MLitt Thesis Festival 2016 – Session 2

I’m Cass Morris, back again to live-blog the second session of the MLitt Thesis Festival, 3:00-5:00pm.

Kayla Blue, A Baffling Whim: Sexual Imagery in Film Adaptations of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Capulet Ball
The presentation opens with Katie Little, as Blue, watching the ball scene from the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet. Blue then explains that she’s watched thirty-nine film adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, and that the ball scenes in 27 of them feature phallic imagery (69%). She noticed the repeated imagery of columns (or column-like vertical structures) and drapery, tapestry, or similar materials. Blue argues that the columns and arras both call upon romantic/historic ideas and invoke sexual imagery.

Columns: have a history of tragic scenery, evoke wealth (particularly ancient money), and connote the Italian heritage to a Western audience. Blue is interested in the conscious result of many directors’ subconscious decision. Little’s Faux!Blue takes a moment to comment on adaptation: Blue moved beyond just versions of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, using Shakespeare’s own text, to include anything that self-identified as an R&J adaptation (so, things like Shakespeare in Love and Gnomeo and Juliet are on her list).

Blue notes that the stagnant features of the Elizabethan stage, as demonstrated in the presence of our own frons scenae, have been appropriated by many directors of film. Blue notes that film allows for some “minutiae” that are impossible to convey in a theatrical setting. Blue identifies key components of the ball scene: A) Moment of Initial Attraction, B) Moment of Mutual Connection, and C) Moment of First Physical Contact, followed by the shared sonnet. Romeo’s A moment is textually prescribed; Juliet does not have a corresponding A moment in text. The opening of the sonnet brings them together, and “If I profane with my unworthiest hand” is the C moment.

Blue then tells us when to look for columns, including but not limited to: entering the ball, Romeo and Juliet’s A moments, Tybalt’s promise, with servants and musicians, Romeo’s adoration speech, the moment of mutual connection, the moment of first physical contact, during the sonnet, or during the recognition of their identities. Zeffirelli uses what Blue calls the “positive” slope, moving from A to B to C, though it does break down into RA and JA. This is the most common sequence. Gnomeo and Juliet, meanwhile, has the “negative slope” – C to B to A, as the characters accidentally touch hands, then become aware of each other. Shakespeare in Love moves JA to RA to C to B. William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet moves B to A to C, as the characters first see each other through the fish tank.

Blue then notes the fourteen adaptations make use of an “in within” – a “private, interior female space” – for the lovers to have their interaction away from the party. They have, however, still “retreat to somewhere public.” The party is still going on and nearby, but allows a certain amount of privacy for the sonnet. “Romeo and Juliet are alone; the party is simultaneously adjacent and distant.” She argues that the audience understands that Romeo is entering a sacred interior space of some kind, which has some form of vaginal connotations to an audience “already stimulated by male phallic imagery… from all the columns!” She connects this to the history of theatre and the classical concern with public and private spaces. Blue parallels her list of where to look for the columns with where to look for the arras: during the sonnet. “The two scenic images together do something special” to the audience’s cognitive awareness, connecting the modern film with the Elizabethan theatre with the classical theatres.

Blue notes that scholars have considered phallic imagery so common as to have become invisible to Western culture. The statement of mOCSuline presence is the erect phallus; Romeo is not just the “cock in the henhouse” in that he is a Montague amongst Capulets, but because he is representative of that mOCSuline presence. She then notes that the imagery connects with Romeo’s already aroused state when he arrives at the ball; the language after he meets Juliet, however, turns gentler and more feminine. The Montague faction represents an unwelcome penetration into the Capulet space, but the arras imagery used within the lovers’ sonnet turns that unwelcome penetration into something mutual, an allowed penetration, consensual and romantic. Blue notes that Juliet chooses to engage in the sonnet with Romeo, telegraphing her own agency and sexual interest to the audience.

Blue ends by asserting that columns subconsciously stimulate sexual ideas in viewers’ minds, and when the lovers share their sonnet and kiss in an intimate, female space, the audience will bind sexual and romantic love together in their story.

Q: These are film adaptations. Are you aware that the arras has been used in this way in a theatrical staging of the play?
A: It could be, but Blue has not seen it. Cohen comments that he has never seen it played quite like that.

Q: Have you seen any correlation with whether there are columns and arrasses in 1.5 and whether or not the lovers are separated or able to connect in the balcony scene?
A: Blue hasn’t, due to needing to narrow the scope of her thesis to examining a single scene. She has noted that columns are most often re-introduced in the tomb scene.

Q: How might you take what you’ve done in terms of film and apply it to the stage?
A: FOCSinatingly, “my discourse about how film can provide for certain opportunities, it also has its failures and downfalls. I would have to really think about how to stage a cinematic interpretation on a stage like this.”

Kendra Emmett-Goldwasser, Od’s F***ing Bodykins: Shakespeare as Cross-Section of the Early Modern Flux of Taboo Language
Emmet-Goldwasser begins by noting that she has been interested in swearing and censorship for several years. Applying this to the early modern period, she wanted to know which words were “bad” and why. She notes that religious words were still taking seriously and that some currently offensive words were not yet considered obscene. She moves to definitions: taboo, oaths, obscenities, and vulgarity. “Taboo” is something permanently or temporarily forbidden or inviolable in a society, something which is simple in concept but complex in reality, constantly evolving and variant between cultures. For this thesis, Emmett-Goldwasser uses it to refer to language taboos, which are, in turn, largely oaths and obscenities.

Oaths invoke God or gods as witness to a statement, such as “by God” or “by God’s wounds”. She also includes minced and abbreviated oaths, like “‘zounds!”, or “life!” or “heart!” with an understood “God’s” before them. They then became words uttered due to their evocative or provocative value. Obscenities, then, “are to be defined against oaths,” specifically words that referents to parts of the body and its effluvia, both sexual and scatological: fuck, shit, cunt, etc. These can be found both explicitly and implicitly in early modern texts. She notes that many of these, including fuck and shit, were not explicitly taboo in the early modern period. Vulgarity, for this thesis, means “words that have coarse or impolite reference” but without being the same level of taboo as obscenities. In England, at the end of the 16th and early 17th century, the taboos were shifting from religious to bodily nature.

Emmett-Goldwasser mentions that there is a physiological way to measure the body’s response to words, based on electronic impulse on the skin. Since she cannot travel back in time to test this on unsuspecting early moderns, she examines the effect of words through other means. She begins with ecclesiastical exhortations, such as various publications regarding “the abuse of swearing”. People must have continually used these words, or clerics would not need to warn against them, and the invective publications indicate that these words were still taboo. Swearing, cursing, and oaths do not seem to refer to obscenities or vulgarities in early modern parlance.

“The best way to find out what is taboo in a society is to find out what it censors,” and so Emmett-Goldwasser moves to considering what the Masters of the Revels censored out of plays of the time. Three manuscripts exist with censor marks on them, and Emmett-Goldwasser shares one from The Second Maiden’s Tragedy. It includes no examples of censored sex or sexuality, not even when a tyrant steals his love’s dead body for necrophiliac purposes. Theatrical taboos seemed to focus on religious and political means. The most pertinent instance of censorship was the Act to Restrain the Abuses of Players, which fined 10 pounds for the use of sacred or religious words, again with no mention of obscenities.

Emmet-Goldwasser then considers “print” censorship, noting that the Folio oddly minces oaths, even though the Act only applied to those spoken on the stage and that other quartos printed after the Folio retained the original oaths. She notes Gary Taylor’s argument that the altered Folio texts may, then, have been set from altered playhouse texts, adjusted to comply with the Act. To demonstrate one of her findings, she looks at Hamlet, 3.2 in its three versions. “‘Zounds” in Q1 is exchanged for “S’blood” in Q2, then disappears in the Folio.

So, if these oaths were taboo, then why did playwrights use them? Shakespeare’s plays help us to see the moment when the religious oaths were becoming less taboo and the bodily terms were becoming moreso. As an example, Mercutio’s conjuring of Romeo after the Capulet ball, with the et cetera serving not necessarily as external censorship, but perhaps as a euphemism used for the self-censorship of the word “cunt”, which does not seem to have been taboo earlier in the medieval period (particularly as it appears in a number of place names). Shakespeare puns on the word several times – “Her Cs, her Us, and her Ts” and “country matters”. Emmett-Goldwasser compares these to “fuck” and “shit”. In the 1500s, “shit” appeared in print with no sign of bashfulness or censorship. Shakespeare puns on “fuck” (or its French variant) a couple of times in Henry IVHenry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, and it also appears in Ben Jonson’s Epicene, which refers to a “windfucker” — the common name for a kestrel. If the word “fuck” was taboo, it is unlikely that it would have been used so casually in another context. Emmett-Goldwasser notes that it seems to have been vulgar but not necessarily obscene nor taboo in the early modern period.

In conclusion, censorship seemed concerned more with blasphemous language, as evidenced by the Act. “Oaths still held taboo, and some obscenities were not yet obscene.”

Q: Did you notice how comparatively blasphemous was Shakespeare?
A: Emmett-Goldwasser has looked a little at the contemporaries, but mostly focused on Shakespeare due to scope. Oaths are present, but he complied after the 1606 act.

Q: If words like “fuck” and “shit” weren’t taboo, then why only playfully pun on them?
A: Emmett-Goldwasser feels this is an indication of her thesis that the taboo was shifting; those words might not have been quite as appropriate even though not explicitly taboo.

Q: In “windfucker” to “windsucker”, can you argue against the typesetting?
A: “I wondered about that.” Her thesis posits that it could’ve been a mistake or a matter of convenience.

Davies: One final question — Where was Grope-Cunt Lane? I’ve decided to go there.
Menzer: Thank you, Kendra. See me in my office, Davies.

Megan Clauhs, Her Mother Hath Many Times Told Me So: Innogen and Silence in Much Ado about Nothing
Merlyn Sell opens, as Clauhs, opining that Innogen in Much Ado doesn’t speak because she’s a ghost character, and therefore a ghost, without lines. Clauhs then interrupts to correct. There are two kinds of ghost characters: seen and unseen. Seen ghosts enter in stage directions but never speak, nor are spoken to; unseen ghosts, like Rosaline in Romeo and Juliet, who is referred to often but never appears on stage. Clauhs then argues that Innogen ought not be considered a seen ghost character, as there are lines within the play that do refer to Innogen, at least as Hero’s mother, though her name is never spoken.

Clauhs then presents the opening scene of Much Ado about Nothing with a silent Innogen included. Any mention of her paternity must acknowledge her, if she is on stage. Clauhs then considers places where seen ghost characters get left out of the staging — usually when productions cut servants and attendants due to the constraints of cast size, a practice which does not affect the plot or the audience’s experience of the play. She argues that Innogen, the only married woman in the play, cannot be excised as easily. Clauhs puts forward the idea that, with few exceptions, married women do not talk in comedies, and even Hero is more talked-about than talking. Clauhs points out that even Beatrice stops talking after her mouth is stopped, presumably with a kiss, suggesting that the happy ending requires the silence of the female characters.

Clauhs argues that the Messina of Much Ado is one of Shakespeare’s most misogynistic settings, illustrated both by Leonato’s vitriol (absent in the source material), Claudio’s indifference, and the propensity of cuckold jokes in the play. Clauhs notes that some modern productions have given lines from other characters to a speaking Innogen. She believes this would have raised questions for an early modern audience that it does not for a modern audience. “Just because Innogen is silent in the text doesn’t mean she has to stay silent forever.”

Clauhs stresses the importance of retaining Innogen, particularly as a married woman in the world of a play which focuses on female virtue and chastity, and argues for undoing the editorial choice of Theobald which got carried forward into future editions.

Q: If Innogen is an important part of the play in her silent presence, what does her absence after 2.1 say?
A: The full thesis argues that her absence is the mistake, not her presence. Other characters lack entrances but speak lines within scenes.
Q: What scenes do you think she should be in that she’s not?
A: “My thesis is evolving every day. I’m starting to believe that she should replace Ursula.”

Q: Clarification regarding what defines “happily” married women.
A: Conflict, such as Adriana, indicates an unhappy marriage.

Q: If Shakespeare did intentionally only put Innogen in 1.1 and 2.1, then why is she there?
A: Shakespeare needed a married woman there to be the butt of a cuckold joke.

Q: Is there anything to tie in the possible alternate pun on musical noting in the title?
A: “I hadn’t even thought of that. I was more interested in the vagina joke.”

Q: I wonder if there’s an inverse proportion to sad men. Is there a feminization of Don John the bastard, as if he’s being told to shut up? He does speak a lot but not in public.
A: Clauhs doesn’t think so, “but no offense, I don’t care about men in this thesis.”

Paige Hammock, “Hear My Soul Speak”: Experiential and Atemporal Shakespeare through Music
Hammock considers the musical supplements to the early modern scene, including plays, masques, dancing, bear-beating, “adult dancing”, and even work. “Music was and is a foundation of cultural stability.” Music was an integral part of the early modern theatre transaction, and today can be used as a bridge between what seems archaic and what is familiar. Hammock underscores the ability of music to influence and suggest emotion, as well as to cross temporal boundaries. Examples of music assisting theatrical transaction include those at the Globe in London and here at the Blackfriars Playhouse. Hammock mentions particularly the foreign language productions of the Globe to Globe project, where music told a story that the audiences could follow.

Hammock compares the Globe’s typical use of music, only when called for in the script and at the end with a dance, to the Blackfriars Playhouse’s use of music before the show and during the interlude, which may tell the audience something about what they are about to see. “Music can help clarify and set boundaries for the meaning that the production and the audience will create together.” At the Globe, initial music serves as a signal that action is about to begin; she provides an example from the 2013 Macbeth, wherein the tones of bagpipes serve to silence the audience as well as setting the scene, before transitioning into warlike drum beats. “At the very least, the intro music draws the attention of the audience through sheer volume.” Such abrupt starts seem typical at the Globe, creating an aural boundary with immediate audience awareness. The production ended with a musical salute and a dance. While the jig may be discordant with a tragedy, Hammock suggests that the music and dance signals the end of the play in the same way as the call for applause in other plays. Music then, reminds audience to both pay attention to and to leave the play: an absolute beginning and a clear ending. “Transaction started; transaction completed.” Hammock also notes the ability of music to establish patterns and to signal transitions within a play, such as the music in The Tempest. She plays a clip from the Globe’s 2012 production, during Ferdinand’s initial entrance.

By contrast, the musical scene at the Blackfriars Playhouse “is a bit difference.” Here, the actors perform modern music during the pre-show and interval, often suggesting, as Jim Warren puts it, “something about the play.” During the touring days, it was used as a mood-setter, mediating between what an audience might expect and introducing them “to a potentially less stuffy version.” For example, the use of U2’s “Love is Blindness”, frequently used as an LGBTQ anthem, helped ease the way into Marlowe’s Edward II. Hammock suggests that the interval’s inclusion of “You Shook Me All Night Long” was perhaps more tongue-in-cheek, serving to highlight the play’s melodramatic elements. This, Hammock argues, becomes a different kind of transactional allowance, giving the audience permission to feel that the relationship between the King and Gaveston, while real, is also overly dramatic.

Hammock then considers the 2014 OCS production of The Comedy of Errors. The pre-show and interval music “semeed to take the painfully obvious and making it obviouser,” highlighting the absurdity of the entire play. The opening “Hey Brother” by Avicii has an obvious connotation, in the twins. The long-lost twins and wronged twins find a theme in Three Dog Night’s “One is the Loneliest Number”, and the falsities and mistaken identities get the same treatment in the interval’s “Little Lies” by Fleetwood Mac. All of these, Hammock says, comment on the play’s own absurdity. She also considers the cover of Cake’s “Never There”, which transitions into the door-keeping scene, and Weird Al Yankovic’s “I Think I’m a Clone Now.” The latter is both humorously self-referential during the play and an echoing reference to the original song, “I Think We’re Alone Now”. Hammock argues that there is a cognitive dissonance between hearing modern music on the early modern stage, perhaps creating competing “winks” to the audience, “a lot for the audience to process.” She expresses concern that this may break the transaction between theatre and audience. Another example was the interlude song and dance to “Me and My Shadow” by Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.  In comparison, Hammock feels that Weird Al cover might have pulled the audience too far out of the play, while the Sinatra/Davis cover created a stronger sense of the world of the play.

Concluding, Hammock states that music can define boundaries and enhance the theatrical transaction. “Music is used not as an alternative language, but as an additional one.”

Q: Have you thought about the difference between recorded sound and live?
A: Yes; initially Hammock wanted to have the music in her presentation performed live.

Q: You’ve pretty skillfully hacked the layers of something like the Weird Al song; is the atemporality something that comes out of that?
A: Usually when you come to a show, you can make the connection between the song and the play you’re about to see, but the Weird Al song seemed to add too many layers for the audience to then think about.

Q: You mentioned a bit about the audience’s attention to the song, and that got me thinking of how I frequently cannot hear the lyrics of the song thanks to the noise of the audience. How does that ability or inability impact the audience’s experience?
A: Hammock does talk about that some in the actual thesis. It’s not necessarily meant to serve as an essential component of the play. There’s still an aural connection to something happening on the stage, even if you’re not trying to OCSribe meaning or listening to the lyrics.

Q: Thoughts on the use of modern music like at the Blackfriars Playhouse versus historical music like at the Globe?
A: Hammock is looking at the variant experiences that creates, without necessarily saying that one is a better choice than the other.

Q:Do you get the same atemporality when productions take early modern lyrics and set them to modern music?
A: It can have that effect.

–This session live-blogged by Cass Morris, Academic Resources Manager

MLitt Thesis Festival 2016 – Session 1

Good morning! Cass Morris, back again to live-blog the first session of the 2016 Thesis Festival, 11:30am-2:00pm.

OCS Director of Mission Ralph Alan Cohen welcomes us, then Dr. Paul Menzer notes that this is just the start of a week of exciting MBC Shakespeare & Performance events.

Justine Mackey, “This Dog, My Dog”: Shakespeare and Man’s Best Friend
The presentation opens with dueling dogs: a lovely (adoptable!) pitbull called Duchess, actor Clarence Finn in a dog suit, and an invisible dog on a leash presented by Tyler Dale, all attempting to present Crab from The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Mackey comes out and introduces herself and her actors, and Jocelynn Joy Murphy presents the “moon” speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, first with Duchess as “this dog”, then a second time with a stuffed dog. Mackey explains how she came to this topic, then notes that theatre still struggles with the choice to use live dogs, whether trained for performance or not, as opposed to prop or imaginary dogs.

“Performing animal” typically refers to an animal trained to do tricks for entertainment value, but Mackey believes that considering non-performing animals in theatre has value as well. A live dog can not only provide an interesting challenge for the actor, but can also create satisfying emotional experiences for the audience — and perhaps find a non-performing dog a forever home. Dogs, Mackey notes, need no special training in order to behave as a dog on stage. She moves to a consideration of various references to dogs in Shakespeare — there are over 2300 references to animals in Shakespeare, and the most-referenced animal is the dog.

This makes sense to Mackey, as humanity’s relationship with dogs goes back thousands of years. She provides a visual of cave paintings involving dogs. “Shakespeare was continuing a longtime theme that began thousands of years before him.” Mackey comments that outdoor theatre, such as the nearby Oak Grove, always contains the potential for unintended animal participation, as when frogs hop on stage. In this case, it can be a distraction for both actor and audience. Even intended animals can be a distraction, however, as their unpredictability can draw focus. Mackey sees this as a chance to heighten excitement. Dogs were, even in the early modern period, “an easy and accessible animal to work with on stage.” Mackey also ties this to the modern age, with the prevalence of animal-related videos on the internet, particularly with regard to the compassion that animals have for each other and for humans, and in turn, the compassion that we feel for them.

Mackey calls attention to the dual experience of placing a non-performing animal next to a performing actor, noting that it also brings up some ethical concerns. She seeks to place the theatrical use of non-performing dogs in line with other considerations of the relationship between dogs and humans. As an example, she speaks of the experiment of bringing a dog into the classroom, which improved both performance and attendance. Mackey ties this to the economic success of having a live dog in the OCS’s 2012 production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, as the marketing for that show let the audience know they could expect to see a live dog on stage.

“Putting a dog on-stage will immediately trigger some response to the audience.” Mackey’s observation is aptly timed, as Duchess makes some cute noises, eliciting coos from the audience. She returns to the OCS’s 2012 Two Gents, where over 13 weeks, with 13 different dogs, 9 of those adoptable dogs found homes from audience members. She then discusses the challenge for the actors: having to quickly get accustomed to a new animal, and to get the animal accustomed to them. “The dog truly becomes a symbol of the improvised.” The actor and director could not block the dog, “but rather familiarized the dog with the stage and the actors.”

She shares some experiences from Ben Curns, who played Launce in that production, including the instinctive acting that the second dog, JR, seemed to demonstrate on-stage. Another dog, Jed, was noisier, likely to cry or whine any time the attention on the stage diverted away from him. She relates that, despite some mishaps and challenges, Curns nonetheless felt that the project was more a success than not.

“Seeing an animal on-stage next to a performing human” stimulates certain things for the audience. According to an ASPCA study, nearly half of all Americans own a dog, and more know someone who does, augmenting the connection that audience members feel with a dog on stage. A live dog on stage changes the way the audience experiences the moment. Mackey notes that Thadd McQuade believes that having a live dog on stage causes a “friction of reality”, which may provoke the audience to think about why the dog is there — particularly in plays like The Two Gentlemen of Verona, where a dog is not explicitly called for. She then speaks to the backstage effect of having a dog in a performance. McQuade’s dog was “miserable backstage” because the dog could sense a level of distress in the actors as they focused on their work, which in turn distressed the dog.

Mackey hopes that her work can help change the way that scholars focus their exploration of live animals on stage. As Mackey discusses the lasting impression that an animal can have on the audience, Duchess sneezes adorably. Mackey concludes by underscoring the long history that live animals have in performance, then states her belief that the live dog generates more connection with the audience, generates more revenue, and enhances the overall theatrical experience.

Q: Is there any sort of consent issue when it comes to using animals in performance?
A: There are organizations that work with regulations on performing animals, more for Broadway and film.

Q: What are the runner-up animal references in Shakespeare?
A: Second was birds, third was horse. Cat was low, and a handful were only answered once, like shark, squirrel.

Q: How does the dog not know that it’s not witnessing real conflict on-stage?
A: There can be a correlation; one dog reacted just to the word “kick”, which suggests that they do pick up on the on-stage dynamic.

Q: Did you get into the history of circus?
A: “I’m digging more into that now and how that has changed, even more recently.”

Molly Seremet, Cyborging Hamlet: A Tabletop Engagement
Seremet opens by referring to Harold Bloom’s assertion of Shakespeare’s singularity, his ability “to write the human.” This line of thinking suggests that Hamlet, then, is a “field sketch” of an entirely new kind of life. Seremet ties this to the idea of a human “that has not yet been,” figuring the conflict between heart and head for future hands that engage with the text. “A man from the future, caught up in the concerns of the past.” Seremet then presents a counterpoint argument from Degrazia, who also engages with the idea of interiority, but suggests that this positions Hamlet as dated, not modern. Defining Hamlet by that interiority only works if you divorce him from his reality; his contemporaries would have understood him in relation to contextual concerns such as land, patrimony, and inheritance. “In order for Hamlet to appear modern, the premise of the play had to drop out of sight.” Trying to make Hamlet’s self-reflection too modern ignores that he exists in a historical set of expectations and influences.

Throughout these discussions, Tyler Dale, on stage, manipulates a series of seemingly unrelated props.

The attempt to “assume modern ownership” of Hamlet ignores his and the play’s reality, and says more about our modern desires than about the play and character. Seremet suggests that the tension between Bloom’s and Degrazia’s interpretations is fOCSinating because it challenges our definitions of what is “modern”. Seremet proposes that we move away from questions of “what makes Hamlet modern” and instead consider that he has moved beyond modernity and moved into a post-modern idea of humanity, “an emblem of the post-human subject.”

Seremet then directs our attention to Dale as he wordlessly performs a card trick.

Seremet discusses the position of the cyborg in human understanding, then ties the ideas of Hamlet to that definition. Hamlet “as a character symbolizes a kind of human that few can emulate.” He is both “abundantly familiar” yet distant. “In cyborg fashion, Hamlet the character manages to hold us at arm’s length” as he performs humanity. We should consider that he represents not the human, but “a possible human,” an “actant”. He has the ability to act, but chooses not to, and “through the act of non-acting, becomes an actant.”

Seremet suggests that “Hamlet can be seen as a placeholder for the human,” stuck within his story, “an object occupying the subject position.” She argues for the replacement of Hamlet with an unpredictable object, to “shift the character”, which she hopes will re-ground Hamlet within his own text. Seremet refers to the mechanic terms that the play uses in reference to Hamlet. “Hamlet’s actant state can be framed in cyborg terms,” caught between the no man’s land between technological and human. Seremet relates this to the concept of “thingification”, examining the relationship between the animate and inanimate.

Seremet concludes by suggesting how we can capture the cyborg metaphor in theatrical practice, particularly by drawing attention to “thing-power”, thinking beyond the life-matter binary. In theatrical terms, an object remains a prop; an object-cyborg with thing-power, however, could become active rather than passive — a shift in perception, away from how we might use objects to considering how objects already use their thing-power on us. Seremet hopes to challenge the primacy of the human in theatrical practice.

Q: Any connection to the previous presentations, regarding the dogs?
A: Parallel tracks. Animals are different in that they do possess more outward agency.

Q: How does this relate to definition of “property”? What happens when the agency is reversed?
A: “In order for an object to cross over into cyber-territory, it has to act on us.” The difference between a prop and a object-cyborg is whether or not the thing has its own agency.

Catie Osborn, Contextualizing the Sword: Titus Andronicusand Early Modern Performance
Osborn begins by discussing how Raiders of the Lost Ark relates to Titus Andronicus, specifically the moment where Indiana Jones shoots the swordsman rather than engaging with him, because Harrison Ford had dysentery at the time. Osborn wondered how the cultural connotations of each weapon affects the audience’s perception of this as a humorous moment or not. “Does this become a symbol of colonialism and white oppression? Does Indiana Jones become the bad guy? Or, what happens when we understand the story behind the story? … It wasn’t colonialism, it was diarrhea.” Which brings us, Osborn notes, to Titus Andronicus, “famously shit on over the centuries.”

She wants to attempt to illustrate that the rampant violence is not demonstrating Shakespeare as an inexperienced and bloodthirsty playwright, but rather a commentary on cultural violence of the time. Her thesis examines the moments in Titus when a weapon appears and connects them to the early modern audience’s perception of those weapons.

Osborn presents the Peacham drawing from Titus, which illustrates a scene that never happens in the play — so how much can we really learn from it? She looks particularly at Aaron’s sword, not only incongruous in the supposed scene of imprisonment and pleading, but also at odds with the textual description of his weapon as a scimitar (important because the word choices centers Aaron as “exotic other”). Titus, meanwhile, seems to have spear, even though the text describes him as having a sword.

The play, Osborn notes, opens with a call to arms, specifically, to swords. Titus Andronicus, though not a historical Roman story, nonetheless connects to the cultural ideas of Rome prevalent in early modern England. Even without Latin, an early modern reader had access to Roman ideas and stories through English translations of Plutarch and others available in print. Shakespeare opens with a conflict between patricians and plebeians, but because the play has no specific time period, the audience cannot exactly know why either party appeals to each group of citizens. Osborn also remarks that, in Shakespeare’s England, Rome had alternate connotations, thanks to early modern Rome representing the corruption of Catholicism; this may explain some of Titus‘s atrocities, including the literal killing of messengers.

Titus combines familiar references to Rome into something vicious and brutal. Osborn highlights the important influence of Seneca on the text. A juxtaposition exists between the Roman and early modern ideas of vengeance; for the Elizabethans, vengeance belonged to God, and personal revenge was punishable by law. Titus, then staged “an Elizabethan anxiety” about the possibility for personal vengeance to spiral out of control. Osborn connects the 1594 publication of Titus to another text in the same year, which commented on the negative effect that vengeance had upon the revenger – specifically, visions and apparitions, such as that which Tamora visits upon Titus in the play.

Osborn shares a deeper consideration of just who gets murdered in Titus and why, positing it as both a dual morality play and a revenge tragedy. This becomes important when taken along with the religious conflicts of the time. Both Catholics and Protestants, though, would have been familiar with the story of Cain — and the admonition of God that any one who visited vengeance upon him would have it returned to them sevenfold. Osborn points out how many instances of violence in Titus are about brothers and that the “sevenfold” plays out within the play. Actors Sophia Beretta and Chris Moneymaker perform a scene between Chiron and Demetrius, which references their rapiers — a weapon which Osborn states was recognized as “contentious” by the early modern audience. The sword was associated with tradition and honorable warfare, while rapiers were weapons of personal vengeance. Fencing manuals commented on the dueling culture of the period, particularly with regard to the “daring” language that Shakespeare has the Gothic brothers emulate. Osborn points out that Chiron and Demetrius are doing something doubly illegal, both with regard to dueling and to wearing live steel in a royal court (illegal under Henry VIII). The scene, then, explains dueling culture and then tension between new and old styles, “hidden masterfully in a bevy of boner jokes.”

Q: How did the idea of the scimitar register at this moment historically?
A: There’s a notion of “otherness” present in Titus, which carries over into the culture at large — that of a mystical East.

Q: How does the research you’ve done translate to other plays?
A: This actually started with the Wars of the Roses, which ended up being just a little bit too much, because there was so much going on historically and culturally. “I thought Titus was a good test case,” but she wants her research to be something that readers can apply to whatever play they’re working on.

Q: Did you arrive at a sense of “rapiers are always this, swords are always this” in regard to their cultural connotations?
A: Youthful spirits, irresponsibility, people willing to fight in the streets = rapiers; Fancy people, high status people, those with traditions and responsibilities = swords “is generally how it splits across the entire canon.” Chiron and Demetrius are a good example.
Q: Did that link with military vs personal?
A: “That’s a great question; I’ll let you know!”

Ryan Odenbrett, Exit Crying Murder: A How-To Manual for Statistical Shakespeare Analysis
Odenbrett begins by stating that his thesis began as a desire to state Shakespeare’s intention in creating a pattern with the “murdered and escaped” characters in 3.3 and 4.2 of Macbeth, but that the project spiraled into “the Death Sheet”, a catalog of all the deaths in the Shakespeare canon. “I wanted to prove one point, but instead and accidentally, I made something better.” He hopes that this will enhance the Shakespeare community’s ideas about death on stage and that it will be able to inform performances.

His database illustrates topics including but not limited to: the ratio of Shakespeare death plays to non death plays, identification of on and off stage deaths, frequency of deaths within plays, how deaths take place, how they are discovered, chronological placing of death within a play, etc. Odenbrett carefully notes that he refrains from placing authorial intent upon the patterns that the database suggests.  “In short, Exit Crying Murder uses statistical Shakespeare analysis to examine the deaths in the canon.” Odenbrett comments that this is particularly apt in the year in which we are recognizing the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and refers to performances taking place across the globe that are performing all of Shakespeare’s deaths.

To start, he describes the phenomenon of charting Shakespeare’s deaths, beginning with an infographic that circulated the internet in 2013. Odenbrett suggests that the analytical human brain finds something satisfying in “this synthesized information in the way of visual images”. He challenges them, however, on the grounds of being inaccurate, and then presents his own table of the chronological compilation of every death in the canon (recorded from the First Folio).

Odenbrett then shares his “rules for admittance” for including a death in his compilation: that the character must appear on stage, be mentioned as dying on stage, or have appeared in a prequel work (the “Falstaff rule”). Looking at his chronology, Odenbrett points out that Shakespeare averaged one “death play” per year, and that he favored death plays over non-death plays by a factor of roughly two to one. He then shares his own pie chart displaying how many of the total deaths take place in each play. Most of the deaths take part in the tragedies, then the histories, then just two deaths in comedies. Early in Shakespeare’s career, most of the deaths took place in histories, but later in his career, he produces eight death plays in a row. However, the histories tend to have more deaths per play (6 in tragedies vs 8.1 in histories). The deaths in tragedies are also mostly on-stage, whereas more deaths in histories take place off-stage.

Plotting all the on-stage deaths into a line graph indicates a negative correlation over time — more deaths earlier in his career than later. Odenbrett speculates that that may have indicated his competition with Marlowe in the first few years. His last five plays have zero on-stage deaths, “as though he got tired of trying to drag carcasses off-stage”. A trend line of off-stage deaths indicates nothing useful by itself, as there is no discernable pattern, but when compared with the on-stage trend line, it seems that his plays alternate between high on-stage and high off-stage deaths.

Odenbrett uses Macbeth as a case study, intending to highlight the play’s irregularities when it comes to on-stage deaths. “Of the Death plays which feature more onstage deaths than offstage deaths, Macbeth possesses the lowest percentile at 57%.” Only Macbeth and Richard III die in stage directions, speaking nothing after their fatal wounds are received, “as though they didn’t deserve it.” Macbeth is also one of only two plays where a child dies on-stage — only 1.2% of all of Shakespeare’s deaths. Odenbrett argues that killing Lady MacDuff on-stage diminishes the rarity of that death. He mirrors this scene with Fleance’s escape and Banquo’s on-stage death, drawing attention to linguistic similarities between Banquo and Lady MacDuff.

Odenbrett “remains confounded by the amounts of data I’ve yet to explain to you” and hopes that the crash-course will encourage us to use statistical data when examining staging questions in the future.

Q: Is that death sheet going to be available?
A: Yes, it will be!

Q: The reason you excluded Two Noble Kinsmen was because of the collaboration?
A: Yeah, even though he most likely wrote the death of Arcites, but because it’s the most contested play and because it only happens in the stage direction.

Q: Is this information supposed to be just for study or to tell future productions whether or not to stage certain deaths?
A: The purpose is to give productions an informed choice.

Q: What is behind the popularity of the impulse to turn death into data?
A: Not sure “why they do it with death”.

Joshua Williams, Tactical Acting: A Foundational Approach to Actor Training through Stage Combat
Williams begins by stating that every actor has their own method of approaching acting, regardless of training, because of each actor’s individual background, psychological state, etc. Most schools of acting agree on one thing, however: conflict. “The basis of all acting is the physicalization of conflict” by bodies moving through space and time. Williams notes that the past few decades have seen a trend of moving towards privileging scansion and rhetorical devices, at least in the realm of Shakespeare studies, over more physical acting training.

Williams argues that many forms of training often neglect the whole-body concepts that are most accessible particularly for young actors, as well as sacrificing the specificity of intention and the tension between two actors. “The principles at the core of stage combat are the same as those of acting.” Combat foregrounds “the one against the other”, the most basic and savage source of drama. He thinks that combat should be the first skill taught to young actors, as through it, they can learn much about blocking, tension, expression, and specificity. Combat also helps young actors to understand the importance of “stakes” in any given scene. In a fight sequence, “what is ‘at stake’ is life itself.” This also forces young actors to listen to each other, both vocally and with their bodies. Combat, then, “teaches all of the most important lessons in acting.”

Tyler Dale and Melinda Marks assist Williams in demonstrating his methods. He begins with “conflict-style games”, including but not limited to tag, hide and seek, etc. One of the most useful that he found was tug-of-war. Combat there “has been shifted and reduced to its most basic concepts”, that is, two figures moving forward and back. Williams notes the ease of attaching storytelling to the back-and-forth. Marks and Dale demonstrate, attaching tugs and slips to certain words. Williams points out that this also involves breath, eye contact, etc. Partners can “tell the story of struggle” without actually exerting power over each other. Stage combat, Williams notes, “is not about winning”, but about working with a partner to sell the story.

Dale and Marks then demonstrate the basic footwork of advances, retreats, and passes can work in armed combat — pretty much the same footwork as in a game of tug of war. The tension between two fighters creates an unbroken line of tension between the actors, much like the literal line of the rope in tug-of-war. Williams notes that this tension can also apply to rhetorical conflict in the plays. In his future consideration, he intends to pursue that frame further, physically embodying verbal argument. For example: “In a normal scene, without combat, who ‘strikes’ first?” Who draws blood, who retreats, who gains power over the other? “The primary goal of this work is to serve as the basis for an actor training regiment.” His thesis outlines a theoretical conservatory program along these lines.

Q: How do you rectify the required falseness of the aggression in combat with the often-encouraged realness of the emotions in actors?
A: “I mean, it’s all acting.” Williams doesn’t see acting as generating “real” emotions. “That’s not what I’m interested in.” He performs actions.

Q: You’re claiming that your method is easier to train an actor in?
A: “No. I think it’s better.”
Q: So what makes it better than a traditional Stanislavski approach? Why is your terminology better?
A: “In my personal experience, having come up in a method-influenced environment, I never felt like it was enough to connect to the text.” Williams point to the need to connect with a partner and to connect points of action with the story.

Q: Wondering if the lines of tension correspond with Head-Heart-Gut-Groin zone theories?
A: “I have never felt as confident in the idea of physical zones for certain types of expression.” Williams says he wants to find ways of being eloquent in different areas. In terms of the idea of learning the ultimate stakes first, it would give more room to explore along the lines of those zones.

Q: How would you approach the concept of teaching physical neutrality to an actor?
A: “I think you go to another method.”

This session live-blogged by Cass Morris, OCS Academic Resources Manager

MFA Thesis Festival 2016

Welcome! From 6pm-8:30pm tonight, I, Cass Morris, shall be live-blogging the presentations given by the members of Sweet Wag Shakespeare, the 2015-2016 MBC MFA company.

OCS Director of Mission Ralph Alan Cohen begins with a brief introduction, then passes it off to Dr. Paul Menzer, who welcomes us all to the “annual opportunity for our students to share their work with the entire community.” Each presentation will be 10 minutes with a brief Q&A; a 10 minute recess will follow Maria Hart’s presentation.

Natalia Razak Wallace, “Your Brain So Tempered”: This Is Your Brain on the Company Model
“The ability to move an audience emotionally is theatre’s prime directive,” Wallace states, then moves on to defining the goals of the MFA company model. She states that she hoped to study the neurology of emotion, hopefully “explaining why we feel how we feel when we feel things”, then to apply that to the experience of creating and performing shows. Then she explains why that was a terrible idea for a thesis.

While the neurology of eye contact was fairly clear-cut, the neurology of emotions is poorly understood and harder to explain. Wallace also states that even if she could find a “neuro-hack” for why we feel these things, she would “both revolutionize and destroy theatre.” Instead, she hopes that her findings will speak to the company model and perhaps help those approaching this project in the future.

1) It takes many variables to create emotions, both mental and physical. Humans are born with certain emotional responses, but can only access most feelings through living. “If I have never been in love, how will I recognize it when it comes?”

2) We can manipulate these variables somewhat to manufacture some parts of the emotional experience. Wallace uses an example regarding the biological expression of laughter from the Wags’ current rehearsal process. Manufacturing the physical effect of happiness, laughing, can in some cases contribute to actually creating a feeling of happiness.

3) Positive affects are better than negative affects. Good emotions tend to generate more good emotions, and visa versa. For the Wags, this has had a positive effect, as the company members got along and were generally people more inclined to make the best of situations. Wallace also notes that more challenging experiences create a stronger group affect. Positive emotions also help people to remember experiences, even challenging ones, more positively. “To make sure, we should make something really traumatic happen to the group early in the process: Maybe a devised piece in the first month?”

4) Emotions are contagious. Wallace notes that, in the case of the Wags, this means you have a group of company members who cannot keep a straight face anytime anyone says the word “but”. (The company members proceed to prove her correct by giggling from the Lords’ Chairs).

“Is this useful for future MFA companies? I don’t know.”

Q: Are there any direct actions that can come out of this?
A: The group check-ins help to release any negative emotions, as well as making group members aware of each others’ emotional states. Wallace notes that you can check . Wallace states that the first MFA company, the Rovers, are all still very close friends, and they also used check-ins.

Q: Did having journeymen enter the group (non-MFA company members taking part in a show) change the dynamic?
A: Yes, since one of the key variables in a group affect is the composition of that group. But if a group already has a strong affect, new members are more likely to “adopt that affect” than to change it.

Q: You talked about conflict being negative group affect. Can you think of any examples where conflict ended up moving the company into positive group affect?
A: The words “positive and negative become problematic”, because you can have positive group conflict — if the people taking part are still respectful of each other.

Molly Harper, “Devise with Me”: Devising with Shakespeare
Harper begins with a parable regarding the making of broth for cooking. The devised piece is the broth which will flavor the cooking for the rest of the MFA company’s year. This challenge, which Wallace referred to, involves sticking the company members in a hot room, tossing them ingredients, roasting, then simmer and serve.

“Devising is difficult when most of the participants in the room don’t understand what devising is or how it works.” She uses her personal example of the character of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, connected to the theme of Rumor — a foil to crookbacked Richard, connected to the theme of Ambition. Wallace considers them the heart of the broth for her scene — something to “roast”, to condense and bring to the forefront. They were then redirected to move their scene to a smaller space and to make choices that were more confrontational with one another. “The scene wasn’t really working if you’re actively avoiding conflict and tension.” They found contrasting tempos of movement and overlaying the speeches, rather than taking turns, heightened the tension. “I watched audience members squeeze against walls to get away from us.”

She addresses the slow simmer: tension, both between the characters on stage and within an actor’s body. “The fight to control one’s body was the greatest take-away for myself.” Harper speaks of the challenges involved with “the constant battle to keep tension in my body” as she worked through the scene with Wallace. That tension is what creates meaningful emotional responses, and thus a more satisfying story for the audience.

“The final product was a delicious performance — which you may see again in the upcoming Sweet Festival of Wags!” The broth, she notes, ties the entire course together. The ideas, themes, and words enriched and condensed throughout the devised process ended up coloring those in the other plays in their year. Their actions began with examining Shakespeare’s text, but they then had to find ways to physicalize those concepts. “I believe that the devised show is an integral part of the S&P MFA model” because it helps to bring their studies out of the realm of the mind and more into the realm of the body, “thereby creating richer and more present performances.”

Q: To continue the metaphor, how do you avoid the adage that too many cooks spoil the broth?
A: “Hmm. That’s a good one.” Harper uses an example of, if there’s too much cayenne, you can cut it with yogurt or oregano — so if you’ve got one cook that’s too prone to cayenne, you can balance it out with cooks that like yogurt or oregano. Harper then ties it to Wallace’s ideas about a positive atmosphere.

Q: What ways have you found to continue uncovering these tensions?
A: Harper discusses that she’s focusing a lot on the tension between the upper and lower body — and the challenge created in dealing with a torn meniscus when working with that! She then discusses an exercises that Doreen Bechtol does with a pole, where two actors have to keep a literal physical connection between them.

Meredith A. Johnson, “These Indeed Seam, for They Are Actions That a Man Might Play”: A Humorous Thesis on Costume Design and Character Embodiment in Hamlet
Johnson begins by discussing the connection between early modern humourism and modern psychology and “how the physical manifestation of bodily humours in costume pieces” interacts with character choices and performance. The presentation will focus on Claudius, played by Patrick Harris, and Hamlet, played by Ian Charles.

(This live-blogger notes that there are a number of delightful sewing-related puns that she is not typing quite fast enough to catch)

Johnson provided the cast with single-page humour-based character profiles during their first read-through, meant to be examined alongside the script, in the hope that references and connections might be easily visible. She translated the concepts into costume pieces, relying largely on humoural colors and fabric weights.

During the costume parade, she discovered that “my humoural concept should not visually compete” with the show’s overall minimialistic, high-tech concept. So, she revisited her designs, re-imagining in how the humours might manifest in the costumes. “There is a fine line between serving the process and serving the product, and in that liminal space, I found a fine lining.” Literally — in the lining of the garments.

Johnson, with the aid of Charles and Harris, shows these to the audience, noting how the colors both tie the characters to each other and reflect their humoural balances — or imbalances. The actors then had the choice to find out where they could reveal those inner linings during the natural course of the show.

Harris speaks about how this helped him to think about Claudius’s tension and stress, particularly because: “my choler was located in my collar.” During the play, he first fidgets around his throat, then exposes the choler within the collar. Charles speaks to “playing with opening a button, but letting it be a subconscious thing” inspired by an emotion.

Johnson believes this gave the actors an intriguing new concept to work with, “without interfering with or muddying the aesthetic of the production.” Charles speaks to the consideration that actors then can carry over to other performances: what is the character hiding?

(Ralph: So are there any questions you’d like to be unraveled, any points to tie up?)
Q: How did you avoid stereotyping?
A: It was more about the fluctuation of the humours — which came from working with the actors, to see where they felt the most choleric. Johnson speaks to it being a state of flux, something to activate or de-activate.

Q: You talked about how this created better communication with the audience. Any insight on how that was still readable to the high school audiences?
A: “I actually intended to do the opposite — I think it enriched the performances and made the storytelling more clear.” Johnson notes that that terminology was never introduced to the audience; it was all visual.

Q: In a play where Hamlet literally wears the color of his humour on his sleeve, did you ever think about the fact that the other characters have a surface humour and then the inner humour?
A: Oh, absolutely.

Q: So how would you dress Claudius externally?
A: Phlegmatic, which it is — calmer, more pulled together.

Q: Did you choose colors linked to the humour historically or that would evoke that humour emotionally in the audience?
A: Historically.

Merlyn Q. Sell, Suit the Word to the Actor
Sell begins by stating that for adaptation to function as adaptation, it requires some participation from the audience, that they be able to conceive the similarities and differences from the original text. Actors will shape how the audience experiences those text. For this presentation, she will focus on the function of direct Shakespeare quotations in the staged reading of her One Woman Town.

Quotations can work in two ways: the first is simplest, where characters are performing Shakespeare. The second function, in Shakespeare as well as in One Woman Town, indicates madness. “The disjointed functions of a troubled mind” manifest as quotations, disjointed from their surroundings. The Old Man in One Woman Town utters quotations that are only tangentially related to the conversation he’s taking part in. “The response is not easily interpreted.” Sell is unsure whether or not it is important for the characters or audience to recognize the quotations; they add something of an “easter egg”, but without that awareness, the disjointed nature of his speech is still apparent.

The playwright can define meaning of the quotations via the surrounding context, but the actors also help to shape an audience’s understanding. Shakespeare as a form of ethos, a figure of memory — a character knowingly quoting Shakespeare, even if they don’t specifically reference him. This can function to align the character with Shakespeare’s authority. As example: the “wonder-tonic” salesman in One Woman Town, where Shakespeare seems to give “a celebrity endorsement”. In subtler context, it can draw a connection for the audience, who may associate the quote with a particular emotion or memory. A figure of distance — “a character may find themselves free to say what they really mean only when clothing themselves in Shakespeare’s words.” A character can speak words, as when Jane quotes Goneril, with a different intention than the Shakespeare character’s. This depends on the characters understanding that those words are a quotation. In instances where that is ambiguous, it muddies the understanding; Sell offers potential examples from One Woman Town. Sell also includes moments where the characters are unknowingly quoting, where a script quotes “to ingratiate itself” with an appreciative audience.

Sell discusses how she will revisit these quotations for the re-mounting of the staged reading in the upcoming festival, as well as for future production. For the play to survive outside the audience that will appreciate the inside jokes, “Every line must serve the story.”

Q: What constitutes “failure”, what’s the metric by which a quotation might be found wanting in the script?
A: If the only purpose it serves is to highlight the playwright and not the play itself.
Q: Which playwright?
A: “Me.”
Q: How do you judge that?
A: Sometimes it’s a grey area, and those can be left to the actors to interpret. Sometimes “I know very clearly, I’m just doing nudge-nudge, wink-wink, aren’t I clever, and those can clearly go”.

Q: Do you think in your paring down, you’ll reserve the quotations for certain characters?
A: The Old Man will keep all of his. Some characters would know Shakespeare, so it’s logical for them. Others have mangled Shakespeare, which may still have a function.

Q: You mentioned the role of the audience in adaptation. Would you perform that show for a more general audience?
A: “I would like to perform it for other audiences. As it currently stands, it requires revision to be performed that way.” Sell notes there are currently references that don’t serve the play’s actual story.

Q: Was part of the project related to your MLitt thesis about the prevalence of Shakespeare in the Wild West?
A: It’s definitely where it generated from.

Q: Where the character has mangled the Shakespeare, do you think that’s the character hiding behind it, or discovering it, or remembering it from seeing a Shakespeare show go through town? What did you mean by that?
A: Sell thinks the specifics of some of that could be left to the actor.

Aubrey Whitlock, Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Butts: Puppeting As You Like It
Whitlock begins by discussing the nature of a small-scale production, which may require one actor to play multiple characters on stage at the same time. Some previous companies have used either costumes or audible signifiers to indicate the change between characters. Whitlock references Jeffrey Chips’s thesis, which discussed change of costumes as a kind of puppetry; Sweet Wags took this a step farther, casting only three actors to play all the parts in As You Like It and using literal puppetry in the show.

Whitlock identifies three phases of working with the puppetry: Phase One: Delineating the puppet hierarchy; Phase Two: Working w/ signifiers and body parts; Phase Three: Rehearsal, mishaps, and re-evaluation. Choosing body part puppets was not only practical, but tied to the “hipster aesthetic” embraced by the production.

The hierarchy allowed the cast to answer two questions: who claims the actor’s body, and who gets the pieces? (“That’s really gross”). Sell, from the sidelines, shares her instructions to her actors. Whitlock notes that dominance was generally determined by the size of the role and importance in storytelling. Some characters would always need to inhabit the actor’s body (Orlando, Rosalind, Celia); others would only ever be a part. Based on that, they workshopped where, how, and when the other characters could appear. They had to explore how much expression they could . Angular parts of the body provided natural ridges that could approximate nose-like structures; softer parts were more difficult to anthropomorphize “but also far more hilarious”.

Her own hierarchy broke down thusly: Orlando and Dennis, full body; Duke Senior, half of the body; Touchstone, a clown’s nose and mustache Phoebe, on the thigh; Audrey, the bum; the Forest Lord: on one hand. Whitlock proceeds to done all of these costumes before resuming her thesis.

Through rehearsal, they found it impossible to embody more than two characters simultaneously, as they lost mobility. Eventually, the cast realized that the technical skill necessary was “far beyond what we could master in six weeks”. In re-evaluation, they dropped the concept of puppetting secondary characters and returned to other methods, such as stepping between characters. Only one did survive: Adam, which Adrienne Johnson demonstrates. He was always a fully-puppetted character, never one that she had to switch between fully embodying and puppetting.

The exploration of puppetting, however, still helped the actors to inform their physical choices when they moved to fully embodying those characters. Whitlock discusses examples from her own performance: such as Audrey, previously the butt, who turned into someone whose butt was always the first part of her to enter the scene.

She ends with this advice: “Don’t try to totally re-invent the wheel. BUT – do seek for new and interesting ways to approach the small-scale challenge.”

Q: Discuss more of the process of how the puppets continued to haunt your physical process.
A: Uniformity of posture became particularly important. Silvius, who had been a thigh-and-knee puppet, became a knock-kneed character. Charles the wrestler went from just being a bicep to having a bicep-centric signature gesture.

Q: If you had enough puppetry experience, would that be a lucrative experience?
A: “It would certainly be fun trying.” Whitlock notes that more time and specific training would have made that easier. “I don’t know how to make my butt expressive and articulated from the upper half of my body.”

Q: How much merit in the idea of puppetting empty spaces?
A: When it’s clear, it’s effective, but not what we chose to do.

Patrick Aaron Harris, Look at This F*cking Thesis: Modern Counterculture in Sweet Wag Shakespeare’s As You Like It
Harris begins with a disclaimer that this thesis includes strong language and internet memes; viewer discretion is advised.

His thesis examines how early modern “deviant counterculture” might manifest in Shakespeare’s plays and how to engage modern audiences with historically deviant social identities — specifically here, the hipster counterculture. So why is it called “Look at This F*cking Thesis”? Harris invites us to travel back to 2003, when counterculture was presumed dead — and then the hipster revival came, leading eventually to the 2010 creation of the website “Look at this f*cking hipster”, a visual critique designed to mock and expose hipsters. This, Harris believes, demonstrates that “hipsters, to this day, occupy a very precarious cultural position in our society.” On the one hand, they tend to be forward-thinking trend-setters, particularly in economic and environmental concerns. On the other hand, they are often accused of misappropriating cultural identities and of turning important movements into fads, placing the need to be cool above everything else. Harris quotes his mother when she was admonished for not shopping at Whole Foods: “Get off your locally-sourced, recycled-from-the-old-world-forest soapbox.” They are also accused of contributing to gentrification.

“But Patrick, what do hipsters have to do with Shakespeare?” Theatre, Harris states, of any time period, is a vehicle for culture and counterculture. During the early modern period, “many regarded public theatres with suspicion and abject hatred”. He speaks specifically of the performance of Richard II that became involved with the Essex Rebellion. Harris then turns to consideration of As You Like It, quoting director Merlyn Sell’s supposition that as the actors inhabited both male and female parts, the audience would have to question and interpret issues of gender, and that this also fit with the often gender-fluid hipster aesthetic. Harris then shares pictures of the characters in their performance of As You Like It, specifically focusing on Rosalind and Celia’s transition from the court to the forest: “Their choice to dress below their socio-economic status, despite escaping to the forest with a bounty of gold and jewels,” is emblematic of the hipster aesthetic.

Harris closes by stating that he hopes this peek into their concept will encourage us all to think about the relationship between theatre, culture, counterculture, and how we embody those things.

(Matt Davies: I feel so uncool up here)
Q: What is the official culture that hipsters are being counter-culture to if hipsterism is on the rise in culture?
A: “I devoted about 60% of my thesis to explaining that.” Harris draws the line at what is supported by social and government institutions and what contraverts that. There is a grey area. “Hipsterism seems to only be preoccupied with not being mainstream.”

Q: When Rosalind and Celia buy the farm in Arden, that is literal gentrification. Can you talk about that?
A: “For hours.” Harris notes that this changes the economy of the forest, as they pay for land that they’re not going to work, creating a complicated socio-economic relationship.

Maria Hart, Character Gesture in War of the Roses: Using Movement in the Small Scale Touring Model
Hart begins with a disclaimer regarding the title: the lecture is more about the framework for her work than specifically on War of the Roses. She then confesses to a pedagogical pitfall: that she tends to default to teaching the way she was taught; instead, reflective thinking regarding the development of a skill set is more productive, and she wants to apply that to the development of the small scale touring model. She notes that institutional memory allows her to ask three questions: Where did we come from, where have we been, and where are we going?

Since 2010, the program has been involved in an ongoing discussion about “extreme casting”, stemming from Jeffrey Chips’s thesis and the arrival of Matt Davies to the faculty, coming from an extreme doubling company. Though not a new technique nor new to the program, 2010 was pivotal to the role of extreme casting within the program, as it then became a staple of the MFA model. The change in terminology to “small scale” allows for more flexibility in interpretation.

Hart worked with Chips during her first semester at Mary Baldwin and connected it to other productions she had experienced at El Paso Kids and Company. Her awareness better prepared her to take on 10 roles in Katy Mulvaney’s Henry IV x 4. Hart notes that the program’s continued work on these shows is creating a set of alternate rules and methods. Nothing in the scaffolding of program skills directly prepares the MFA company for putting together the small scale performance; rather, they learn both by observation of previous years’ shows and through the trial and error of their own in rehearsal.

The actors must operate within a distinct set of rules in order for the storytelling to remain clear to the audience. Hart then delineates the variant rule sets used by the Sweet Wags’s As You Like It and War of the Roses. While the methods were different, both involved intense physicality. Hart describes the process as one of developing a “physical score” that went along with the verbal script. “The genre also requires an intense sense of ensemble” because the actors are so reliant upon each other for the various components of that physical score. Hart also describes the importance of precise motion, physical virtuosity, and mitigated ego.

Her future work will focus on the transitions, physical tension, stage business, character gesture, and vocal points in War of the Roses. She hopes to then describe a set of solutions for shifting from character to character.

Q: The small scale touring show has generated the most institutional memory; why do you think it might be that this show has generated that body?
A: Hart believes that relates to the ability to define it. Other shows are based more upon a traditional model given to them — the Ren style show derives from the OCS’s Renaissance season, the educational show derives from the OCSTC shows, but the small scale is out of those pre-defined molds.

Q: Interested in the idea that each actor is a storyteller, expand further?
A: Hart views this as a sort of reincarnation of the idea of the Greek chorus.

Q: How small can small go whilst retaining the ensemble?
A: That’s a hard definition. “We know that Kate Norris can do a one-woman show, so is she an ensemble within herself?” Hart discusses the importance of having an outside eye as director even in a one-person show.

(And now, a ten-minute interval)

As we resume, Garrett opens by getting everyone to sing “Happy birthday” to Matt Davies.

Marshall B Garrett, Revisionist History (Plays)
Garrett begins by referencing Hall’s condensation of the 3 Henry VIes and Richard III into one show, wherein Hall begs forgiveness for the heresy of cutting and changing Shakespeare’s words. “We can perhaps forgive the founder of the RSC for having a flair for the dramatic… and the passive voice.” Garrett notes that companies have been adapting Henry VI for centuries, though everyone seems mortified by their own temerity in doing so. Garrett and Harris created their own adaptation, and Garrett argues that this is the same sort of re-imagining that Shakespeare himself did, as evidenced by the variant quarto and Folio texts of these plays.

To convince us of the merit of the quarto texts, Garrett draws our attention to a handout provided to attendees (and which he will perhaps be good enough to provide a digital copy of to this live-blogger for inclusion here). The two versions prepare the audience for the next play in different ways: either preparing for the death of Rutland or for the mirroring of fathers and sons.
(ETA: Garrett.ThesisFestHandout1; Garrett.ThesisFestivalHandout2)

Garrett then turns to considering the quarto’s use of “pull” versus the Folio’s “pluck”. Though using the quarto as a base text, they determined to transpose in the Folio’s “pluck”, as it seemed a distinct revision. “Pull” is a less distinct word, and interesting for examination largely in those places where it changes to “pluck” in the Folio. Their choices “highlighted action over lament”, and, for an audience that has seen the Temple Garden scene, “pluck” has a stronger connotation later on than “pull” does.

Q: Difference between “deliberately unstable” and “deliberately revised”?
A: “I’m not really using them distinctly; that was sloppiness on my part”. He does note that there may be something to examine in the actors available in the different companies that Shakespeare was working with at various points in his career.

Q: Did you find that having worked on the cutting, things that happened in the show that would have changed your cutting?
A: They did make a couple of cuts pretty late in the process. “One thing I would have done” related to the choice to highlight the feuding rather than the familial, where he would have made the pluck/pull substitution throughout.

Jess Hamlet, “Kicks Her and Exit”: Staging Violence in The City Nightcap
Hamlet begins by describing the high volume of “kicks” in The City Nightcap, noting that this presentation will focus on the first two kicks in the play and their relation to early modern ideas of gender roles. The first, “Kicks her and exit, she weeps” may at first seem quite specific, but leaves a lot of room for interpretation. The kicked character, Abstemia, also receives a second kick from Lorenzo at the end of Act One (“kicks her, she swoons”). Hamlet argues that, in a tragicomedy, these kicks contribute to the tragic nature of the play and should be interpreted as such by performers and audience.

She also notes the importance of distinguishing whether these kicks are the same or different. She finds opportunity in the kick being the same, despite Abstemia’s escalated reaction to the second: “he considers her to be a possession, a piece of chattel.” Abstemia’s variant reaction may come from heightened emotional pain in the second instance. Hamlet notes that if her reaction comes from physical pain rather than emotional pain, a production may choose to make the second kick more violent. Patrick Harris and Maria Hart then demonstrate the Wags’s staging of the stage direction. This could be textually supported, as a character then accuses Lorenzo of being “too violent”.

Hamlet then discusses Jacobean notions of appropriate conduct in marriage. Violence against husbands was treason, but wives were subject to “appropriate correction” and were thought to be improved by suffering, encouraged to suffer in silence in the promise of spiritual reward. Though Abstemia does not verbally object, Hamlet argues that Davenport makes her passively eloquent.

Hamlet also points out that the people in this play “kick downward”, sending a message of inferiority and disgust to those being kicked. “In choosing to kick rather than slap or hit, the men are telegraphing” that their victims deserve nothing better than that part of the body most in contact with dirt, mud, and shit. Hamlet suggests that stage directions could be better examined for character clues, and those who do so “may be surprised to find new avenues into the play’s meat.”

Q: How often is the kick that of a higher person to a lower person?
A: Hamlet looked only at the kicks in this play, not at the 40ish in the rest of the canon of early modern drama.

Q: Follow-up: How many of those kicks are against women?
A: “That’s the next step.”

Q: Does the theatrical space (such as lights-on in the Playhouse) affect the audience’s experience of these kicks?
A: Hamlet is interested in how spectator relationships affect the experience; ie, if one audience member sees another being uncomfortable, does that change how the first audience member feels? She thinks this may be different in a larger space such as the Globe, as opposed to the intimacy in the Blackfriars Playhouse.

Q: How do you think the location of where the kick is received on the body may change the perception?
A: Abstemia is already down, both physically and in the marriage, “so that… sends a message. And not one I agree with!”

Q: So how does that relate to other kicks, where they are standing?
A: “Well, in the Turk kick, because he’s a man, he automatically gets more equality even though he is socially inferior. The gender gives him agency.”

Q: Relating to the idea that, when you take a dead body off-stage, if it’s the hand last, it’s tragic, if it’s the feet last, it’s comedic, that the foot is a comedic body part. Is there a connection there?
A: “I would point you to YouTube and groin kicks.” Hamlet thinks less so in The City Nightcap, that only one kick might border on comedy and it comes so quickly on a non-comic kick that it’s hard to separate the two.

Ian A. Charles, The Ur-Melody: Awakening Character and Place in Sweet Wag Shakespeare’s Cymbeline
Charles discusses his role in creating music for Cymbeline: sound designer, music director, and composer. Drawing from his background in musical theatre, he looks at the idea of melody-as-theme, but notes that he must consider what music in theatre is meant to accomplish: to cue transitions, establish patterns, underscore particular moments. Music can thus shape character and place in performance. He then discusses the leit motif, a repeating pattern that gains meaning through association with characters and moments. He uses West Side Story as an example. “I’m drawn to the idea that a central theme” can illuminate something “genetic to the play”.

His argument for this thesis is that they can accomplish something similar in Cymbeline, giving the music “an almost rhetorical power”, using leit motifs as signifiers. How, then, does a composer begin? The temptation is to go to the romantic themes of Cymbeline and Postumus, but Charles suggests that there is more of a heartbeat in redemption and reconciliation. He also notes that many characters could only get away with the things that they do in a romance. Charles then ties this concept to ideas of music itself having the power to be redemptive and soul-lifting.

Charles then shares some of his compositions thus far: the initial music “must be unresolved, maybe even discordant” thanks to the unsettled state of things at the start of the play. He demonstrates a few variants that different characters might have to illustrate how they subvert, twist, or change the main theme. Charles discusses how these might relate to the textual instances of music in Cymbeline as opportunities to inject the redemptive leit motif in different ways, possibly with “something as simple as tempo”.

Music can also usher in a new location. Charles gives examples for royal Britain, rural Wales, and Rome. Jupiter’s intervention might also provide changes and even resolution to the theme. Charles notes that what we’ve heard today is still a work-in-progress and liable to change as they continue through rehearsals. He hopes that this redemptive “ur-melody” will help them find other motifs to illuminate the characters and story.

Q: Is there a period aesthetic that’s pairing with the redemptive theme that’s in line with the concept of the play?
A: Charles shares what he’s considered, though he hasn’t landed on anything. He’s explored Celtic music, much of which he found very upbeat and flexible, but he realized that he has to be able to “let go of Celtic persay, if I want it to be able to be something otherworldly”.

Q: Have you explored the ways in which the story can be told differently by playing the same leit motif on different instruments?
A: Charles notes that they are playing with the instruments and vocals in rehearsals. He wants to capitalize on the vocal strengths of the company.

Q: A question about the specific moment where the brothers question whether they should sing because their voices are breaking.
A: “I’m really excited to get to that scene” particularly since both actors “are stellar singers”.

Adrienne Johnson, Imogen as Britain: Foreign Threat in Cymbeline
Johnson opens by stating that the princess Imogen is a vehicle for the themes of sexual conquest, love, and family bonds, moving through the plot in different roles. Her identity is defined by the men who desire and seek to control her. “All of these men, whether violently or tenderly, seek to desire Imogen at some point in the play.” Johnson notes that the possessive language seeks to objectify Imogen, but suggests that Imogen also illustrates the threats to Britain’s court. Her identity and the various claims on it are then a metaphor for the vulnerability of the British crown. Johnson positions this in relation to the mOCSuline narration of the British myth.

Johnson gives examples of Shakespeare’s use of feminized language in reference to the British body politic, where England is often described as a bloody, bruised, broken woman, ravaged by various wars and strife. In Cymbeline, the men involved consistently fail at protecting and defending the female body they seek to control and which they descriptively place value upon. Johnson notes the vocabulary used to refer to Imogen of “that of exchange”, where the audience is continually reminded that she is property. Imogen later relates her own worth to that of the land she will someday own.

Johnson further suggests that both Imogen and the Queen provide foils to the idea of mOCSuline nationality, at opposite ends of the moral spectrum. Imogen reinforces the patriarchy through her consent to the domestic role. Johnson states that her full thesis looks at the parallel stories of Imogen’s changing roles through the play and the views of Cymbeline’s court and, thus, British power. Without Imogen’s feminine participation, the mOCSuline influences cannot establish themselves as dominant in the narrative of Britain. Her example of forgiveness motivates others, and her acceptance of her deposition allows the mOCSuline nationality, in the person of her brother, to take over.

Q: Curious how this might impact her work on playing Imogen?
A: Since the play is still in production, she has been observing other actors’ work more than directly discussing it with her fellow actors. She’s interested in finding the moments of “value” and making sure they stand out.

Q: Any thoughts about other plays that relate to the Matter of Britain, such as King Lear?
A: Not yet!

Q: How did you arrive at this metaphor of Imogen as Britain?
A: Johnson had been reading an article about the origins of feminine power and when and how it shifted, then defined it further in discussion with Doreen Bechtol.

–This session live-blogged by Cass Morris, Academic Resources Manager

MLitt Thesis Festival 2015: Session 3

Good evening, Sarah Enloe here, taking over for Cass for the final session of the 2015 Thesis Festival. So far, the scholarship and presentations have been excellent. Looking forward to the final five. A little description of the room for those who have not attended a festival before: Down stage right, the MBC seal graces a podium made of stained oak, an extension cord runs from the discovery space to the “media cart upstage left–indicating readiness for tech support for any upcoming presentation. The house features the student body of the three class years of the MBC program, their faculty, and loved ones (as well as OCS education staff). Paul Menzer walks to the front to introduce the session: “Like an episode of COPS: Starts with nudity, ends with cursing,”

Adrienne Johnson “Leave Them ‘Naked as the Vulgar Air’: A Study of the Effects of Nudity in Performance.”

Actor: Josh Williams

In a break from the previous presentations, students occupy the gallant stools stage right and left. The full paper covers the history of censorship in early modern England and concludes with the ending of the position of the Master of Revels in the 1960s, which saw the advent of nudity onstage. The nudity was not limited to London, but expanded to NYC, as well. Appreciation of the human form its most vulnerable state. Nudity can connect the actor and character. When Ms Johnson started to study this, she encountered many who wanted to share their personal experience of seeing nudity onstage, professors, actors, and audiences. The list of actors and theatres who employ the practice is long. But why bother? Why has the London stage become a “wang-addicted world”? The presentation of the actor body as a focal point directly effect the audience experience. The tradition of pageantry By showing the naked body, the production can show that the actors are more than just icons: they are human.

There is no evidence of nudity on the early modern stage. The early modern theatre practitioners were concerned with nudity, though they did not show it. The censors never legally prohibited nudity, but it was not accepted. Could Shakespeare have had nude actors on stage? “I like to think so.” In the early modern period, the Privy Council was continually called on to censor action on the stage, while the Master of Revels was in charge of censoring the text. THe establishment’s need to control content created the Patronage system, in 1572, the Privy Councils’ vagabond act created the profession of actor. The privy council’s rulings in the restoration (after 1672 Drury Lane patent) focussed less on offensive language (even considering witty language necessary). In this period,the appearance of women on stage led some to comment on the states of undress among one particular actor–Nell Gwyn–which could have been merely a pants role or could have been light, revealing clothing. The examples of ROMEO AND JULIET and ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA provide scenes that were ripe for thoughts about nakedness. Iago in OTHELLO, tempts his superior to think about the lewdness of nakedness, while in KING LEAR nudity plays a role for Poor Tom. Similarly, in TIMON OF ATHENS, nudity is a driving force in Timon’s exit from Athens.

In the scene presentation, Josh WIlliams plays a scene that suggests a choice for a production, the first time through, Josh removes his suit jacket and throws it against the wall. Ms. Johnson points out that the lines indicate that. the character wants to leave Athens his clothes, this time Josh removed his clothes gradually throughout until he is left nude at the end of the speech. Ms Johnson calls the actor back to stage so that he can participate in a discussion with the audience. After asking the audience to express their feelings, Ms Johnson is, at first, met with silence, then:

–I expected to giggle but became engrossed

–I was waiting for him to get naked

–Where in the text did you find to justify each removal? (Josh explicates that he chose shoe removal on the word cripple because he saw it as related to walking)
Q: Women’s nudity?
–More prominent
Q: Differences between stripping between and immediate clothing
–Ms Johnson wanted the suit
Q: Does pre-warning in marketing have an effect
–only one that she has looked at gives pre-warning. (One did warn about poop.) The Vollage in the 60s ran kind of nudity and theatre
Q: In the last 10 years there has been more male nudity than female, have you noticed a trend?
–not specifically

Jordan Zwick “Cardenio: A Case Study in Textual Reconstruction.”
Actors: Josh Williams, Zac Harned, Mark Pajor
This presentation will not be nearly as naked. Who here has read or seen Double Falsehood? Who here thinks it could use a little work. Greg Doran started a 12 year journey that culminated in a 2011 production. This production will use the Cardenio names, and will focus on one relationship and the actors learnings from them. The play exceeded expectations for a reconstructed text. Through interviews with cast members and the record in Doran’s book, Ms. Zwick pieced together a picture of the rehearsal room. When rehearsals began it was “complete” but Doran had a hard time seeing Stanley Well’s claim that Shakespeare’s hand was in it. Nevertheless, the room was one that welcomed editing and addition. As actors dug in, they found holes in the script, particularly in the Cardenio/Fernando relationship. In DOUBLE FALSEHOOD, the two characters do not meet until late in the text, despite textual evidence of a deep friendship before Fernando dishonors Cardenio by usurping his love, Lucinda. (actors illuminate the relationship with readings from the text). During rehearsals for the early scene in which Fernando and Cardenio discuss the loss of Lucinda, the actors decided it was falling flat and they concluded the need for a scene (one absent from both Theobald and Cervantes), Doran created one in which he tried not to sound like “early modern pastiche.” The framework he created by consulting other early modern plays was fleshed out during rehearsals. With the actors’ help, Doran was able to create a dynamic piece of theatre and gave the process and the actors credit on his title page.

Q&A
Q: In some ways a much darker TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA?
A: Closer to TWO NOBLE KINSMEN, but Doran poached from everywhere
Q: What Genre? and How much blood?
A: Romance, keeping honor in the production was important to the Spanish dramaturg kept the aim on that.
Q: Familiar with Chuck Mee/Greenblatt? Know of any process overlap?
A: Biggest difference would be the length of time, some cast members from 2003 staged reading were with it til 2011.
Q: Gary Taylor’s CARDENIO?
A: Biggest difference (wasn’t able to consult with all of the versions) is that Gary Taylor stuck with the text
Q: Spectrum between careful reconstruction to adaptations:
A: Gary Taylor, Doran, Mee
Q: Why?
A: Appeals to me as a scholar and an artist, because I appreciate the idea of the actor being a text consultant. Across the board the actors said it was most gratifying and they were proud of the production.

Aubrey Whitlock “Shakespeare of the Oppressed”

Actors: Merlyn Q. Sell, Molly Seremet
Begins with a parody of “This too too solid flesh…” You are about to witness a a transculturation (transcend a foreign tradition and create something new from a indigenous tradition). Today the presentation will be playing with Boal’s methods to question thesis presentations. Next vignette: “Speak not the speech”, an oath to trust the text. A scene by the actors debating text and playing it. One folio nut chases the other less adherent off.  Next scene: Political theatre in the form of an infomercial.  “The joker system” will allow you to take your political theatre explorations to the next level, Aubrey explains the joker is a wild card who can interact with the audience or play any character in the play. Boal argued that it could be used in any play. What do you get when you order” this system? All actors can play all characters and comes with a set of instructions:

–The protagonist can only be played by one actor and must be naturalistic and maintains the reality. The character for whom the audience feels the most empathy

–The Joker is the opposite of the protagonist, he can explain anything, speak for the playwright, and company

— chorus, and music.

Actors ask: What if the theatre company is small?

–Can still work

–Each scene can have its own style, linked by commentaries by the joker, episodes end with an exclamation, also can feature the inside story of a character and an exaltation, Boal says it can be adjusted for any need.

Next scene introduced by a poem delivered by Ms. Whitlock.

–narration summarizing Hamlet (DANES OF OUR LIVES)

–Gravedigger scene, Hamlet is accused of breaking the fourth wall, and asked what he knows about Shakespeare of the Oppressed in a good cop/bad cop routine. When asked she says she’d like to apply the Theatre of the Oppressed to Shakespeare and argues for the play to be HAMLET because Boal was “obsessed” with it. It is riddled with the meta awareness in the joker system. THe actor playing the inspector asks: Who is the presenter right now? Hamlet, the joker, Aubrey? All three.

This is an example of the melding of the indigenous to transculturation and surpassed all three forms–Boal, HAMLET, and thesis presentation. This is not acculturation, every transculturation adjusts to the needs of its audience. It belongs among the theatre world and education.

Go, make you ready.

Q&A:

Q: In applying Boal to HAMLET, you are designating roles to different characters.

A: Primary question that drove presenter to HAMLET, see it in performance would answer could involve altering text, costume designation, Hamlet seems most joker like when he speaks prose.

Q: How much can be applied to devised theatre more generally, in terms of the MFA year, will it reach beyond?

A: I do, Boal says it can be applied to any play, and you don’t have to follow all of it and his system (games, etc) can be applied broadly.

Q: Besides protagonist and joker, how are other characters designated–one protagonist? one joker? more of both?

A: Yes, any of that is possible. In the strictest, one actor playing protagonist and any actor can play any other character with the assistance of a physical mask. It is malleable, and I continue to look at it.

Q: Hoping to create a new genre of Shakespeare and the Oppressed, what is the difference between the Theatre of the Oppressed doing HAMLET and Shakespeare of the Oppressed?

A: not a new genre, but more about the transculturation (the indigenous and transculturation)

Q: Would the play follow the same text each night?

A: Up to the audience. Part of what the joker does is bringing in both questions and guidance from the audience.


Danielle Guy “Performing Bedlam: The Performance of Madness in Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi

Actors: Megan Clauhs and Ian Charles

Actors perform a scene from Slings and Arrows re: playing madness. Guidance from Stanislavsky, Mizener, Adler indicate that the Method may not have much to offer the person who needs to play insanity. And particularly not early modern insanity. In the 16th and 17th c, a doctor Napier made case studies of madness and even explained how one might play madness. He separated into temporary and long term disjointed mental states. Giving an actor Napier’s records may assist them in the presentation of madness. With readings from the Napier studies, the actor plays a scene two times, showing the difference the information can make. The steps are: character profiling, diagnosing, actor application.

The malady noted in The Duchess of Malfi, that of werewolfism, is not described in Napier’s notes. But, as it is a madness of physical change and predatory state, revealed by the transformation into his beastly state throughout the play. Presenter suggests that the actor consider the malady described as melancholy because its description well fits the character descriptions in the text, and that they play it throughout the play. Because the descriptions are helpful. Using this method helps tear down the bars of bedlam and gives access to sound comprehension and solidarity.

Q: Were the milch bats part of the raving, or were they milking bats?

A: Yep, it happened.

Q: In depth diagnosis, is there a theatre that could have done this? Contacted Farah Karim-Cooper? Interesting to find out, use that connection.

A: Yes, that would be awesome.

Q: Ethics of playing madness?

A: Need to know the rules before you break them. Maybe in tablework.

Q: Since any play performed today by actors will be for an audience with modern understandings, recommend modern techniques as well?

A: I believe that the audience will go along, this is more for the actor.

Q: Richard Napier is wrong about everything, using his diagnosis might be insensitive?

A: In the world of the play, it should be a consideration for understanding the social roles?

Q: What is the external expression of this?

A: The chart features some physical descriptions and are linked in my thesis, connections to the humors but didn’t have time.

Q: You referenced some characters that are not mad but performing mad, wonder if there is a different methodology or symptomatology. It sounds like your concern is that playing mad will make the actor mad, and that sounds like antitheatricalism discourse. Might want to think about the conversation to be had between those two.

Molly Harper “Stick it in your Et Cetera

Actors: Zac Harned, Ryan Odenbrett

Thanks everyone for staying through to the last one. If you are offended by dirty words, you may want to leave. Flashes O’Keefe images on screen, to begin discussion of euphemisms for “vagina” and lists some including “et cetera”, Scenes from Henry V, 12th Night, Hamlet.

Laurie Maguire’s work on the term “et cetera” discusses its substituting for a woman’s vagina.  A completely spelled out word, in the noun position. In the verb position it refers to defecating. This research agrees with Maguire and asked: What could have happened between the early modern page and stage. Shakespeare uses it two times, in Mercutio’s and Pistol’s lines. Editors believe that et cetera was a censoring mark, but Ms Harper’s research indicates no such thing. When talking about controlling obscenity, a pamphlet from 1579, inspired the reaction against theatrical obscenity.  Actors demonstrate differences between Q and F editions of two Falstaff’s lines indicating this change. Modern editors have been replacing Mercutio’s et cetera with arse to remove their view of “censorship” though the use of et cetera would be more in line if they understood it.

Performance choices (tried with Romeo and Mercutio scene)

Leave it in–say it

self-censoring-skip over it

Embedded stage directions-hand over mouth

Main concern of this presentation is with what happens to the text (with Pistol scene):

This section is titled: Why does the prose character get to keep his et cetera when Mercutio doesn’t?

Pistol’s line is repetitive in its use of euphemisms for the vagina.

Amusingly, different editions footnote the Pistol et cetera with references to Mercutio’s.

Editors are perpetuating the effect that verse can not support the bawdy use of et cetera in prose.  Examples of 20th century bawdy use appear in Ogden Nash and Edward Albee, so why are editors removing the use from verse and not prose? Theatre practitioners make decisions about character portrayal from the text, by not editing the text to fit an iambic pentameter line the editor limits potential.

 

Q&A:

Q: When did it die out as a euphemism?

A: The OED lists it as the 5th definition, it hasn’t actually gone out. But popular language? No idea. Great if rappers started to pick it up.

Q: Euphemism vs Vulgarity?

A: It would have been socially acceptable, because of its latinate origin, but it doesn’t actually work for Pistol because it would have been so well alone. Pie corner/Saddle of Beef=Prostitute. But it would have well known.

Q: What do you make of the double euphemism of et cetera and nothings with Pistol?

A: Trying to find a clever way of insinuating Doll is nothing, not useful, practical, etc. Because it may be diseased.

Q: Nothing tells you that it tells you that it belongs to a woman with comparison to a man?

A: It can serve as a continuance, a shortening, or (as with Nothing) the absence of something.

Q: Why can’t it be an appositive for two words? could be a definition?

A: Used the 2012 2HIV in which the et cetera becomes the final straw before he is kicked out (thrust down)

Thanks to all for a stimulating day.

–This session live-blogged by Sarah Enloe, OCS Director of Education

MLitt Thesis Festival 2015: Session 2

Natalia Razak Wallace: “Prolonged Eye Contact”
Razak Wallace begins by alarmingly dimming the lights on the audience in the Playhouse. She then gives a brief overview of the unique qualities of the social brain in the human animal, positing it as crucial to interpreting behavior and making decisions based upon it. She presents an example of interpreting behavior and predicting movement based on Doreen Bechtol’s imagined curled lip, which may indicate that Razak Wallace is about to get slapped. “Doreen’s curled lip does not exist in a vacuum, because it is, presumably, attached to her face.” The extension of the example illustrates how a change in eye contact, whether deliberate or unintentional, can change the interaction, forcing the social brain to work harder to determine the complexity of the given circumstances. Eye gaze directs focus and attention more strongly than other physical indicators.

Razak Wallace notes that this plays into audience contact, making an audience member acutely aware of his or her body, imagining how it must look from the outside. She posits this as a challenge to the social brain, as the brain has become aware of the body in a way that it does not expect within the bounds of the theatre. For actors in traditional, lights-off theatre, the gaze is performative. Without audience contact, “the audience is not socially available to the audience.” Lighting thus changes the essential theatre experience on both ends. Razak Wallace prefaces a scene (acted by Shane Sczepankowski and Molly Seremet) by noting that, while we here may not find observations about audience contact and performance new, it’s because our social brains have become accustomed to that interaction at the Blackfriars Playhouse. On the first run-through, the actors perform in traditional proscenium style, ignoring the audience that they cannot see; on the second run-through, they pretend awareness of the audience that they still cannot see. Both of these call upon a performative gaze with no real connection made.

The third iteration is lights-on, with audience contact. The actors’ performances change based on the visible response of the audience. Razak Wallace details the cognitive processes that audience member Linnea was undergoing without even consciously being aware of it, culminating in “the astonishing realization: I exist” — a realization extended to the rest of the audience, who consequently become aware that they, too, exist. She notes that there are other physiological responses related to sensory input and response forming a part of this process as well. Razak Wallace also details that this interaction may either be pleasant or unpleasant, depending on how one’s social brain interprets the stimuli; if pleasant, it may help make the words spoken during the eye contact more memorable, but if unpleasant, it may make the words harder to hear and comprehend. Either way, the moment is likely to be memorable, but the latter situation may not be memorable in the ways either actor or audience would hope for.

Razak Wallace concludes by stating that not all theatre is or should be social, but that it can be powerful and positive in a number of ways. She connects this to an essential quality of empathy. She states her belief that Shakespeare’s plays call for audience contact, but in order to make the most of it, “the actor must stop performing and the audience must stop observing, just for a moment, just long enough to make eye contact.”

Q&A
Q – Is the difference between having a pleasant and unpleasant experience down to your personality?
A – Yes and no. Some of it is down to how your social brain operates, but the actors can also help mitigate those circumstances. “Make eye contact mindfully, in ways that are more likely. ” She also notes that duration of contact affects how positive or negative it is.
Q – So how do you mindfully make eye contact?
A – Fit the word to the action. People like it more in comedies than in tragedies, because we want to feel good, not crazy. Don’t prioritize over relationships on stage.

Dierdra M. Shupe: “Putting a Head on Headless Rome: Titus Andronicus, the Body, and the Body Politic in Shakespeare’s Roman Plays”
Shupe begins by defining what she means by the Roman plays, a modern sub-genre of Shakespeare’s plays, but notes that many modern scholars have left out Titus Andronicus when considering this subset, ostensibly because it’s locus so early in his career disqualifies it. Shupe suggests that certain allusions and thematic elements link Titus inextricably to the other Roman plays such as Julius Caesar. 

Shupe then addresses the question of chronology: taken in orderof historical events, Shakespeare’s plays go from Republic-set Coriolanus to the 1st-century Republic/Empire shift in Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra to the imperial Titus Andronicus — not,however, the order in which Shakespeare wrote them. Shupe argues that, in terms of the body politic, Shakespeare orients Coriolanus with the knee. In Julius Caesar, the titular character is  presented as synonymous with Rome, and most of the bodily references are to blood, usually Caesar’s blood. The play begins with mentions of Pompey’s blood and culminates with a civil war wherein Rome is essentially shedding its own blood. Shupe considers Antony and Cleopatra to hold the place of the heart, with numerous references to that part — the most in any Roman play and the second-most in the canon. She connects the heart with the idea of allegiance, particularly in regard to Antony’s divided loyalties between Rome and Egypt.

Returning to Titus Andronicus, Shupe identifies the most prominent body part as the hand, referred to 47 times — usually as part of a severance. Shupe connects the idea of dismemberment to the concept of a disordered and troubled Rome. Heads play a role in the play as well, particularly in 3.1, when both severed hands and severed heads appear on-stage together. Shupe suggests that these body parts relate to the service done for Rome, later used to mock the characters in question. Shupe concludes by reiterating her assertion that Titus ought to be studied along with the other Roman plays.

Q&A
Q – Considered Cymbeline as well, since partially Roman-set, has similar body-focused imagery and themes?
A – Thesis came out of desire to look at Roman plays as a subset of history plays.
Q – Talk more about the idea of transformation of the body, connecting to performance.
A – Would like to look more at the idea of whether or not assassins appear at Caesar’s funeral with blood still on their hands.
Q – Have you found Roman plays resistant to performance linkage?
A – Haven’t found that, but haven’t found it’s even been done that much.

Meredith A. Johnson: “Shakespeare’s Problematic Prophetic Character Dreams”
Johnson examines the prophetic dreams of Clarence and Calphurnia in relation to thoughts on dream theory in early modern England and aims to connect these concepts with modern performance and exploration in the rehearsal room. She posits Clarence’s introduction to his dream as “a theatrical tool to create anticipate on-stage and in the audience,” with Brackenbury’s reactions critical to raising the stakes for the audience (acted by Patrick Harris and Merlyn Sell). Johnson instructs Brackenbury to use Clarence’s religious language to inform her next line. Noting that the prophecy is buried in a lot of dream imagery, Johnson further instructs Brackenbury to help the audience out by reacting most strongly to the prophetic elements. Clarence’s further statements speak to the ambiguity of where the dream comes from — a dead relative, an angel, or a demon. In a third segment, Johnson notes the difficulty Clarence seems to experience upon waking, and instructs Brackenbury to take further cue from that. After the discussion of hell and demons, Brackenbury ends by calling upon God to give Clarence good rest.

Johnson then shifts to the “delightfully murky waters” of dream interpretation in Julius Caesar. Harris and Jess Hamlet enact Calphurnia’s concerns in 2.2, with Caesar’s fatalism standing in opposition to Calphurnia’s fears — which are not, in early modern thought, necessarily ill-founded. She considers them divine warning. Johnson redirects Hamlet to try the lines again as though she is stating the most simple and apparent fact. Shakespeare portrays the strength of Calphurnia’s interpretation by having Caesar, initially, cede to her wishes — though another interpretation, hinging on Caesar’s use of the word “humour”, might instead present Calphurnia as unbalanced.When Decius (Sell) enters, Caesar relates the whole of Calphurnia’s dream, which Decius then re-interprets, managing to convince Caesar to “see the image of the citizens of Rome bathing in his own blood as something positive”. Johnson points out that the dreamer herself takes no part in the interpretation, “silenced by her womanhood”. Decius then continues to wrest control of the interpretation away from Calphurnia and convinces Caesar to act against a clear prophecy.

Johnson concludes by calling for greater attention to the historical connotations of dreams and prophecies when acting plays that involve these moments, in order to make the stakes feel more engaging and immediate for the audience.

Q&A
Q – As a director, how much depends on actor’s idea of the reliability of the narrator?
A – For example, in Caesar, since the dreamer wasn’t actually reciting the dream, you can make decisions about that.
Q – So it lands on the on-stage audience’s reactions to help the not-on-stage audience to understand what’s going on?
A – Yes.
Q – Did your research indicate that the dream theory of the time and the science of the time is heavily inflected in these prophetic dreams when they show up?
A – Yes, it definitely does glimmer through in the plays. Moreso in the ways in which characters on-stage treated it. Actual content of a dream you can argue about “what water meant”, but the fear surrounding what it could mean, like, “Did a demon visit you last night?” More about the way community treated dreams as a thing.
Q – Seems like in Calphurnia exammple that you were mainly focused on fact that dream was coming from a woman and therefore insignificant. Major part of early modern thinking?
A – Yes, couldn’t avoid some gender discussion there.
Q – Any evidence of dream skepticism in research?
A – Definitely, definitely. A lot of scholarly argument over it, conditions to meet. Have to be a sinless person and not eat anything weird before you go to bed. The Church gets to decide whether you were visited by something or not. More to do with the dreamer than the dream.
Q – If you speak a dream, is it always because there’s a prophetic element to it?
A – I don’t think that’s necessarily so. I chose prophetic dreams because I thought it would be more obvious to show you how you can put a shoulder behind them and get audience to understand what’s important about them.

Patrick Aaron Harris: “From Philosopher to Quack”
The presentation opens with Josh Williams presenting the opening of Doctor Faustus, only to be interrupted in his conjuring by Harris and fellow actors Megan Clauhs, Zac Harned, Anna Lobo, and Sarah Wykowksi. Harned queries what the value in practicing is, which Harris tells us is precisely the point: practice can cue the difference between philosopher and quack. He states his intention to demonstrate that awareness of early modern magical practices can improve modern performances and audience understanding.

Harris moves to a brief history of wizardry in English literature, tracing the origins of Gandalf and Dumbledore in Merlin and other medieval romances, all as a part of tradition positioning magic in the self, channeled through artifacts, animals, or geographical locations. Harris suggests that magicians on the early modern stage might be seen as character-directors, creating imagined circumstances on stage for the delight or fear of on-stage audiences. Harris notes that good magicians rarely appear without a balancing evil force, often leading to trials of magical skill, such as those seen in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. Harris then discusses the dangers in portraying magic on-stage — popular with audiences, but under monarchs that outlawed and persecuted expressions of magic/witchcraft. As such, plays display both good and evil magicians as “outside of and disruptive to social order”. Harris offers both Doctor Faustus and The Tempest as examples of how the magicians must be eliminated or relinquish power in order to restore social norms.

Harned then introduces the concept of magicians on the early modern stage as neo-Platonism, which Harris explicates as a revived interest in the “world soul” and cosmic energy, linking the human to the divine. A scene from Doctor Faustus, where Faustus discusses his newfound devotion to “magic and concealed arts” with Valdes and Cornelius, illustrates this philosophical conversation. Harned raises the question of whether or not Faustus ought more rightly be considered a witch, given the shape his disavowal of Christianity and his enactment of rituals, which mirror descriptions of witchcraft in early modern texts. Harris argues that since Faustus is not a slave to Mephistopheles, he does not qualify as a witch. Harris also notes the neo-Platonism evident in the difference between educated and uneducated interactions with magic, with the misapprehension and lack of control of the clowns rendering them bestial.

Harned then challenges Harris to make the same case of neo-Platonism for Prospero, who in using a staff, cloak, and ethereal familiar more nearly resembles a medieval magician than an early modern one. Harris argues that Prospero’s magic derives from his books, the source of his power, even though we never see him with the books on-stage. Further, in conversation with Stephano and Trinculo, Caliban gives testimony as to Prospero’s power centering in his books. Harris further argues that magic is the most theatrical thing a playwright can put on stage, and one which allows them greater ability to discuss their own theatricality. Re-examining the early modern conceptualization of magic can help modern productions to recover this theatricality in performance.

Q&A
Q – Idea of performative language, what about performance of spells on the stage? Did companies attempt to inoculate themselves against calling a thing into being by acting it?
A – Accounts of an extra devil appearing on-stage during Faustus, audiences believed and feared.
Q – About technology, special effects?
A – Not avoided but evaded looking at that, because most of what he’s looking at is what’s embodied by the actor.
Q – What about unsuccessful conjurations (ex of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet)
A – Research has focused on lower-status clowns than Mercutio, without access to resources to learn magic. People who don’t study magic can’t do it, no matter how hard they try.
Q – Can doubling create implication that Faustus is engaged in sexual conduct with Mephistopheles, and thus involved in witchcraft?
A – Would never do that precisely to avoid drawing those connections.
Q – Connection to music?
A – That was actually initial topic. Transformed through ideas of language to the idea of book-based magic. Now focusing primarily on the kind of magic that requires extensive study as opposed to the kinds of magic that are done through occult ceremonies. Blurry lines.

Merlyn Q. Sell: “The Good, the Bard, and the Powerful Homely: Shakespeare’s Place in the Wild West Rediscovered”
The presentation opens with the impersonation of Sell by actor Megan Clauhs. The thesis discusses the role of Shakespeare in western American culture, with a particular focus on the transformation of Shakespeare in the community of Deadwood, South Dakota. In addition to saloons, gamblers, and prostitutes, Deadwood also had Shakespeare. Modern tourism in Deadwood capitalizes on it as “the wickedest town”, ignoring the significance of Shakespeare in its cultural development. The presentation then involves an “epic rap battle” between representatives of real history and the exaggerated legends, presented by Sell herself, Mark Pajor, Meredith Johnson, and Marshall Garrett.

Clauhs-Sell then moves to an examination of Deadwood legends Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, noting the difficulty in reconciling our modern views of miners and cowboys with Shakespeare-focused theatre-goers. But the historical reality was that Deadwood crowds “adored” performances of Hamlet, going on to put on their own amateur performance in 1878. Traveling performances of Othello and Richard III followed in the next few years. Amateur recitation both in private theatres, around campfires, and even in a shaving saloon was an honored cultural tradition. Newspapers also featured numerous quotations from Shakespeare as a common cultural touchstone. A Shakespeare reference also surfaced in a whiskey ad.

Clauhs-Sell points out the transition in the early 20th century towards a nostalgia for the Wild West as a lost era of adventure and exploration. Shakespeare then shared blame with women as a detrimentally civilizing influence on the Wild West — though both had worked towards the betterment the citizens of Deadwood. Clauhs-Sell gives the example of an 1880 Ladies of the Episcopal Church benefit performance of The Merchant of Venice and the creation of clubs promoting literacy. This contributed to a century-long tradition of civic service and political power by women in Deadwood, but their public events were attended by people from all segments of society. The desire to position the intellectual, cultured East against the mythologized rough and tumble West contributed to the erasure of Shakespeare as a part of Western tradition.

Q&A
Q – Way to synthesize this into modern Shakespeare education, with eye towards defeating ShakesFear?
A – In a lot of the country, people really identify with Wild West, if people thought that rough and tumble dudes with guns liked the show, they would give Shakespeare more of the benefit of the doubt. Can also help to stage and promote shows in a Wild West theme.
Q – Any references to the poetry of the cowboy?
A – Yes. Tradition to have Shakespeare in the wagon. Focused more on mining communities, because brought together almost everything we associate with Wild West except for cowboy.
Q – When did you decide to write the rap and how long did it take you?
A – It took a long time. Thanks Sir Mix-A-Lot.
Q – As Shakespeare transitioned to high culture, growing resentment toward it because it took away from image of what they wanted the West to be?
A – Yes, definitely. High culture doesn’t fit in with ideal of the mythologized West.
Q – Shakespeare mines?
A – New Mexico, there’s a town called Shakespeare, Stratford Hotel, all the mines had Shakespeare names. Though some of them also could have been names of prostitutes.

–This session live-blogged by Cass Morris, OCS Academic Resources Manager

MLitt Thesis Festival 2015: Session 1

Marshall B Garrett: “‘Prosperous Art’: Rhetorical Direction of Measure for Measure
Garrett begins by introducing a page of directing tips from “John Jory” which includes an admonition “not to do the play until you can say all the words in contemporary English”. Garrett then examines the opening lines of Measure for Measure, using actors Fred Franko, Adrienne Johnson, Aubrey Whitlock, and Jordan Zwick to note the use of hendiadys, synecdoche, metaphor, and hyperbaton, wherein the Duke obscures his meaning through the use of deliberate rhetorical devices. Garrett asserts that while scholastic attention has been paid to helping actors use rhetoric to develop character, less has been done to help directors see the same clues for performance. “Since directors must be intensively aware of structure of their plays” and since rhetoric is, in essence, structure, directors must have a keen awareness of rhetoric.

Garrett moves to discussing his production of Measure for Measure, wherein actors had varying degrees of familiarity with rhetoric, preventing the use of rhetoric as shorthand during rehearsal. The rhetoric, then, had to inform his directing. Garrett points out that, in 1.2, Claudio notes that Isabella “hath prosperous art when she will play with reason”, but that Isabella has been “rhetorically uninteresting” thus far in the play. He then notes that the figures of antithesis, chiasmus, and antimetabole are the dominant rhetorical figures in the play. Actors Johnson and Zwick demonstrate the interplay between Isabella and Angelo in 2.2, with rhetorical explication provided by Franko, and directorial interrogation spurred by Garrett. Through this interrogation, “after Fred identified the forms, we weren’t really talking about rhetoric — and yet we were talking about nothing else.” The rhetoric is a gateway to character discussions.

As the actors move forward, Garrett and the actors examine how the characters build upon each others’ rhetoric. In response to the question of whether to follow the stresses indicated by scansion or by rhetoric, Garrett notes that “this is an art, not a science”. Garrett also notes the points of stress between playing the rhetoric and adhering to other, more modernly-developed, acting practices. In the next section, Whitlock points out that “the most rhetorically sophisticated line so far has been Lucio’s”. Franko points out uses of zeugma, alliteration, anaphora, and the antithetical chiasmus built between Isabella and Angelo. Garrett then has the actors continue, with Franko providing pop-up rhetorical commentary overtop of them, illustrating the rhetorical density of the scene, particularly in Isabella’s implorations. Garrett points out that Isabella moves from schemes manipulating language to tropes manipulating imagination, ultimately demonstrating her verbal superiority to Angelo. Garrett suggests that rhetoric can help find two specific options for when Angelo falls in love/lust with Isabella. Garrett concludes that while rhetoric is not a perfect map to production, it “can more firmly place the approach to the play” and the choices of the actors in the script itself.

Q&A:
Q – From a practical standpoint, not possible to spend weeks on rhetoric in rehearsal. Do you have a sense as a director of how much time should be spent on it in rehearsal?
A – Actually, none. Garrett states he thinks that’s on the director to figure out before hand, informing the directoral process rather than the rehearsal process.
Q – Can you be more specific how you communicated w/ actors unfamiliar with this terminology?
A – In terms of discussing stress patterns, bring out certain words. “Avoiding the Greek words became key” when working with actors unfamiliar with them.
Q – So the idea is that you want to bring in understanding of figures being used to help with actor choices?
A- Yes.
Q – How do you communicate to actors that an epizeuxis is happening without saying “epizeuxis”?
A – Terminology of amplifying or raising stakes.
Q – Menzer asks if it’s necessary to bring authorial intent into it.
A – No. But rhetoric is an avenue into potential choices that has not been much explored in current materials.
Q – When working w/ actors totally unfamiliar to rhetoric and to Shakespeare, are there some key Shakespeare figures that I should focus on?
A – Absolutely the antithesis. Chiasmus and figures of balance. Discusses theory that “every play has its dominant figure”, can be useful in productions w/o rhetorically trained actors.
Q – Spend any time on specific figures for each character?
A – If I found it was important. In Measure, different worlds had different things that were key.

Ian A. Charles: “Instrumental Shakespeare: Case Studies in Cross Training the Singer and Poet”
Charles opens by discussing the overlaps between “the world of musical theatre and the world of Shakespeare”, particularly with regard to the musicality of Shakespeare’s verse and the issues of breath, pitch, etc that speaking it involves. He states his intention to look at the spoken vs sung words in musical theatre as compared to prose vs verse in Shakespeare. Charles hopes “to cultivate a language of actor training” that incorporates both. Charles questions American theatre’s tradition of divorcing Shakespeare training so far from musical theatre training, when he sees distinct similarities and when poetry and music have a shared heritage dating back to ancient Greece. He argues that “dramatic poetry, intended for performance” links more nearly to music than other forms of poetry, particularly with regard to thinking of both as “enhanced speech”.

Charles moves to discussing the difference between the musicality of verse and prose, with prose suggesting “less rhythm, less of an artifice”. When comparing Shakespeare to musical theatre, “verse is to song as prose is to spoken text,” and Charles suggests this leads to similar questions for actors in each genre. He also notes that Shakespeare and musical theatre can both be seen as “a push against naturalism”.

Charles moves to discussing his case studies, beginning with his observations during a LiveArts production of Les Miserables. He plays a segment conducted in 4/4, though with two separate melodies, and draws a comparison to the tempo created by iambic pentameter. Charles suggests that opera and musical theatre may be examined using “many of the same external terminology” as in Shakespeare. Charles introduces concepts from Peter Hall concerning the musicality of pentameter and its application in the rehearsal process.

His second case study examines the rare shifts from prose to verse in Much Ado about Nothing, with actor Sarah Wykowski speaking Beatrice’s verse lines at the end of 3.1. Charles notes that the discovery of love appears synonymous with the appearance of pentameter, and Josh Williams demonstrates Benedick’s failing attempts at singing later in the play. Charles then discusses how certain conventions in opera are analogous to the choices presented to actors within iambic pentameter for creating and breaking rhythm. He keys in on the need to play shifts between speech/song and prose/verse in order to bring forward the heightened nature of the emotions attached to song/verse. Rhyme further augments the unrealistic quality of speech, adding further complexity to the scale.

Charles concludes by reiterating the defined difference between normal and heightened speech in both musical theatre and Shakespeare. He intends that his full thesis, calling upon his experience in both genres, will “prompt an integrated approach for performers seeking a place in both worlds.

Q&A:
Q – Clarify that rhyming that you find in verse, beyond blank verse, is where the singing training should come into?
A – That it could come into, if you have more training in musical theatre than in Shakespeare. Looking for rhyme common ground between two genres of training.
Q – Then what do you do with blank verse?
A – Verse in general still has a beat, regularity and irregularity, knowing where you are in the pentameter, feel the ebb and flow of the line, that’s a very musical function.
Q – Beneficial in education?
A – Absolutely, b/c of inherently interactive nature of music.
Q – Found indication of extant cross-training between RSC and Broadway?
A – Not specifically, no.

Jess Hamlet: “‘A Deed Without a Name’: Macbeth, Richard III, and the Regicidal Fantasies of Civil War Virginia
Hamlet begins by noting the April-focused anniversaries of Shakespeare’s birth/death and the start of the Civil War, and her thesis focuses on the intersection of these events. She looks specifically at the ways theatres in Richmond, Virginia were using Shakespeare’s works in wartime “to process their trauma”. She argues that “the constant performances of Macbeth and Richard III” in Richmond during the Civil War enabled citizens to aestheticize and legitimize their desire for removal from President Lincoln’s authority. She notes that Macbeth saw 27 performances in Richmond during the war, the most not only of Shakespeare but of any play.

Hamlet notes that the local newspapers believed that the theatres were doing “crucial, necessary, and meaningful work” during the war, at least partially by keeping the idea of removing unwanted leaders from power in the public consciousness. Macbeth was, according to one theatre, frequently requested by the citizens, including soldiers, “illustrating that servicemen and not just civilians were eager to see the story of Macbeth and his wife”.

Hamlet then shifts to President Lincoln’s own commentary on Shakespeare, wherein he stated “I think nothing equals Macbeth; it is wonderful” and found Claudius’s soliloquy superior to Hamlet’s. She suggests that Lincoln found Shakespeare “a kind of secular scripture” to help him deal with both his personal and political challenges, “both to cope with and recover from” his experience in a war-torn country. Reports from Lincoln’s last days indicate that he spent much time with his intimates discussing Shakespeare, especially the murder of Duncan in Macbeth. “The fOCSination here is that both Lincoln and his enemies were using the same text” to work through their feelings about the war, with a central question of casting — who was Duncan, and who Macbeth? Hamlet, through actors Fred Franko, Merlyn Sell, and Marshall Garrett, illustrates how newspapers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon criticized and challenged Lincoln and his actions.

Hamlet notes that Hamlet may have fallen behind Macbeth and Richard III in Richmond popularity because of its lack of action, with the decisive final battles indulging a sense of closure to war-weary citizens, particularly towards the end of the war. She suggests that the British origins of many Southerners may also have strengthened connections to Macbeth and Richard III that they did not feel with Danish Hamlet. Hamlet further suggests that thinking of themselves in Shakespearean terms may have helped Virginians to see their rebellion as a true revolution, returning to their origins and common cultural touchstone. This explains their dominance over plays like the Roman-set Julius Caesar, which might otherwise have seemed thematically appropriate for popularity.

Hamlet then questions the specific purpose of these performances, and provides the answer that the shows indulged their desire to “force the tyrant from his seat by war” and helped them “to purge their anxieties and doubts” about the war’s conclusion. The plays may also have helped Richmonders to place mental distance between themselves and the horrors of the war they were experiencing. She notes a potential difference in the plays’ purpose between the beginning and the end of the war. By 1864, many Southerners were hoping for a swift end to the war, even if that meant reconciliation, not wanting to see themselves as “beheaded Macbeth”. She draws a connection between the Civil War battles, audible within Richmond and visible in the form of hospitals and prison camps, and the advance on Dunsinane of Malcolm and his troops. The soldiers who saw plays in Richmond then took that experience with them back into the field, allowing them to use Shakespeare as a way to conceptualize their work and their worries. In focusing their own lives through the filter of Shakespeare, Hamlet suggests that soldiers would thus have cast themselves as Macduff rather than Macbeth. In regard to Richard III, Hamlet posits that the city of Richmond may have focused themselves on the character of Richmond, with Richard representing the North and Richmond the South, an interpretation that would seem to place Shakespeare on the South’s side. Hamlet concludes by reiterating that the production of Shakespeare in Civil War Richmond both expressed Southern regicidal desires and formed a lense through which citizens could process their experiences of war.

Q&A
Q – Americans fOCSination w/ Shakespeare has to deal with fact that Shakespeare is so English, how does that fit in?
A – Thinks that Confederate citizens were reaching for the English heritage and the father country, esp since seeking English and French support for the war itself.
Q – Modern-day applications for veterans?
A – Yes, “so much potential in theatre in general for a healing process”, Shakespeare especially because he writes so much about war.

Megan Hughes: “Where are all the Weddings in Shakespeare?”
Hughes will be discussing staged and unstaged weddings in Shakespeare’s canon, but begins with a clip from the Zeffirelli Taming of the Shrew, depicting the wedding of Kate and Petruchio (only described later by Gremio in the play). She notes that this was her first introduction to Shrew, and she has since found that most filmed versions invent the scene. She then interrogates why Shakespeare left this wedding off-stage. Delving into research, she discovered that there are no plays published during the early modern period that include a complete on-stage wedding. Hughes takes a moment to define the difference between a wedding (the ceremony itself, in the period based on the 1559 Book of Common Prayer) and a marriage (the lasting relationship). A third category, spousals, were vows exchanged, but which could have varying degrees of formality and binding.

Hughes then identifies “three plausible restrictions” that may explain the lack of completed wedding ceremonies on-stage: socio-cultural, legal, and literary/dramatic. Socio-cultural reasons could have included reverence for the real ceremony and a level of discomfort in seeing it play-acted between two males on stage. Hughes notes that, since the prevailing thought in early modern England was that speaking the words themselves enacted the union, this may have caused superstitious audiences to fear the on-stage speaking of those words as perhaps resulting in the unintended marrying of the two actors. Educated audiences, however, would have recognized the invalidity of such a union, both on the grounds of the gender of the persons involved and the lack of appropriate ritual. Hughes suggests that plays may have chosen to stage espousals rather than weddings to avoid this anxiety, however. Hughes then notes the variations in Taming‘s wedding that might, to a certain mode of thought, rendered Kate and Petruchio’s wedding invalid — and, if staged rather than described, might have verged on sacrilege and alienated the audience.

Legal restrictions “would have been much more serious in repercussions”. Hughes notes the blurry line between law, ecclesiastical law, and common law during this era in England. A prohibition against enactments of the rituals in the Book of Common Prayer, intended to guard against Catholic rituals, might also have netted in the actions in theatres. Hughes suggests that censorship by the Master of the Revels may also have played a role in keeping weddings off-stage, as playing companies would not have wanted to risk offending church or state and thus losing prestigious opportunities to perform for Queen Elizabeth.

Finally, Hughes discusses the literary and dramatic reasons for keeping a wedding off-stage, which would have been self-imposed by playwrights. She suggests that Shakespeare found that “by restricting the audience’s view of a scene, he could more strictly control their interpretation of that scene.” Actors Marshall Garrett, Ryan Odenbrett, and Stephan Pietrowski then act the Taming scene where Gremio relates the story of the wedding. Hughes notes that Lucentio and Tranio stand in for the audience, feeling scandal on the audience’s behalf. She concludes by declaring that, while it is impossible to determine which restrictions were most significant, socio-cultural, legal, and dramatic restrictions all played a part in keeping weddings off-stage.

Q&A
Q – Any difference between plays set in English vs plays set in Catholic countries?
A – Still medial and interrupted, doesn’t seem to be change in the interruption or avoidance that she’s found so far.
Q – Considering clandestine marriages something different from proper weddings?
A – Would classify that as espousal, not as a wedding, as wedding needs the ceremonial language and the right place and time. Clandestine weddings also generally take place off-stage between scenes, move the plot along, hidden from audience as well as from other characters.
Q – Time and place so important to creating an actual wedding, wouldn’t it be impossible to have a real wedding in a play b/c those would never be correct?
A – Yes, that’s what arguing – but superstition still surrounded just saying the words.
Q – Along those lines, As You Like IT
A – Yes, definitely.
Q – How might you take your research into the rehearsal room?
A – Definitely in raising the stakes in certain scenes. Ex: Celia’s “I will not say the words”, not wanting to initiate. Priest in Much Ado forced to jump to the end, disorders the ceremony.

–This session live-blogged by Cass Morris, OCS Academic Resources Manager

MFA Thesis Festival 2015

Sarah E. Blackwell: “‘Corrupter of Words’: A Rhetorical Cut of Twelfth Night
Blackwell opens with an introduction to the concept of cutting texts for performance, noting that most directors will attempt to preserve iambic pentameter but may not pay as careful attention to preserving rhetorical structures. Blackwell notes that while repetition seems an easy sort of rhetorical but notes that, in rehearsal, those cuts became troublesome. As a demonstration, she tells the famous “Knock knock” banana/orange joke, with alterations pointing out that cutting rhetorical devices of repetition can harm both the set-up of a joke and audience comprehension of the scene. Blackwell notes the cuts made to a scene between Viola/Cesario and Feste, particularly the repetitions of “sir” that offer actors a lot to play with. Blackwell asked her actors to try and play the scene with the emotional clues that the deleted rhetoric would have provided; Rebecca Wright (Viola/Cesario) and Nicola Collett (Feste) play the scene. The absence of the repetition makes for a “a one-sided battle of wits”. Blackwell concludes by asking directors to keep rhetoric in mind when cutting scripts because “when you ignore the rhetoric, you ignore Shakespeare.”

Nicola Collett: “‘I am not that I play’: Seeking Identity through Music in an Appalachian Twelfth Night
Collett discusses the considerations and the challenges she encountered when developing the musical choices for Turning Glass’s production of Twelfth Night, including the complex and disputed definition of “folk song”. One of her sources made the “not entirely grounded in reality” claim that Appalachian dulcimer music chains back to both Shakespearean productions and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; Collett underscores the problem of conflating the Appalachian dulcimer with its predecessors, but enjoys the idea of positioning the production’s music as part of a larger tradition. She then discusses the adaptability of folk music. Collett gives examples of one tune receiving different lyrical treatments in different times and locations. The adaptability of music, Collett noticed during Twelfth Night, seems to echo the adaptability of certain characters, particularly Viola. Collett argues that this adaptability is what makes Viola “worthy of Orsino’s service” and capable of restoring health to the community of Illyria. By contrast, Feste is less rooted in one tradition.

Amy W. Grubbs: “‘The Great Divide’: How Turning Glass Shakespeare Navigates the Actor/Audience Divide”
Grubbs begins by stating the common theatrical concept that performance is dependent upon a divide between actor and audience, and states her intention to interrogate three different audience roles: the audience as tourist, the audience as participant, and the audience as generator, on a scale of passivity to activity. “A blurring of the line is in fact often productive” and has helped Turning Glass in creating their shows. She discusses their deliberate blurring of the lines in The Winter’s Tale and in Romeo and Juliet; in the latter, the actors remained on-stage throughout the show, becoming supplementary audience members for scenes they were not in — in a position to watch the audience as well. Grubbs argues that this “reminded the audience that they were participants in our creative community” and positioned actors and audience as watching the same thing: the play itself. Grubbs feels that idea of community was particularly important in Romeo and Juliet, a play so concerned with a broken community. “The staging, therefore, reflects the themes of the play.” Turning Glass’s Twelfth Night, performed in local schools, began with a distinct divide, the students in their native environment, the company as strangers. Towards the end of the play, however, they conscripted a student to portray an officer and a teacher to portray a priest; though coached beforehand, the audience-actors still needed verbal and physical guidance during the show — and their own actions could chance the scene considerably. Grubbs states that this transformed the theatrical experience and “heightened our awareness” of performance for the cast, and that the blurring of actor/audience lines created “an entirely new community” during each performance. She concludes by asserting that the blurring is not “deadly to performance” but a potential benefit.

David Loehr: “Some Have Theatre Thrust upon ‘Em”
Loehr asserts that Shakespeare dually recognized life as having theatrical elements and theatre as being necessary to life, and argues that “Shakespeare uses Malvolio to critique anti-theatricalism and puritanism”. He notes Maria’s description of Malvolio as “a kind of Puritan”, not necessarily a man with firm piety. Loehr notes that Malvolio’s fantsies of marrying Olivia reveal that “for a Puritan, he seems awfully concerned with the material and the sensual.” Malvolio’s objections to revelry mirror the objections raised in anti-theatrical polemics of the early modern era, and Loehr examines some of the specific vocabulary that draws this connection. Loehr then connects this to Malvolio’s conception of identity, that he wants everyone else to stay in their prescribed places and clearly defined roles while he alone changes (hopefully in advancement) — which places Malvolio in a particularly difficult position in a play with such shifting identity issues as Twelfth Night, as Loehr illustrates through Malvolio’s difficulty in describing/defining Cesario. Despite his moralistic attitude towards revelry, he rarely invokes religion in his objections, which Loehr suggests sets him apart from the anti-theatricalists, not one of them. Loehr argues that Malvolio is, essentially, theatrical himself, and discusses this in relation to his difficulty in smiling and his immersion in his later performance in front of Olivia. “In the end, neither of Malvolio’s roles bring him the wealth and power that he desires,” and Loehr suggests this informs his vengeful attitude at the end of the play, both anti-theatrical and a spurned actor at the same time — and thus “a hypocritical fraud”.

Nora Manca: “To Try a Queen”
Manca sets her presentation up as “All Is True: A game show that starts with a lie and ends with laughter”, hosted by Loehr — a pseudo-Jeopardy skit designed to illustrate the similarities between Henry VIII‘s Katherine of Aragon and The Winter’s Tale‘s Hermione. Manca explicates her assertion that The Winter’s Tale was written for the Blackfriars Theatre in the same way that Henry VIII was, calling upon the audience’s historical memory of the space as a courtroom.

Sarah Martin: “A Queen City Comedy: A Chaste Maid in Cheapside at the Blackfriars Playhouse”
Martin begins by discussing the appeal of city comedies to the Jacobean audience, offering a view of themselves on stage, rather than the more remote figures of kings and queens. Middleton showed his audience to themselves by displaying the places, peoples, and ideologies of early modern London in his plays. Martin examines the gossip and funeral scenes in Chaste Maid, noting them as representations of common community experiences. Martin suggests that the transition from Elizabeth to James helped to spur the creation of domestic experiences on the stage, a way of reflecting a changing world and revealing the hypocrisy of early modern English society from the relatively safebounds of the stage. The gossips scene “demonstrates the chaotic and unstable atmosphere of London” in 1613. Martin notes that the early modern home had a public nature that may seem strange to modern sensibilities, and that christening parties made public and communal the essentially private act of childbirth. The party becomes a conversation on social status, material wealth, and neighborly one-up-manship, and Martin sees similar social stakes at play in the act of theatre-going. Martin argues that the gossips scene is an example of “how Middleton cast London in his play”.

Emma Patrick: “‘I wear your (great-great-great) granddad’s clothes’: Original Practices, Secondhand Clothes, and Historical Reconstruction in Turning Glass Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
NB: Emma Patrick is snowed-in in Lexington and will not present this evening.

Ashley Pierce: “‘Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned’: Playing Tybalt and Friar Lawrence”
Pierce begins with a caveat about the fine line between appreciation and obsession, particularly as relevant to her continual interest in the character of Tybalt — a character she played this year with Turning Glass, doubled with Friar Lawrence. “It is their respective challenges that truly set them apart” — Tybalt is physically demanding, not just with three of four fights, but also in the tight physicality. Lawrence, by contrast, Pierce characterizes as intellectually demanding. Pierce then delivers a sidebar on the gender issues raised by various casting approaches, noting that the extreme casting of Romeo and Juliet with six actors sometimes made the gender of actor and character indistinct, allowing the audience to determine their own ideas on the gender of the character. Pierce asserts that the audience’s role in creating character is thus critical.

Mara Ann Massingill Sherman: “Children and No Riches”
Sherman begins by delivering an anti-spoiler alert, declaring Turning Glass’s determination not to reveal the plot of a 400 year old play before performing it. She then moves on to her thesis, examining the intersection of fertility, class, and religion in A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. First, she discusses the eponymous maid and her neighborhood, challenging the common assumption that the title is an oxymoronic joke. Cheapside was, while commerce-oriented, not particularly noted for prostitution (in contrast to other locations like Turnbull Street). Sherman asserts that finding a chaste maid in Cheapside should be no more odd than finding “a virgin on Wall Street” — an odd but not necessarily contradictory juxtaposition. The title does, however, tell the audience that this is a play about: female sexuality, London, commerce, and “really stupid jokes” — as Sherman explicates through an exploration of the paronomasia of chaste/chased. Sherman then moves to discussing the Allwits and the confusion of paternity, marital arrangements, and the economy of fertility. Sherman notes that Middleton uses the Allwit plot to “strength the connection between bourgeois marriage and prostitution.” Finally, Sherman moves to the Kixes, discussing the tendency of modern productions to cast the Kixes as middle-aged, perhaps to explain their seven years of childlessness, a choice that Sherman asserts “misses the point”, and that their infertility is more related to economy.

Rebecca Lynne Wright: “‘Prone to weeping’: An Exploration of Crying in Performance”
Wright begins by cautioning the upcoming MFA class to considering the blood and tears the endeavor could cause — not from the travails of graduate school hardships, but within the plays themselves. She discusses the physical effects on an actor of “weeping, crying, or lamenting”. Wright has her fellow company members provide examples of tears called for (or at least mentioned) within Shakespeare’s plays. “Emotions which come naturally in life are exposed and exploited in theatre”. Wright discusses her interest in the connection between the language used to describe emotion and what actors are actually supposed to do. She notes that weeping may not be visible to the audience even if enacted, and wonders what the advantage is to working up real tears on stage if the audience may not be able to appreciate them, and if simulating weeping better allows an actor to focus on things like scansion and rhetoric. She intends to interrogate this question further.

Q&A

For Pierce: Questioner asks if she’s recieved any audience feedback regarding the ambiguity of her character’s gender.
Pierce responds that, post-show, she has gotten some questions, mostly from friends and family, about if the role was re-gendered or not.
Ralph Cohen follows up by asking if her experiences with The Winter’s Tale may inform both her thesis writing and her revisiting of the character during the upcoming festival of shows.

For Grubbs: Questioner asks how the explicit casting of the audience affects the audience’s role, and if it leads to a “centaur state” of performer and audience simultaneously.
Grubbs: Responds that she’s going to steal that term. She’s referred to it as having switched roles, notes that some critics think that means it’s not theatre anymore, but she wants to explore the “both/and” mixture.
Follow-up: Questions how venue affects the blurring of lines, if lines were more set in more proscenium-like spaces.
Grubbs: Initially, yes, but engaging early modern practices quickly helped blurring the lines. Notes that depth of audience affects the ease of blurring. Manca adds that “children were much more receptive to being drawn in than adults were”.
Cohen follows up asking how/if it affects comprehension of play. Grubbs thinks initial appreciation is related to seeing someone they know, but that it might cause more careful attention. Blackwell shares anecdote that teacher who seemed unsure turned into a ham because she knew she would be observed.

For Wright: Asks if commentary on mourning split along national lines.
Wright: Most of research has not been British/American divide but discussion of duration, how long someone is meant to mourn, what’s appropriate, and difference between “then and now”.

For Sherman: Interested in limits of female fertility, how it will play out in company almost entirely of women?
Sherman: Had worried that having both Allwits and Kixes portrayed by female actors would create an unintentional commentary on lesbian relationships and procreation, but they do have a male-bodied figure for one of those roles, and Whorehound being portrayed by female.

–This session live-blogged by Cass Morris, Academic Resources Manager

MLitt Thesis Festival 2014: Session 3

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 Vwho 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.

MLitt Thesis Festival 2014: Session 2

Rebecca Wright: “Infants as Characters: An Investigation of Babies Onstage”
Actors: Josh Brown,Ian Charles, Kelly Elliott, Amy Grubbs, Patrick Harris
Wright begins by interrogating the audience’s perceptions of props as tied to certain plays. To a list including rings, letters, beds, trunks, and rapiers, she adds “babies”. Wright wishes to interrogate the position of an infant on-stage as a character, rather than as an inanimate prop. She notes that most productions do not use live babies on-stage, though it has been done. Despite this, however, she finds few references to babies as properties. Wright notes the difficulty in presenting an inanimate prop as a live baby, generally unconvincing yet just as generally accepted by audiences.

The actors deliver a list of shows which call for the use of an infant onstage, from the early modern period up to modern musical theatre. Wright moves on to discussing the pageant of Princess Elizabeth’s christening in Henry VIII. She interrogates the interaction between Henry and Elizabeth in this scene, wondering if it is significant that Henry kisses but does not hold the infant. Conversely, in Titus Andronicus, off-stage trumpets herald the arrival of a prince — Tamora’s illegitimate child by Aaron the Moor. In this scene, a nurse enters with the child swaddled, sufficiently to disguise its skin tone, which she later reveals. Aaron takes possession of the child, asks who else has seen it, and murders the nurse to keep his secret, serving as the child’s protector both verbally and physically. In Pericles, the nurse hands the infant Marina to her father; Pericles chooses to lay the child with her supposedly-dead mother. Wright argues that, when an infant is set down on stage, the lack of actor interaction removes some context from the infant-as-prop. The actors then present a scene from The Winter’s Tale where Paulina lays the infant Perdita at Leontes’s feet; he refuses to take it up. The protecting male figure who does eventually pick up the child is, instead, Antigonus.

Wright argues that actors provide manipulation and significance to the prop infant. This is particularly important in instances where the infant, over the course of the show, grows to an adult character. She argues that infants “needs stronger character consideration on stage.” Wright then brings a live infant, her ten-week-old nephew William, onto the stage. She asks if having a real infant on stage seems “too real” compared to the fake babies, especially in context of the infant characters who have violence threatened against them. Still holding William, she asks her actors what challenges they felt interacting with her prop infant. Amy Grubbs identifies a challenge in expressing the nurse’s revulsion for the baby, competing with her experience handling infants. Ian Charles admits that he felt as though he had to be “acting for two”, which is a challenge, but also allows him to endow the baby with reactions through the eyes of his character. Josh Brown expresses difficulty thanks to his own inexperience with children, identifying his interaction with the baby as “glass-like”. Kelly Elliott saw it as “relief” to be able to transfer the baby off to Pericles and to gain the father’s acceptance. Finally, Patrick Harris discusses the challenge of fighting while holding a baby, trying to be threatening while not endangering the baby. “It was easy to forget that what I was holding was supposed to be alive”. Wright concludes that, whether a real baby or a property doll, the actors involved with an infant character need to work to endow the infant with character.

Q&A: Ralph Cohen begins by snapping a picture of “the youngest performer on our stage”.
Q: Matt Davies asks about how to invest the baby with its own movement, suggesting that it is dependent upon the actor holding it to be in constant motion. He suggests another play for Wright to look at, wherein a baby is stoned to death in its pram.
Q: Celi Oliveto wonders how much it has to do with the focus of the audience, suggesting that a live baby draws focus. A: Wright acknowledges the possibility, noting that, yes, it is more difficult to work with something alive than something inanimate. She would like to continue looking at how this idea influences other creatures onstage, such as the dog in Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Q: Scott Campbell notes the similarity between a real baby and real stage violence as possibly being detrimental to an audience’s experience. A: Wright is still dealing with the discussion of what is “too real”.

Arlynda Boyer: “Plague, Playing, and Publication: A New Narrative”
Boyer seeks to re-examine Shakespeare’s publication history, particularly the gaps which occur when “he ought to have been at the height of his popularity”. She notices a correlation between these gaps and years of plague, particularly with regard to the tendency of title pages to publicize “diverse and sundry performances”. She suggests that “plague interrupts playing interrupts publication”.

Boyer traces the relationship of the plague to the theatre, noting that anti-theatrical polemics tended to see them as God’s judgment upon the theatres. The conditions to close the playhouses changed over time, from total mortality rising above 50 per week, to plague-specific deaths rising above 30; for the playhouses to re-open, mortality had to drop below 30 for three weeks. She notes the difficulties in assessing closure dates from mortality records, since the strictures were not always exact. She points to the 1603 major outbreak of plague, which did not ebb and flow as expected, but persisted in London for eight years. Shakespeare’s plays written in this period had to wait to see audiences until there was a break in the plague. Boyer cites Roz Knutson’s theories on quartos serving as part of the marketing strategy for a play, as much to sell books as to remind potential audiences that a play was ongoing. Plague disruptions affected this interaction. “If a play never had its full first run, what reason would a company have for allowing it to reach a stationer?”

Boyer refers to a handout, which demonstrates that plays supposed to be written in plague years were more likely to be first published in the Folio rather than in quarto. She notes that Julius Caesar and As You Like It, likely written in 1599, were also not printed until the Folio. Though there was no plague that year, there was a strange closure in the summer of that year. These closures may have had more to do with financial difficulties, renovations of the Rose, or staggered re-openings. Boyer also notes the possibility that plague may have been used as an excuse to close theatres, when the real reasons were more political. 1599 saw rumors of a second Spanish Armada and threats of revolt, and these may have contributed to authorities’ decisions to close the theatres. Boyer then examines the complicated textual history of King Lear and Pericles. Boyer concludes by reiterating her hypothesis that publication depended on performance, and that plague disrupted both.

Q&A: Paul Menzer confirms Boyer’s acknowledgement that this is a London-centric narrative, since plague closures in London did not necessarily mean no plays happened, since companies were likely to tour during plague closures. A: Boyer is still working on incorporating that element into her thesis, but states that since print industry was centered in London, the correlation remains strong.
Q: Matt Davies questions the printers’ advertisements and their role in the thesis. A: Boyer notes alternate title pages which either swore that a play was or wasn’t performed.
Q: Dane Leasure asks if Boyer had considered using the 2nd edition of the Oxford’s chronology of the plays. A: Boyer has not, but will.
Q: Menzer asks how the Stationer’s Record weaves into the conversation. A: Boyer notes that the information on Shakespeare’s plays is scant in the Stationer’s Record. Boyer notes that, of other plays published in plague years, their title pages almost never mention performance. She acknowledges the difficulties in determining chronology to begin with, pointing to the recently changed supposed performance date of Twelfth NIght from 1599 to 1601i

Clare von Rueden: “The Moral of the Story: Medieval Morality Plays and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale”
Actors: Monica Cross, Amy Grubbs, Megan Manos
Von Rueden begins with a story about Disney, regarding the influence that Lady and the Tramp II may have had on her youngest sister’s attitude towards their parents. She notes that stories have an ability to impact not only children, but also adults, in terms of behavior and identity. “Stories shape who we are”. Morality plays, she argues, recognize this ability “and exploit it.” She specifies that she will be discussing pre-1500, pre-Protestant Revolution plays. Through “a rhetoric of ethics”, morality plays seek to persuade audience members towards certain behaviors. Shakespeare, Von Rueden notes, was aware that theatre “plays a part in our ethical lives”.

Von Rueden examines the use of audience contact in morality plays, suggesting that morality plays developed this relationship in order to enhance the play’s ability to affect its audience. Amy Grubbs presents a selection of Lucifer soliciting the audience for sympathy, which Von Rueden notes as typical to, not extraordinary for, morality plays. She relates this to the fact that every named murderer or commander of murders in Shakespeare gets a monologue with the audience in which to explain himself and try to earn sympathy. This extends even to intended or attempted murderers, as Monica Cross demonstrates with a monologue of Leontes. Von Rueden notes that the more vice characters, in Shakespeare or in morality plays, solicit the audience, the more likely they are to lose sympathy, especially when they start to sermon against themselves. Von Rueden also discusses the interactions of virtue characters with the audience.

These sympathies often relate to ideas of grief and repentance, as Von Rueden and her actors demonstrate in two reconciliation scenes: one from a morality play, and one from The Winter’s Tale. The latter, she notes, is not presented, but recounted by witnesses. Von Rueden posits this as an example of Shakespeare’s awareness that everyone who sees a play will respond to it emotionally, though perhaps in different ways, and that plays “exert an ethical influence on our lives”. She concludes by suggesting that productions need to be responsibly aware of this connection as well.

Q&A: Kelly Elliott asks for clarification if Von Rueden was intentionally connecting Leontes to the vice characters. A: Not intentionally; more of a vice “state”, since he’s attempting to justify murder.
Q: Charlene Smith asks if Von Rueden had read Shaw’s writings on Shakespeare, since Shaw complains about Shakespeare’s lack of moral instruction. A: No, but Von Rueden did read something which stated “Shakespeare is not a moralist, but presents morals”, actually allowing a stronger emotional response from the audience, since they have to work through it themselves. Ralph Cohen suggests that she also look at Tolstoy’s comments on the topic.
Q: Celi Oliveto asks if Von Rueden can identify places where Shakespeare may be consciously drawing on the morality play tradition and either subverting or mocking it, or using it to do something else. A: Von Rueden has not looked specifically at that, though he does refer to the vice characters.
Q: Scott Campbell questions her final thought about production responsibility, if Von Rueden is looking specifically at this moment in time, as 21st century theatre needing this responsibility, or more generally. A: Both. “We need to be aware that we are encountering their ethical being.”

Nora Manca: “Shakespeare Walks into a Bar”
Actors: Ian Charles, Kendra Emmett, Jess Hamlet, Meredith Johnson, Aubrey Whitlock
Manca’s presentation opens with an imagined conversation of several of Shakespeare’s early contemporaries, including the famous invectives of Robert Greene, together with commentary by Nashe, Lodge, Peele, and Marlowe. The scene explicates the marks against Shakespeare according to the established poets and playwrights of the age: too common, too contradictory, too prolific, too imitative, too uneducated, too avaricious, a moneylender. It falls to the imagined Marlowe to defend Shakespeare on these counts, but a malfunctioning time machine prevents Will from appearing himself.

Manca explicates that she hopes to take the facts known of Shakespeare’s life together with his own writings to explore the idea that Shakespeare’s portrayal of “Others” in his plays stems from his identity as an “Other” himself. Manca discusses the sociological tendency of all groups to set themselves up as the “One” in opposition to the “Other”. She notes the contempt of the University Wits for Shakespeare, as seen in Greene’s “Groatsworth of Wit”. Manca then looks at Shakespeare’s family history, particularly John Shakespeare’s social climbing, and how it positioned William Shakespeare in society. She moves on to the theory that Shakespeare’s family may have been Catholic recusants, then to the circumstances surrounding Shakespeare’s marriage. She then attempts to fill out some of the missing years in Shakespeare’s history with supplements from events that occurred in his home county of Warwickshire. Manca then draws a correlation between Shakespeare’s experience as an “Other” and the character of Shylock, whom she posits would be more Othered than any other character if dropped into Shakespeare’s England. Her full thesis will involve a closer reading of the character of Shylock.

Q&A: Amy Grubbs asks if Manca found any connection to the French Catholics possibly present in London. A: Manca has not, but is interested.
Q: Martha Walker questions if Manca’s thesis would hold up under any other definition of “Other”, depending on the absolutism of alterity. A: Manca believes that it does, though she is unfamiliar with the alternate definition Walker presents.
Q: Matt Davies asks, “Why does biography matter?” A: Manca thinks that the facts of Shakespeare’s life are key to whether or not he can be defined as an Other. Q: Davies continues, asking, “To write about Iago, why does he need to be an Other?” A: Manca admits that he doesn’t, necessarily, but posits that all of us are Others in some way and believes that that would have influenced his writing.
Q: Clare von Rueden asks if this can then influence the performance of Otherness in his plays. A: Manca says yes, and she hopes that this will help her in her directing in the future. Q: Von Rueden continues, asking if Manca has had any revelations on that count thus far. A: Manca thinks that, for an actor, understanding Shakespeare’s Otherness “would probably be influential”.

Nicola Collett: “But One Only Man: MOCSulinity in Julius Caesar”
Actors: Marshall Garrett, Jamie Jager
Collett suggest that Julius Caesar, more than any other of Shakespeare’s plays, is “about men” — not a single man, but four very different men with competing interests and variant approaches. Collett posits that Caesar, Brutus, Antony, and Cassius represent four distinct aspects of mOCSulinity, which she defines as imperial, stoic, performative, and emotional, respectively. She runs through other critical approaches to analyzing mOCSulinity in Julius Caesar, before moving on to her own approach, analyzing mOCSulinity “not as a unified whole, but as fragmentary”, which she will present in opposition to each other rather than in opposition to femininity.

First, she examines the disconnect between the frailty of Caesar’s mortal form as opposed to the strength of his immortal, imperial spirit. Both Cassius’s stories, COCSa’s reporting of his swoon, and Caesar’s own admission of physical failings demonstrate his weaknesses. Yet Caesar puts forth an image of himself as “constant as the Northern Star”, immoveable and eternal, and his assassination in fact cements that immortality of spirit, despite killing the body. By contrast, Brutus is dominated by his stoic philosophy, focused on denial or control of the passions. “His struggle is that his emotions are in conflict, with themselves and with his reason.” Cassius, meanwhile, conflates the personal and the political, particularly in regard to the wrongs Caesar has supposedly done him. Collett links these passions with Cassius’s tendency towards suicidal rhetoric and, eventually, to suicide itself. Jamie Jager presents Cassius’s offer of suicide in the 4.2 “tent scene”, when he offers himself up first to the absent Antony, then to his own dagger, wielded by Brutus. Though Cassius’s emotions give him insight into other characters, they also lead to his downfall. Collett identifies Antony as an actor, able to adapt his presentation to the circumstances. His offer of suicide is calculated, not emotional, and a bluff that he knows Brutus will not call. Collett notes the rhetoric of Antony’s funeral oration as manipulative of his audience’s emotions, even to the extent that he denies his own power to do precisely what he’s doing. Antony also shows himself as an expert in the use of props: Caesar’s will, Caesar’s mantle, and Caesar’s body.

Collett concludes by reiterating the four disparate types of mOCSulinity the men embody, and then offers a rhetorical analogy: that Caesar represents ethos; Brutus, logos; Cassius and Antony, pathos (internal for Cassius, externally for Antony).

Q&A: Menzer begins by stating that mOCSulinity “seems to keep shimmering between material and immaterial” and asks how Manca has addressed that idea of where mOCSulinity is located. A: Collett has not addressed that yet, but hopes to find it through her future rhetorical analysis
Q: Cyndi Kimmel asks if Collett has looked at the presentation of male friendship through a homosexual lens. A: Collett has encountered it tangentially, but believes it beyond the purview of her project at this time.
Q: Patrick Harris questions if, in performance, a female actor playing one of these roles could embody that aspect of mOCSulinity and still play the role as a female. A: Collett thinks, yes, that would be possible.
Q: Ralph Cohen suggests an article for Collett’s inspection, as well as mentioning Vanessa Morosco’s recent re-gendered Cassius.
Q: Marshall Garrett questions where Octavius fits into all of this. A: Collett places him under Caesar’s aegis, noting that he “comes on and becomes the spirit of Caesar”, a “new physical locus for the idea of Caesar-ness”.
Q: Monica Cross asks if Collett sees an effect of one type of mOCSulinity on the other. A: Collett is still working on that aspect.

MLitt Thesis Festival 2014: Session 1

Stephan Pietrowski: “Getting Dirt On-Stage: Shakespeare’s Gardens”:
Actors: Linnea Barklund, Monica Cross, Susan Scaccia, Deirdre Shupe, Jordan Zwick
Pietrowski begins by explaining that his presentation will focus on the “Definitions” chapter of his thesis, examining the difference between wild and cultivated settings in Shakespeare. He moves through several definitions, supplemented by examples from the plays, as when Orlando believes that the Forest of Arden is a desert in As You Like It, Othello’s reference to “a wilderness of monkeys,” and the “blasted heath” in Macbeth. He then examines the places in between the two extremes of cities and total wilderness — parks, fields, and forests. “Many forests are closer to wilderness on the cultivation spectrum,” Pietrowski notes, citing the range of such settings in Shakespeare’s plays. Pietrowski uses A Midsummer Night’s Dream to explicate how Shakespeare sets up expectations of the forest — in this case, familiar to the characters, but still supposedly bereft of other humans. In Macbeth, Shakespeare first establishes the permanence of a forest, then has Malcolm’s army subvert that expectation.

Fields stand in contrast to forests, open land, especially though not necessarily that used for pasture or crops; some fields are thus more cultivated than others. Pietrowski uses the example of the ladies’ lodging in the field in Love’s Labour’s Lost to explore its liminal status with regard to human civilization. Parks were, in early modern usage, more for the keeping of animals than our modern sensibility of the term, more cultivated than forests and generally under single ownership. Pietrowski relates Windsor park in The Merry Wives of Windsor to the forest in Midsummer — a place commonly known, remote yet accessible at the same time.

Pietrowski then moves to more obviously cultivated settings: orchards and gardens. The terms were occasionally used interchangeably, though orchards generally imply fruit-bearing trees, and gardens are often decorative. Pietrowski identifies differences in characters’ interactions with the environment between wild and cultivated settings. Pietrowski notes the use of gardens and orchards for eavesdropping scenes in both Twelfth Night and Much Ado about Nothing. Gardens have not only fences and boundaries, but often doors, as seen in Twelfth Night. The garden is still a semi-public space, as characters who are not part of Olivia’s household have visual access to it. The orchard and garden of Much Ado have arbors and bowers, but apparently no foliage sufficient to provide coverage for the hiding Benedick and Beatrice, as the other characters clearly demonstrate that they can see their targets. Pietrowski then brings up 2 Henry VI to demonstrate the invasion of a private garden by Jack Cade: Cade moves from the forest, where he has no food, to the brick-walled garden, but the gardener, protecting his cultivation, punishes Cade’s invasion with death.

Pietrowski concludes by previewing the rest of his thesis, which will compare the elements of safety and danger present in both wild and cultivated spaces.

Q&A: Paul Menzer notes that the idea of a “cultivation spectrum” challenges the idea that Shakespeare’s plays all take place either in the court or the country. Pietrowski answers that most of these spaces do still, broadly, belong either to the court or country binary, but that the idea of a “desert”, where there are no people, is impossible on stage (since, as Menzer notes, as soon as you bring a person on, it’s no longer a desert), eliminating part of the spectrum from production.
Q: Amy Grubbs asks how Pietrowski’s research may relate to performance. A: Pietrowski thinks it may help develop character traits with regard to feelings of safety or danger, especially on entrances to scenes. He also hopes to add context back to some of the words whose precise meaning has shifted over time.
Q: Kelly Elliott questions the idea of Caesar’s will leaving his “parks and orchards” to the people and how to instruct actors on what to do with that revelation. A: Pietrowski notes that this would shift a private space into a public space, as well as providing a place for sustenance in the orchard.
Q: Marshall Garrett asks where battlefields fit in to the research. A: Pietrowski fits them in with the heath in Macbeth.

Ashley Pierce: “Two Genders, Both Alike in Dignity: The Re-Gendering of Three of Shakespeare’s Villains”:
Actors: Josh Brown, Danielle Guy, Jamie Jager, Meredith Johnson, David Loehr, Tiffany Waters, Andrew White
Pierce’s presentation opens with two competing casts, one male and one female, both attempting to take the stage to present the thesis. Pierce notes that Shakespeare’s plays contain 840 male roles to 148 female roles, a convention which makes sense in the context of early modern drama, when female roles were played by prepubescent “Bieber wannabes”, but which is not entirely compatible with modern practice. Jamie Jager and Tiffany Waters present part of an Orsino-Viola scene from Twelfth Night, which Pierce notes that, in early modern context, this allowed the boy actor to actually portray his own gender on-stage. Jager and Waters then present a scene from Macbeth, with Jager as Macbeth and Waters as a cross-cast Banquo. Pierce notes that this cross-gender casting is what has become the norm in modern theatre, asking the audience to ignore Waters’s true gender, supplanting it with the character’s gender. Pierce then posits that re-gendering, actually changing the gender of the character, is another possibility, and she cites several recent examples, including the re-gendering of Prospero as Prospera in The Tempest and the Rogues’ re-gendering of Faustus. She then asks why there is so much resistance to the idea.

Pierce points out that while both leading and secondary roles have seen prominent re-gendering, few villains have seen re-gendering. Her question aims to find out why these roles “seem impervious” to re-gendering. Josh Brown and Danielle Guy then present competing Iagos; then David Loehr and Meredith Johnson present competing Shylocks. Pierce discusses some of the varying physical and vocal choices that the actors discovered while rehearsing these scenes. Pierce also notes the difficulties in changing a female body and voice to imitate a male body and voice, and that re-gendering lifts this burden from an actor.

Pierce then addresses the potential accusation that this trade is unfair, asking men to “give up” the villain roles. She clarifies that she doesn’t intend that “men give up the villain roles forever”, but rather that she hopes productions will keep a more open eye with regard to casting. Her two casts “negotiate” a trading of roles, a male Paulina for a female Antigonus. Pierce expresses her hopes that this might — “and get a few more female actors jobs in the process”.

Q&A: Ralph Cohen asks Pierce to explicate some of the practical research she did through scenework. Pierce notes that in re-gendering Tybalt, a lot came down to the embodiment of violence and fight scenes, and that re-gendering Iago created a lesbian relationship in Othello.
Q: Rebecca Hodder asks if the difference in the fight had as much to do with gender as with body type. A: Pierce notes that, yes, the male and female actors had different body types to begin with, but indicates that the relationship between Tybalt and Capulet still seemed to alter based on gender, not physical body type. She acknowledges a need to find ways to control for those differences.
Q: Patrick Harris questions her nod towards female-to-male regendering and how it might affect other forms of non-traditional casting. A: Pierce acknowledges that it opens up a lot of other issues as well, and speaks to the need to make sure that female-to-male role re-gendering not become comedic.

David Loehr: “Shakespeare’s Theatrical References”
Actors: Marshall Garrett, Celi Oliveto, Aubrey Whitlock
Loehr’s presentation opens with the famous the “Seven Ages of Man” speech from As You Like It, then addresses the various ways in which Shakespeare refers to theatrical practices within his plays. Loehr dismisses the use of the term “metatheatricality”, in keeping with dominant views within the SAP program. He posits that Shakespeare “used theatrical references in reaction to the world around him”, not simply poetically or because he lived and worked within a theatrical setting. Loehr notes that Shakespeare’s view of theatre actually contains some similarities to the anti-theatrical polemics popular in the early modern era, but that while he acknowledged its complexities, he did not see it as an evil to be eliminated, but a necessary “reflection on humanity”. Loehr’s cast then move through several quotes throughout history regarding opinions on theatre as detrimental, unproductive, or even satanic. These address not only the vice and sloth which theatre supposedly encouraged, but also the “gender anxiety” attendant upon it. Loehr identifies “a great deal of mistrust” about theatre in Shakespeare’s time.

Loehr moves on to examination of Hamlet’s “rogue and peasant slave” speech, positing that Shakespeare presents Hamlet as simultaneously condescending towards and jealous of the actor’s position. He notes that Hamlet’s mockery of actors is, in fact, being spoken by an actor, perhaps causing the audience to question the Hamlet-actor’s investment in his role as much as Hamlet questions the actors within the world of the play. It also comments on the ability of theatre to “transcend social boundaries”, as the actor, though occupying a common, even despised role in society, can emulate all layers of society. Loehr then discusses the “Seven Ages” speech, characterizing it as less “a picture of beautiful life” than popular thought often believes it, a cynical depiction of life as mere entrances and exits, lacking individuality in their proscribed roles. He relates this speech to the theatrical reference in Macbeth’s “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech, where Macbeth “condemns life in theatrical language.” He presents this as a “nihilistic” view, noting that it reduces both life and theatre to empty noise.

Loehr suggests that Shakespeare seems to posit that theatre can comment on cause-and-effect in life. He uses the complex role of Rosalind in As You Like It as an example, with the multiple layers of acting and playing commenting on each other. Their supposed marriage in 4.1 further blurs the boundary between reality and pretend. Loehr then moves to discussing plays-within-plays, the most explicit method of theatrical reference within Shakespeare’s plays. His actors read from the rehearsal scenes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, both exhibiting theatrical practice, but also poking fun at some of the suppositions made by anti-theatrical polemics. Loehr concludes by placing Shakespeare’s views in opposition to the anti-theatrical polemics, viewing it as a necessary mirror to life, demonstrating life both at its best and its worst, and as such, “belongs as part of our lives”.

Q&A: Clare von Rueden asks if Loehr has noticed a changing attitude towards theatre across Shakespeare’s plays. A: No, he hasn’t noticed that.
Q: Scott Campbell questions the anti-theatrical tracts saying that theatre removed people from god, relating it to Stephanie Howieson’s presentation on supernaturality, and where the assumption of sinfulness in theatre came from. A: Loehr agrees that, yes, they seem to believe that the action is inherently sinful. Campbell clarifies, asking if the polemics state that theatre happened at the same time as theatre, literally taking one audience away to another activity. Loehr’s answer is: sometimes.
Q: Doreen Bechtol asks about the modern-day voices of anti-theatrical prejudice. A: Loehr says that he addresses this in the conclusion of his thesis, relating specifically to arts funding and to objections to plays based on content.

Sarah Martin: “Reconstructing the History Play”
Actors: Josh Brown, Megan Manos
Martin opens by noting how author Howard Brenton teases the audience with an awareness of historical reality in his 2010 play Anne Boleyn. Megan Manos presents the opening monologue, which Martin notes as establishing Anne’s relationship with an audience, and specifically a 21st-century audience. Martin addresses the idea that we are, currently, in the middle of a “Tudor renaissance” of our own, given both scholarly and popular focus on and fOCSination with the Tudor era. She chose to focus her interrogation on Anne Boleyn because it was a new play, focused on the past, performed in a re-construction of an early modern space.

Martin then moves through a brief history of Shakespeare’s Globe in London, particularly as “creating a space for theatre, not re-creating it”. She argues that the play Anne Boleyn is an equivalent of the architectural endeavor of the Globe, stemming from history, but also attached to modern sensibilities. Anne Boleyn, commissioned  specifically for the Globe, premiered in the same year as Hilary Mantel’s book Wolf Hall, the finale of Showtime’s The Tudors, and the film Elizabeth: The Golden Age, as well as acting as a sequel to Shakespeare and Fletcher’s Henry VIII. The difference is that the central character “is aware that she is dead, and wishes to tell her story” — thus aware of the audience and of the gap in time between them, though she does view them as “demons of the future”. Manos and Josh Brown then present a scene where Anne’s ghost and King James I have a conversation regarding James’s commissioning of the King James Bible. (Anne dismisses James, too, as a demon, with demon thoughts). Through it, Brenton has Anne “remind the audience of their role in the creation of performance”.

Martin posit’s that Anne Boleyn‘s performance forms “a near perfect parallel” between the construction of the building and the play, both products of the 21st-century, yet inspired by history: “Grounded with the present, with an eye on the past”. Martin notes ongoing interest in the Tudor era, with tv series Reign, another award-winning book by Mantel, and the adaptation of Mantel’s novels for the stage. She suggests that theatres like the Globe have an interest not only in resurrecting Shakespeare’s plays, but the Tudor-era world.

Q&A: Matt Davies begins by discussing the Anglo-American interest in Tudor history, noting that Hollywood has had that fOCSination at various periods. He understand why the Brits would “have this romantic, nostalgic vision” of the era, he asks what the American interest is? A: Martin admits there’s something strange, yet not, about that fOCSination. She notes that American culture also has a more recent fOCSination with the Edwardian era, and that perhaps it has to do a lot with periods that are easy to glamorize.
Q: Dane Leasure questions if Martin intends to look at the Blackfriars Playhouse as well as the Globe, particularly with regards to Menzer’s The Brats of Clarence. A: She has not yet, but plans to. (Menzer chimes in to note that “Anne Boleyn is a very, very good play.”)
Q: Charlene Smith asks what Martin makes of the Wanamaker theatre both moving towards and away from its historical origins, using candle-lighting, but naming itself after a 20th-century personage. A: Martin admits that that’s interesting. Menzer explicates the history of the name from Inigo Jones through to the donation that requested them to name it the Wanamaker. Cohen notes that their promotional materials continue to draw a connection to the Blackfriars.
Q: Sarah Enloe asks if she’s looked at the “non-authentic” reconstructed theatres or is sticking to “authentic” reconstructions. A: For now, for the purposes of the theatre, she is limiting herself to the “authentic” theatres.
Q: Clare Von Rueden asks about the conflict between production and marketing when it comes to originality vs reconstruction. A: Martin hasn’t thought about that yet, but might, and thanks Von Rueden for the suggestion.
Q: Melissa Huggins discusses the Rose excavation site and their exhibition space, which has hosted both early modern and newly written works and suggests it as an alternate avenue for exploration.