Colloquy Session IV: Audience

Hello again, Ashley Pierce here again to live blog the 4th Colloquy about Audience on Tuesday October 23rd from 2:30 to 3:45 PM, as part of the 2013 Blackfriars Conference. In this session Garth Michael Clark, Becki Jones, Abigail Montgomery, Abigail Fine, Patricia Wareh, and Michael Boecherer discuss their papers that deal with various audience interactions, staging issues, revisions,  and audiences psyche.

A Midsummer Night’s Mess: Staging a Mechanical Play Towards Royalty by Garth Michael Clark

Dealing with the issues of the staging of the play with in the play moment in A Midsummer Nights Dream, Clark talks about how this can be problematic in various ways. Included in these problems are where the actors are position on the stage and how this can cut out certain members of the audience. Clark wishes us to keep in mind that we must “maintain a good relationship with all audience members…” by positioning this particular scene in such a way that either allow audiences on all sides or to limit the space audience members are allowed to position themselves. This will thus ensure no moments of alienation to the members of the audience, including the royals (who Clark argues could be placed either on the far most end of the balcony or placed on the stage with the actors).

Why a jig? Try a jig! by Becki Jones

Jones talks about the prospect of placing jigs at the end of various Shakespearean plays and how this effects the audience. More specifically, jigs that have been performed at The Globe theatre in London England, as well as ones that Jones had choreographed. Talking about the different types and movements of the jig and how this moment in the performance started to fall into the hands of the clown character to choreograph in 1600, which influenced the jig in disrepute and became increasingly bawdy. Jones requested that everyone refer to her YouTube to see the jig at the end of Richard II and how this worked to not only removed the dead bodies from the stage, but to also infuse life back into the theatre and audience.

“I am Richard…know ye not that?” Possible Tudor Critiques in Two Pro-Tudor Plays by Abigail Montgomery

In looking at Richard III and Henry VIII Montgomery talks about how audience members will think and see Richard III and Henry VIII and the parallels between the two men. Making comments on recent productions at the ASC and how even the costumes are ingrained in the minds of people and how they shape appearance choices. Montgomery also asks; “What, in particular, does Shakespeare argue about Tudor history through the portrayals, words, and actions of major women characters in these plays?” “What does the unsaid and the unperformed argue about Tudor history in these plays?” and “How much of this comes from Shakespeare, how much of it comes from the audience, and how much of it is jointly created in reading, performing, and watching the plays?”

The Profitable Art of Revision by Abigail Fine

Fine talks about how audience reactions would infer upon the revisions of plays in the early modern period. Actions from the audience such as booing, hissing, heckling, etc. would shape the play they were watching. Early modern audiences were not held to the strict actions of today’s audiences, instead playing an important role in shaping the plays and their revisions. Citing a moments in The Knight of the Burning Pestle in which “Beaumont leaves no space for the audience to perform/revise/relate as they normally would during a play.” This then angers the audience, forcing them to dislike the production because “the play had not been written with their pleasure in mind…” Fine says the early modern audience had a sense of rights when it came to revisions in a production and reacted poorly when said that action was removed.

Courtesy, Judgement, and the Audience in The Merchant of Venice by Patricia Wareh

Wareh suggests “that examining another fundamental concern of the text, courtesy, can also shed light on the play’s insistent ambiguity.” This is in regards to recent studies that have focused on the plays illumination through attention to economics and religious issues. Courtesy, as Wareh sees it, determines ways characters interact with each other but brings different forms of judgement together. Contrasting Shylock’s “single-minded pursuit of judgement” to the Christian characters “flexible judgement.” Wareh leaves us with the following thought; “The Merchant of Venice also invites the audience to examine their own judgement.”

“Putting a Spell on You”: The Performance of Language, Stagecraft, and Demonism in Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors  by Michael Boecherer

Boecherer makes the statement that early modern audiences would be able to make correlations between Antipholus’s speech in The Comedy of Errors and their lives in London. This shines a light on witchcraft and how it would effect the audience as they watched the actions and heard the words from this Shakespearean play. The audience’s understanding of witchcraft and demonic spell work is essential to how they would interpret The Comedy of Errors, as well as how they would react to this play. Boecherer addresses the fact that witchcraft is not seen on stage in this particular play, but is instead talked about, which is enough to conjure images and tones in the minds of the early modern audience.