2013 Blackfriars Conference: Liveblogging Masterlist

Wednesday, 10/23

Wake-Up Workshop #1: That’s a Certain Text
Welcome Address
Peter Holland Keynote
Plenary I (Kara Northway, Lindsey Snyder, Benjamin Curns, Darlene Farabee, Sarah Werner, Matt Kozusko)
Colloquy I: Staging Choices
Colloquy II: Methods – The Renaissance Run
Colloquy III: The Feminine in Early Modern Plays
Colloquy IV: Audience
Colloquy V: The Published Text
Staging Session I
Plenary II (Alan Armstrong, Sid Ray, Holly Pickett, Bill Gelber, Cass Morris, Peter Kanelos)

Thursday, 10/24

Wake-Up Workshop #2: If This Were Played Upon a Stage
Plenary III (Amy Rodgers, Jeremy Fiebig, Davey Morrison Dillard, Kimberly West, Heidi Cephus, Michael Wagoner)
Russ McDonald Keynote
Lunch and Learn Session: ‘The Actors are at Hand!’ Bringing the ASC to your town”
Special Presentation: “A Scholar, at the Least”
Plenary IV* (Leslie Thomson, Ian Borden, William Proctor Williams, Melissa Aaron, Evelyn Tribble, James Keegan)
Colloquy VI: Methods – Pedagogy
Colloquy VII: Rhetoric
Colloquy VIII: Adaptations
Colloquy IX: Construction of Identity
Staging Session II*
Staging Session III
Plenary V (Ann Pleiss Morris, Annalisa Castaldo, Andrew Carlson, Steven Urkowitz, Ann Jennalie Cook, Anston Bosman)

Friday, 10/25

Wake-Up Workshop #3: Sweet Smoke of Rhetoric
Plenary VI (Katharine Cleland, Brian Chalk, Jessica Schiermeister, Antonia Forster, Danielle Rosvally, Travis Curtright, Deb Streusand)
Ann Thompson Keynote
Lunch and Learn Session: The World Shakespeare Project
Plenary VII (Roslyn Knutson, Sybille Bruun, Andrew Blasenak, Hsiang-Chun Chu, Kate Moncrief, Nick Hutchison and Donald Jellerson)
Colloquy X: The Big Woo
Colloquy XI: Methods – Actingin Shakespeare: What We Teach and What We Learn
Colloquy XII: Staged and Unstaged Binaries
Colloquy XIII: History and Culture
Colloquy XIV: Playing Mad
Colloquy XV: Critical Theory
Staging Session IV
Plenary VIII (John Mucciolo, Jacque Vanhoutte, Peter Hyland, Paige Martin-Reynolds, Jeanne McCarthy, George Walton Williams, Virginia Vaughan)

Saturday, 10/26

Wake-Up Workshop #4: Asides and Audience Contact
Plenary IX (Janelle Jenstad, Christina Gutierrez, William Rampone, James Marino, Denise Walen, Don Weingust)
Abigail Rokison Keynote
Lunch and Learn Session: The Folger Digital Texts
Special Presentation: Why Der Bestrafte Brudermord might be a puppet play & The Complete Works
Plenary X (Dorothy Todd, Bob Hornback, Catherine Loomis, Celestine Woo, Lars Engle, Larry Weiss)

Sunday, 10/27

“The End of Shakespeare’s Verse?”: Part 1*, Part 2, Part 3

*All asterisked posts now include PDF downloads of handouts

The End of Shakespeare’s Verse? Part III

Three chairs are set up on stage for Giles Block, Patrick Spottiswoode, and Abigail Rokison.

Spottiswoode welcomes everyone back and alerts the audience that we are also honoring Anne Thompson whose work will be shown in a conference later in the year.

Rules for discussion, could you stand up and speak clearly and state your name and institution.

Emely Strong ASC intern: During this conference there seem to be two different standards of judging the accuracy of the text theory and practice.

Block:  I don’t see why there needs to be a conflict between those two. Clearly, there is a conflict when one feels the necessity to cut and maims the text in some way, but we all need to cut. The public won’t notice if you leave half a line standing by itself, what they do notice is if you lose the rhythm of the language. This iambic rhythm is something that binds us together because it is beating as your heart and my heart.

Rokison: I’m arguing against rules because rules bind instead of free. I would like people writing books to do historical research first.

Karoline Szatek, Curry College outside of Boston, She liked that they gave the actors in the last session someone to work off, when the actors would talk to the graduate students in the upstairs would close in the space and open up his thoughts.

Block: When someone begins a speech they don’t know how they’re going to end it.

James Keegan University of Delaware and from the ASC: I enjoy your books because they have a profound humility. Rules about verse can do damage because they are used as a stick. We have to be conscious of the text and its origin. One of the trickiest things for me as an actor (in Marlow and early Shakespeare) is the regularity of the line, and having to fight the regularity of the line.  I think Shakespeare wants us to pay attention to the line. I think in Shakespeare’s career we move from a declaratory style to more intimate style.

Jim Casey High Point University: I noticed that when the actors started talking to (the not there in reality) Lady Macbeth their stresses changed.

Block: I certainly feel that it is not all iambic but there are a lot of trochaic beats. I go trochee hunting. There are a lot of lines where you can make a choice. Which is more easy?

Casey: I thought the reading was better when they changed the stress and made it less like something that could become monotonous.

Block: One thing I feel is that in those fifty line speeches you want to be dividing them in to different thought units, each though unit has its different color. Finding how one though morphs into or prompts another.

Keegan: In Shakespeare’s Metrical Art he does that. You build, and then you come down again, it is an interesting coming together of the formalist and method versions

Block: When Tamburlaine first played I imagine that people were amazed at how he just kept building.

Rokison: I try to get students to try and scan the passages. and I don’t tell them which words are trochees and iambic because they have to find it for themselves. Don’t imagine that every metrical irregularity is doing something because that’s another rule.  William Proctor Williams was saying that he was editing Haywood’s plays at the moment. At the begining of his career he didn’t use any shared lines and then as his career when on he used more and more.

Lawyer in the audience says only bad thing is that Shakespeare’s plays don’t leave much for copywrite litigation.  A professor he knew got very excited about Rokison’s book and her ideas on rules and line endings.

Rokison: I think some of those line endings might be rather useful, but I have never played Macbeth so I don’t know, but I think pausing after a line ending can be useful, but it is about exploration. Whatever happens with these line endings if you do take a suspension at the end of the line it does throw emphases to the front of the line.

Don Wiest, Utah University: Thank you for your healthy skepticism of rules. I noted your preference to begin with folio punctuation.

Block: I go to it because it is lighter than most modern punctuation and it encourages flow. I think it might because to the way Shakespeare writes. If Hand D was Shakespeare and in the midst of un-punctuated flow there are two commas and then in another speech there are many commas as if to indicate someone who is really distraught.

Michael Henry a classicist from Staunton: With Euripides you can date the plays without the external dates because of the way the meter works. Can you do that here, is it linear?

Rokison: With Haywood there was an increase in the use of shared lines, but not in lines that were just sort.  I’d love to do more looking at Shakes contemporaries.

Peter Holland: When I was relineating Coriolanus there were many places where someone relineated the lines because compositor could not stand to have “And” at the end of a line, but that is part of what makes Shakespeare great. This morning with the actors I kept hearing different internal rhythms in their speeches.  I think these rhythms matter.  Shakespeare wants us to notice.

Block: I agree with what you are saying. I love the stuff we can’t give voice to. There are lots of words that are repeated in those speeches.  It is all very subjective.

Holland: I think I want the actors to find more of the complexities rather than fewer.

Rokison: Perhaps we should go back to giving rhetoric classes.

Dr. Ralph Cohen of the ASC and Mary Baldwin College Shakespeare and Performance program: What we are more and more interested all the time here is studying prose, and remember that these people knew a hundred to a hundred and twenty figures of speech.  It offers the actor a way to hear what Peter is hearing. It isn’t at odds with it.

Dr. Matthew Davies of Mary Baldwin College Shakespeare and Performance program: I would add the rhetoric of sound is very important, scan and don’t stop there, note the sounds, the repetitions.

Rokison: I have my students take away the consonants and just use the vowels. I think the danger in this business is with inexperienced actors and you point out a figure of rhetoric and then that is all that gets stresses.

Virginia Vaughan, Clark University: I was interested in Block’s back-story about Lord and Lady Macbeth and I think it is interesting to find out the physiology behind the story.

Block: In Hamlet there is the back story of what went wrong with Old Hamlet and Gertrude, and in Lear, why does he love Cordelia best? I sometimes think Macbeth is like Hitchcock; just when you think everything is alright you hear an owl screech.

Stephanie Howieson, Rouge Shakespeare/Mary Baldwin MFA: Just because Lady Macbeth says he swore about something he could have said “no I didn’t,” so there may not be that story before the story.

Block: I think in a play that you have to take everything as literally as you can, Shakespeare takes us to extremes in small ways or in big ways, like how many times words like “all” or “never” appear as the first word in a line. There is no wastage in Macbeth. I think she says “you swore to me” and I think he knows he has.

Frances Cooper, independent scholar: What about long lines?

Rokison: A few. Sometimes they are what Peter Holland just said, it is hyper long because a compositor changed them, or pronunciation changed, or mistakes were made and a crossed out words got in, but there are some really long lines. Like in  Richard II you go from regular rhymed lines and then finished with a hyper … Bolingbrook cuts the whole thing off with a hyper metrical line.

Block: I think frequently longer lines happened in the latter plays. Just feel where the five stresses are even in long lines, in the actual speaking of it the extras don’t count.

Joe Stevenson: There are people out there who will almost refuse to speak the verse I feel that I have an answer to this. Macbeth: They have tied me to the stake I cannot fly.” Many people say “they have” but if you scan it should be “they’ve.”

Block: I think verse is speech, that’s all.

Stevenson: the “ion” ending, “They say the lark makes sweet div-is-ion,” do we add the extra syllable ?

Rokison I think an actor should hear it but not say it.

Iska Alter, independent scholar: You were talking to the actors about repetition of the “S” sound in listening to the speech there are different types of “S” sound. Is there a way to make a distinction? Because they register quite differently.

David Landon, Sewanee: The University of the South: I worked with Marion Richland, she always said the verse is like the trellis, and the speech is the vine going through the trellis, and every now and then there’s a flower.

Rokison I use a musical bars metaphor to explain that not every musical bar has quavers and crotches… do you call them that here? No?

Block: I think nine times out of ten people say the line and they get it right, and that’s because Shakespeare wrote it right.

Spottiswoode: Perhaps we should have a moment of silence for the people who brought verse to us.  Thank you for all of you for contributing and thanks to Giles and Abigail for helping us to look with our ears.

Blackfriars Conference 2013 — The End of Shakespeare’s Verse?, Part 2

Hi, I’m Charlene V. Smith and I’ll be taking over the live blogging from Molly for part 2 of The End of Shakespeare’s Verse?, from 10am-11am, specifically Giles Block’s section of the presentation.

While listening to the Patrick Spottiswoode’s introduction, it struck me that the word ‘end’ has several meanings within the question Giles Block and Abigail Rokison are asking. What is the end of Shakespeare’s verse, i.e., what is the purpose of Shakespeare’s verse? Where is the end of Shakespeare’s verse, i.e. what does lineation tell us about theatrical delivery? Is Shakespeare’s verse ending, i.e., are we losing Shakespeare’s verse in modern performance, or even, perhaps, should we lose Shakespeare’s verse in modern performance?

Block opens by admitting that it is difficult to describe to people what he does. Mark Rylance calls him, “the ear on the play.” Block will work with American Shakespeare Center actors René Thornton, Jr., Allison Glenzer, John Harrell, and Benjamin Curns to reveal what he does in the rehearsal room.

Block asks, what do we do with enjambments, when a thought runs over from one line of iambic pentameter into the next? He says there are three ways, using some example text from The Merchant of Venice.

1. with the punctuation: When I told you My state was nothing, I should then have told you That I was worse than nothingBlock notes that this is not how Shakespeare wrote the line.

2. a thought and a breath goes together, delivering the line in a single breath, without any pauses. Block notes that this doesn’t sound like spontaneous speech, like us coming up with words as we speak.

3. Block suggests following the form. We acknowledge there is a single thought, but it is expressed in three parts
When I told you
My state was nothing, I should then have told you
That I was worse than nothing.

He believes this replicates the way we speak and achieves clarity of expression, and also opens a window onto how the speaker is feeling. He argues that the more a speaker is feeling something, the more the speeches get enjambed.

In Macbeth, the enjambments aren’t necessarily associated with moments of high joy or sorrow, but just the way people are speaking all the time. As an example, John Harrell performs a Malcolm speech from 4.3 of Macbeth: “It is myself I mean.” Block points out that most of the lines do not have a punctuation mark at the end. This speech is about comparison. Macbeth and Malcolm. Black and pure as snow. Block asks Harrell to deliver again, following the verse structure more. Block feels that the line ending is never arbitrary, and can help bring greater emphasis to the first stress of the next line. Block asks for the speech a third time, using the “my” in the final line a bit more (“With my confineless harms.”). Block notes that he never wants to know what an actor is doing at the end of the line – he doesn’t call it a pause. Block notes that enjambment are a hallmark of an active mind when engaged in speaking.

The next example is “Cure her of that,” performed by Thornton, Jr. Block says that this speech has a different sound; the speaker’s mind is not busy formulating persuasive arguments. Instead we hear deep longing and Macbeth’s need to disburden himself of this knowledge. Blocks asks Thornton, Jr. to think about the sounds of the speech. We go from ‘m’ sounds to ‘r’ sounds to ‘s’ sounds: minister, mind, memory; raze, troubles, brain; some, sweet, cleanse, stuffed, bosom, stuff. Block says the m’s sound like longing, s’s sound like secrets, whispering. Using Block’s adjustments, Thornton, Jr. gives a moving reading of those lines.

Block says the problem with Macbeth is that we know it too well. We all could be saying these words along with the actors. Block says this is too bad; if only we could forget it, because he feels there is something about this play that makes it stand out. The original audience would have been less familiar with this story, unlike other Shakespeare plays many of which had a preceding theatrical version (Other early modern plays exist about Richard III, Henry V, King Lear, and Hamlet, for example). The play is actually quite weird and enigmatic. It takes until the seventh scene of the play before we hear the first major speech which says the things that haven’t been said up unto this point. Block characterizes this speech as exposition happening deep within the play.

Next Block works with Allison Glenzer on Lady Macbeth’s speech at the end of this same scene. In this speech we learn the back story. Macbeth has sworn to kill the king, which we don’t see during the play. They’ve talked about this and made a pact before the play begins. Blocks says this information helps everything fall into place. Lady Macbeth’s behavior makes sense. The vagueness of their previous conversations makes sense. Block says Macbeth is already guilty when the witches talk to him. The baby that is mentioned is the topic they never talk of, because it is too painful. Block asks Glenzer to make “time” and “place” sound different and to use the “know” more. He asks her to find little phrases which he characterizes as “pop-up thoughts.” He points out “whilst it was smiling in my face” as an example of this. Glenzer’s powerful performance is met by ‘ooo’s by the audience. Block gives Glenzer a couple more notes, and she performs the speech again. The dynamic result seems to leave the audience breathless.

Next Block returns to the top of this scene, to the “If it were done” speech. He has given the actors the speech broken up into thought units, which they read unit by unit. Block is interested by soliloquies and to whom they are spoken. Yes, they are spoken to the audience, but to which part? Block has a feeling that the early part of this speech isn’t for the groundlings. Block argues that Macbeth is saying the first lines to his non-present wife. Perhaps practicing for the conversation they planned to have later: “we will speak further.” The actors demonstrate, with Glenzer representing the absent Lady Macbeth. Harrell says this exercise has made him see this first line in a new light: “If it were done, WHEN ’tis done,” i.e. “if the leaves get raked… WHEN the leaves get raked.”

This is no time in Macbeth, that is what makes the story work, and that is why there is no early exposition: there is no time for it. Block suggests the speech shifts on “This even-handed Justice.” Now it is less about talking to Lady Macbeth; perhaps Macbeth is speaking to the gods, looking for answers. The actors continue working the speech in this manner. Curns makes a fascinating choice to take back to Lady Macbeth the line about being Duncan’s host. For the next step, Block asks where we should place Lady Macbeth since we can’t actually have her on stage. Block points out that there’s something about how the imagery moves upwards: heaven, angels, etc. He points that out and also asks the actors to use the intimacy of this space in their delivery.

In the final moments, Block looks at Macbeth’s speech “Within this hour.” In his example text, Block has marked all the pop-up ideas with parentheses. Curns reads the speech, leaving those marked thoughts out. The sense and story is still clear. Block notes that Macbeth has all these add-ons and it is in the add-ons where the character resides. Curns does the speech again, this time with the add-ons. Block lists two ways to do an add-on: either drop them down, or make them more important than the surrounding text.

The End of Shakespeare’s Verse?: Blackfriars Playhouse, Sunday 10/27/2013 Blackfriars Conference

Good morning everyone –

This is Molly Zeigler, I’m live-blogging this morning the first hour of the final presentation of the 2013 Blackfriars Conference.

Today’s presentation is “The End of Shakespeare’s Verse” at the Blackfriars Playhouse on Sunday 10/27/2013.  The presentation is being introduced by Patrick Spottiswoode, Director of Education for Shakespeare’s Globe with presenters: Abigail Rokison and Giles Block.

Participating Actors: Ben Curns, Allison Glenzer, John Harrell, and Rene Thornton, Jr.

Patrick Spottiswoode took the stage to introduce the symposium and today’s presenters.  Today’s symposium is part 3 of 5 of the program “The End of Shakespeare’s Verse” being presented in cooperation by the American Shakespeare Center and Shakespeare’s Globe (and co-sponsored by the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon).

The idea of the presentation is to explore verse and its role in performance and Shakespearean studies.  This symposium is not intended to present a unified front, but rather it is intended to explore a variety of angles regarding this topic.

When, for two examples, script writer Julian Fellowes says he had to cut the verse in Romeo and Juliet to accommodate modern audiences and when major theatrical enterprises spend time organizing  prose editions of the plays – the role of verse needs to be addressed.

Abigail Rokison presented first.  She is exploring some contemporary and popular assertions regarding particular approaches to verse.  These attitudes, approaches, and assertions are expressed  in the  work of Cicely Berry, Patsy Rodenburg, Peter Hall, and John Barton (to name a few). Such assertions can be traced to the work of, among others, William Poel.  Poel’s attempts to incorporate Early Modern theatrical and textual elements into active artistic expression have influenced enterprises for decades.

Poel’s work has been taken and expanded upon by the contemporary scholars and practitioners mentioned.  However, it is not easy to draw direct correlations between Poel and modern efforts.

Shared lines, short lines, ambiguous presentation, and punctuation are of concern.  Furthermore, the canon can be divided in time periods which helps locate trends and issues.

 Shared lines are seen in three major configurations:

1) Linking short lines

2) Linking a shorter and longer line

3) Linking two longer lines

With shared lines we can see a variety of performative options.

In Macbeth there is a considerate number of shared lines.  It is with these shared lines that a sense of heightened emotions and shared intensity can be seen,

Short unconnected verse lines are prominent in the middle tragedies.

In the later (post 1600) works, the number of scenes ending in short lines increases.  To end a scene with a short verse line, rather than with a rhymed couplet, provides a sense of speed, urgency, and suddenness.  It is often seen that the final short line follows a  rhymed couplet, perhaps offering a demand to continue or move on after the satisfying couplet.

Shared lines: There is a marked increase in the number of shared lines in later plays such as The Winter’s Tale.

Of course, there are elements of subjectivity here, and considerations (regarding pauses and actions) depend on theatrical intent, purpose, and choices.  There is no hard and fast rule, but the breaks in lines and the use of shorter and shared lines is a physical fact within the text and should be given attention.  Pauses and breaks and the manipulation of lines are representative of rhetorical structures such as aposiopesis (Greek for’becoming silent’).  Aposiopesis is the deliberate breaking off of a sentence and leaving it unfinished.  The ending of the sentence, of the thought, is meant to be supplied by the imagination.  Aposiopesis can give an impression of unwillingness or of the inability of a character to continue.

Lineation & Punctuation:  There are a number of theories about the role of lineation and punctuation in the deliverance of verse lines.

Peter Hall (and others) insists that each distinct line of verse is a single entity and breath comes only at the end of the line.

In contrast, the likes of Berry, Rodenburg and Donnellan suggest that the meaning take precedence over the line structure and that an actor should follow punctuation in relation to breath (but, whose punctuation?).

Stops in punctuation traditionally include the comma, the colon, and the period with the related pause increasing with each stop.

To avoid ambiguity different delivery methods can be explored.

Rokison suggests that a strict adherence to any one method of delivery is reductive.

It is necessary to explore the role of verse in performance.  These works were constructed purposefully, after all.

Abigail Rokison and the actors presented moments from the canon, primarily from MacbethGlobe symposium – Macbeth – handout

The presentation today is set to continue with Giles Block.

——————–

It has been my pleasure to blog portions of this wonderful conference,  I hope one and all have enjoyed these last few days as much as I have.  It has been a truly wonderful experience.

Blackfriars Conference 2013 — Plenary Session X

Welcome back to the 7th Blackfriars Conference. I’m Cass Morris, and from 2:15-3:30pm, I will be live-blogging Plenary Session X, moderated by Tom Delise of the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory. This is the final Plenary Session of the 2013 conference.

Dorothy Todd, University of Georgia — “‘We’ve Got Blokes in Dresses’: Cheek by Jowl’s As You Like It and the Challenges of Drag”

Todd opens by commenting on the “stir” created by Cheek by Jowl’s 1991 presentation of As You Like It, which featured an all-male cross-dressed cast (the first since 1967), and that even the director experienced discomfort on opening night — “What were we thinking? We’ve got blokes in dresses!”. Why, Todd wonders, did audience members have so much trouble putting aside the actors’ corporeality? Todd comments on many of the other strange conditions of early modern theatre which we as audiences are willing to accept, including deaths, storms, and exotic locations. She notes that the audience’s responses to the Cheek by Jowl show were “rooted in the physicality of the actors’ bodies and the gender significations they adopt”. The audience could only understand the cross-dressing as camp — noting that that hinges on specific signifiers as belonging to only one gender (gender itself not necessarily corresponding to sex). To move away from campy drag, the actors had to find different ways to signify femininity.

The production “asks that the audience see the world of the play, and all the world,  as a stage rife with possibilities”. By opening with Jacques’s famous monologue, with the actors in plain dress, the production created the division of male and female characters visually at the start, despite that all the actors were male-bodied. Todd then notes that the epilogue also reminds the audience of how slippery the typical gender code can be — whether that epilogue is spoken by a male- or female-bodied actor, interweaving “the factual and counter-factual” — but that it has peculiar resonances in an all-male cast. Todd then questions the strength of the automatic identity of “the lady” with “the epilogue”. She notes “Rosalind’s employment of the ‘if’ trope” as another marker that she “stands not for what is, but what can be.” This holds true both for the things which are true as for those things which are contrary to fact. Todd concludes by noting that these conditions of ambiguous gender identity made  As You Like It perfect choice for Cheek by Jowl to perform with an all-male cast.

Bob Hornback, Oglethorpe University — “Shall we have a play extempore?”

Hornback begins by exploring the probability that early modern clowns necessarily had improvisational abilities, noting that while some may have, others may have been scripted to sound improvisational. “Extemporal wit” was noted in the period as a rare quality, not a usual trait. He notes a critic from the period who lamented the lack of improvisational skills present in clowns at the time of his observation, and relates that to lines in Hamlet which “suggest a waning” of extemporal clowns. Hamlet also skewers “the spate of bad improv” present on the stage. Hornback then quotes from Nashe regarding the war between the extemporal clown and the authority of script and cues. Hornback then cites examples of scripted improvisational idiom, “seeming extempore” rather than genuinely spontaneous.

Hornback moves to considering the instances of Kemp’s true improvisation versus seeming improvisation, particularly in the role of Falstaff. “Kemp’s improvisation made him uniquely suited for the role, not ill-suited,” particularly due to the character’s potential for improvisation. He notes that Falstaff’s lines are “opposite to sparse lineality”. Falstaff is, himself, an improviser. Hornback also examines the possibility of connected repetitions indicating a mimicry of improvisational idioms. Falstaff also, he notes, cues his own jesting with questions.

Nashe and Shakespeare, Hornback argues, would have seen both successful and unsuccessful improvisational clowns and would have known what it was that created that success. They did not, in their plays, aim at eliminating the real thing. Instead, having delighted in it, they sought to re-create it in script. Robert Armin, Hornback says, was an even more famous improviser than Kemp. He concludes by noting that the conditions of the early modern stage, including those re-created at the Blackfriars Playhouse, encourage “improv with a script”.

Celestine Woo, SUNY Empire State College – “Isabella in Measure for Measure: Discovering the Pleasure of Performance”

Woo begins by thanking her actors, Scott Campbell, Patrick Harris, and Amy Simpson Grubbs. She begins by saying that Measure for Measure is more satisfying if there is some intimacy developed between Isabella and her various auditors, particularly the Duke. The actors first present the “too-rehearsed first appeal” of Isabella (Grubbs) to Angelo (Campbell), encouraged and amended by Lucio (Harris). Woo argues that Isabella’s “use of the second person is perfunctory” and that she does not really see or acknowledge Angelo. In her second attempt, she re-assesses her audience — and Woo notes that, after Sarah Enloe’s workshop on audience contact, she now thinks this could include the theatrical audience as well as Angelo. As she goes on, warming both to her theme and to her auditor, her vehemence and persistence earn Angelo’s attention and pique his interest. Woo’s staging has Isabella move to Angelo and touch him on the arm as part of her appeal. Woo notes that, once she drops her self-consciousness, “she’s good at this! Her rhetorical eloquence is a bit of a surprise to her.”

Woo then notes Isabella’s several oratorical strategies: imagining a reversal of roles, as well as pointing out the pattern of pronouns (from I to you to a hypothetical subjunctive I, then to third-person hypotheticals regarding Angelo and Claudio). Woo considers this reminiscent of Portia’s rhetorical strategy. Woo thinks that Isabella “falls in love with performance”, and that that leads to her ultimate success. Woo next looks at the moment where Isabella and the disguised Duke plot Angelo’s downfall through the bedtrick, noting that she has “always heard some glee” in Isabella’s speeches there. Isabella is “wryly amused at Angelo’s eagerness”. In baiting Angelo himself, though prompted by others in action, “she finds her lines herself” and “highlights her own cleverness” regarding some details of the bedtrick.

Woo believes that viewing Isabella as overly reactive, rather than possessing agency of her own (via the power of improvisation) is problematic. Her newfound love for improvisation can help to ameliorate the otherwise problematic ending of her silence. Grubbs demonstrates by offering, in that moment, an Isabella who takes a moment to consider, then gives Angelo her hand with a beaming, theatrical smile.

ETA: A question regarding Isabella; Woo notes that she has no desire to “negate the seriousness or the pain of what Isabella has to go through”, but that she still thinks that Isabella’s lines also convey a sort of joy in the limelight. She thinks that, since some Isabellas can seem “overly flat”, this interpretation could offer nuance.

Larry Weiss, Independent Scholar: “‘Ha! Ha!’ Ophelia’s Tell”

Weiss comments that, “early in the nunnery scene”, Hamlet realizes that Ophelia is not quite what she is presenting herself as at that moment. He notes that Hamlet’s behavior is, from Ophelia’s perspective, unexpected and unusual — but how, he wonders, has Hamlet come to be suspicious? Weiss discusses the extratextual solutions that directors have invented, generally involving some sort of unintentional reveal of the men behind the arras, which he believes are “contrived” and thus unsatisfactory. He argues that Hamlet’s “obnoxious behavior towards Ophelia is explicable” by examination of what is present in the play itself.

“When no other cunning solution presents itself, I like to look at the text.” Weiss walks briefly through the action of the scene in question, noting that, when Hamlet rejects the returned gifts, Ophelia mistakes his meaning, interpreting it as part of his madness. He notes the shift from courteous to discourteous as occurring at “Ha ha, are you honest?” He does not believe the “Ha ha” is a laugh; “Hamlet has no reason to laugh here”. Weiss thinks that this line instead indicates that “Ophelia has slipped and put Hamlet on notice”. But this does not explain what alerts Hamlet to Ophelia’s disloyalty. Rejecting any extratextual possibilities, Weiss looks at Ophelia’s previous lines: “My honour’d lord, you know right well you did; / And, with them, words of so sweet breath composed / As made the things more rich: their perfume lost, / Take these again; for to the noble mind / Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind. / There, my lord.”

These lines, Weiss argues, sound more like Claudius than they do like Ophelia, and he believes that that reading “can convey the idea” of Ophelia having been coached so that it works in performance. Celi Oliveto (Ophelia) and Jordan Zweick (Hamlet) present the scene. Oliveto’s Ophelia becomes stilted as she tries to remember the “script” given her by Claudius, then rushes through “There, my lord,” eager to have the business over with. This moment, Weiss notes, “is easy to miss. It has been missed for 400 years.” He claims knowledge of no productions and only one editor to have commented on this possibility. He concludes by noting that this idea connects to Polonius’s instructions to Laertes; that Hamlet’s comments on beauty and honesty are then placing an immediate timeframe on his “now” in those lines; and that Ophelia’s response, if delivered in quavery tone, can reconfirm Hamlet’s suspicion; and finally, that Ophelia’s closing half-line opens up opportunities, perhaps originally suggested by the actors.

Lars Engle, The University of Tulsa: “Shame and Contempt in Montaigne, Tomkins, and The Tempest

“Actors are frequently accused of or credited with shamelessness,” Engle opens. He examines Montaigne’s commentaries on personal shame, both those which he dismisses and those which he invokes in regards to cruelty. Shakespeare, he argues, finds personal shame harder to cast off. He quotes Tomkins’s belief that shame is accompanied by a number of gestures which close off the shamed person from the shaming, perhaps in an attempt to reclaim some space.  “Shame turns the attention of the self and others” to the visible resonance of self in the focus, outward or inward, of the eyes. These are the negative affects attached to positive emotions or desires such as admiration or love. That which ties the self to the object (of love or affection) also ties the self to shame. He seeks to draw a distinction between shame-humiliation (which ties) and contempt-disgust (which unties). The former relates us to those we still seek the good opinion of; the other precludes any equality or mutuality of relationship. Tomkins notes that, in unequal relationships such as master-servant, teacher-student, parent-child, or conqueror-conquered, there is then a choice as to whether to base disapproval on shame-humiliation or contempt-disgust.

Engle applies this to Prospero. Rebecca Hodder (Caliban), Rebecca Wright (Miranda), and Michelle Johnson (Prospero) present part of 1.2 from The Tempest. Engle posits Caliban as child in one of the above relationships, but also as a former sovereign who was formerly a sovereign. In his lines, Caliban attempts to use shame-humiliation on Prospero. Prospero then attempts to recast himself in a contempt-disgust relationship. Engle explores the strange relationships that these three have had on the island in isolation, particularly with regard to the fact that “something shameful happened between Caliban and Miranda”, something sexual and something recent — and that this incident was interrupted, but that we do not know how or by whom. This leaves the relationship between all three in need of clarification. Miranda then, too, tries to turn shame into contempt.

“We deal here in imponderables,” Engle notes, and we do so because it matters to us, as scholars and audiences, what happened in these relationships. He relates this to socio-political issues regarding the colonizer and the “Other”. To conclude, Engle notes that Prospero “attempts to expunge the shame that he and Miranda feel with regard to Caliban … by transforming it into contempt, and by transforming Caliban from a son-pupil into a monster-slave.” This fails, however, and shame overwhelms contempt.

Catherine Loomis, University of New Orleans — “Bringing Justice to Bear: An Unusual 1609 Trial”

Loomis begins by thanking Adrienne Johnson and an anonymous actor for their help, and invites the auditors to “bark along at the appropriate moment”. She then comments on references to bears in early modern England. She relates a story of merchants who came late to an inn because they had been hunted by a bear during their travel. The innkeeper mocked them, claiming that he would slay ten bears if they should pursue him. An overhearer, Scoggins (or perhaps Scroggins?) decided to play a prank: went out, bought a bearskin, propped it up on sticks and and stuffed it with straw so it would look alive, and then stuffed its mouth with two children’s shoes. In the night, Scoggins convinced the merchants to call for drink; the innkeeper sent his maid, who saw the bear, thought it had killed her master’s children, and killed herself. Loomis notes that this story may have been based on the real event of a captive bear killing a child in 1609. This bear then was to be put to death by lions, but they inexplicably refused to fight, so it was chained, staked, and baited with dogs on a stage.

Loomis then stages the death of our very own Blackfriars bear. Many scholars, tormented by the bear during the past four days, applaud.

Loomis then describes the typical staging of a bear-baiting, highlighting its cruelty as well as the utter impossibility of survival for the bear in question. Though the 1609 bear execution likely did not occur at the Globe, but it was not long thereafter before The  Winter’s Tale  featured a bear pursuing Antigonus off. Was this, perhaps, Shakespeare’s retribution for the bear?

ETA: In the Q&A, William Proctor Williams questions that, if you kill the bear off in your paper, can you continue talking forever? We conclude that Loomis may have set a dangerous precedent for future bears.

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Special Panel

Hello everyone! Sarah Martin here to liveblog Saturday afternoon’s Special Panel in the Blackfriars Playhouse. Today, we will hear two presentations: Tiffany Stern from the University of Oxford’s Why Der Berstraffe Brudermord Might Be a Puppet Play (you can see Der Berstraffe Brudermord performed as a puppet play courtesy of Beth Burns and the Hidden Room theatre this evening at 9:30pm in the Blackfriars Playhouse) and The Complete Works presented by Paul Menzer from Mary Baldwin College, Jeremy Lopez from the University of Toronto, Andrea Stevens from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Genevieve Love from Colorado College.

Tiffany Stern, Oxford University

Why Der Berstraffe Brudermord Might be a Puppet Play

Stern begins her presentation with a brief explanation of Der Berstraffe Brudermord saying that it is an “eighteenth-century play of extraordinary awfulness”. She says that Der Berstraffe Brudermord is probably not a puppet play, but that this possibility is certainly there. Stern’s interest  in the play began with research about puppet plays and the discovery of a puppet Hamlet. She explains that the text of the Der Berstraffe Brudermord is very close to the Quarto 1 Hamlet.  This informs us that Q1 Hamlet must have been circulating in Germany at some point before Der Berstraffe Brudermord was written. Stern notes that the first mention of the possible puppet Hamlet was in 1779. She explains that Germany experienced a period of fascination with Shakespeare’s works during the eighteenth century. She gives a brief history of English players in Germany. She explains that the same English players also performed in the Czech Rebublic. A Czech account of the English players’ performances states that the actors, “alternately performed an actors’ and a marionette repertoire”. Stern gives an example of an Italian puppet Hamlet called Amleto from the 1660s that informs us that Shakespeare’s plays were circulating on the continent before the plays were available in good translations.

As evidence for why Der Berstraffe Brudermord might be a puppet play, Stern notes that the Prologue requires four women, but the play only has two women characters. When the character of NIGHT enters, she does so in “flying machinery”–much easier for a puppet to accomplish rather than a person, obviously. The play also includes a lot of violent moments that occur from behind. All action in puppet shows takes place from behind and this contributes to why Der Berstraffe Brudermord might be a puppet play. Stern notes that Der Berstraffe Brudermord has several moments of fireworks–another hallmark of puppet shows. She points to the “Closet Scene” moment when the Hamlet character sees the ghost of his father and fireworks go off. Including fireworks at this moments seems odd and contributes to the “absurdity” one expects in puppet shows.

Sterns contacted Beth Burns about the possibility of the puppet show performance and Burns jumped on the idea. Stern says that she was nervous about the actual performance, and said “what if I’m wrong, oh but what if I’m not” and that led to tonight’s production.

Paul Menzer, Mary Baldwin College; Jeremy Lopez, University of Toronto; Andrea Stevens, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and Genevieve Love, Colorado College

The Complete Works

Paul Menzer begins his presentation by having the Mary Baldwin College MFA students pass out sheets of paper that contains lists of words all beginning with the same two letters (I have “ex” words). He then asks the audience to read aloud all of the many words on their pages as he does the same. As the reading comes to a close, Menzer notes that the ASC will produce Timon of Athens this Spring and will at that point, have performed all of Shakespeare’s words. He then points out that we have done just that in a matter of a few minutes. The papers contained all of the words found in Shakespeare’s works. Menzer points out that our performance, in claiming to have performed The Complete Works of Shakespeare, represents a “scaling fallacy”. He notes that the “Complete Works” idea has the problem of scale. He explains that Shakespeare’s Complete Works is large in comparison to Marlowe, but not compared to that of Thomas Heywood.  Menzer then goes on to note that “Shakespeare’s Complete Works is not bigger than Marlowe’s, there’s just more of it”. He points out the problematic idea of “Complete Works” is that it implies a finishing point. He explains that scale is a measure not just of size, but of form as the agent doing the measuring is part of it. We, as those agents, contribute to Shakespeare’s Complete Works–and contribute to what that term means exactly.

Jeremy Lopez begins by telling the audience that the word “disappointed” occurs only once in all of Shakespeare’s works. Lopez gives several examples of word counts throughout works of great literature. Lopez argues of such “word counting” exercises are only applied to iconic authors and plays. He argues that we only decide to look for the instances of the word “blood” in Macbeth, for example, because we already know the play. Giving examples of several such instances of repeated words in plays that do not really have anything to do with those words, Lopez argues that repetition does not equal emphasis or meaning. He notes that though his paper, “is about disappointment, the word “disappointed” appears only once.”

Andrea Stevens begins her presentation with an explanation of the use of the term “invulnerable” in Shakespeare’s plays. She explains that it is the “vulnerable” bodies that are the victims of violence. Quoting Judith Butler, Stevens notes that our bodies are never exclusively our own. Our bodies also always have political value. She argues that Shakespeare’s tragedies are explorations of how characters discover that they are, in fact, vulnerable and that their bodies are not their own.

Genevieve Love begins with a discussion of the “vulnerable”. She talks about how characters with missing limbs and other physical disabilities give important bibliographical and textual history as well. Prosthetic bodies, Love argues, represent the incomplete articulation of the plays themselves. She points to Dr. Faustus–a play with both “A” and “B” texts as an example of how the disability of the body also represents the disability and deformity of corrupt texts. She argues that the dismemberment and multiplication of one, whole body into diverse incomplete parts is a reflection of the corruption and mutilation of early modern texts.

Blackfriars Conference 2013 — Folger Digital Texts

I’m Charlene V. Smith and I’m live blogging Saturday’s Lunch and Learn Session featuring a website demonstration by Michael Poston and Rebecca Niles of the Folger Digital Texts.

Niles opens the presentation by describing the basics of the Folger Digital Texts. FDT are XML-encoded versions of the Folger Shakespeare Library Editions. They are a free and reliable resource, professionally edited by Paul Werstine and Barbara Mowat. The XML infrastructure means that every word, space, and punctuation mark has its own identifier within the code. Currently this project has published online the play-texts of fifteen plays. They can be read online or copied and pasted for offline use. All of the source code is also available for download.

From the website you can download the code as well as documentation about how the code works. An audience members asks what the benefit of downloading the code would be, instead of the regular text. Niles explains that the code has information embedded which you can alter if you need to. For example, you could run a code that pulls out all of Romeo’s speeches.

While in the play menu section of the website, you can search through the text, make comparisons, or read an individual play. When you call up a play, the left side of the screen displays a table of contents, allowing for quick moving around. You can also skip to a particular act, scene, and line number. These texts are also coded with Through Line Numbering. Every navigation choice you make reloads a new URL. This feature is a powerful help, as you can save a URL to a particular line or speech. For example, here is Juliet’s most famous line. Niles notes, in response to audience questions, that they would like to move towards a more sophisticated search function. Because they were adding one text at a time, and thus there wasn’t much information to search through at first, such a search function wasn’t a high priority initially.

Poston next takes over the presentation to talk about the future of FDT and the implications of this coding project. Poston tells us about the F21 project, a project designed to enhance the EEBO coding of early modern drama in order to make hundreds of new plays readily available. He displays an example of Massacre at Paris. For this play, like many others, we don’t have a clean, edited text to start with, unlike the plays by Shakespeare. Poston has also been working on an API for FDT, which allows you to interact with the text on a single word basis, calling up information on whether there are alternate readings, where the word is located in a text, and who speaks the word. The API also can identify what characters are on stage during a particular line, and what characters are included in a particular stage direction. This information can be placed into chart form. This feature is currently a work in progress. The audience is excited by the possibilities for doubling charts this feature could have.

They are also developing textual notes which would display the Folger’s punctuation versus Folio punctuation, and other such textual variants. Poston tells the audience that they are still working on how to make this information accessible, while remaining a readable text. They also intend to create an annotation environment which can link information, sound, video, and pictures to specific words or moments in the text.

Poston and Niles discuss the issues and questions they’ve struggled with while developing FDT. Print allows you to be ambiguous in a way that coding does not. In coding the character is either onstage or he is offstage. Poston points out a moment in Shrew in which servants enter – Which servants? How many? Which servant is the one that Petruchio hits? Which servant is the first one to exit? Which servant is Nathaniel and which is Peter? How do you code ambiguity? Poston has come up with a decimal system that allows you to put in what you know, but leave in other possibilities. Messengers.x.1 could be the same as Messengers.x.2, but doesn’t have to be. Macbeth has 3 murders, but also moments where a murderer is non-specified. These would be coded as Murderers.1, Murderers.2, Murderers.3, and then Murderers.x, which could be either 1, 2, or 3.

This coding also allows for the creation of parts (cue scripts) that includes the pertinent stage directions. These are still a work in progress and unpolished. So though some of them are published to the internet, they are not yet readily available from the main webpage. They are also developing WIT scripts (for witness) that would display the scenes in which a certain character is present.

The challenge they are facing is adding functionality to the website without being theatrically or textually prescriptive.

Blackfriars Conference 2013 — Abigail Rokison Keynote

To continue on …

Whitney Egbert here again live blogging the final keynote session of the Blackfriars conference which will run from 10:30am to 11:15am this morning.  Abigail Rokison of The Shakespeare Institute will be giving a presentation entitled Shakespeare Verse Speaking: The Actor and the Text.  Rokison will be assisted by actors Daniel Kennedy, Mark Tucker, Miriam Donald Burrows, and Daniel Burrows.

Paul Menzer introduces Abigail Rokison as a new friend whom he discovered through her work on Shakespeare’s verse and working with actors on and in the verse (as an actor, teacher, and scholar herself).

Rokison starts by siting Peter Hall – “Shakespeare tells the actor when to go fast and when to go slow …” and how, when a director gave her similar advice while playing Isabella in Measure for Measure, she felt like she (Rokison) had struck gold.  She started to investigate other actors work on the role of Isabella and found that their rehearsal room was not the only one digging into the verse for clues.

Rokison then started to move into researching the use of verse, verse structure, and the “rules” of meter as an academic – she points out that she wanted to take it out of the rehearsal room so that the “rules” wouldn’t limit the choices that she believes  the rehearsal room should maintain.  Rokison focuses, for a moment, on broken and shared lines – the speed at which they might be delivered, that an actor should count the missing beats in their head to maintain the speed, etc.

Rokison wants to focus on how actors might look at text and the verse work that then ensues – she specifically is looking at the difference between quarto printings and the folio printings – were the folio line divisions that differ from the quarto division on purpose or simply because the columns in which the folio were printed were narrower?  She uses a series of examples where which script a production is using allows for different choices to be made as the director and actor interpret the line divisions.  Rokison continues by talking about more modern editors versions of the scripts: starting the use of the indentation to indicate a continuation of the same line, and how shared lines are indicated, either by leaving it as all at the same indentation (or lack thereof) and therefore giving the actors the choice of what is shared or by indenting it for them to show what is shared.

Rokison points out that renaissance actors would not have been able to know about shared lines – when given just the cue of the actor before you, you would not know how many beats their lines were and therefore if you were sharing or starting a new verse line.  BUT OF COURSE! Why had I never thought of that before?  I’m not sure it will change my work but will definitely give me a freer sense, I think, when looking at shared lines.

Rokison brings up three of our actors to read a piece from Richard II, the first time counting the extra beats many current practitioners use and as Patsy Rodenburg teaches.  The second time the actors read through the scene, they just keep things going, without the extra beats but with quick pickups.  Her second scene example is from Winter’s Tale, running through the same exercise with the extra beats after different lines based on different editing.  The execution of these exercises is a wonderful illumination of Rokinson’s points about director and actor choices based on the editor choices.  She concludes with a call, as many speakers over the week have, to have more dialogue between practioners and editors so that we can each better understand the choices made and the consequences of such choices.  It is a beautiful, unexpected theme for our week in my opinion.

Globe symposium – Macbeth – handout

Globe symposium – Macbeth – Powerpoint

Blackfriars Conference 2013 — Paper session IX

Good morning everyone!  Whitney Egbert here again to blog our ninth paper session running this morning from 9:00am to 10:15am.  Our session is being moderated by Sean Hagerty from New York Classical Theatre (he has stepped in for Kevin Costa, who was unable to make it this morning) and assisted by Mary Baldwin College MLitt/MFA students Julia Nelson, Danielle Guy and Jessica Schiermeister.

Janelle Jenstad, University of Victoria/Map of Early Modern London/Internet Shakespeare Editions
The Place of Blackfriars in Early Modern London

Janelle Jenstad is going to walk us through her map of the early modern London project, which she has been working on for 13 years.  Jenstad is debuting the new version of the site here with us at the Blackfriars.

Jenstad was enchanted by London upon her first visit and wanted to give people the chance to explore what it would have been like in the past as well as the present.  The project is a place where people can see maps, encyclopedic entries about locations and business (mainly bars it sounds like), and census data about people – she shared a wonderful picture of part of the team seeing 25,000 lines of code going live in the person database.

Jenstad, knowing she was coming here, focused in on the Blackfriars.  She showed us how the wall of London got moved so that the Blackfriars was inside the wall (explaining the jog in the wall) and how the traffic patterns led into the Blackfriars.  She ended by calling for future partners to add information and entries to the site.

Christina Gutierrez, University of Texas at Austin
“Our Lives and All are Bolingbroke’s”: Directing the Double in Richard II

Christina Gutierrez is going to talk about actor doubling using Richard II and the roles of Richard and Henry Bolingbroke and the character formation of the two roles.  Gutierrez starts by talking about Ralph Barry’s conversations on doubling and how one actor, in Richard II, might live the fall of Richard and than ascension of Henry.

Gutierrez directed the show in Austin using two actors to play the two parts but used a coin toss at the beginning of the show to choose which actor would play which role.  Gutierrez uses our three actors to show the opening prologue (delivered by Gaunt) Gutierrez and her team wrote for the show where the coin is tossed and the king crowned.  This gave Gutierrez the chance, as a director, to really examine the actors transformation into the character, as the two actors were then immediately dressed, Richard onstage, as the play began.

Gutierrez continues to show us the similarities and differences between the two characters and how the play (in her production as well as others) brings out the idea that kingship is its own character, waiting for an actor to put it on – it is an identity waiting to be fulfilled.

William Rampone, South Carolina State University
Rites, Rituals, and Redemption at the Funeral Monument in Much Ado About Nothing

William Rampone will be talking about the short scene at Hero’s grave in Much Ado About Nothing (hereafter Much Ado).  Rampone says that while most editors assign the lines of the epitaph to Claudio, there is confusion over who then continues the rest of the lines – Don Pedro, Balthazar, ensemble choruses, Claudio?

Rampone continues by siting several different opinions on the matter which seems to have culminated in the Arden series where the editors stated that while it might be unusual for a lord, it seemed appropriate for Claudio giving the circumstance.  However there is some opinion, including that of Rampone, that sees it as a possibility (obvious or maybe vague) that Balthazar sings the lines.  Rampone states that the third edition of Arden goes back to assigning the lines to Claudio.  Rampone ends by giving differing examples from film editions as well.  Basically, Rampone ends, there is still no decisive assigning.

James Marino, Cleveland State University
Revision Techniques in the Working Playhouse

James Marino will be talking about changes in the lines of specific parts between textual versions.  Marino talks about several of the reasons why this might happen and how – most interestingly to me, the idea that editors might change one scene but not others: Marino’s example of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet and how some of his lines in some scenes change while other scenes are exactly the same makes me want to go see what exactly is different and where.

Marino states that the actual changes are possibly inconsequential in themselves (Romeo saying “stir” or “move”) but that the cue change might cause a larger change in the scene – cueing a different response from the same character or, in a different example for Romeo, cueing an entirely different character to respond.

As an actor who looks at different versions, I had not thought about looking at the textual changes around my own text and how it changes my own choices or cues – thank you Mr. Marino for that!

Denise Walen, Vassar College
Dethroning Margaret

Denise Walen will be talking about Margaret of Anjou, a unique character, starting from the fact that she is in four of the plays.  Walen starts by talking about her role in Richard III – a play from which she is often cut in stagings.  Margaret was first removed in the 1800’s and the first time she was put back in, it was only for 2 performances in one scene, went poorly and she was taken back out.  In the mid-1800’s she was added back in two different productions by the same director and the actresses were lauded for their work.  However, when the director went in for a third production of the show, he cut her back out, some saying because he could not find an actress able to do the part justice.

Walen sites that as we moved into the 20th century, Margaret was added back in more and more but was still excluded from some of the most famous productions and that the choice to cut her continues to be somewhat of a norm in productions.

Walen sites that Margaret is the antagonist to Richard and without her there, Richard just gets to walk right through the end of the play, whereas with her there, the end of the play becomes her’s rather than Richard’s play.

I hope I get a chance to speak with Walen later as I personally have strong opinions about Margaret’s presence, if for no other reason than getting, as a woman, the chance to live the full life story of a character across so many plays and in so many different parts of her life.

Don Weingust, Southern Utah University/Utah Shakespeare Festival
Shakespeare and Original Practices

Don Weingust will be talking about original practices, including staging, lighting, rehearsals, and the repertory schedule, spending most of his time on the repertory schedule.  Weingust’s point about repertory schedule is that doing 40 shows in one season might be rather impossible (not just because of Actor’s Equity rules) for modern actors (between lines and differing cues) and, especially, for the producing companies.

Weingust talks about how, rather quickly, actors attempting such a feat would have to change their routines and practices, having to live much more in the moment and spending much more time working on their own outside of their work hours as this type of schedule would leave very little time for direction.

Weingust spends some time  talking about how the changes that got us from these practices to our current practices can also be seen in the changes in theatre construction – the transitions around the proscenium arches, the expansion of the playing space in The Rose and The Globe, etc.

How, Weingust asks, can we think that we are seeing the same shows when the conditions of the schedule alone would lead to such difference in performance.  Weingust closes by suggesting theatre takes the term “historically informed” from the music world rather than saying that we are living in the original practices.

I would love to hear what some of the ASC actors and Dr. Ralph Allen Cohen had to say about this subject.

Wake-Up Workshop #4: Asides and Audience Contact

A fine Saturday morning to you all. Cass Morris here from 8-8:45am to liveblog the fourth and final Wake-Up Workshop of the 4th Blackfriars Conference. Sarah Enloe, the ASC’s Director of Education, will be presenting on Asides and Audience Contact.

Enloe begins by discussing how, as a high school teacher participating in an NEH Institute, she learned about the ASC’s methods of audience contact, and knew immediately that she wanted to use it in her classroom — but wasn’t sure how to implement the ideas effectively. ASC Education, with the help of ASC Actor Ben Curns, developed this method to help teachers think through the various approaches and opportunities.

Enloe asks if anyone knows when the word “aside”, as we currently think of it, first appears, and when no one does, she explains that it’s more than 150 years after Shakespeare’s time. The term appears only twice in Shakespeare, and never with that precise meaning. She prefaces that the group will explain the different kinds of asides that Curns helped ASC Education identify, and will then work through a scene together to identify character choices.

The first method of audience contact is casting the audience. Enloe gives examples of the audience serving as Henry V’s army, as the plebs of Rome, or as Portia’s suitors in The  Merchant of Venice. She points out how Shakespeare not only writes these opportunities into the plays, he also writes in opportunities to return to that audience reference later in the scene or the play. Casting the audience gives the audience member a specific role inside the world of the play.

The second way that we identify audience contact is that of the visual aide. Enloe notes that this can be a difficult distinction for students sometimes, as it has some similarities to casting. The difference is that, rather than bestowing an identity, the visual aide uses something that the audience member already is — generally a physical attribute, something they’re wearing, or something else essential to their own identities, used as an illustration. Enloe uses the example of perhaps casting a man and woman sitting next to each other as an adulterous couple. Auditor Michael Hendry notes that he has been the bald-pated man used as an example in The Comedy of Errors. Enloe notes the favorite example of her co-worker (yours truly): Benedick’s “One woman is fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet I am well; another is…. virtuous… yet I am well,” with the actor picking out a fair and wise woman, but unable to find a virtuous one in the audience.

The third example, which Enloe notes as particularly obvious in characters like Iago and Richard III, is that of allying with the audience. Many characters who get a lot of time alone on-stage with the audience use this to get the audience on their side — and quite often, those characters are the villains. This can also be an example of the character letting the audience in on a secret or providing them with clarifying information.

The fourth way that Enloe identifies audience contact is seeking information. Enloe gives an example of Curns as Polonius in the ASC’s 2011 Hamlet asking an audience member, “By the mass, what was I about to say?” and notes that Curns often got two examples: the terror of “eighth-graders frozen in the headlights”, or the graduate students able to provide the correct answer. She gives another example from Hamlet (this time the Q1, when Curns was playing Hamlet), from the moment when Claudius is on his knees praying, and Hamlet enters, asking, “Should I kill him now?” When Curns took this to teenage boy sitting on a gallant school, the boy replied, “Absolutely, he must die”. In that moment, the actor discovers that Shakespeare in fact wrote in the answer to that question in the rest of the monologue.

Enloe then addresses the probability that someone in the audience is asking how we know that Shakespeare really did write these opportunities into the plays intentionally, and she uses an example from Henry VI, Part 1 to illustrate how, in that early play, Shakespeare actually pokes fun of the convention of audience contact in a conversation between Margaret and Suffolk. Enloe notes that as proof in the text that Shakespeare is thinking about that convention.

Enloe then discusses the possibility that almost any line could be taken to the audience — but that not all of them should be. She suggests letting students go all-out with every possibility at first, then reining them back in so that we don’t lose the connections between the characters. The group then discusses some of the challenges in audience contact, including how to deal with unexpected contributions from the audience. Enloe notes that some of our actors acknowledge everything, and uses the example of Gregory Jon Phelps responding to sneezes or particularly loud laughs.

Moving on to scenework, Enloe hands out the first fifty lines of Julius Caesar. Enloe explains that this worksheet has the four types of audience contact listed at the top, along with the fifth option of actually speaking to a scene partner. Enloe divides the room into three groups, assigning one group responsibility for Flavius, one for the Carpenter and Cobbler, and one for Murellus. She then gives the auditors a few minutes to work through the text, assigning modes of audience contact to each moment for each character.

Each group sends an avatar to the stage to walk through the scene. Enloe notes that the opening stage direction, Enter Flavius and Murellus and Certain Commoners over the stage, is a little odd and cites Dessen & Thomson’s Dictionary of Stage Directions as to what “over the stage” might mean. They take the first suggestion for the Carpenter and Cobbler to enter from the back, through the audience, though Enloe notes that we generally don’t allow that in our Playhouse since there is no evidence of it occurring in the period.

The first decision has the Flavius taking all of “Hence! home, you idle creatures get you home: / Is this a holiday? what! know you not, / Being mechanical, you ought not walk / Upon a labouring day without the sign / Of your profession? Speak, what trade art thou?” to the audience. The group discusses whether the final question, answered in the play, can appropriately be asked of an audience member. Enloe notes that, at Julius Caesar‘s first performance at the Theatre or the Globe, the audience would in fact have been full of idle creatures who were skivving off work. The group has, sadly, run out of time to run the rest of the scene, but Enloe notes that you can see, through just that little bit, how much audience contact can change the play.