2013 Spring Season
2013 Summer and Fall Seasons
2013 Spring Season
2013 Summer and Fall Seasons
2007 Actors’ Renaissance Season
2007 Spring Season
2007 Summer and Fall Seasons
Sarah Blackwell: “Turning Sonnet: Performing Lyric Poetry”
Actors: Josh Brown, Molly Harper, Jamie Jager, Sara Vazquez
Blackwell opens with the sonnet she wrote for Ralph Cohen’s “Language of the Performance” class, performed by her four actors, structured so that the audience could “visually and aurally experience” the argument of the sonnet. Though she did not write the sonnet initially intending it for performance, her four actors “turned sonnet” and embodied the verse. Blackwell characterizes sonnets in performance as “reasons in rhyme,” and notes that the sonnets in Shakespeare’s plays challenge the traditional solitary nature of sonnets. Blackwell also points out how often sonnets within the plays do not reach their intended audiences, often going astray in the delivery, allowing Shakespeare to use them as “transformative devices.”
The most sonnet-heavy play is Love’s Labour’s Lost. Blackwell notes that, while Dumain’s ode is not structured like a sonnet, it still has syllabic similarity if re-lined. Blackwell and her actors then walk through the various transformations, as the King and Longaville “turn perjurer”. Blackwell posits that the performance of the sonnet is key to this transformation, as they cannot be perjured without an audience — which the King provides for Longaville, Berowne for the King. Blackwell also identifies Berowne as a character who can “burst into sonnet”, as in the moment when he interjects spontaneous poetry into the argument over whether or not to sign the King’s oath. The King, Longaville, and Dumain respond with their own tercet, which Berowne then volleys with a fourth rhyme, demonstrating that all men are consciously aware of their own poetical capabilities. Blackwell identifies the progression of rhymes as moving from reason towards ridiculousness.
Blackwell then questions what happens if the performed sonnet is a soliloquy, performed without an onstage audience. She uses Beatrice as an example of the sonnet becoming an argument with the self. Beatrice not only shifts from prose into verse, but into an incomplete sonnet. Her first set of rhymes set up questions, which the second two answer; in the next quatrain, the rhymes are weaker, offering an actor a variety of choices on how to perform the awkward rhyme and rhythm. Blackwell identifies this as a transformative moment for Beatrice, and posits that she may be her own, self-aware audience — as Benedick is in his later attempt at poem-making. Benedick comments on the “ominous endings” of his own bad rhymes. Blackwell suggests that this may inform their belief in the final scene that they do not have the “reason” to love each other. Claudio and Hero then provide the physical evidence of the sonnets. Blackwell concludes that the volta turn for a character happens in performance, and that the presence of an on- or off-stage audience is key for the transformation.
Q&A: Cyndi Kimmel raises the question of translation. A: Blackwell has not addressed that, as she’s only been looking at Shakespeare’s sonnets. She notes, however, that the transition words for the volta likely serve the same purpose in other languages.
Q: Danielle Guy questions if Blackwell also looked at Romeo and Juliet, who fall in love in rhyme. A: Blackwell nods emphatically, noting that they are each others’ audience. “They transition from strangers into kissing strangers.”
Q: Doreen Bechtol asks Blackwell about the term volta, particularly as it relates to a dancing term. A: Blackwell says she has not looked at the history of the word volta, but more on the many alternate definitions of the word “turn”.
Q: Paul Menzer asks about the tangibility of paper sonnets versus the sonnets which do not have paper attached to them, asking if Blackwell has been able to track qualities of sonneteering when paper is or is not present. A: Blackwell notes that reading of a sonnet occurs less often, more that “he writes characters who burst into sonnet”. She admits that it can be difficult to pick out a sonnet just by listening to it, especially when it’s broken up, as with Berowne’s during the oath scene.
Q: Matt Davies follows up by asking how it might relate to cue script, wondering when actors using cue scripts pick up on the sonnet. A: Blackwell speaks to the variant styles of printing the sonnets in the Folio, admitting the difficulty of representing the sonnets on paper for either a reader’s or an actor’s benefit.
Scott Campbell: “Selling Imagined Dearth on the New Early Modern Stage”
Actors: Josh Brown, Adrienne Johnson, Charlene Smith
Campbell seeks to look at the intersection of scholarship and performance in under-rehearsed Shakespeare performances, which he qualifies as non-perjorative, but as “companies that are intentionally limiting the amount of rehearsal they are doing”. Campbell discusses the increased attention in the 20th and 21st centuries of production companies on early modern rehearsal practices with such practices as direct audience address, universal lighting, and reduced rehearsal time. Campbell seeks to interrogate the research behind the practice of rehearsal time in particular, because of its reductive nature.
Campbell argues that the marketing of under-rehearsed shows is a re-shaping rather than a re-creation, which he posits as a discrepancy between the research and its application. He examines five Mid-Atlantic companies which use reduced rehearsal practices. He suggests that the marketing for these companies attempt to sell dearth as authentic and/or as a novelty, framing it as “a withdrawal of modern conveniences”. Campbell believes that, while compelling, these marketing approaches “only tell one side of the story… one which does not accurately reflect the early modern stage.” He compares this to KFC’s 2007 re-branding as “trans-fat free” — selling absence rather than presence, the “novel merit of what it does not possess, rather than what it does”. Campbell then refers to Taffety Punk’s method of marketing a one-day rehearsal period as capable of challenging modern notions of theatre, as well as Richmond Shakespeare’s idea of “anything can happen”. This, Campbell notes, is the theatrical equivalent of baiting rubbernecking, which he relates to the early series of MTV’s The Real World. He identifies that marketing shows this way is somewhat misleading, as a production can be unpredictable no matter how well-rehearsed it is or how much it costs (referring to the ill-fated Spiderman musical’s travails).
Campbell then notes that the original early modern companies could not sell their dearth in the same way, because it was not a deviation from the norm, but the norm itself. “Early modern theatre succeeded in spite of dearth, rather than because of it.” He suggests that the research actually exhibits a “resource-rich environment”, rather than one founded on absence, and identifies several of those resources: lasting communities, actor familiarity, and common vocabulary. His thesis suggests “a fixable disconnect” between the research and the marketing practices of the companies, and that re-creating these conditions will let 21st-century companies “produce powerful theatre that more accurately reflects” theatre of the early modern period.
Q&A: Cass Morris mentions that OCS Education has long used the term “technology” when referring to cue scripts, to frame the practices as positive and constructive, rather than reductive. A: Campbell says, yes, he thinks that language could be productive, and that he has noticed a shift in the OCS’s marketing terminology towards that sort of language since about 2011.
Q: Who ever said that marketing had to be truthful? A: Campbell admits that, yes, it is still selling something and can be generative, as this is a new product, rather than framing it in terms of re-creating. He hopes to address the disconnect between what companies of this sort sell and what they actually provide.
Q: Matt Davies addresses the idea that “Shakespeare done by the experts is bad for you… and that ‘Shakespeare-lite’ is ‘fun'”, and he wonders if Campbell has picked up on that sense. A: Campbell is aware of the idea though has not encountered much of it in his research for this project, as he has largely looked at just a few specific theatres in the past 15 years. Menzer points out an “ethical responsibility” when claiming authenticity.
Q: Arlynda Boyer asks if Campbell looked at the Globe’s marketing and if this might be “a uniquely American privileging of being a historical blank”. A: Campbell’s research is just now starting to look at the Globe. He notes that he thinks the OCS’s Actors’ Renaissance Season has strongly influenced the theatrical companies and the marketing of those companies in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Amy Grubbs: “Rogues, Vagabonds, and Common Players: The Interaction of Late Elizabethan Theatre Companies with the Unsettled of London.”
Actors: Linnea Barkland, Sarah Blackwell, Molly Harper, Rebecca Wright
Grubbs begins by identifying the 1590s as a time of desperation for many English citizens, with the number of “poor and unsettled residents of London’s suburbs” greatly increasing. A year of plague followed by five years of poor harvests decimated the population and then unsettled the survivors, combining “to create an environment of downward social mobility and early death”. She identifies the greatest problem brought on by these conditions as vagrancy.
And then, two fights over phones break out in the audience, ending in the public proclamation of Rebecca Wright and Molly Harper as rogues. Grubbs then explicates that her actors have re-enacted incidents which led to the rewritten 1598 Poor Laws. The common threads are wandering and begging, which rendered a person worthy of punishment. Grubbs clarifies that there were some classes of the poor who were protected and deemed worthy of charity. She further identifies how important it was in this time to belong to a community; London’s suburbs were then, full of people who “did not belong”. Grubbs goes on to discuss how theatrical companies interacted with these Poor Laws, noting that they were usual contributors to charities, evidence she draws both from legal writs and from references within the plays. The theatres also “encouraged the employment of the unsettled”, most obviously in the apprenticeship of young boys within the company. Grubbs also states that the theatrical companies “worked together with their neighbors”, helping to create demand for other professions such as the watermen who ferried playgoers across the River Thames.
Beyond merely financial concerns, Grubbs argues that the theatre companies “created a community”. She refers back to the language of the Poor Laws, which included language similar to that of acting — seeming, calling themselves, feigning to be, etc — and she discusses the punishments given to vagrants. Grubbs argues that “theatres welcomed the unsettled as part of their community”, particularly since the price for a groundling remained at a single penny for over seventy years, despite great inflation in London in general. She suggests that this allowed the poor, servants, and other disadvantaged classes to attend the theatre, thus becoming part of the community. Grubbs also points to the choice to re-build the Globe in the same location across the river, despite that the King’s Men were making much more money at the Blackfriars, as evidence that “the King’s Men felt a civic responsibility” to their Southwark neighborhood. Grubbs encourages other theatre historians to continue exploring the relationship between the theatres and the unsettled poor, beyond her temporal parameters and beyond the suburbs of London. She notes that many of the moments in Shakespeare’s plays which relate to the poor, such as Falstaff’s speech about his impressed soldiers, are designed for direct audience address, strengthening that connection.
Q&A: Ralph Cohen begins by questioning the “unofficial contract there seemed to be between the theatres and the poor”, particularly with regards to the decision to keep both the Blackfriars and the Globe open. Jessica Schiermeister then offers her own research on Continental theatres.
Q: Clare von Rueden questions if the relationship between the poor and the theatre was affected by the fact that unaffiliated actors were considered vagabonds. A: Grubbs acknowledges the legal and figurative ways in which players were identified as unsettled.
Mara Sherman: “Theatrical Spinach”
Actors: Nicola Collett, Dane Leasure
Sherman’s thesis examines the educational materials and programming at five Shakespeare companies. She specifically interrogates the tendencies to teach the same material to privileged and under-privileged groups in different ways. Sherman begins by questioning the American affinity for Shakespeare, despite its tendency to uphold the very hierarchal society which America had broken away from in the Revolution. She identifies a combination of revived Anglophilia and “the conscription of Shakespeare into American myth-building” as reasons for the dominance of Shakespeare in American education. She then walks through a brief history of Shakespeare’s role in American culture, ending on the idea that Shakespeare is “theatrical spinach”, promoted as “good for you”.
Sherman first addresses the question of “Does Shakespeare taste good?” In response, she has her actors present a re-creation of a tuna fish commercial, wherein a fish emulates Shakespeare in order to prove he has good taste, which she claims illustrates “Shakespeare’s immense cultural capital” and that demonstrates the idea that “Shakespeare can change you” for the better. Sherman then questions how Shakespeare in education supplements or challenges the ideas that Shakespeare can increase your upward social mobility, make you smarter, or otherwise enhance your life.
Sherman then addresses her assessment of the word choices used in the marketing of theatre companies which target underprivileged groups. She chose to identify those groups which she considers to target upper-middle class families based on the tuition costs for programs. She notes that three prominent companies offer scholarships to their programs, though she raises the question of other potential roadblocks, such as travel costs, clothing needs, financial aid applications and essays, etc. She then identifies the key problem as how various companies choose to address their targeted socioeconomic groups, whether personal enrichment and skills needed to succeed within the theatrical industry, or benefits based more on the public good or as alternatives to “more punitive measures”. The real trouble that Sherman identifies is the treatment of Shakespeare as a way of fixing problems as opposed to encouraging personal enrichment.
Sherman concludes by offering up alternate theses, tangentially related to her own research, for the consideration of the MLitt first years, and with recommended reading for the audience. She then invites any interested parties to join her in planning the educational revolution at her house this evening (BYOB).
Q&A: Patrick Harris questions if Sherman has encountered gentrification, where Shakespeare has been brought into the locale of the inner city but still marketed to the upper-middle class. A: Sherman has seen some hints around it and would like to explore more.
Q: Celi Oliveto asks first if she knows when Shakespeare was first required in school and, second, how she feels about Shakespeare’s inclusion in the Common Core Curriculum. A: At least by World War I, though Sherman notes that Shakespeare was important and prominent in the culture well before then. Sherman says she is against the Common Core in general, and also doesn’t trust public schools to teach Shakespeare well on a regular basis.
Q: Jessica Hamlet asks if Sherman has personal experience with any of these programs. A: Sherman attended a program at OSF in 2006 and describes it as “completely transformative”. She notes that, though her family was nowhere near poor, she was still a scholarship kid at that program and one of the least well-off students in the program, a fact which unsettled her at the time and which she finds increasingly disturbing now.
Q: Monica Cross questions what the programs for “at risk” students look like and where those students eventually end up. A: Sherman notes a dearth of readily available information on that topic.
Q: Wondering if the “instrumental language” in marketing is aimed more at funders than at the students, if there is a difference in what they do with the kids and what they say in order to earn attention from donors. A: Yes, absolutely.
Q: Scott Campbell asks if this is intrinsic to Shakespeare camp or if it also extends to sports leagues and other academic camps? A: Campbell believes it is definitely not limited to Shakespeare, though the position Shakespeare occupies in our culture is unique.
Emma Patrick: “’There’s a double meaning in that’: An examination of thematic doubling in Shakespeare’s works”
Actors: Sarah Blackwell, Josh Brown, Molly Harper, Merlyn Sell, Aubrey Whitlock, Rebecca Wright, Molly Ziegler
Patrick begins acknowledging the impossibility of knowing what, precisely, influenced Shakespeare in his youth. She presents the sort of title page for the type of play Shakespeare might have seen as a child, which more typically demonstrated the players and doubling than did the title pages of plays written in Shakespeare’s adulthood. Her actors present a scene from Cambyses, demonstrating the potential power of thematically doubling a child whom a king kills with a bow and arrow with the bow-and-arrow-bearing Cupid. Though unrelated characters, embodying them in the same actor suggests revenge for the child, particularly since Cupid’s actions eventually lead to Cambyses’s death.
Patrick moves to considering similar potential doublings in Shakespeare’s King John, doubling Arthur with John’s young son Henry. As Arthur is the target of John’s murderous intentions, and dies through a mishap trying to escape them, this doubling creates a significant echo for the audience, particularly as Henry receives the crown and the allegiance of the English lords. Patrick suggests that this doubling will give the audience “a sense of closure and poetic justice at the end of this play.” Patrick argues that Shakespeare “took the convention of thematic doubling … and transformed it for his works”, noting that there are many other potential doubling tracks worth exploration.
Q&A: Matt Davies asks about the big “if”, noting the lack of evidence that this significant doubling was done by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. A: Patrick specifies that the only play within Shakespeare’s career’s timeframe showing such doubling was Mucedorus, which suggests that the practice was ongoing, but that the absence in other plays does not necessarily mean it was not.
Q: Julia Nelson queries if Patrick has considered the Boy and Princess in Henry V, who both speak French. A: Patrick says yes, that example is in her thesis.
Q: Clare von Rueden questions the presumption that the actors had influence on the doubling lists of the early plays. A: Patrick admits that no, there is no direct evidence, though she finds the suggestion of it in the directions for the interludes. “Somebody intended it to be that way”, whether or not it was a sole original author.
Q: Davies asks further if there’s any evidence that there may have been status-driven divides between full casts in London and doubled casts on the road. A: Patrick has not identified a status divide, but rather a temporal one with the move towards permanent playing companies in London.
Hello, Charlene V. Smith here again, live blogging Colloquy Session XV on Critical Theory. This session is co-chaired by Janna Segal and Donald Hedrick and the other participants are Matt Kozusko, Matt Davies, James Keegan, and Paul Menzer.
Segal opens the panel by introducing the panelists and noting that the specific topic of this panel is theoretical approaches to character and characterization in the Shakespearean canon.
James Keegan – “An Epilogue to Henry IV, Part 2: The Liminal Moment and the Actor-Character”
Keegan admits to theory fear upfront owing mostly to his experience as an actor. For this panel, Keegan continues his thoughts about the epilogue of 2 Henry IV, some of which many of us heard yesterday in a paper session. He describes the epilogue as a liminal moment between actor and character, but also liminal in space between the historical moment of the play and the moment of performance. Keegan grounds his discussion in the work of Gregory Currie who writes that film exerts “fictive dominance.” Keegan argues that a theatrical space like the Blackfriars allows for a fictive fluidity which is fuller and more gratifying for an audience than a situation in which the fiction is dominant. In the epilogue, character and actor exist at the same time to equal degrees.
Kozusko notes that the word ‘character’ does more work than we typically think. The word is defined in multiple ways. Pointing to the paper session we just saw, Kozusko argues that Iago’s character is defined by responding to the audience, and in that way, he’s not actually changing. Kozusko argues that when we define Shakespeare’s characters, we are influenced by factors beyond Shakespeare himself. These characters are inflected with extra-Shakespearean influences and expectations that in turn become a part of the characters and how we read them. Keegan wonders about aware audiences versus unaware audiences, using the example of Falstaff’s fake death. Audiences in-the-know will read this moment with the knowledge that Falstaff is pretending to be dead. New audiences, however, react very differently, and may be honestly surprised when Falstaff stands back up.
Matt Davies – “Drawing Shakespearean characters in black and/or white: conflicting methodologies in the contemporary rehearsal room”
Davies finds that actors and directors are finding themselves adjudicating between competing conceptions of character in the rehearsal room. First, is character in its original, lexical meaning: the typeface on a page. Second, is the psychological realists who build inner life from the subtext. Davies notes that many practitioners are now trying to balance those two systems, particularly when performing Shakespeare. Drawing from his experience co-directing (with Doreen Bechtol) Pericles for the MLitt Shakespeare and Performance program, Davies looks at how we can use text and subtext in a way that will co-habit the early modern and the modern conceptions of character. He posits that maybe we should operate both systems concurrently in the rehearsal room, rather than blending them. Davies found noticeable differences in the ways students responded to the rehearsal process. Scott Campbell, who played Pericles, constructed his character from the line out, basing his work on rhetorical structuring. Amy Grubbs, who played Marina, began with a powerful super-objective which influenced the rest of her work. Davies notes that these two approaches actually fit the characters themselves, arguing that Marina has a much richer inner life than Pericles.
Janna Segal – “Whom love hath turned almost the wrong side out”: Exploring the Transversality of the Tragic Lovers in Othello
Segal’s paper looks at the relationship between Emilia, Desdemona, and Othello to demonstrate a theoretical model developed by Bryan Reynolds and others. Segal argues that the behaviors of these characters would have caused ruptures in the contemporary audience’s ideology. Shakespeare’s representation of amorous desire interrogated dominant conceptualizations of gender and sexuality. In another example, Segal argues that Jacquenetta and Don Armado are the most subversive characters of Love’s Labour’s Lost because they are the most hopeful, despite being types that aren’t supposed to end up together. Segal points out that the usefulness of this theory is that it gives characters more agency than they are usually thought of to have, an idea which actors can directly apply to the rehearsal room.
Paul Menzer – The 4th Unity
Menzer opens by defining theory as a way of organizing and answering questions. Theory is not something to be afraid of, but something of which to be aware. Over the past couple of years, Menzer has been interested in AC Bradley who haunts all questions of Shakespearean character. Bradley’s work is the most discredited scholarly work of the 20th century, but at the same time has a major influence within the rehearsal room. Menzer’s working thesis is that character is a system of organization. Character is the 4th unity (next to time, place, and action); it binds together the many elements of performance, such as costumes, properties, architecture, etc. Characters are effects created by a range of distributed meanings, rather than an agent that causes things to happen. Individual character is a mystification of theatrical effect and collaboration. It takes a lot of people to make a person on the stage.
Don Hedrick – “Fun: the Shakespearean Actor-Character and Entertainment Value”
Hendrick’s paper responds in a way to Menzer’s paper, asking what happens when that organizing principle refuses to organize? Following our focus on Falstaff, Hendrick points to his moment of playing dead as anti-theatrical: we don’t pay to watch someone sleep on stage. Hendrick is interested in the entertainment value of character and how they create multiple pleasures for the audience. How do they make the most return in the least amount of time, a successful element of wooing scenes of Lady Anne in Richard III and Katherine in Henry V?
Hello, I’m Charlene V. Smith and I’ll be live blogging Paper Session VII, running from 1:00pm to 2:15pm on Friday, October 25. The moderator for this panel is Peggy O’Brien from the Folger Shakespeare Library. The panelists are joined by American Shakespeare actors Tracie Thomason, Dylan Paul, John Harrell, Benjamin Curns, and Allison Glenzer, and Whitney Egbert from the Shakespeare Forum.
Roslyn Knutson, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Everything is interesting about the lost play, ‘Gowrie’
Knutson’s first point is simple: lost plays should be a serious part of the conversation in early modern scholarship. Her paper today is specifically on ‘Gowrie‘. John Chamberlain describes ‘Gowrie’ as a tragedy, twice represented by the King’s Players, and refers to displeasure over the play due to it’s presentation of a living prince on the stage. Our knowledge of the plot of this lost play comes from the pamphlet Gowrie’s Conspiracy which describes an assassination plot on 5th August 1600 involving James VI of Scotland. During ‘Gowrie’s’ composition, London playhouses were closed due to the plague. The King’s Players may have considered the Globe, due to open in the fall, and the court as possible playing spaces for this piece. But Knutson wonders why would the newly minted King’s Men chose this risky play in 1604? The likeliest motive is a simple one: they thought the King would be flattered.
Sybille Bruun, The Shakespeare Forum, You That Way, We This Way – Letters and Possibilities in Love’s Labour’s Lost
Bruun, who directed Love’s Labour’s Lost recently in New York, investigates how a textual ambiguity has shaped the character of Costard. Bruun directed this play recently in New York. In rehearsals, the actor playing Costard asked her questions about why he does what he does. In act four, Costard delivers two letters, one from Berowne to Rosalind, and one from Don Armado to Jaquenetta. He misdelivers these letters. Why? If he can’t read, he may misdeliver the letters accidentally. He may also be able to judge the superscripts and choses to misdeliver them. Bruun also points out that Armado’s letter may have been folded differently, allowing Costard to tell the difference. One again, he could purposely give the wrong letter. Bruun, with the help of actors Curns, Glenzer, and Egbert, shows that the Princess could hand the letter to Rosalind or back to Costard after discover that the letter isn’t for Rosalind. If Costard doesn’t get the letter back, he purposely choses to give the remaining, wrong letter to Jaquenetta. This choice gives Costard agency and perhaps even some maliciousness, traits we don’t typically associate with this character. This question hinges on the Princess’ line, “Put up this; twill be thine another day.” Bruun notes that editorial tradition closes down the possibilities of this moment by noting that the Princess is giving the letter to Rosalind. While talking to actors and directors who had worked on this play in the past, Bruun discovered that it hadn’t occurred to them that there was another choice to back beyond what the edited text told them was happening in this moment. Bruun says we need a greater awareness of how the communities of academia and theatre interact with each other, and to realize that we don’t need to pigeonhole ourselves or others.
Andrew Blasenak, Emory and Henry College, “I would you were as I would have you be”: Negotiation of Character with/for/by an Interactive Audience
While in the modern theatre, audiences assume characters are set from performance to performance, at early modern re-creation theatres, audience interaction has the possibility of changing performance and character. Blasenak argues that character arises from the interaction of actor and audience and the reaction of the audience to the actor. In interviews with Blasenak, actors didn’t speak of finding character in rehearsal, but on finding “what works.” “What works” is hard to define; it is a sense of something clicking, of causing an audience’s heightened attention. The uncertainty of audience response makes acting in this style like windsurfing, according to one Globe actor. Jim Warren of the American Shakespeare Center calls this form of theatre, “improvising with a script.” Blasenak discusses some examples of audience informing character. The actor who played Edmund in a recent RSC tour of King Lear told Blasenak that he would adjust his cockiness and smoothness based on audience response. Benjamin Curns of the American Shakespeare notes that sometimes his speeches as Henry VIII were met with boos, feeding his character’s need to get the audience on his side. Blasenak next demonstrates, with the help of Curns, with Iago’s “What’s he that says I play the villain?” The first time through, we as the audience are directed to cheer and applaud Iago. The second time, we are asked to give resistance. Curns takes the audience’s attitude and changes the character and speech in response.
Hsiang-Chun Chu, National Changhua University of Education, From Cunning Fox to Libidinous Swine: Imposture and Sexual Sadism in the Wooing Scenes of Volpone
This paper discusses the wooing episodes between Volpone and Celia. Volpone is mostly confined to his bed as an old and sick man. In contrast, Volpone acquires much more energy and agency when he is cast as a lover. Volpone disguises himself as a mountebank in order to see Celia, allowing him to demonstrate his persuasive language skills in a way he is not able to when playing the sick man. In the second part of her paper, Chu looks at the sexual transaction between Volpone, Celia, and Corvino. Corvino is a possessive husband, yet Volpone convinces him to give Celia as a gift in order to secure a place in Volpone’s will. No matter how much identification an audience may have felt with Volpone, this sympathy evaporates as Volpone shifts into a lecherous swine in his attempt to win Celia.
Kate Moncrief, Washington College, “And are by child with me”: The Performance of Pregnancy in Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well
In Alls Wells that Ends Well, Helena’s body is used as evidence that she has completed the tasks Bertram set before her, particularly that she is pregnant. Moncrief points out that Helena re-interprets Bertram’s challenges. He asks her to show a child; she instead is with child. The play’s timeline is not clear – how much time has passed since the bed trick? The play offers no physical description of Helena at this moment, leaving practitioners to decide just how pregnant Helena is. Moncrief next explores, with the help of actors Thomason, Paul, and Harrell, how this pregnancy can be performed: gestures, prosthetics, etc. In version 1 Thomason does not wear a pregnancy bump, forcing Bertram and the audience to rely on her word that she is pregnant. Paul hits the if in his line, “If she, my liege, can make me know this clearly,” expressing his doubt. The actors perform the scene again, with Paul believing the pregnancy and kissing Helena. Next, Thomason puts on the pregnancy bump and the actors play the scene twice again, one with Paul expressing doubt as Bertram and once with him truly believing her. Moncrief polls the audience, who seem to prefer the version without the pregnancy bump.
Nick Hutchison and Donald Jellerson, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art/Globe Theatre, Feste and the Performance of Character
In 2011, Hutchison directed Twelfth Night in Memphis, with Jellerson playing Feste. In this paper, with the help of Allison Glenzer, they share the discoveries they found while rehearsing. They found two questions they explored: why doesn’t Feste care for Cesario, and what is the something he care for (“Not so, sir, I do care for something; but in my conscience, sir, I do not care for you”)? Hutchison admits that after decades of dismissing character criticism, asking what a character wants can seem misguided or passé. Hutchison and Jellerson wish to demonstrate how expanding our understanding of character can involve both practitioners and literary critics. Hutchinson and Jellerson quote from a book defining character that Shakespeare might have read as a student, revealing how Shakespeare may have been trained to think of character and what conclusions we can draw from this knowledge. The book asks writers to imagine their characters in three parts: a past, present, and future, which gives them, according to Hutchison, the illusion of enduring consciousness and psychological depth for which we value Shakespeare. Hutchison suggests that possibly Feste figures out that Cesario is a woman, and is concerned that Olivia will get hurt. This choice can be reflected in the final scene based on when Feste is quoting Malvolio and when he is speaking directly to Olivia, as the punctuation is different in different versions of the text.
Good morning and welcome to the first session of the 2013 Blackfriars Conference. My name is Ashley Pierce, and I will be live blogging the first session, a Wake-up Workshop “A certain text” with Natalia Razak that took place Tuesday October 23rd 8:00 to 8:45 AM. This is the first ever Wake-up Workshop with the American Shakespeare Center and Blackfriars Conference, as part of the education program within the OCS, dealing this morning with scansion. This is a means to showcase what the education program brings to schools.
Razak invited 11 of this morning’s gathering to join her on stage, asking them to sit upon the gallant stools located on the stage. She had the volunteers each take a syllable from Shakespeare’s line “To be or not to be; that is the question…” from Hamlet. Coupling up the volunteers into pairs, she had the person to the right of each pair sit down while the second person stood, to emphasis the iambic pentameter. She then had the group go through the line, saying their syllable to show the stressed and unstressed syllables. Then moving the topic onto the feminine endings, she asked the group what this could infer on the line. Some answers were, disoriented, questioning, hesitation, weak, etc, with Razak adding that she did not think she “has cracked the feminine ending.” The next step was to do this same exercise, with the quarto version of this same text, “To be or not to be; ay there’s the point…” Going through the same process, this time highlighting the trochaic stresses, Razak noted that this makes it a discovery. She then asked the group to try this again without stressing the “ay” to see if it is more an internal shift, making Hamlet more of a thinker, showing how this experiment/exercise can teach as well as play with Shakespeare’s text. The workshop then moved into a speech of Biron’s from Love’s Labour’s Lost. Razak gave the attendees a copy of this speech and had them each read a line, in a “read around.”
Razak then talked about how the OCS actors will scan and paraphrase their lines before the first rehearsal to help put everyone on the same page, so the director knows what the actors think and can see if it is what they are thinking as well. This is to ensure that the actors know exactly what they are saying and to make sure the audience knows as well. Razak then asked the attendees to locate a pen, asking them to take a couple of moments and paraphrase the line they had previously read. Due to time constraints, she then asked if anyone had a paraphrase they were proud of or had a difficult time with that the group could explore; unfortunately not everyone could read what they discovered. One attendee mentioned that “time” was a hard word to paraphrase, saying that she came up with chronology, Cronus, hours. Showing that some words were difficult to find a new word for since it was so tied into our common language. Razak then moved forward to look at mid-line breaks, caesuras, with the group, to trouble why a character would pause in the middle of a line. She asked how this feels when reading and hearing this harsh break in the line, as well as talked about how this effects the breath control of the actor speaking the line.
As an attendee said when you have to take a breath it takes the person out of a thinking place and moving them into a feeling place. Attendees left this workshop with this thought to ponder as they moved on to the next session of the day.
American Shakespeare Center Co-founder and Director of Mission, and Mary Baldwin College Professor Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen delivers a pre-show lecture on William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost before a live audience at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, VA, on April 24th, 2013.
Dr. Ralph Presents: Love’s Labour’s Lost
File Size: 36.2 MB; Run Time: 37:41
Hit the jump cut for the text which Ralph used during this lecture:
In this edition of the Blackfriars Backstage Pass, OCS actors Patrick Earl, Andrew Goldwasser, Rick Blunt and Liz Lodato discuss their work on William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost with OCS Co-founder and Director of Mission Ralph Alan Cohen. This podcast was recorded on May 3rd, 2013.
Blackfriars Backstage Pass: Love’s Labour’s Lost
File Size: 48.1 MB; Run Time: 50:04