Blackfriars Conference 2015 – Keynote #3: Gina Bloom

Hello, everyone! I’m Cass Morris, back on the blog for our third keynote session from 10:30am-11:30am on this sunny Friday morning.

Gina Bloom, University of California – Davis
Every Body Can Act: Reclaiming Histrionic Gesture through the Digital Theatre Game Play the Knave

Sarah Enloe introduces our next keynote speaker, Gina Bloom. She begins by noting that facility of language is common in this room, yet many of us still have some trouble with technological terms. She then rattles off a list of jargon far too quickly for this humble blogger to keep up with. “We need some help with all of that. Fortunately for us, there are people like Gina Bloom” who can connect the world of early modern drama with the world of modern technology, as well as connecting theatrical and academic organizations.

Bloom has been at UC-Davis since 2007, focusing not only on technology but on gender studies and sound studies, among other topics. Enloe shares a list of Bloom’s august publications, as well as noting that she is responsible for “expanding the digital canon” through the Luminary project. “Bringing worlds together in promising and thrilling ways.”

Enloe then passes off to Bloom.

Bloom begins by thanking Enloe and Cohen for bringing her to the OCS and to the whole technology team for helping her to get her “post-late-modern technology to work in this early modern theatre”. She cautions us all that if the technology is testy today, it’s because “it’s unhappy. Computers have emotions,” and this program has been moved around and demonstrated at many different locations, and is expressing displeasure at its tumultuous life.

Bloom is here to discuss and demonstrate a video game called “Play the Knave” being developed at UC-Davis: a Shakespeare simulator game, where the player is performing in a Shakepseare game. She describes it as a mixture of “karaoke and machinima”. Players can choose their characters, plays, the theatre they want to perform in (early modern and modern). When all of the components are set up, they perform their scene karaoke style. But there’s a twist — it’s not just karaoke, but motion-capture karaoke. The player’s own gestures inform how the avatar moves.

Bloom notes that the experiment is interesting because the avatars are always inhabiting a model of a theatrical space and because the game is generally played with an audience (similar to Guitar Hero or other musical performance games). “When people play, they tend to gather a crowd around them” — and that crowd watches both the digital and the analog performances. The motion-capture technology and the code written for it rewards players who use large “histrionic” gestures. “Although not all players think about gesturing… the ones who are ready to gesture, they inevitably end up using these exaggerated, big motions, that interestingly recall the declamatory style developed by ancient rhetoricians.” She notes that this happens regardless of the player’s experience with acting — both novices and professionals — so it’s less the player’s training that produces this style of acting, but rather the digital machine. As such, players feel like they’re puppeteering the avatar, but the digital machine is also puppeteering the player, getting a certain kind of performance out of them.

Bloom introduces actors who will play the game for us — but will first perform as they would in any theatre, to get a sense of the difference between the acting style that is more natural and the acting style that the game produces. OCS Dangerous Dreams actors Zoe Speas and Josh Innerst perform a scene from Hamlet, wherein Hamlet speaks to his father’s ghost.

Before having the actors do the scene a second time, through the game, she notes that while they have not done this scene before, they have played the game to get a sense of its operation — but that in doing so, they proved her point! Bloom also notes that they are adding new theatrical spaces from participating organizations, such that actors at the Stratford Festival were able to play the game with their own spaces.

(Encountering some difficulties with the program running in Windows 8, Bloom jokes that, “The real problem here is that all of us are Mac users”)

Prepping us for the scene, Bloom states that “Coarse exhibitionism gets a better response from the game.” She wants to examine what is digital about that declamatory acting style and what might be significant for theatre history in exploring that inherent digitality of bodily motion. Declamatory acting has gotten “a bad rap” — and Bloom relates this to the derogatory comments made in modern society about emoticons and emoji. (We’re unable to get the tech to cooperate, but Speas and Innerst testify to what Bloom says regarding the necessity of large gestures to get a good response from the avatar.) She presents a picture of a 1644 gestural language next to a field of emoji — and the two are remarkably similar.

Bloom moves to discussing how the system actually works: the Kinect sends out infrared dots, which the player’s body interrupts. The software then translates this information into “discrete and stable datapoints”, reconstructing what the camera thinks is the skeleton of the player’s body. The skeleton then drives the movement of the avatar. “Precision is largely a function of the granularity of the data”. She notes that the Kinect works well for the public playing aspect of the game. The information is not quite as precise when it comes to nuances of gesture, but does not require multiple cameras or for the player to put on a suit of reflective markers in order to play — a trade-off they considered worth it. To get the full-body capture, they have to forego smaller elements like the hands and the face.

Bloom notes that this challenges an assumption of modern acting regarding the importance of the face as a locus for emotions. She relates her discoveries via the game to other early modern and modern theories of movement and action in acting. She comments on Hamlet’s advice to the players — and Innerst provides a humorous moment in making the same gesture for “saw the air thus” as he had attempted when trying to get the game to pick up his form for the screen. Bloom points out that Hamlet’s advice advocates subtlety over declamatory style. The latter, connected to the rhetoric that might have been learned in the classroom, might have been more accessible and efficient for the younger boy actors — thus connecting it with an amateurism. Bloom suggests that Hamlet’s comments might have been calling upon common criticisms of that style, particularly in light of a professional company looking down its nose at less experienced players.

Bloom connects this to the modern idea that while singing and dancing are social activities, acting is still considered something best left to the professionals. Few people put on Shakespeare in their living rooms — though she jokes that this might not be true in this room. There are no theatrical motion-capture games the way there are games for singing, dancing, and playing instruments. She suggests this is because we now consider acting as something that can’t be done without refinement through training.

The game, she notes, often makes tragedy funny — emotions tend to slip into a comedic mode. She thinks this is because calling attention to the emotions as codified feels like an ironic move. Bloom posits the question: if “we should be encouraging everyone to perform Shakespeare if the result is countless bad productions?” She comments on the phenomenon of YouTube Shakespeare, which may corroborate those fears. Digitality has the potential to democratize acting, but it can also threaten to reinforce a generalzed view of acting and emotions. She hopes that Play the Knave might mitigate that by adding context to the digital-visual elements. Players’ gestures are digital artifacts, but not only digital — spectators get a unique experience of the declamatory style because they watch both the digital and analog performances. Bloom thinks this may help participants understand the historical importance of gestural acting even while they are laughing at what they produce through the game.

She returns to Hamlet’s critique of the declamatory style: “Such a snob, that Hamlet.” Bloom thinks his comments indicate that “naturalistic” acting, requiring training, reduces the diversity of bodies on stage. Play the Knave’s digital components may distill and even erase differences between playing bodies, but the analog components can remain diverse.

Bloom concludes by stating, “Perhaps there is something to be gained if we sometimes take Shakespeare performance a little less seriously.”

Staging Session III

Beth Burns

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

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

Why do people hesitate to work with people far away?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actors naturally find a rhythm that works with lag.

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

James says fairwell and is turned off

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kim Carrell

Variants in the Quarto and Folio texts of Richard the III

Textual veriants

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

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

Now they perform the folio.

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

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

Carrell asks audience what they think.

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

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

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

 

Julia Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L:  What have we here a manor fish?

A: Fish!

L: A Fish. Dead or alive?

A: Dead!

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

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

Blackfriars Conference 2011 – Plenary Session X

Hello – Charlene V. Smith here, welcoming you to Saturday afternoon of the 2011 Blackfriars Conference. I’ll be liveblogging Paper Session X from 2:30pm to 3:45 pm. The session is moderated by Farah Karim-Cooper from the Globe Theatre, and the presenters were assisted by Mary Baldwin MFA actors A. J. Sclafani, Linden Kueck, and Angelina LaBarre.

Annalisa Castaldo, Widener University
“Here sit we down…”: The location of Andrea and Revenge in The Spanish Tragedy

Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy opens with the entrance of the Ghost of Andrea and the figure of Revenge, and presumably they both remain onstage for the entire play. Castaldo mentions a footnote in an essay by Barry Adams pointing out Scott MacMillian’s assertion that the characters would have appeared on the main platform of the Rose in full view of the audience.

Castaldo suggests that this set up is a ridiculous waste of two actors and stage space. Castaldo compares the play to Taming of A Shrew, where Sly, onstage for entire play, repeatedly interacts with the action. In contrast, Andrea and Revenge sit still, pretend that the actors cannot hear them, speak only to each other during breaks in the action. Andrea and Revenge act more like a modern audience than an early modern audience.

Other plays of the time suggest interaction form audience, so Castaldo wonders if an non-interacting Andrea and Revenge located onstage would have in fact been distracting to the audience. With that thought, Castaldo wonders how might the characters have moved around the stage? Where would they have been?

In the very first scene, Revenge says, “Here sit we down, to see the mystery.” In an indoor theatre, they could take gallant stools. But there is no evidence that the Rose had seating onstage. Would stools have been preset? Would the actors have carried them on with them? Castaldo thinks these options seems unlikely. These problems can be solved if the characters enter above.

Further evidence for this idea comes in 3.2, during Hieronimo’s famous “O Eyes, No Eyes” soliloquy. His speech is interrupted by a letter which falls from above. The letter comes from Bel-imperia, so it would make sense that Bel-imperia drops it from her balcony. However the stage direction from the printed text is ambiguous: “a letter falleth” suggesting instead a supernatural element. Castaldo argues that Revenge drops the letter, which he can do so from above.

Castaldo also points out the stage direction that appear between acts three and four, “enter Ghost.” The previous action upsets Andrea and Castaldo says the “enter” indicates that Andrea appears onstage and shouts up to the sleeping Revenge, who is still above.

Castaldo ends her presentation with a strong recommendation that the OCS produces The Spanish Tragedy, a statement that is met with enthusiastic applause from the audience (much of it, admittedly, mine).

Jeanne McCarthy, Georgia Gwinnett College
The Two Blackfriars Theatres: Discontinuity or Contiguity?

E.K. Chambers conjectured that both Blackfriars theatres were located in the same place in the monastery. Later scholars have imposed great difference between the two theatre on what McCarthy calls “slim evidence.” Scholars have come to view the first Blackfriars as inferior in location, size, and ambition, a failed attempt that was corrected with the second. McCarthy suggests this comes from a selective reading of the evidence.

Many scholars push first Blackfriars into northern end of the upper floor in the old buttery. This conclusion is based on misunderstandings of audience access, room size, and roof height. Documents from the period speak both of divided rooms and also one great room, suggesting a mutability of space. McCarthy points out evidence authorizing the removal of walls.

McCarthy argues that the desire of scholars to seek a permanent purposed built theatre in the Blackfriars is anachronistic. The documents are evident, instead, of a fluid, transformable sense of space.

Joe Falocco, Texas State University – San Marcos
“What’s in a Name?”: Defining an Appropriate Nomenclature for Elizabethan/Original Practices/Early Modern/Renaissance/ Shakespearean Staging

Since late 19th century, theatre practitioners have sought to emulate the staging conditions of Shakespeare’s playhouse. Falocco’s paper investigates what we should call this movement. Early incarnations were known as Elizabethan Revival. This causes problems, the chief of which is the name Elizabethan is historically inaccurate. Early Modern is more accurate, but few people outside of English departments know what that means. Falocco says that calling the movement Renaissance Staging would avoid these pitfalls, but unfortunately would cause tension with disgruntled medievalists.

The term Original Practices has gained some popularity recently, though there has not been complete agreement over what these practices are. This term has been associated strongly with Mark Rylance’s tenure at the Globe and the New American Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta. Theatre historians, however, have pointed out the Globe’s ahistorical use of the yard for entrances, exits, and processions. At the Shakespeare Tavern, the audience is seated in front and does not surround the playing space. Nor does the tavern consistently employ universal lighting.

Jim Warren, Artistic Director of the American Shakespeare Center, told Falocco that everyone used to refer to Shakespeare’s staging conditions. Falocco suggest Shakespearean Staging as a viable alternative to these other terms. However he admits that this terms shortchanges Shakespeare’s contemporaries and also causes confusion, as every production of Shakespeare play is in some sense Shakespearean staging. But, Falocco argues, the benefits of name recognition might outweigh these drawbacks.

Ann Jennalie Cook, Vanderbilt University and Sewanee School of Letters
Light and Heat in the Playhouses

Cook begins her presentation by noting that even in our original practices productions we don’t fully realize the influence of light and heat in the early modern period. The availability of light regulated activity in the early modern period. Torches and candles were expensive. Whatever happened at night involved spending money.

It was, additionally, really cold most of the time. The period was consistently colder than temperatures have been in the 20th century. Weather conditions caused permanent snow on Scottish hill tops and frequent storms brought rain and crop destruction. The Thames River froze solid at least eleven times during the 17th century.

1601 was the coldest summer in 2,000 years. The weather, like the light, had monetary implications. During the period, the price of fuel climbed steadily. Clothing was also expensive and shoes were a necessity, not a luxury.

Both factors of heat and light affected season attendance and governed activities in the playhouses. Cook wonders how often performances were curtailed or canceled due to weather? How many groundlings remained shivering until the end of the performance? To sit out of the rain and weather in an outdoor playhouse cost more money. Indoor playhouse likewise had a higher cost of admission.

Considering these elements will help us understand the plays better, Cook argues. Shakespeare’s text clearly makes references to weather, season, and time. A Midsummer Night’s Dream takes place at a time of year where the light and weather allow for lovers to sleep on the ground, and for rude mechanicals to rehearse in the woods. “Sleeping in mine orchard,” as mentioned in Hamlet, was only possible for a limited period of the year. Looking at the season and the school schedule at Wittenberg, Cook suggests that Hamlet would have been at Elsinore when his father died. Cook states that the action of the plot of Hamlet begins in early September and “the days thereafter grow steadily colder.”

Nova Myhill, New College of Florida
“The Concourse of People on the Stage”: An Alternative Proposal for Onstage Seating at the Second Blackfriars

Ben Jonson’s prologue to The Devil is an Ass is concerned with the physical restraints the stage-sitters put on the actors. Thomas Dekker makes similar observations about the behavior of these audience members in his plays. The Blackfriars recreation we are currently sitting in allows for eighteen occupants of Lord’s Chairs in box like area, behind a half wall, and places twelve gallants stools on stage. This Blackfriars recreation follows scholarly opinion that assumes a small numer of spectators onstage. Andrew Gurr, for example, restricts the number to “as many as ten.”

Myhill asks what would happen if we stopped looking at Jonson and Dekker’s descriptions seen as satiric exaggerations. What if we maximize the possible number of onstage audience members rather than minimizing it? This thought brings up two areas of inquiry: how many stage-sitters were there, and where would they have been located.

Myhill tells about a strage law case in 1609 where a theatre employee was accused of receiving 30 shillings a week for the stools on the stage of the Blackfriars unknown to everyone else. Myhill states a cost of six pence per stool, extrapolating that according to the case, sixty people hired stools. Were there enough already onstage that sixty more would have been unnoticed?

One scholar has proposed that there were no boxes at the second Blackfriars, simply side seating, though an illustration from the time shows that there were. Myhill proposes that perhaps the boxes were located at the rear of the stage, allowing for more spectators on the stage itself.

Myhill ends by pointing out that the estimates of ten stage sitters, or even twenty to thirty, that scholars suggest can not produce the effects mentioned and bemoaned by Jonson and Dekker.

Lauren Shell, University of Virginia, Technical Direction MFA program
Lighting Effects in the Early Modern Private Playhouses

Shell states that we must realize that lighting design is not a modern concept. It began as early as the ancient greek and roman theatre, where plays called for torches brought onstage for certain moments. Here at the Blackfriars recreation we assume an even wash of light onstage and through out the house, but Shell argues that lighting effects were more nuanced that that and points out that text of the early modern plays we study suggest lighting effects.

Shell then discusses evidence of lighting effects in books and manuals from the 17th century. Some of these manuals provide instructions for how to achieve these effects. Shell then demonstrates her own models of possible early modern lighting machines.

First is a device whereby lit candles have covers over them. These covers are attached to ropes and can be lowered and raised, effectively dimming and increasing the level of lighting. Proof exists of such a device being used in court masques, so it seems probably that the same device could have been employed in private playhouses. Shell points out the difference between the stage directions “as if groping in the dark” and “a darkness comes over the place.” These directions are not the same. The first deals with perceived darkness; the second, actual darkness.

Shell then demonstrates how colored lighting would have been created by placing containers of colored liquid in front of candles, the forerunner to modern day gels. Shell then shows a device where candles are surrounded by microreflectors that could be swung open and closed, creating a sudden burst of light.

Inigo Jones and Ben Jonson first collaborated on The Queen’s Masque of Blackness. Jonson’s text contains verbose descriptions of stage effects, including lighting effects. Future masques that Jonson worked on do as well. These effects, when employed in the private playhouses, brought the sophistication of court to the common man.

Blackfriars Conference 2011- Plenary Session VI

Hi, Deb Streusand here. This morning I’ll be liveblogging Plenary Session VI from 9 am to 10:15 am.

“Some by Stenography Drew the Plot”: An Experiment
William Proctor Williams, University of Akron

Williams begins by having A.J. Sclafani, Brian Falbo, Kim Maurice, and Michael Wagoner read two passages from Thomas Heywood’s If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody. This play was performed before August 1605, probably by Queen Anne’s Men. It was thereafter published in 5 editions in 8 years. Heywood’s later prologue, in the Eighth Quarto, recounts the play’s popularity and how some recorded it in by stenography, so that he now wishes to put it forth in correct form himself. The Eighth Quarto can therefore serve as a control text for comparison to the earlier Quartos, which reflect stenographic recording of performance. The actors read the corrected version of the same scenes they read earlier. Williams asks us to imagine that people are recording the two versions of the scene right now, to be published later.

[Edit: Apparently I misheard what Williams said about people recording the scene as it was performed during his presentation. In fact, two students from the Mary Baldwin MLitt/MFA program did record the scene at his request, and later in the day, Williams provided a handout with the original text, the transcription, and a collation of the differences.]

Did Hamlet Mean Country Matters?

Zachary Lesser, University of Pennsylvania

Lesser recounts several editors’ glosses on Hamlet’s joke about “country matters.” He asks whether, when Early Modern audiences heard these words, they actually perceived the pun we now hear in it. No major editor noted an obscene pun at this exact point in the text until Malone in 1790; previous editors had glossed the statement as a reference to the idea of country folk as crudely sexual. The exchange was cut from productions in the 18th and 19th century, but primarily because of the later punning on “nothing.” The Restoration Smock Alley Promptbook cut “nothing,” but not “country matters.” In the First Quarto, Hamlet says “contrary” rather than “country matters.” Lesser argues that scholars have wrenched their arguments to include the pun, but this distortion falsifies the history of the text and the experience of this moment. Looking at the texts in order of probable composition, Lesser argues that the Folio text expands this moment to clarify it, with Hamlet explaining the innocence of his question–“I mean, my head upon your lap.” In the First Quarto, Hamlet says “my head in your lap,” instead heightening the suggestion by specifying the body part. If there had been a sexual pun in “country matters,” such a process of clarification would not have been necessary. There is no indication of Shakespeare’s audience understanding those words to imply such a pun, and we should, therefore, “forget what our glosses have been assuring us.”

Speaking the Speeches: Speech Order and the Early Modern Performances of Hamlet
Matthew Vadnais, Ohio State University

Vadnais describes the division among scholars about whether
the longer texts of Hamlet could have been staged at full length. He draws attention to the question of whether the Second Quarto and Folio text would have been too hard to play at full length, particularly because of the use of cue scripts and the necessary speed of performance. He demonstrates that many lines end in the same or almost the same cues. He proposes, however, that like their First Quarto counterpart, the other texts were created to make performance easy. A.J. Sclafani, Brian Falbo, and Michael Wagoner perform the Second Quarto version of the conversation between Hamlet, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern about Gertrude using cue scripts without actual cues, demonstrating that the speech order that gave clues to when the actors should speak. Another way of making things easier is to create two-player scenes or scenes with only two speakers. Vadnais uses the metaphor of a “speech stem” for situations in which several characters respond to a primary character, who knows that every speech will contain his next cue. Shakespeare’s plays provided the company with assistance in knowing when to speak. All three texts of Hamlet equally anticipate how they would have been performed on the Early Modern stage.

“Nor wink, nor nod, nor kneel, nor make a sign…”
Lezlie Cross, University of Washington

Cross describes her conversations with Howie Seago, a deaf Shakespearean actor. She wants to reframe the term “Original Practices” to refer to a new practice, that is, Seago’s translation of Shakespeare’s plays into movements, a kinetic language. She cites Artaud referring to a language of movement that transcends the speech on stage. When playing the ghost in 2010 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Seago could obscure his statements to his son even from the audience, so that they heard was what Hamlet chose to share. Seago’s script notes where he will voice the lines, as in “I am thy father’s spirit,” using his own “imperfect” voice to show the ghost’s difficulty in being present in this world. The audience saw Hamlet take possession of the knowledge and of his revenge. Seago transformed “list, list, o list” into signs meaning “look at me, look at me, look at me.” Both Shakespeare’s language and Seago’s sign language have similar metaphorical underpinnings, in opposition to common language. For “the serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown,” Seago transformed his sign language into a kinetic signification of the image. His method begins with a “translated” English text and finds ways to communicate the ideas through signs, making modifications according to factors such as the length of time that it takes to sign a line. “Seago’s work in translating Shakespeare’s text goes beyond mere translation,” transforming the text from one medium to another. Cross refers to this phenomenon as “kinetic textuality,” a term typically applied to digital artistic creations. Seago’s translations are still more kinetic, being no longer simply textual, but having instead become “meaning in motion.”

Jonson’s Breaches and the Typography of Action
Claire Bourne, University of Pennsylvania

Bourne argues that theatrical innovation prompted a textual innovation that allowed printed plays to develop into their own dramatic experience. Textual evidence suggests that these texts attempted to use punctuation in a way that allowed the reader to experience the dramatic in the printed text. Jonson described such punctuation, as used in his humor plays, as “breaches,” that is, markers of gaps in the dialogue. Bourne proposes that Jonson’s breaches not only allowed replication of the action, but made it possible to read the printed text in a way that makes dramatic sense on the page. In order to put the different theatrical and textual signs into the same visual field for her audience, Bourne has Wagoner, Sclafani, Maurice, and Falbo perform a portion from Cynthia’s Revels that is especially characterized by experimentation with punctuation, with dashes signaling non-verbal interruptions. They next perform a scene from Every Man Out of His Humour that uses dashes to signify self-interruptions, in this case by puffing on a pipe. The breaches signal moments that are vital to personation. Jonson’s Folio collection of his plays retains these experiments in using typography to convey non-verbal elements of the scene. Maurice and Sclafani perform a scene from Epicoene, or the Silent Woman, in which a character replies to conversation in non-verbal signs because of another character’s requirement that he do so, performing marginal text that states that the breaches refer to signs that responded to the dialogue. Bourne suggests that the breaches did not replace the action of performance, but preserved it for the page. The punctuation grew to symbolize all kinds of action, functioning as a recognizable invitation to notice non-verbal elements of the play.

Keeping Shakespeare Real by Using iPhones: or, Original Practices Shakespeare (There’s an app for that)
Joseph F. Stephenson, Amy Simpson Grubbs, and Adam Hester, Abilene Christian University

Stephenson states that they will discuss the 2010 Abilene Shakespeare Festival’s production of Othello, which was not actually intended to be Original Practices, but grew into some original practices as it formed. Hester, as director, wanted to find a way to engage with Bard-shy audience members, and decided to use technology to reach “beyond the proscenium,” by creating a blog that they updated throughout the show, including scene synopses, definitions, or comments about the action on stage. Audience members were able to post and read comments themselves, and the blog was flooded with them. Performers were also able to receive audience’s responses, and were heard walking offstage saying “what does the blog say?” By creating this intimacy, they argue that they were able to approach the closeness to the audience that is crucial to original practice, as well as a sense of play, and lighting (that of mobile devices) that made the audience visible. Stephenson quotes two piece of evidence about early modern performance and discusses their ambiguities and the complicated audience responses. He then cites some quotes from audience members responding to their production, including discussion of the play’s ambiguities. The blog also provides a permanent archive of audience responses, which would be useful for future research into audience response to Othello.

Question Time:

A questioner asks Cross about how American Sign Language deals with puns such as “country matters.” She talks about how Seago would probably try various movements to see how they landed with the audience.

Another questioner suggests that Cross do some work with Tommaso Salvini, who spoke only Italian but performed with an English-speaking company. Cross replies that she has not yet worked on Salvini, but she is working on Helena Madjeska, a 19th-century Polish actress who worked with American actors, including Edwin Booth, speaking Polish in response to their English on stage.

Another questioner asks about when “cunt” appears in the OED in the form we know it. Lesser cites a 13th century reference. The questioner asks if there is a possibility that this meaning of the word was active in the scene. Lesser says that what interests him is our absolute assurance that that meaning is in play at the moment he discusses.

Another questioner comments about Vadnais’ presentation, talking about cultural cues and discussing scribal adjustments to a text and to cues specifically.

Another questioner asks Cross about the difference between ASL and the sign language used in Britain, and what impact that would have on kinetic representation. Cross clarifies that Seago does not really use ASL, but mostly discovers movements that work to communicate, creating a new language for each production, which is very much keyed into the character that he is creating.

Another questioner asks Stephenson and Hester about how they dealt with the possibility of distraction from the technology. Hester describes the placement of technology users behind those who were watching without using technology. A different questioner wonders about what might have been lost with the technology users during the show. Hester describes the audience eagerness to see the next blog, and actors walking back to check the blog, which he did not always find useful. Stephenson argues that visual focus on the technology actually brought back the Early Modern tradition of “hearing” a play.

Another questioner asks Stephenson and Hester about the possibility of acquiring greater connection to young students through the use of technology. Hester describes the demographics of technology use, stating that the blog users were mostly under 30. He discusses how the technological elements gained greater acceptance from all age groups over the course of the run.

Kate O’Connell of Mary Baldwin College moderates this session.