Blackfriars Conference 2015 — Plenary Session 1

Welcome to the first plenary session of the 8th Blackfriars Conference! I’m Cass Morris, and I’ll be live-blogging this session from 1pm-2:15pm. OCS Board Chair Mary McDermott is moderating.

Lars Engle, University of Tulsa
Performing Shameless Performativity in Antony and Cleopatra

Engle opens by stating that “Cleopatra is performative”, and then moves to unpacking what, exactly, that means. He questions the definition of performative and performativity, wondering how nearly it means “theatrical”, and connects it to theorists (Butler and Sedgwick) whose work examines the performing of gender and sexuality. He then discusses how performativity connects to ideas of shame, and posits that it is possible that society has now transferred shame from queer sexuality to those who would shame queer sexuality.

Engle moves to discussing how Cleopatra foregrounds the very idea of performing: “Cleopatra, catching but the least noise of this, dies instantly: I have seen her die twenty times upon far poorer moment.” In 3.2 (selections presented by James Keegan and Sarah Fallon), Cleopatra prepares a performance meant for Antony, instructing Charmian in a story to carry to Antony. She adjusts her performance in 1.3 based on her audience — on how Charmian finds Antony and on his entrance. In doing so, she throws off his pre-planned farewell speech.

Engle marks Cleoaptra’s shift from shameless performativity to an apparently genuine moment of self-searching at “Sir, you and I must part, but that’s not it.” Following, she calls attention to the dangers both of performing and of believing in performativity. “This scene, then, both enacts performativity and anatomizes it.” Engle sees a philosophical warning in Cleopatra’s speech.

Alice Dailey, Villanova University
“I See Dead People”: 2 Henry IV and the Corpse of History

Dailey opens by discussing Nashe’s defense of theatre within Piers Penniless, calling upon the dramatic vitality of Shakespeare’s English history plays. Nashe argues that drama is a medium that can grant the figures of the past immortality, and Dailey notes that scholars have pointed to this passage as proof of Shakespeare’s ability to “make the past present.” She wants to look closer at what is made present and how. On stage, the Talbot Nashe describes in 1 Henry VI is “the walking dead”,

Dailey argues that theatrical revivification restores the dead hero as the subject of the dramatic present, but the subject remains bound to the object of his corpse. History plays stage a representational overlap of anterior and imminent death which argues against claims that theatre can create immortality. Dailey then considers the scene in 2 Henry IV where Morton relates the death of Hotspur to his father Northumberland. In doing so, he “constructs a temporal space in which Percy is both perpetually alive and perpetually dead”, never defeated and never undefeated. The text places the corpse prominently in the speech, with a dual meaning of both Hotspur’s body and the defeated body of the whole army. His metaphors of frozen fish and other motionless objects present a “compressed illustration of how the present of historical theatre unfolds” as a reminder of both deaths that have been and deaths that will be.

Dailey then presents a photo of Lewis Payne shortly before his 1865 execution, noting that, as we see the picture, he is both dead and going to die, and she connects this with the image Morton paints of Hotspur alive and a Hotspur who will die. “The heroes of the past do not transcend the corpse of history but are continually scripted to it.” Theatrical space then represents the “is”, the “was”, and the “will be” of the corpse all at once. Contextualizing Shakespeare’s play alongside photography highlights this temporal merging.

(Moderator notes that it’s always a relief to her when, at the end of history plays, everyone stands back up again).

Richard Preiss, University of Utah
The Alchemical Lavatory

“If you like reckless anachronism, I’ve got more for you. … In the first scene of Pulp Fiction…” Preiss describes a brief shot of a main character at the start of the movie, only revealed at the end of the movie when it becomes clear that the first scene is actually the last. The shot can only be caught, however, on repeat watching. Preiss notes that movies are now designed for “infinite instant replay”. He suggests that early modern theatre’s similar design was not in print, but in performance.

Preiss notes that the “notion of repertory as inventory is an abstraction”, considering the company in aggregate but not the individual plays. While a play may initially have occurred in repertory, we consider it a single thing. But — what if the form of the repertory permeated their content? He clarifies that he means the very fact of multiple performances, in that every play preceded and followed itself, whether or not immediately. Preiss then shares data about multiple performances in the early modern period, with some plays enjoying multiple-day runs and others running multiple times within a given period, though not consecutively.

“Does a play mean the same the second time it’s watched? How about the tenth?” Preiss suggests we experience plays as textual and singular, and that key moments are always described as though for the first time. Plays are considered self-contained and proceed without reference to earlier performances; “what we know by act five is all there is to know”. Early modern theatre, however, had to expect audiences for whom act one was also act six, as many may have seen the same production of the same show more than once, possibly within just a few days. Preiss suggests that playwrights may have written with this expectation in mind, and uses a scene from The Alchemist (performed by MBC students Joshua Williams, Aubrey Whitlock, and Shane Sczepankowski) to demonstrate. Immediate repetition seems to augment the humor for the audience in the theatre.

Theatre “feeds us ourselves” and “does so brazenly…. not made, but merely recycled.” Preiss employs many metaphors of ingesting, defecating, and sewage to underscore his point.

Amy W. Grubbs, Father Ryan High School
Rogues, Vagabonds, and Common Players: Late Elizabethan Playing Companies as a Stabilizing Force in Suburban London

Grubbs begins with a picture of early modern London as a desperate and impoverished place and foregrounds her intention to discuss the playhouses and their companies as a stabilizing force in an era when downward social mobility was high. She discusses three ways parishes might respond to the unsettled: charity, employment, and punishment. The general idea was that those who could work should do so, those who could not should be cared for, and those who could but did not should be whipped and marked out as “not part of a community, and therefore dangerous”.

At the turn of the 17th century, London’s theatrical suburbs were full of people who “did not belong”. Grubbs then shares early modern testimony suggesting that theatre companies, far from contributing to vagrancy, were known to be charitable and encouraged the employment of the unsettled. She cites the apprenticing program of bringing young boys into the companies, which could become a familial and therefore stabilizing dynamic. Grubbs also notes the relationship of the theatres to the watermen of the Thames, helping to create other economic opportunities in their neighborhoods.

To the third response, punishment, Grubbs notes that pickpockets in the theatre were treated similarly to adulterous women, forced to acknowledge their faults and ask forgiveness, positing the theatre as a community similar to that of a parish church. Grubbs suggests that, while these communities may have been temporary, citizens sought them out. The cheap price of entry encouraged this, as even the unsettled and poor could afford to attend as groundlings. “Something about the Globe was, evidently, important enough to the King’s Men” that they rebuilt even at cost, thus enabling them to continue offering cheap entertainment, even though by that time they had a more lucrative operation at the Blackfriars. “Their actions… show that the playing companies did engage in a stabilizing relationship with London’s unsettled.”

Grubbs finished by stating her hope that this research might inform the performance of plays with unsettled characters as well as the production of plays in our own unsettled and poor neighborhoods.

Tiffany Stern, Oxford University
Dumbshows, Revision, and Authorship

Stern opens by noting that she’s been thinking about stage directions and dumbshows: “Dumbshows: Why are they so weird?” She puts the 1604 version of the Hamlet dumbshow on the projector, followed by the 1623 Folio version, noting that the dumbshow is verbally different, but describes the same actions, in both dumbshows. She wonders, then, why did the dumbshow get changed? Where did the new words come from? “Why rewrite words that will never be spoken?” She then presents the two overlaid with each other, to illustrate some “pointless revisions”.

Next, Stern shares a segment from John Lyly’s 1591 Endimion, followed by the same play printed in 1632. By 1632, a dumbshow has been added to the selection, though the text of the plays are entirely the same. The songs and dumbshows added, she suggests, traveled differently from the rest of the text — but why? Stern shares examples of texts where both songs and dumbshows appear collected together at the start or end of a play. For songs, this is easily explained, but she questions why the same thing would be true for an unspoken dumbshow.

“This might help us think about it,” she notes, showing the frontispiece of Locrine, with a note on it illustrating that dumbshows were not necessarily written by the same person who wrote the play. Like songs, Stern suggests that many dumbshows may have been lost or moved due to the simple fact that they were on different paper, which might fall out or get reassembled. She also suggests that they may have had separate rehearsals.

Stern finishes by stating that this was a way of helping her explore stage directions, of which dumbshows are one kind, and she notes that the term “stage direction” does not occur until the 18th century. As such, when we think of stage directions, we may be imposing something onto the term which does not necessarily exist. The first use occurs in Lewis Theobald’s 1733 version of The Works of Shakespeare, and Theobald uses it to say “this is a really rubbish thing” regarding the dumbshow in Hamlet.

James Keegan, OCS & University of Delaware
Macbeth and PTSD: Combat Trauma and the (Un)Doing of a Character

Keegan speaks of his own creation of Macbeth, for whom “doing and undoing” is central. The title of the piece, and a key component of his character work, stems from Shay’s work on soldiers with PTSD after combat. He notes that Shay used Lady Percy’s description of Hotspur from 1 Henry IV as a diagnosis of combat trauma; Sarah Fallon presents the speech with Keegan interjecting the symptoms Shay identified. He notes that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth suffer many of the same symptoms – insomnia, traumatic dreams, hallucination, a sense of the dead being more present than the living, social withdrawal, isolation, lack of capacity for intimacy, depression, loss of ability to experience pleasure – and Keegan and Fallon enact examples from Macbeth.

Keegan notes that while it might not be unusual for a man who murders a houseguest king to suffer PTSD over the act, he is arguing that Macbeth was actually suffering PTSD before the murder, which in fact made him more susceptible to committing it. He aligns the early description of Macbeth in combat as a “berserk combatant”, and notes that Macbeth suffered two of the triggers Shay identifies for causing a soldier to enter such a state. Drawing from this, Keegan states that it made it easier for him to consider the witches as a sort of hallucination; he admits that the matter is complicated by the fact that Banquo sees them too, but he notes that Banquo has come from a similar berserker state. The 2014 casting of three muscular men in the roles of the witches “had a martial aspect that resonated” with the described scenes of battle. Patrick Midgley, in fact, doubled as the bloody captain and quick-changed into a witch.

Macbeth, fresh from the brutality of war and the predictions of the witches, can be seen as similar to Achilles in the Iliad, though Keegan notes that Macbeth has less reason to believe himself betrayed than Achilles. Keegan describes the scene where Duncan names his successor — not the warrior he has admitted deserves the honor, but his son, who had to be protected in battle. Keegan argues that Macbeth might see this as a betrayal of what is right, even though it was not a betrayal of anything promised.

Keegan notes that his examination of the character in this light is not to excuse his actions, but to explore where his decisions to act came from. Lady Macbeth attacks the essential component of his martial aspect, his courage. Killing Duncan brings those martial aspects into the domestic sphere, ultimately upending the rest of Macbeth’s life. Keegan notes the use of this concept in other productions, quoting Michael Fassbender about his role preparation and speaking of a production which tried to add in battle scenes to assist the audience in their understanding.

–Cass Morris
Academic Resources Manager

Blackfriars Conference 2015 – Colloquy Session II: History Plays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blackfriars Conference 2015 – Colloquy Session #3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Molly (@moxymolly)

Blackfriars Conference 2015 – Colloquy #5: Asides and Villainy

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

Chairs: Laury Magnus and Walter Cannon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Cass Morris
OCS Academic Resources Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wake Up Workshop: Cue Scripts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introducing the BFConf15 Blogging Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Cass Morris
Academic Resources Manager

“So sensible seemeth their conference”: On Academic Conviviality

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There’s a danger in academia, and in theatrical practice, of sometimes letting yourself get into an echo chamber. When you live and work with so many people who are all focused towards the same mission, its easy to feed off of each other’s brains and lose sight of other perspectives. This, I think, is the main reason we have conferences. (The other reason, so far as I can tell, is that it’s beneficial to one’s sanity to realize that, no, you aren’t the only one crazy enough to care with fervid passion about the placement of stage directions or punctuation marks). Leaving our home base and trekking to far-off climes can reinvigorate our own studies and pedagogical practices. Sometimes, getting out introduces new concepts. Sometimes, it reminds me that — yes, I do think the way I think for a reason, and I’m sticking to it. Both experiences are valuable.

This spring has given me a lot of opportunity along those lines. In April, Sarah and I went to Vancouver for the Shakespeare Association of America conference, an annual gathering of hundreds of scholars and graduate students from the US and beyond. The conversation is large and robust, a mix of the venerable and best-known scholars with the up-and-comers. Each year, particularly among the young guard, there’s more conversation about digital approaches to Shakespeare, about community outreach, and about how Shakespeare speaks to different diverse populations. It’s great to know that so many people are so invested in using new technology and opportunities to breathe continual life into the plays we’ve all loved for so long.

The trouble with such an enormous conference, though, is that you can often feel like you’ve missed out on a lot. There are only a few plenary presentations, and a dozen or more seminars run concurrently. I’m grateful for the thriving conference hashtag — widely proclaimed the best on Twitter — #shakeass15. Tweeting sessions not only helps me take notes for myself, it puts me in conversation with other scholars and students with similar interests — and following the hashtag helps me know what I’ve missed due to scheduling conflicts. It’s nice to have a sense of what everyone’s working on, even if I can’t get all the details. Just knowing what conversations are ongoing is an important awareness.

By contrast, the Halved Heart Academic Conference at Shakespeare’s Globe was an intimate affair. A dozen presenters, two keynotes, and an audience of roughly forty scholars and students, all focused on a single topic: friendship in early modern drama. Because of the tight focus of the conference, we all came in with even more of a shared vocabulary than early modernists typically have. There are few other places, I think, where references to Cicero, Erasmus, and Montaigne could get thrown out quite so casually, with such little footnoting. While being at a large conference can sometimes leave me feeling a bit at sea, that communal focus at Halved Heart helped me to feel immediately part of a group, welcomed and warmed. A small conference is, by its nature, exclusive, though. We shared ideas passionately and with brilliant conversation, but it’ll be harder for those ideas to keep propagating. (We had a hashtag there, too: #HalvedHeartConf, if you’d like to see what we were on about). We can each bring what we learned back to our home institutions, and I’ve made some wonderful friends I look forward to connecting with in the future, but it’s just naturally more of a closed loop than a larger conference.1479469_10151906077508347_1988637814_n

In October, we’ll welcome a few hundred scholars and students to the Blackfriars Conference. We hope to strike a happy balance between the broad-reaching topics and the intimate, friendly atmosphere. Towards that end, most of our sessions are plenary. While a large conference might have only six to eight papers with no competing programming, the Blackfriars Conference has sixty-six. This allows for a wonderful exchange of ideas, where everyone gets to hear the same papers and join in the conversation. But then we also have our colloquy sessions, each focused on a single topic, to further the detailed conversations and to encourage scholars with similar research interests to connect with each other. (And yes, we’ve got an official conference hashtag, too! Follow #BFConf15 for updates as we organize and for information from the conference itself once October rolls around).

All of these conferences serve different purposes, and they’re all great in their own ways. I’m definitely looking forward to SAA 2016 in New Orleans, one of my favorite cities in the world; I hope I’ll be able to head back to London (another favorite city) for another Globe conference sometime; I look forward to welcoming all our friends to our home, here in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.

–Cass Morris
Academic Resources Manager

“What were’t worth to know the secret of your conference?” – Henry VIII

1476674_10151906090108347_892834423_nTomorrow is the deadline for would-be presenters to submit abstracts for our biennial Blackfriars Conference. Predictably, the flood gates have opened in the last week, and my inbox has brimmed with innovative and exciting suggestions for possible explorations. I continue to be amazed at the community of people (myself included) who work for Mr. William Shakespeare, nearly 400 years after the guy died. But more than that, I am delighted by how these abstracts shape my thinking and appreciation not just for the man (the guy I often refer to as my boss) but also for the community members who I am pleased to call colleagues.

What follows is a brief glimpse of just some of the papers you may* hear if you come to Staunton the last week of October 2015:
  • Romeo’s and Juliet’s relationship to the “Sun Economy”
  • Connecting The Merchant of Venice and The Jew of Malta
  • Feminism and Consent in Taming of the Shrew
  • Rhetoric and Stanislavsky in Shakespeare Performance
  • Conversion and Repentance in Winter’s Tale
  • Shakespeare and the Civil War
  • Chests and Trunks
  • Entreating in Taming of the Shrew
  • Drinking in Hamlet
  • Fletcher’s School Room: Dance and Performance in Two Noble Kinsmen
  • Coffins
  • Parenting Skills (this conference really does have something for everyone!)
  • Act 3 scene 2 (of every play)
  • Bad teachers and bad students in Love’s Labour’s Lost
  • Shakespeare performances at sea
  • Violence on Stage, Poison vs Blood: Women vs Men
  • 2  Gents: The Musical
  • Syphilis
  • Pregnancy on the early modern stage (unrelated to the above)
  • Madness
  • Quartos
  • Perkin Warbeck
  • The performance of Hero
  • Shakespeare and Chinese
  • Eye Contact
  • Shakespeare and American Sign Language
  • Kings on the eve of battle
  • Satire
  • Shakespeare and Lincoln
  • Shrew and 50 Shades of Grey
  • Geography
  • Psychology
  • Gender-cross casting
  • Art
  • Eavesdropping
  • Corpses

…and more.  We will announce the results of the selection process in May; til then, keep your eyes peeled — and see how many things you can find in your life that relate to Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

–Sarah Enloe
OCS Director of Education

*I will send these abstracts to a set of “blind” readers on April 15.  The readers will see neither the name of the person who submitted, nor that person’s affiliation–whether it is collegiate or independent, graduate student or emeritus professor.  The readers will mark each abstract with a letter grade based on a set of criteria we provide, and we will collate the grades and select the top 66 for plenary presentation.