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.