Paper Session X

Good afternoon, Liz here to live blog Paper Session X! This blog will be updated live from one to two fifteen this afternoon. The moderator of this session is Ann Jennalie Cook of Vanderbilt University. This plenary includes presentations by Maryam Zomorodian of the University of Notre Dame, Katherine Mayberry of Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company and Grand Valley State University, Nova Myhill of New College of Florida, Michael M. Wagoner of Florida State University, and independent scholar Adam Miller-Batteau.

Cook begins by applauding for the Masquerade Ball tonight. She then introduces the presenters.

Maryam Zomorodian – ‘As if the Personator were the man Personated’: Theatricality in Ford’s Perkin Warbeck

Zomorodian clarifies that this presentation focuses on John Ford’s The Chronicle History of Perkin Warbeck. She gives a brief history of Warbeck and his connections with Richard II and his ultimate deposition for King Henry VII. Ford used The True and Wonderful History of Perkin Warbeck from 1614 and a 1622 story of Perkin Warbeck as base texts to learn the history for the story. Even with base texts, Ford deviates from his predecessor texts by not portraying  Warbeck as a deceitful performer or pretender to the throne. Instead, Ford has his Warbeck be a performer under scrutiny and judgment, but in how persuadingly he plays the royal prince. Zomorodian describes Warbeck as the quintessential performer, but with constancy and virtue. She points out that Warbeck does not seem to have hidden motives or a confession of confirmed guilt. Warbeck is a good actor who goes to his death “without another chronicle than truth.” Zomorodian states that Warbeck seems constant and virtuous in his portrayal until death.

At the time that Ford wrote Perkin Warbeck, history plays were out of fashion. Ford saw his play as a part of growing history tradition of history as a theatrical account. This historical theatrical account was not to be read about, but rather found through the actors themselves discoursing. This places the historical account always in the present, always happening.

With the rise of print culture, personation clearly had a peculiar quality. Zomorodian speaks of a unique live-ness of theatre in print – inferior, however, to live theatre. For example, Thomas Nash compares English heroes entombed in books to those alive on stage. Zomorodian points out Keegan’s performance in ASC’s Joan of Arc to see Talbot fresh bleeding every night in performance – occurring live each night before the audience’s eyes. Thomas Heywood, likewise, looks with wonder on actors performing fresh each time too. Zomorodian mentions that anti-theatrical writers of the time also talk about deception and moral corruption in stage work and scripts; however, she points out that critics would judge printed plays and staged plays differently.

Zomorodian speaks of the double act of personation in an actor playing a character who acts, as the actor portraying Warbeck does in Perkin Warbeck. She states that Warbeck seems like a tragic hero with courage redefining his execution. Warbeck gives a rousing speech before his dramatic death, and then Henry VII comes out onto the stage to conclude the play. Zomorodian states that Henry VII seems to be the lesser man and tediously efficient in comparison to Warbeck. This ending, she says, is similar to the ending of Antony and Cleopatra when the tragic lovers are dead and the efficient Caesar takes the stage.

Zomorodian ends with the statement that Ford saw his dramatic interpretation of history in Perkin Warbeck as a defense of the genre and a defense of the legitimacy of theatre to see past, reviving the history play tradition.

Katherine Mayberry – Architecture and Peformance in The Comedy of Errors

In 2010,Twin Lake, Michigan built a model of the Rose Theatre for performance. This stage is smaller than the Globe that stands today and entrances for the audience on the ground floor. The recreation is primarily for a classroom and performance space for the students who participate in summer camp in the theatre. After performances, Pigeon Creek Shakespeare collects polls from the audiences about their experiences. When not at the Rose model, Pigeon Creek tours in the Twin Lake area.

Audience members noted an increased awareness of the public nature of several scene at the Rose. The actors felt this as well, which Mayberry speaks to. An actor states that he played more to individual audience members while on tour than when on the Rose stage, due to increased distance from the audience. The actor portraying Angelo noted a gestural difference in the touring space that indicated individuals who responded to his contact. In contrast, on the Rose stage, the actor felt his gesture became more public and general towards the audience. Actors also found it easier to confide in the audience in the touring space over the Rose stage. The actors saw the touring space audience as a more theatrical audiences.

People often describe the Rose as intimate and many audience members felt the eye contact that the actors gave to them. Audience members in the touring space felt that the visibility of other audience members could be distracting. Some audience members indicated that viewing other audience members seemed purposeful at the Rose, rather than accidental at the touring space. Many audiences also claimed that the performance at the Rose felt more “special.”

Mayberry acknowledges specific variables that played into these records. For example, it was rainy during the outdoor Rose performance. She also acknowledges differences in the marketing of the two performances, which also possibly had an effect on the audience responses. However, direct contact clearly does have different effects in different spaces, and Mayberry hopes that these recordings will continue into the future.

Nova Myhill – Fashion, Commerce, and Family: Audience and Authority in The Kight of the Burning Pestle

What drew audiences to the second Blackfriars Theatre? Myhill suggests that the story drew audiences in – anyone with six pence to spend. The Knight of the Burning Pestle focuses on the social homogeneity of the Blackfriars audience. The performance would most affect the stage-sitters, especially by the characters that join them upon the stage. Myhill states that George and Nell can suggest optional ways that the audience and the actors may react

Myhill points out that ASC actress Allison Glenzer opens the shows by stating that those seated on the stage are better dressed and more handsome than other spectators. She states that by pushing the gallant stools on our Blackfriars Playhouse makes those on gallant stools a part of the audience space. Myhill then has ASC actresses Stephanie Halladay Earl and Allison Glenzer to perform as the boy actor and George within the playing space to thee plenary presenters on the stage. ASC actress Abbi Hawk joins in from the audience as Nell and crawls onto the stage with audience help.

Myhill points out that George draws attention to himself by satirizing gallant behaviors on the stage by taking everything one step further. Nell, in comparison, stands apart from the stage-sitters by her sex. Through her husband’s financial authority and her maternal authority over the boy players, she is further set apart from the stage-sitters. She more often talks to her fellow stage-sitters and asks them to experience the same play that she does. Myhill has the actresses perform another scene to illustrate this.

The chance to take an interval is usurped in the play as well. The intervals, used to light the candles. The intervals are dominated by George and Nell, which Myhill illustrates through another scene with Hawk, Glenzer, and Earl.

Myhill runs out of time and is chased off by a bear, which Cook states is a “joy.”

Michael M. Wagoner – Scene Breaks and Interstitial Time in King John

Wagoner starts, stating that his has thirteen minutes to present, but that we may experience the time differently, called “subjected time.” He likens this to the two hours traffic of the stage that, while literally being two hours, is subjectively felt by changes in plot and audience emotions. He turns to the scene break between acts II and III in King John. He states that the act breaks are not likely authorial and these scene would have been continuous. Glenzer (playing Constance) and Hawk (playing Phillip) do this scene for the audience.

Wagoner explains that Constance in this scene is urgent and that we do not register a change in time; the action seems continuous. Phillip here states that the sun stays in the court, as if time stopped. Phillip has an immobility of time as Constance has an immobility of space, sitting on the ground. The staging without an emphasis of passage of time indicates the erasure that Constance so desires. Phillip’s movement forward contrasts this. Wagoner states that modern productions do not use a break just as the early modern theatre would do because the moment comes too soon for the traditional single interval.

However, originally another scene divided these scenes. This scene calls for Constance to remain seated on the stage. The scene break could indicate that the scenes are meant to be continuous, but divided by the interrupting scene. Wagoner has Hawk and Glenzer do the scene again, but rather than continuously, Glenzer as Constance stays on the stage crying as Hawk as Phillip leaves the stage to re-enter for the interrupting speech. This is palpable for the audience and creates a sense of scenic time not created by a continuous scene. Wagoner states that Constance’s name even indicates her propensity to stay still and in place.

Wagoner is then chased off by the bear.

Adam Miller-Batteau – Shakespeare at Summer Camp: Balancing Process and Product at Stagedoor Manor

Miller-Batteau states that many teachers focus on the process, rather than the product. He states that both should be valued and focused upon. At Stagedoor, a training center, rather than a camp, allowed Miller-Batteau to see how process and product can both be valued.

Miller-Batteau enumerates the number of performances put on by Stagedoor, which originally he felt got in the way of the process by performing so much. He noticed actors falling back on old habits and coming to realizations right before performance. Still, performance is necessary as a part of theatre education and the educational process.  Miller-Batteau questioned how to balance the process to prepare for performances and the energy for performance week.

Miller-Batteau states that the new practice of students using cue scripts forces the students to learn and get up on their feet with the show nearly immediately. Miller-Batteau has one-on-one text sessions with his students to make sure that everyone understands their words and creates a rapport with the students. Then, he brings the students together to be up on their feet to create the ensemble during the play which introduces the play as a play in performance. Miller-Batteau states that this allows him to be a teacher, rather than a director. Miller-Batteau also invites administrators and outside eyes to see the performances because outside eyes allows for more views and helps the students learn about performance for an outside group, rather than for just each other.

Miller-Batteau closes by with a statement by another teacher at Stagedoor that the students rely on the teachers to focus on the process. This stuck with him. Miller-Batteau reads that many directors and theatre artists see their art as a constant exploration and ever-evolving process. Ultimately, he offers no conclusions, only curious musings and questions.

About bitsybetsy

Shakespeare and Performance graduate student.