Blackfriars Conference 2013–Paper Session #2

Hello again! Sarah Martin here to liveblog the final session of Day 1. Our moderator for Paper Session #2 is Mary Hill Cole of Mary Baldwin College and features papers by Alan Armstrong, Sid Ray, Holly Pickett, Bill Gelber, Cass Morris, and Peter Kanelos.

Alan Armstrong, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

“Dost thou not know my voice?”: Metadramatic Reference to the Doubling Actor in The Comedy of Errors

Actors: M.Litt Students Ian Charles and Nicola Collett and MFA student Dane Leasure.

Armstrong argued that the actor who first played Egeon in The Comedy of Errors also played Doctor Pinch. He argued that the actor must have had a distinct voice and that recognizing actor doubles was pleasurable for early modern audiences. Armstrong argued that Shakespeare “could not have resisted” the opportunity to exploit the doubling. Armstrong used Mary Baldwin M.Litt/MFA students to demonstrate a moment where Shakespeare breaks down the fourth wall to expose his doubling choice when Egeon asks his sons, “Dost thou not know my voice?” M.Litt student Nicola Collett played Egeon while Dane Leasure and Ian Charles played the twin sons as they are reunited with their father who, Armstrong argues, they have heard before in the person of Dr. Pinch.

Sid Ray, Pace University

“To make an unskillful laugh” Shakespeare’s Rhetoric of Belches

Actors: ASC Resident Troupe Members Lee Fitzpatrick, Josh Innerst, Dylan Paul, and Gregory Phelps

Ray explored the role of Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. With such a  descriptive name, yet no explicit moment for a belch found in the text, Ray gave some examples of where such belches may occur in the text and where editors have chosen to insert these noises. Ray explained the cultural relevance of the belch through her discussion of Robert Burton’s iconic early modern text, The Anatomy of Melancholy. Ray argued that Sir Toby must belch and provided her own choice moments for said belches in the play. She enlisted the assistance of ASC actors Lee Fitzpatrick, Josh Innerst, Dylan Paul, and Gregory Phelps to illustrate some of the possible moments for the important belches.

Holly Pickett, Washington and Lee University

“Kiss of Death: Poisoned Properties in The Revenger’s Tragedy

Actors: ASC Resident Troupe Members Josh Innerst, Dylan Paul, and Gregory Phelps

Pickett used ASC actors Josh Innerst, Dylan Paul, and Gregory Phelps to act out the climatic scene of The Revenger’s Tragedy in which Vindice convinces the Duke to kiss the poisoned skull of Vindice’s love as an act of revenge. Pickett compared the gruesome scene to the Catholic practice of kissing Holy Relics which the devout believed held healing powers and how The Revenger’s Tragedy perverts that practice. Pickett gave examples of numerous reliquary busts of female saints which were intended to hold the skull of the saint and decorated with the image of a well-born sixteenth-century lady. Pickett then had her actors take the stage and heightened the religious imagery present in the poisoning scene by placing the image of a sixteenth century lady on the fake skeleton of Gloriana. When the Duke kissed the image of the lady, the actors pulled off the picture and revealed the skull. Pickett’s ultimate argument was that the poisoning scene represented English Protestant dismissal of Catholic relics.

Bill Gelber, Texas Tech University

“I Can Smile and Murder Whilst I Smile”: Harold Pinter’s Shakespearean Strategies

Actors: ASC Resident Troupe Actors Lee Fitzpatrick, Dylan Paul,  Gregory Phelps

Gelber began his presentation with a moment from Harold Pinter’s Betrayal as Gregory Phelps performed a monologue in which his character masks his true anger with mocking, a Cockney practice known as “taking the piss”. In this practice, one character subtly mocks another, but the target of the mocking knows that the other character is “taking the piss”. Gelber argued that Pinter adopted this strategy in his plays from the works of Shakespeare, particularly Shakespeare’s villains. Gelber, aided by ASC actors,  gave examples from Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Love’s Labour’s Lost where the characters demonstrate “taking the piss”.  Gelber himself stepped in to act opposite Lee Fitzpatrick in a “taking the piss” demonstration.

Cass Morris, American Shakespeare Center

“Why do you thus exclaim? Emotionally Inflected Punctuation in Editorial  Practice and Performance”

Actors: ASC Resident Troupe Actors Lee Fitzpatrick, Dylan Paul, and Gregory Phelps

Morris began her presentation with an explanation that her job as Academic Resource Manager for the ASC has exposed her to numerous editions of Shakespeare’s plays and that she has noticed that modern editors tend to use punctuation to convey the emotional sense of a phrase rather than simply denoting the grammatical structure of the phrase. While these “emotionally inflected punctuation” marks are found in editions intended for students below the graduate level, Morris argued that such editions are commonly used in both amateur and professional performances. Morris also used ASC actors to demonstrate the implications of such punctuation in performance. Morris argued that “emotionally inflected punctuation” can limit character choices because of their prescriptive nature and leaving them out allows for more choices in terms of character choices. Morris concluded with the argument that performance choices should be left to the performers themselves and not editors with advanced degrees.

Peter Kanelos, Valparaiso University

Richard III and Embodied Rhetorical Figures on the Early Modern Stage

Kanelos began with an example of Lady Anne’s monologue over the body of Henry VI in Richard III and an analysis of the rhetorical figures which conjure Richard III. He argued that Richard is a product of rhetorical figures. Kanelos gave a brief history of the ancient privileging of rhetoric and our modern devaluing of the art of argument.  In a discussion of the play’s prophecy that, “G of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be”, Kanelos argued that the G stands not only for Gloucester, but that the G is the figure of the deformed villain himself. Kanelos used the image of the “G” to trace Richard’s character arc from Duke to murderer to King to dead man. Kanelos explained that  Richard’s sense of self is divided rather than unified and his rhetorical figures demonstrate just that. Kanelos concluded his explanation of the “doubled self” just before the famous Blackfriars Conference  bear made Kanelos the first victim of this week’s presentations. Well done.