McPherson recounts a recent talkback conversation, after a performance of the OCS’s current production of Hamlet, concerning why Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo can see the Ghost but, later, Gertrude cannot. She discusses the unpredictable behavior of the Ghost in the context of Early Modern playing conditions. OCS actors Daniel Burrows, Allison Glenzer, Patrick Midgley, Chris Johnston, and Rene Thornton perform Act 1, Scene 1 as they have staged it in the current production. Harris reminds us how central the Ghost is to the play as a whole, and describes how this Ghost represents a stage innovation, a more complex and humanized Ghost, no longer in the conventional Senecan mode. Harris discusses the Ghost’s split into three separate apparitions during the “‘Tis here. ‘Tis here. ‘Tis gone” portion of 1.1. She explains that this behavior is typical of an Early Modern ghost, and suggests that Early Modern audiences did see Hamlet as a ghost story. She describes how some nineteenth century productions used multiple Ghosts. The actors experiment with staging the scene differently, with Barnardo and the others entering from the house, and an invisible Ghost, whose paranormal nature is represented primarily by the actors’ reactions, with the addition of one of the stage doors slamming at its exit. Harris explains that this version of the staging is intended to emphasize the ghost story element of Hamlet, creating an atmosphere that is as paranormal and terrifying as possible. She asks, “how can the unseen ghost convey the dread of those dark nights?” and posits what we have just seen as the answer. Discussing the idea of staging multiple ghosts, she rejects the hypothesis that elaborate special effects are required to stage the scene this way. She recounts a story recorded by an Early Modern monk of a man who encounters a shape-shifting ghost. Making the Ghost invisible to the audience in the first scene, in order to stage a shape-shifting, multiple Ghost, is justified because of the Ghost’s later ability to choose not to be visible to Gertrude, Harris argues. McPherson discusses the dependence of the believability of the Ghost on the actors’ gestures. She clarifies that she is not proposing that Early Modern companies would have used an invisible Ghost, but that this staging is a method of creating the same reaction in a modern audience that the Early Modern audience would have experienced. She describes the “personation” style of Early Modern acting and discusses how contemporary actors might have portrayed their fear of the Ghost. Reminding us of the play’s metatheatrical nature and its preoccupation with acting as deception, she argues that this play, more than any other, depends on the participation of our imagination. She asks, “how do we get at the heart of an Early Modern play” in a modern Original Practices production? Using an invisible Ghost allows us to get past a modern audience’s cinematic expectations and achieve a powerful emotional effect in the audience.

“Remembrances of Yours”: Properties, Performance and Memory in Shakespeare’s Hamlet 3.1
Kathryn Moncrief, Washington College

Moncrief reminds us of the play’s fOCSination with memory, citing a plethora of references to it, and specifically emphasizes its concern with the consequences of forgetting. She ties this theme to the play’s prominent props, especially Hamlet’s tables, Ophelia’s flowers, and Yorick’s skull. Her presentation turns on the question of what exactly Ophelia gives to Hamlet in 3.1 of the Folio version. She remarks that given the specificity of the other props tied to memory, it is notable the text is not specific about Ophelia’s remembrances. Providing a detailed gloss on “remembrances,” she emphasizes the theme of gifts, as Ophelia later calls these “rich gifts,” in contrast to the love-gifts that Claudius uses to win Gertrude. Moncrief provides a few other examples of courtship gifts in Shakespeare, such as Desdemona’s handkerchief, and discusses the convention of love-tokens in the Early Modern Period. She draws our attention to the handout she has provided, which reproduces several portraits of Early Modern ladies holding what may be love-gifts, along with a picture of a poesy ring. She explains the significance of the poesy ring, and reminds us of Hamlet’s mention of “the posy of a ring” during the Mousetrap scene. Poesy rings contained a short message whose meaning was sometimes difficult to interpret, which is appropriate to Hamlet. She returns to her previous question–what are these remembrances, and how do we stage this moment? The handout reproduces stills from several recent movie versions, which Moncrief illuminates by reading the list of props used as remembrances in each movie, as well as in several other productions. She proposes that we draw on the Early Modern significance of trading love-tokens and what it would mean to remember as we work on different ways of staging this scene. Moncrief asks the audience to make suggestions for staging and reminds us of important questions about the staging, such as whether Hamlet accepts or rejects the returned remembrances, reminding us how the props take on a stage presence of their own. First, OCS actors John Harrell and Miriam Donald play the scene as they do in the version of the current production which uses the First Quarto order of events, with the prop they use, a small bundle of letters. Hamlet accepts the bundle in this staging of the scene. Next, Moncrief shows us the contents of a box of props she has brought for the audience to choose among, including a bunny puppet and a varsity letter jacket. The audience chooses to make Ophelia carry every prop, while wearing the jacket. Moncrief asks Harrell, as Hamlet, to accept the props. The bunny puppet plays a prominent role in the scene that follows. Hamlet returns all the props to Ophelia before the first “get thee to a nunnery,” then retrieves one of the books to read about women’s falsehood, then taking a bundle of flowers to kiss at “those that are married already, all but one”–kiss–“shall live.” Moncrief asks Donald what she would do with all props once left on stage. Donald replies, “hold it. Get it off stage.” Next, Moncrief requests that the actors do the scene with Hamlet refusing to take the props. The actors use a single book and a pile of letters. Refusing the props, Harrell portrays a more remote, calm, amused Hamlet. Moncrief requests that Hamlet first take and then abuse the props, which this time consist of a stuffed kitten and the pile of letters. Harrell asks the stuffed kitten “are you honest?” before throwing it into the audience. He scatters and tears the letters, prompting Donald to portray a humiliated and annoyed Ophelia. Harrell slips some of the letters down into the trap, and even eats them! Finally, the actors perform the Folio version of the scene, which most conference-goers have not yet seen, because it was the Quarto version that the actors performed on Thursday night.

A questioner asks about whether anyone has used a glove as a “remembrance,” given the prevalence of glove imagery with love in the other plays. Moncrief replies that she has found no record of such a use in a modern production so far.

OCS actor Rene Thornton asks Harris and McPherson about when they would have the Ghost appear, if it were invisible in the first scene, and what it would be like when he appears. They talk about multiple ways of staging, and how one might use an invisible Ghost even during the scene when he is speaking.

An audience member mentions the 2001 First Quarto OCS production of Hamlet at the first Blackfriars Conference, in which Hamlet read the letters they used as “remembrances” in the scene where he speaks to Polonius about his reading matter.

A question for the actors: Do Hamlet and Ophelia love each other? Harrell discusses how the props might demonstrate different degrees and aspects of love. Moncrief describes the Mark Rylance Hamlet in which Ophelia took off her jewelry and returned it. Donald talks about the version of the scene in the First Quarto, in which she can only give Hamlet back the ring she is wearing and the letter Polonius just has read, which feels less manipulative to her than giving him more props, which she would have had to go collect.

Questioner Steven Urkowitz discusses the textual differences in the First Quarto version of this scene, and asks whether Harrell had incorporated the less aggressive Hamlet of that version into his characterization. Harrell replies that he has researched that version of the scene, but chosen not to incorporate it into his characterization directly, since that is not the text they are using for the current production.

Question for the actors: How frequently do they come in from the audience, as they did in one of the versions during Harris and McPherson’s presentation? Chris Johnston describes their frequent use of this tactic on tour, referring to a recent touring production of Hamlet in which the actors made this choice.

An audience member discusses the benefits of an invisible Ghost in the first scene, which heightens the epistemological stakes–what should we believe about the Ghost, especially in 1.2?

OCS actor Daniel Kennedy, who portrayed the Ghost in a recent touring production, mentions that they never portrayed the Ghost as he is described, that is, in full military armor, and how if we did see him in this way, seeing terror in such a martial figure would create great fear in a Christian audience.

A questioner asks how we can replicate the impact that the Ghost would have had on an Elizabethan audience for the modern audience. McPherson discusses the possibility of using sound effects for the Ghost. Another questioner cites a production that used a naked, ghastly figure for the Ghost, and asks what the implications of such a staging might be. Harris asserts that at the time, people did not doubt the existence of ghosts, making contemporary audiences fairly radical different from a modern audience. The questioner mentions Hamlet’s statement that “the spirit that we have seen may be a devil.” McPherson expands on the religious implications of the devil’s appearing in this form.

Sally Southall of Thomas Dale High Center for Performing Arts moderates this session.

Tiffany Stern Keynote

Hi, I’m Julia, I’ll be liveblogging Tiffany Stern’s Keynote from 10:30-11:15 today.

Tiffany Stern – University College

Dr Stern gave a talk in three parts about fairs in England and their relationship to theater of the period. First, she discussed some of the differences and similarities between Early Modern theater and fairs. Fairs were highly sanctioned, approved by both the local government and the private aristocracy, and they had their own internal legal system including courts, and juries made up of booth-holders. Theaters of the time could only wish to be as legitimized as the fairs. On the other hand, both theaters and fairs were places of entertainment and commerce, and they tended to attract a certain low-life stratus in the form of pickpockets, and prostitutes. The second part of her talk covered several references to fairground activities within Early Modern plays, including trained monkeys who played dead and came back to life if certain names were evoked, (as Romeo is conjured by the name Rosaline), a performer called an “interpreter” who narrated puppet shows (Hamlet could interpret if he could see the puppets dallying), as well as several references to shadow puppets (“life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player..”). The third part of her talk went further into Early Modern puppetry, as puppetry was the one form of theater allowed to remain open during the Interregnum in England. Stern also showed how certain of Shakespeare’s characters developed a new life as puppets in future hodgepodge works.